I've been waiting to see this bike for a long, long time. It's the Black Falcon, the third in a planned run of ten concept bikes from Falcon Motorcycles. And like its predecessors, the Bullet and the Kestrel, it blurs the boundaries between motorcycling, industrial design and sculpture.
Under the guidance of Ian Barry, a six-man team took a full year to complete this custom. In case you hadn’t guessed, it's based on the Vincent Black Shadow, which held the title of "The World's Fastest Standard Motorcycle" for over 25 years.
At the heart of the bike is a 1952 Black Shadow engine. It was discovered in pieces; it'd been highly modified for drag racing and dry-lake speed attempts in the 1950s and 60s. Over the past year, every moving part has been balanced within a tenth of a gram, and made lighter and stronger. Blueprinted and bulletproofed, it's a "75 bhp Swiss watch" that's significantly more powerful than the standard Black Shadow.
As befits a bike with a history of racing, the Black Falcon comes with two different fuel tanks. The "Roadster" tank is for regular riding, while a smaller one-gallon "Quarter Miler" tank can be quickly fitted for drag strip use.
Apart from a single small frame lug, the entire chassis was fabricated from scratch in Falcon's LA warehouse: frame, forks, brakes, tanks, handlebars, hand and foot controls, seat, and mudguards. Every part has been completely redesigned and reconsidered, to improve function and create an object of stirring beauty.
The forks are based on Vincent's "Girdraulic" design. Crafted from 7075 T6 aluminum, the blades are shorter and lighter, and CNC-machined for perfect alignment. They use needle rollers on all bearing surfaces - a major improvement over the original Girdraulics, which were prone to 'stiction' and speed wobbles. The final shape of the girder blades was hand-carved over several days.
The shocks on the forks and rear swingarm are modern gas units, built to Falcon's specification by Works Performance. Functionally they're absolutely modern, giving better handling and a more comfortable ride than the 1950s originals.
The brakes were created by Ian Barry and fabricated in-house. The front is a double-sided, four leading shoe design: "It's extremely powerful and designed to actually stop the Black from its 140+mph potential." There are echoes of the classic finned Vincent Black Lightning racing brakes, but these are larger in diameter—at 8" each—mechanically stiffer, and have a wider braking surface area. "The drum liners were machined by LA Sleeve from locomotive cylinders," Barry reveals.
The triangulated swing arm, dating back to a Phil Vincent patent from 1928, has been completely refabricated. It helps create a 2" longer wheelbase for better stability at high speed, and sports a more robust pivot lug.
Half the frame of a Vincent is the oil tank. The one on the Black Falcon is fabricated from stainless steel, and easily accessible for cleaning. Channels in the pannier-style fuel tanks guide onrushing air towards the cylinder heads and the 954 aluminum-bronze cylinder barrels, which are machined from solid. The hand-formed aluminum gas tanks "press-click" onto spring-loaded pins, and are vibration-damped by rubber O-rings. Finished with push-fit marine fuel taps, the entire fuel system is removable in less than 30 seconds.
"The handlebars have six-position adjustability for rider preference," says Barry. "A single lever locks both bars in place on a taper fit, without the need for tools. Also fully adjustable/removable without tools are the front and rear wheels, the fuel tanks, drive chain tension, brake adjustment, and footrest position, just as with the original Vincent. But in each case these features have been completely redesigned for improved function."
Falcon unveiled the bike at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in California, and not surprisingly, it won the first prize in the custom class. For even more Falcon goodness, check our coverage of the second in the Concept 10 series, the Kestrel.