A Century Of Bike Builds,

by Jim Susans,

 BikecrafT.

 

Quote :
Just sitting here thinking, All this work carried out on my OWN ,7am to 6-7pm  most days including Saturdays . I farmed out most wheel building and nickel plating and Michel helped me some Saturdays and Nick Smith joined me in the last year.  I worked solid  twenty odd years ,triple heart bypass permitting on my hobby not bad Eh??
Regards Very Tired  Jim.

 

~Oo> Not wasted though Jim your work is more respected today than it probably was then. Charlie.

                        Take a look at the stories and Pictures below.

 

Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde "Offroad Archive"

Here is Jim riding one of the Ariel Rigid trials bikes he restored seen in  in 1999.

Jim tells me that this is the first rigid Ariel he built up which has you see below started quite a few rigid builds.

 

Photo Courtesy Mike

This is the same machine today 20/10/2017.

It has been through a few owners since Jim rode it, but still works well.

 

More photos further down the page later and information.

*******

 

Photos Courtesy Jim Susans.

 

Well this is a story I have wanted to tell for a long time before I even started this web site.

When we got back into Classic trials bikes at the turn of the new century by buying a HT5 Ariel from down in Cornwall, the more we looked up information about the  Ariels current scene at that time the more the name Jim Susans sprang up.

Jims Ariel Builds are Legendary. from his distinctive rigid frames based on a 1954 frame that was on the Ariel drawing board, to his lightweight swinging arm frame builds that were distinctive but still in the spirit of the original factory-built bikes. Jim has built more than 100 trials bike specials in his career as a metalsmith amongst other things. so hence the century of builds.

 

Photo PC.

So this page is going to evolve, I am going to build the page to the best of my knowledge and then Jim will give me his comments and captions to add to the story.

Jim at 84 years young has better things to do, running his Jazz Band, as on the 2016

News Page.

Photo Later.

 

Photo "Otterman".

I probably like this bike more than any Jim built. 

need the story about these rigid bikes Jim.>

 

Ariel ridgid frames, when I got the drawings from Frank Wilkins I decided to make three frames, one for myself.
The one in the picture with the nickel frame ( I don't know who did the horrible paint work on the tank ??) and one I still have incomplete I don't suppose I will get round to finish it. they steered very well and were light but a lot of trouble to make.
 Regards Jim.

David Anderson.

The 1954 rigid HT frame part no E9/1534 is shown with a 3½ “ inner radius bend at the rear axle similar to the Jim Susans frame. The 54HTframe is a mostly welded up frame (lugless), unlike the prior brazed lug Ariel frames. That is the most likely reason for the bent tube at the rear rather than the brazed lug rear axle assembly of the VCH.
David.
Photo PC.
This HT5 rigid built in January 1998. and has the Old type gearbox fitted and not the later used GB type, although these can be modified by drilling and tapping one hole to replace the later outer and inner covers. this bike also has the BSA type hubs.
 The front Half-hub brake was fitted to the HT3 as it came from the factory but the HT5 had the full width alloy hub fitted.
Photo Courtesy Christine Tona.
You know when a story has been looking you in the face for years and you have walked by it.
Well this photo was taken at the Classic Trials Show at Stoneleigh in 2010.
And just look what is peeping from behind the Winning Concores BSA but the bike that I was willing the judge to pick The "Jim Susans" Ariel. More on these bikes later. elsewhere.
***
Photo Courtesy David Watson.
This bike above Is one of only an hand-full of Genuine Ariel rigid HT5's of 1954.
Registered on the 31/03/1955 with frame type E9/1534.
So you can see that Jim's frames were not replicas really, but Ariel frames just made in another location. and the ground clearance modification would have been what the Factory boys would have done at that time,If they had only got 18" rear tyres has Jim had to work with at  the end of the nineties. 19" were fitted has standard on all HT Ariels. Good Story, What!
Photo "Otterman"
This bike rebuilt by Deryk Wylde, shows how the finish of an Ariel HT alloy tank should be.
Deryk still has some qenuine Tank transfers if you need them for your rebuild.

***

Photo Courtesy Jim Susans.

