As I announced a few days ago on May 6, Ian Barry and Amaryllis Knight, founders of Falcon Motorcycles, went last weekend to Carmel, CA to unveil their new creation at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering. The event is a world class international motor sport event building on the success of its Automobile Gathering counterpart. It’s an exceptional exhibition of vintage/classic/present/tomorrow’s sport and racing bikes from significant marques. On Saturday evening, Ian’s new bike called “The Krestel” (after a species of falcon that hunts in the open plains) won the Best Of Custom Motorcycles Award. And as promised, I can now publish in exclusivity this bike first official studio pictures.
The Krestel Falcon is the second motorcycle of a “Falcon Series Of Ten Motorcycles” all designed around the engines of iconic pre and post World War II British motorcycles. The first one was The Bullet Falcon, a gorgeous Board Tracker based on a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird built in 2008 for actor Jason Lee. If it took 2 years for Ian Barry to complete The Krestel it’s because after creating The Bullet he lost his workshop and was able to restart working only in 2009 after finding a new one in the form of a welding factory downtown Los Angeles. Add to this unfortunate event the fact that it took Ian more than 2000 hours to give a new beautiful life to the 1970 Triumph Bonneville used as the platform for his new project.
The Kestrel Falcon is Ian Barry’s final bow to a decade of building custom Triumph twins. Notice that the bike is photographed in “Racing Trim” (i.e. has no headlight. tail light or license plate) , ready to be raced at El Mirage, California, at the end of May. I remind you that Ian builds all his one-of-a-kind custom motorcycles from raw derelict frames and engines. On this project, because engine and gearbox were damaged, Ian opted to cut off the transmission and redesigned the full engine, building the frame around the new drive line setup now including a BSA A-10 transmission. This engine was carefully reshaped with new contours and aluminum-welded together to various pieces of his new design, using a jig that he made for the engine case. The 750cc twin cylinders were designed to taper the round fins at the bottom to the original Triumph diamond-shaped heads, and was machined in-house, using a 5-axis CNC machine and a solid block of 7000-series aircraft grade aluminum.
The girder front end was built from scratch and matched to fit a heavily modified and reshaped Triumph hub. Gas and oil tanks started as hammered sheets of metal hand-formed around wooden molds. The exhaust system, handlebars, levers, seat, fender…even the bolts were created from scratch from blocks, sheets and rods of steel, of brass and aluminum. And sometimes it took Barry & crew to fabricate in-house the tools to accomplish these jobs. Sketches of the new parts are designed by Ian himself, detail machining being done at the shop by his 2 skilled collaborators Scott Jones and Troy Morris.
Ian has never seen motorcycles as a mere form of transportation. Whilst he has gone many years of his life with a motorcycle as his only form of transport, and has refused to build bikes for people who he felt weren’t going to appreciate them or ride them. His underlying belief is that motorcycles are about the experience and not just a way to get from A to B. “It would be great if all those loving motorcycles were able to build their own expressions of what the ultimate Triumph, Velocette or Norton or whatever brand could have been if the limiting factors of the industrial revolution hadn’t constrained design and possibility” says Ian. “People that buy my bikes use them to go off for a solo ride on weekends or in the evening, a way to escape the mundane, the current fads and fashions, the plastic cookie cutter world we often live in. With guts, speed, reliability, and personal, unique but timeless style.”
The function and engineering of the motorcycle is definitely Ian’s primary focus when building his motorcycles. “In my eyes, there’s no point in building a motorcycle that is purely an art piece. Unless it functions safely and handles beautifully, it will not let it leave my shop. I am really lucky to have customers that truly love motorcycles, and are willing to pay for one of my motorcycles what people with money would normally pay for a collector’s painting or a sculpture.” adds Ian. Production bikes have to be produced by shaving cents off the dollar wherever possible, and it means that the purest aesthetic of the motorcycle, or of what it could be, will most likely never be discovered.”
Personally I always repeat that custom motorcycles, in addition of being functional for the purpose which they serve (and the range is very wide), should be appreciated for their emotional value, soul and merit. Beauty strikes the sight and merit wins the soul. I hope that you will agree with me that Ian Barry’s creations have all these qualities. Next project: The Black Falcon based on a 1951 Vincent Black Shadow to be unveiled in raw metal in August. Falcon Motorcycles. (Krestel studio pictures, copyright Noah Schultz. Ian Barry pictures, copyright Paul d’Orleans)