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The Falcon Flies Free
(And another bike hits the road!)
By Chip Haynes
Editor Note: This piece from Floridian cycling-essayist Chip Haynes first appeared in Mason's Wire Donkey Bike Zine. Subscription information follows this essay. This essay has special significance to the editor, who lost a favorite Falcon to a thief in 1997.
This was a surprisingly easy one. It only took two weeks to rebuild this bike for a friend of mine. I found this English Falcon racing bike abandoned on an empty car lot in downtown Clearwater, Florida. It was mostly there, lacking only a seat and seat post, but stinking to high heaven, thanks to it's previous owner's vicious smoking habit. Man, that bike reeked!
Most of the work involved in bringing this bike back to life was in the long hours spent scrubbing absolutely every piece with lacquer thinner, to remove the brown haze and the overwhelming stench of nicotine. After that, it was a piece of cake. (But I went through over a quart of lacquer thinner.) I took off the dropped bars and put on some comfortable uprights. I changed the down tube shift levers for some a bit higher up, and for the same reason: If the bike's not comfortable, it's not going to get ridden. And bike should be ridden--a lot. I scrounged up a nice comfy seat and a seat post that fit the frame. Even smoothed out the scratched paint and added a coat of gloss black. The bike looks good.
Now this vintage Falcon ("Designed by Ernie Clements!") is just about ready to be delivered. It's a nice, shiny black, with white cable housings and white hand grips. Very sort of retro-techno-cool. No fenders or rear rack, but that's okay. I can see where this bike will be used more for recreational riding than any actual commuting. (Although it could be, with the addition of those fenders and a rack.) For now, I'll just be happy to get this bike to its new owner, and make sure he enjoys how it rides. (And it should ride just fine.) One more bike on the road? Glad to make it happen.
The only nagging thing about this build is that this is the second time in as many months that I've found a really nice Vintage bike abandoned out in the cold, cruel world. And that's sad. It's true, I do tend to leave the lying Murray undisturbed when found, but that hasn't been the case lately. These have both been nice bikes from good English bicycle companies--and both left to rot. I couldn't let that happen. Is it just me?
Is this the fate of all old bikes, no matter what their worth when new? I sure hope not--I can't save them all! These last two bikes have given me a chance to use up some of the parts and pieces I've had on hand around here for months, if not years. (But I've still got a lot of bicycle stuff left, no doubt about it.) Do I know anyone else who wants or needs a nice bike? Well, not off hand, but you never know who you know, you know? One thing at a time. This black and white Falcon may be delivered tonight (weather permitting).
I think you should save every good bike you can. You never know when someone might ask you for a lead on a nice, older bike and you can say, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have one just perfect for you. For free."
For now, this may be the last bike project for a while. I've got stuff to do around the house. Of course, I said that last month--just before I found this bike. (Maybe I should stop looking? Nah, where's the fun in that?)
So keep an eye peeled for long lot bikes. (And for short lost bikes as well!) Always be ready to give on away. Always be ready to make another person a bicyclist. We can do it.
One bike at a time.
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