Here Jim proudly presenting one of his 500T Norton builds. A "Noriel"

This used the Norton  500T motor and a Burman GB type gearbox Norton "Roadholder" forks and one of Jims Ariel HT frames. I have a 350 Model 50 engine and the GB gearbox waiting for this same treatment, the Ariel frame is sat waiting too.

 

Best Of British. 1984-5? 

Typed from an article by Peter Plummer. in the eighties. with changes.~Oo>

There was never any question of setting out to build a special lightweight trials bike..

A friend simply brought an Ariel chassis in for a rebuild and when It was all striped out I saw that it was superbly simple straight forward design in which just about any engine and gearbox could be made to fit.

I decided to make one for myself and it’s just gone on from there :Jim Susans.

With the interest and the prices running so high in Pre 65 and British bikes and bits and pieces Jim Susans could probably have a small factory churning out the stuff, but neither Jim nor the market is like that.

His particular Factory is a tiny workshop about the size of a double garage.at Loudwater near HighWykham. Bucks.

I suppose he must be a  businessman to do what he does.

But despite the size of the unit and all the machine tools , his business is really a full time hobby and just about breaks even.

There will never be big profits in it for Jim because he's a real enthusiast who does everything exactly right, without considering to become rich.

Nine times out of ten the jobs take longer than he feels he can charge for.

"From a business point of view I suppose I should sell more bits and pieces and buy and sell to earn more money without actually working , but I really enjoy making and mending.

Ia’m not a workaholic though … OK I am here until Seven every night but I take Mondays off now".

Just like the bikes he builds Jim is in no rush to go anywhere,

He's 57 years old. and having suffered one heart attack five years ago he takes everything at a leasurly pace now.

He's the first to admit that he was never any great shakes as a rider but he did, and still does enjoy it.

Talking about the riding he said ,I’ll still have a bit of a go but if I feel I am  getting flustered, I pack up and go home ,I never let it bother me.

 

ACTIVE.

Jim Susans knows his British bikes backwards, but surprisingly he has not spent a lifetime in the trade.

He didn’t start riding until he was 40 and he was up to his armpits in running a plastics and engineering business.

His trade taught him all about pattern making ,casting and milling and although he didn’t know it at the time it was to stand him in good stead later.

A few years went bye and then the opportunity arose to sell the business, but an active self employed man can’t retire at 53, can he.

His wife had a career of her own, and there were no children to worry about, so he could just about afford to indulge himself in his hobby.

He took the plunge and turned his hobby into a job. Three years on, and he is still enjoying it.

Jim built that first Ariel frame by copying the one his mate had brought for refurbishing.

Jim Acquired a 6” thick five foot long surface table so he had the base for a jig as well, so that it was no suck and see exercise,but a matter of getting it right.  The welding and  steel gussets on the frame  were spot on, and the tubing used was top of the range aircraft quality T45.

Photo e-Bay.

This frame built in the nineties and never used until now. ,swinging arm wrong way up in picture. The swinging arm was a modified Ariel Red Hunter unit, the HT arm had the open ended slots like the one in the picture, so to modify a Red Hunter road arm that had an enclosed end, the arm needed welding and cutting, also at the pivot end the width of the road arm was reduced as much has possible, to fit the narrower pivot box.

 

To Jim's surprise a queue started to form for his Ariel frames.

 

He was building a frame on his own brewed Jig one morning when the phone rang , with someone wanting instructions on how to find him and get to his workshop.

Talking about it Jim said; “About a quarter of an hour after the phone call I heard the distinctive sound of an Ariel single coming up into the yard , It was Frank Wilkins and Kay Saunois with there old green tanked ex works trials outfit.

Kay was still wearing her ‘Corker’ made crash  helmet the one with the leather earpieces”, that had been out of date for years.

The three of us talked about bikes and Ariel’s  in particular for hours ,and drank several cups of tea, before they were ready to leave, and when they were going they handed Jim a package this contained the original Factory drawings for the Ariel (Rigid) Trials frames.

 

Photo Credit Bob Curry.

Here Frank Wilkins and Kay as they were always known , riding the works Ariel -Watsonian,trials outfit in the fifties.

 

To date when this was written Jim had built 24 Ariel, 18 BSA B40 and five AJS frames.

He was  working on a scrambles frame at that moment and the demand for his frames does not seem to be letting up.

All the Ariel frames have been made in T45 and he uses that material for one off Motocross frames too.

