Falcon bikes, which survives as lesser marque of the Tandem group is one of the classic names in British frames, and its founder, Ernie Clements one of the great British post-war generation racers turned frame-builder and designer. (3 times British national road champion 1943, 1945, 1946, two Nationals seconds, and a Worlds and Olympic appearance), He made his own frames as early as 1945, but by the early '50s became managing director of Coventry Cycles/Coventry Eagle. By the late '60's they were working out of the same building as Elswick Hopper, although still independent. Classic Rendezvous reprints a test ride of an Ernie Clements Falcon San Remo Equipe from 1962, (a model name which persists today as a Claud Butler model-derived from the Milan-San Remo classic race), but it seems that the firm name was not changed to Falcon until 1970.
From about 1970, Coventry Eagle/Falcon became Falcon effectively running as a separate firm building high-end bikes designed by Ernie Clements, who like Masi and Colnago applied his racing experience to frame design. He actively promoted racing in the UK, sponsoring the British national professional team from the 1950s through to the 90's and is credited with building Tom Simpson 's bikes among others.
By the early 70s the Falcon line included the San Remo Equipe # 276 (Reynolds 531 DB including forks, all Campagnolo Record including Campagnolo brakes, Cinelli fork crown and spearpoint lugs), and entry level racing model Super Route #92 (Reynolds, Shimano derailers Weinmann brakes), Cote D'Azur #84 (Reynolds DB, mix of Campagnolo Super Record, Weinmann sidepull and Shimano) and Olympic #78 (mens) and #79 (women's) with std wheels.
The classic Falcon colour scheme is a powder blue, with contrasting head tube (red or white), contrasting panel on the down tube in the same color, with white top tube and down tube white panel decals with Falcon in large red script. The head badge is a lovely gold & red shield, torch on top, Falcon in script on a red background, with a falcon in the center. The high end frames have a decal, on the rear stay that say in script "Designed by Ernie Clements." Later bikes have a more subdued brush script "Falcon" on the down tube only.
By February 1973, Falcon produced an Eddie Merckx branded line in Merckx Molteni orange, noted on the catalogue as "Designed by Ernie Clements" and "Approved" by Merckx. These appeared in collaboration with similar Merckx branded frames by Kessel of Belgium. The firms apparently had an agreement on marketing areas, with Kessel getting Europe, and both paying royalties to Merckx.
The Falcon precursor Merckx bikes are often dismissed as poor quality, but they appeared in a similar range of models to the Falcon line. In 1974, Falcon offered a top of the line Merckx Super Competition #102 (All Reynolds 531 DB, long point lugs, oval fork blades, Nuovo Record derailers; Record crank, Campagnolo brakes, Brooks saddle, Cinelli bars and stem, chrome fork crown and tips-virtually the same specs as the comparable San Remo), a Giro D'Italia #104 (Reynolds DB with Prugnat Lugs, Campagnolo derailers, cotterless crank but with centerpull brakes), Kermesse, #106 (plain gauge Reynolds), Competition #100 (same as 102, but w/o the Campagnolo brakes), 2 ladies models, a junior racer (white or orange) and entry level bike (red or orange) with std (not tubular) rims. See http://www.bikebrothers.co.uk/falconeddy.htm
The high end bikes in either the Merckx or the Falcon line were comparable in quality to the other premier marques of their day, British and Italian, offering great handling with a fairly tight stage race geometry with arguably better finish than the Italian competitors.
By 1978, Falcon was purchased by the Elswick-Hopper group (which by this point included Wearwell), becoming Elswick-Falcon (1982), and it in turn purchased Holdsworth (including Claud Butler ) in 1987, before the whole firm was acquired by Townsend (Casket) in 1991, who had also acquired Ernie Clement's old firm Coventry Eagle. Mr. Clements moved to Ledbury and ran his own cycling shop from 1989 until his death in 2006, although it is unclear if he continued to make frames.
Last Updated: by Harriet Fell