Ah, the Vincent Black Shadow. This could very well be the most important bike of all time. Not only did it hold a speed record for an absurd 24 years, but visually it is one of the best looking bikes ever created. So for a custom shop to have the audacity to try and put their own spin on such a legendary bike is about as bold of a move one can make. Yet they did it, and stunningly pulled it off.
The Black Falcon as they call it is a 1952 Black Shadow engine wrapped in a unique and entirely custom frame that was built in-house by Falcon Motorcycles. The engine was a modified mill they found that had been used for drag racing and dry lake speed racing in and around the 50’s and 60’s. It was in shambles when Falcon got their hands on it, restoring it to its current glory. Rebuilding the engine was a tedious process, with every moving part being balanced within a tenth of a gram. They made all of the components lighter and stronger, with the guys at falcon calling it a “75 bhp Swiss watch.” In case you aren’t keeping track that’s an increase of 20-hp over the stock Black Shadow, a fairly significant amount of difference.
Speaking of the original Black Shadow, maybe some backstory is in order. The Vincent Black Shadow was produced from 1949 until Vincent’s demise in 1955. It featured a 998cc V-twin that churned out 55hp, which at the time was absolutely mind blowing. With a slender weight of 458lbs the Black Shadow was light and fast, the combination it needed to propel itself into record holding territory. See, the Shadow wasn’t just fast, holding its own against the fastest cars of its decade. It was built to a level of detail that arguably still hasn’t been matched. It could accommodate any rider, having massive amounts of adjustability in its controls and rider positioning. The frame, well it was light years ahead of its time. While every other motorcycle manufacturer was using a standard chassis, Vincent was utilizing the engine as a stress member, meaning it doesn’t have a downtube that wraps the engine. This technology is still in use in MotoGP today, a fair 68 years after Vincent started building the Black Shadow. All of this allowed the Shadow to hit 125-miles-per-hour straight out of the box, a record that it held for over 24-years.
With its place in the history books solidified by its technologies and accomplishments, you would assume it would have to compromise in other areas to be this good. Areas like aesthetics. Guess again, because the Black Shadow is by far one of the best looking motorcycles I have ever seen. It’s styling and design are so unique that I truly believe it hasn’t been outdone, and that’s not for lack of trying.
So how does Falcon’s take compare? It’s hard to put it into words how well they did with this build. It’s just as stylish as the original, yet boutique enough to be original. They intelligently followed the mold laid down by Vincent, mixing it up where they could. The frame is a near copy of the original, sharing the same shock location. The rear triangle has been redesigned elongating the wheelbase by 2-inches. With the added stability it makes sense to have a more streamline gas tank, one that is an utter art piece. Between the beautiful gas cap and the cut out for the Carburetor velocity stack the tank is perfect for a build of this nature. Both gorgeous and functional. It’s worth nothing Falcon Motorcycles has a second one-gallon tank for those spirited nights where you’ll do anything to go as fast as possible.
The suspension may look vintage, but it is sporting all new guts to keep up with modern trends. The rear shocks and ‘Girdaulic’ forks are housing modern gas units disguised as vintage parts. On top of that the front fork is built in house to resemble the Shadow, although shortened and of course lighter to increase performance. Even the 8-inch drum brakes are built in house, mimicking the units you would find on a Black Lighting race bike back in its hay day.
The detailing is intangible, with each piece being well thought out and perfectly placed. It’s the same level of detail that Vincent put into the bikes when they originally manufactured them back in the 50’s. They claim the Black Falcon will do every bit of 140mph, which I believe. I just don’t know why you would want to go that fast on such a beautiful bike. It could have a top speed of 28mph and I would be happy with it, I mean just look at it. But to keep with Vincent lore it must be both, a rolling example of perfection. It will never replace what Vincent created all those moons ago, but it’s a fitting tribute.