Jim has also used Reynolds 531 but in the main he works with CDS2 cold drawn tubing.

According to Jim its strong but it can be bent, unlike T45 and 531 without heat applied , the big advantage with this material is that it straightens OK after a serious falling off.

All the tubes are milled to be a perfect fit before he applies the welding torch , but the build quality is incomparable, because of his attention to detail.

ART.

On the AMC frames for instance the swinging arm and gearbox bolt up on to a hefty casting, so Jim made the (Patterns) moulds for that casting for him self.

Consequently his frame has that casting too.

The BSA B40 frames even has the bulbous pressings on the rear loop to bolt the dampers up on.~Oo>( I only commented about these pressings to a person the other day).

Due to his pattern making skills and experience in plastic and fibreglass ,Jim decided he ought to be able to produce the bits for trials bike that were difficult to get hold of at that time.

Pursuing this line of thinking he’s produced replica fuel tanks for AJS and Ariel's and seat units and chiancases,in fibre-glass, and just like the frames ,the quality is superb..

 

Jim Susans was a bit of a late starter at the off-road riding bit. So what was it that made him take the plunge ? at the relatively late age of 40 years old..

A Slow grin comes onto Jim's face: and he says >well I fancied having a go at green-laning, Pat Wheleran was interested too,and there was a rather large chap with glasses writing about it in Motor Cycle News.

So Jim went out and bought a second hand  Greeves, and a new Barbour suit .

Being by the Ridgeway there was plenty of opportunity for Saturday afternoon practice, then one Saturday he  stumbled onto a  group from the Wycombe Club,setting out sections for that  next Sundays trial at Crowle Hill.

The next Sunday morning Jim was observing and then he joined the club ,and the next trial on the Greeves.

Talking about the experience Jim said “ I didn’t know what I was doing, but my age  was against me, because I was older than the young riders that were to embarrassed to put me right.

The Greeves was old hat by then and the Bultaco was the bike to have, but stupidly I went and bought an Alpina – the one with lights and no steering lock.

Eventually someone took me on one side, and I changed the bike but still couldn’t ride it.”

So how did Jim get the message?

“Monty Banks was my hero, and he was a chap who finally put the message over.

I was stuck in a hole at Dew’s Farm and the car was in the car park. Everyone was leaving and I simple couldn’t get the bike out and up the bank by riding it or pushing it, Monty came down stuck it in third gear and flew up the bank. I’d been riding it everywhere in bottom gear.”

Since that time Jim has had quite a few trials bikes and reckons he was the first man in the world to pay £1000 for a trials bike. :the horrible SWM without the heavy flywheels fitted. and has also had several Bultacos from Gordon Farley.

 

When it comes to the work Jim undertakes it as mostly specific jobs for people.

The Trevor Woods Velocette is a superb example of Jim Susans work. Jim supplying the basic ingredients and the enthusiastic owner putting it all together.

Trevor a member of the Farnham Royal club for 20 years ,has slotted a basic standard MAC motor complete with M17/7 cams into a Susans Ariel T45 frame.

There is an extra bearing and seal on the crank because the motor now drives through a Norton gearbox and clutch.

The bike has hand made fork yokes, and KTM front wheel for the sole reason that the wheel was a reasonable £25.

Trevor Wood.

 

Hi Trevor, If you have a better photo of your Velo-Ariel please let me know and the story of your build of the bike would be good too. >Thanks Charlie.

 

When Jim gets the time he does enjoy building up complete bikes, and one of his more recent efforts has been a 500 Triumph pre unit bike for Brian Messenger.

Pricing.

Jim has fitted a Tiger 100 engine and Norton-AMC gearbox into one of the Ariel T45 frames. 

It’s a most workmanlike machine and Brian is well pleased with the finished machine.

Referring to that particular project Jim said we managed to find some wide ratio gears for the box and BSA Victor fuel tank , and all the bits and pieces we needed.

The biggest problem was pricing the job, I took 230 hours to build the bike imagine that at £15 an hour.

Brian and I sat down around the table ,and worked something out.

No one on earth could accuse Jim Susans of profiteering or promoting the “fiddle” bikes in the Pre65 and British Bike trials.

