The Ariel was patented by J.K.’s uncle, James Starley and William Hillman in 1870. Named after the fictional spirit from Shakespeare’s Tempest, Ariel was the first light-weight all-metal machine - considerably lighter than the French velocipede brought to the factory in 1868. The Ariel used a tubular steel frame and was the first with tension wheels, with spokes that could be tightened as needed (Dave’s blog/ Williamson, p49).  The Ariel also featured solid rubber tyres, a brake specially developed by James Starley, and was the world’s first model to employ a centre steering head (as used today in all modern bicycles).  

James Starley went on to invent the tangent or cross spoke wheel, patented in 1874. Tangential spokes allow for the transfer of torque between the hub and the rim and are therefore necessary for the drive wheel which has torque at the hub from pedaling, and any wheels using disk brakes (wiki spoke).  

To demonstrate to the cycling community the qualities of the new Ariel, James Starley and W. Hillman decided to ride their machines from London to Coventry in a day. They brought their machines to Euston Station by train, and then the following day set off at dawn riding their Ariels via St. Albans, then along Watling Street to Dunstable and over the Chiltern Hills. They continued through Bletchley, Towcester and Daventry with villagers many of whom had never seen a bicycle before, cheering them on.  They finally reached Coventry, with the cyclists stopping at Starley’s house just before St. Michael’s clock struck midnight (Williamson p52).

Subsequent High-Wheelers used progressively larger front wheels, as the quest for speed grew year by year.