He is an engineer who has been fortunate ? enough to turn his hobby into a job, and like so many of us who are handy with the spanners , he just cant stop improving the breed. But like the true enthusiast he is, he practices what he preaches, As the man says “Keep within the spirit of the thing and you cant go far wrong".

 

 

More of the story later.

 

This is another of the photos in the paper so not that good.

But you can see that Jim was right you can fit most power-plants into a Ariel 1956 type Hunter Trials frame.

This one ?Well Norton engine Burman gearbox.

The start of another "Noriel".

 

By the way Jim sent me the cuttings from the paper and I have done my best to make it readable by retyping the story.

 

More from Jim later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have just been told about one of the Norton engined bikes and I am waiting for the information to reach me.

The bike in Question is entered in the Scottish Pre65 trial in the next couple of weeks so this should be an interesting Susans  bike to follow. The clip of the bike is on the 2016 News page, so take a look and there is a charity that I care about a lot that can benefit from it.

 

 

*******

Well has you now know the machine in question was ridden into 104th place by Richard Vockins, in the trial, and fulfilling his mission to beat the score of Guy Martin. which he did, with both of them finishing the trial.

Richard's dad  Mick has just sent me has promised the build notes of this "Noriel"

I will try and get some better photos of the bike later Jim.

Here is what Mick says.

 

Hi Charlie ,  I'm Mick Vockins, Richard's dad. I built the bike in 1988, having been involved in the pre65 scene for about 10 years. I had been riding trials since 1970 during the tail end of my football career. Although I worked on 'the building's , which kept me extremely fit, I had done a Toolmaking apprenticeship so most engineering tasks were no problem.

I rode my own, home brewed, Villiers engined specials, Bultaco, Ossa, Suzuki, Honda.

On the pre65 front I bought a 350 Royal Enfield from Don Morley, then built a 500 from scratch and eventually the Noriel, using an ES2 engine with 500T Barrel and AMC Gearbox.

I came to know Jim Susans  as he was riding at the time.

I heard that he was making an Ariel oil-containing Frame and visited his workshop at Loudwater, Bucks.

There I saw a copy of the Ariel Drawing and decided I could use one, being impressed with quality of the material, and the beautiful Bronze Welding.

I did not possess welding equipment which meant regular trips to Jim, fortunately, only Five Miles, and ended up with bike which Richard rode in the 2016 event..

I used Norton Long Roadholders in Royal Enfield Yoke's, the original REH Hubs in Steel Rims, reworked Ariel Exhaust Pipe with Adrian Moss  Alloy silencer, and alloy Bultaco Tank,modified by Jim to fit over the Norton Head.

A great but tedious job. One later mod was the addition of a cartridge-type Oil Filter.  A great bike which I enjoyed riding and even beat Jim in an AMOC Trial with no marks lost.

I finished riding this bike in competion in 2000 so it was no longer developed as are the current generation of Pre65 bikes, which benefit from considerable weight loss and suspension upgrades.

I did not envy Richards trip across Blackwater but he managed to avoid the holes and, was  suitably impressed, after some practise, with a 60 year old magneto which has infinite control of the ignition point.

I hope this info proves of interest and would point out that in my club, Farnham Royal, there are another three Jim Frames. Two other Noriels and a Veloriel.  Best regards, MickV.

Charlie> Thanks Mick for your input to the Jim Susans story.

 

 

I have also just been sent these two photos below by Ralph Brown of this superb Susans built rigid AJS. this machine was originally built by Jim for a guy named John Thomas.

But the bike now lives in New Zealand and is owned by Marty Hewlett.

 

Photo Courtesy Ralph Brown. and Marty Hewllet who took the photos.

 

Don't forget that Jim made the patterns and had the castings done for these frames too.

 

Photo Courtesy Ralph Brown. and Marty Hewllet.

Again another example of the craftsman that Jim is.

More later thanks Ralph.

 

The BSA Builds.

 

Photo Courtesy  Deryk Wylde Offroad Archive.

Jim was also renowned for his BSA-Builds here he rides one of his C15 based bikes and immaculately turned out as ever.

 

Photo Courtesy Jean Caillou.

Jim riding the same BSA machine in a trial at Mons Belgium on the 11/11/2001.

Deryk says:

An enthusiastic supporter of the pre-65 scene and my British Bike championship series was Jim Susans, an inveterate 'specials' creator who appreciated the 'Pre-65' rules and carefully worked well within not only the scope of the rules - but also well within the spirit.

 

Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde.

Here is Deryk holding one of Jim's BSA B40 builds just finished and looking immaculate.

Also note the line of the axles.

Deryk sent me this photo last year 2015, and this photo inspired me to build the John Draper replica for grand son Edward who was three years old on 01/04/2016

*******

The Ariel Builds.

Photo Courtesy Jim Hunter/ Bob Johns.

And then one of the superb lightweight Ariel Builds.

I will let Jim explain this build. built for Paul Edwards in 1999 and a HT5 500

 

 

Photo Courtesy Jim Susans.

 

Here is Paul Edwards on a Rigid framed Jim Susans  built Ariel on "Pipeline" in the Pre 65 Scottish.

 Hi just seen pictures and read article on my good friend Jim Susan's my name is Paul Edwards and I rode many HT5 Ariel's Jim made over sum 20 years, I spent a lot of time with Jim, and we covered a lot of miles in France going to Trials and going to Pre 65 motorcross meetings, where I would ride the trial on a Saturday, and race the next day, many a good time was had.
Jim was the master of building bikes and I have had many wins on his bikes.
I have Mick Grants old Ariel now and Mick looks after it for me.
But Jim Susan's was probably the best Pre 65 trials bike builder around for miles, and many of his ideals have been reprocated still today.
 
Thanks again for writing about this master bike builder 
Thanks Paul Edwards.
*******
07/03/2017.
Hi Charlie
Sorry for the delay in replying but we were away for a few days.
The only photos I have on this computor were for my insurance valuation, lots of details but no overall ones, I will have to import some from my camera for better complete pictures.
The only original Jim Susans parts now are the frame, oil tank, signature rear mudguard mountings, primary drive cases and the cranked inlet manifold, during my ownership I have replaced virtually everything else.
I have had the bike for about 12 years and bought it from Alan Ketley who campaigned it locally down here in the South East for around 6 years. He bought it direct from Jim, apparently it was an early build and possibly his first Ariel, and built from light weight tube, later versions being made from heavier gauge for strength.
Hope this gets to you O.K. and perhaps Jim will be able to confirm the history, I did say in an earlier post on Trials Central that I thought my bike was an 80's build but perhaps it was a 90's ?
Kind regards
Colin Mote
Photos of bike Later today

Photo Courtesy Colin Mote.

 

Unmistakably one of Jim's Builds.

Even though Colin has replaced a lot. It still has "the Look".

 

 

Thanks for letting into the life of another Jim Susans Ariel Colin.

I hope to get a update from Jim on the bike later.

*******

 

Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde ORR-e

Colin Here is Alan Ketley, riding your Jim Susans Ariel a good few years back.1989 or before?

*******

Here is a shot of the BikecrafT emporium.

 

.Photo Courtesy Jim Susans.

You can make out a C15 BSA and Greeves in the foreground along with a James or a Norman at the back.I am sure Jim will tell the tale.

 

One last shot for now is the one of the later Honda builds .

 

Photo e-Bay.

This is one of four or five 250 Honda TL's that Jim built for I am told Mick Grant? based on the works bikes that had just been withdrawn.

The frame has been likened to a larger version of the Seeley TL 125.

Again I am sure Jim will put me right. Well he has this is it.Over to you Jim,>

The Honda Bit.
A man who lived up in the Chilterns came into the shop and asked if I would like to buy a Honda rolling chassis and spare frame,tank and seat unit, it looked like  a Sammy Miller Highboy.
So I looked around for a TL 250 engine ,I decided to make one for myself and a spare to sell to cover the cost.
I made the pattern and a mould so I could make some tank seat units,(fibre-glass) .
The bikes turned out OK, but were heavy, and the clutches were horrible.
In the meantime I got a phone call from Mick Grant, he had a long stroke Honda engine, and a short stroke frame, we would do a swap if I made him a frame ?
This was  a copy frame but with a higher top tube.
When I got the frame I made a jig and made two frames, they were hard work as the front down tube was tapered,
All this work was giving me no time for my customers, so asked Grahame Hardy son of my pal Fred, to make me  two frames.
I  fitted them with Honda Tl 250 engines and sold them.
In the meantime I had  acquired a lot of Honda spares and bits, and some ex works bits, including a magnesium top yoke.
But in the end I sold the lot to some French lads at a big loss!!!
I think some of the bikes are still around. And some being ridden?
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Jim Susans. Please respect this.
This is one of the newly built Honda Copy frames.
Photo Courtesy Jim Susans.

Here Jim shows off one of the Honda TL 250 builds.

 

Photo Courtesy Jim Susans  and family.

 

Photo Courtesy Jim Susans and Copyright.

BikecrafT Honda.

Another Honda.

 

Photo Courtesy Jim Susans. respect.

Well that's the tale about the Honda's Jim  built. and in his own words, so that has put a few Myths to bed.

 

Photo Offroad Archive with permission.

 

Photo Jim Susans,

I thought this was the same bike being ridden by Jim above but the rear mudguard set up is more standard. ?Jim>

 

Here is a shot of Jim riding one of his Norton 500T's. in an Ariel frame.

 

Photo Jim Susans.

And another 500T this one a bit later build Jim? or another "Noriel"? looks like Rickman front hub or REH.

 

 

Photo Jim Susans.

This Near identical shot of Jim riding a very nice Triumph Tiger Cub. in the Comerfords style.

Jim can tell the tale of this one.

 


Photo Courtesy Ian Ballard.

 

Here is a photo of one of the frames built by Jim, this is for a BSA engine unit that still has to be fitted in this frame by Ian but he as assured me it will get done one day. You can see the top damper pressing on this frame.

 

Photo Ian Ballard.

 

Photo e-Bay.

 

This is one of Jim's T45 Ariel frames that was looking for a good home, Hopefully it has now found it, and is half-way to becoming another Jim Susans framed machines.

If you bought this frame let me know.

 

"Thameside Rhythm Kings", This is Jim's Jazz band that is currently keeping him busy.

Photos of this later.

Photo Courtesy robbowkerphotography.com

 

 Thanks Rob what a superb shot of Jim

On Sousaphone and really enjoying the trip hey Jim. another form of being a "Metalsmith"

Visit Robs web site there are some superb photographs on there that you can purchase.

 

I asked Jim if his sousaphone was one of those with a Glass-fibre  Horn,>


Yes the tubing from the brass valves to the bell are fibreglass (dont know how they get them off the male mould) in the old days when we made sailing boat masts we used rubber inflatable male moulds  wrapped the  fibreglass round and when cured deflated the plug pulled it out, not very accurate. In these days with carbon fibre,I suppose it is all different . The bell is ABS it aged and split I superglued it and covered the back in fibreglass.
I think they were developed in the USA for young players in the marching bands as the brass ones are very heavy. The fibreglass sousaphones have a good tone.  

Regards Jim

*******

Photo.


Thats me taken in about 1958, I played Banjo with them from 1956 to 1963, We played at the Fighting Cocks , Kingston on Thames,in our own jazz club, My uncle taught me banjo on his demob in 1945 after the war and I played banjo and guitar until I moved on to double basss sousaphone in the late 90ties all happy days.
Charlie,> Jim is second from the left.

*******

 

Photo PC,

Here is another of the Ariel Builds I will let Jim describe the bike. but you can see that it has been built to resemble an Ariel  that came out of the factory and using an oil tank. 

 

Greeves.

 

Photo Jim Susans.

I will let Jim Describe this machine ,a Very nice conversion of an early "Scottish".and the bike Jim bought to get into Classic trials.?

 

Photo Jim Hunter/Bob Johns.

 

Yet another of those Ariel HT  machines that Jim was so good at building. this one is a 1998 built HT3 350.

 

 

Published on Sep 20, 2013

Thameside Rhythm Kings. Playing at Towersey Festival 22 August 2013.Ray Poltock(Cornet). Harry Crook(trombone) John Aust(clarinet) Gordon Dawson(Banjo) Jim Susans(Sousaphone)

We All Had A Good Time!!

 

 

More later. With the Ariels that were his trade mark. also a lot more bikes.

 

 

 

Story of this bike here later. picture from news paper so not that good will try and better it later.Trevor Wood Velo-Ariel.

I am hoping that Trevor will update me on his Velo build and hopefully  find me a better photo of the bike and him.

More Later.