Tester: Eric McKeegan
Weight: 165 lbs.
According to the advice from modern, data-driven marketing gurus, a business needs an expensive, responsive website with accurate prices. Social media posts need to be constant. And of course, local competition should be kept to a minimum.
Mr. Cameron Falconer doesn’t seem to listen to those people. Instead, he makes deceptively simple-looking bicycle frames in the frame-building hotbed of Northern California. He has a website, but the prices are a few years out of date, and his Instagram account is named after a breakfast duo rather than his company. Yet he somehow gets by.
This particular Falconer was built for the annual Paul Camp, a press junket at Paul Components Engineering’s Chico, California, workshop. As such, it isn’t built for any particular person; a utility player if you will, but with drop bars and big tires.
The build kit is about as MAGA as you can get, with the full complement of Paul parts including the excellent Klamper brakes. NoCal based White Industries provided hubs, headset and cranks, and Velocity rolled up a pair of blue Blunt SS rims for the build.
I’ll admit to being underwhelmed by this bike at first. Visually there isn’t a lot going on here, and the first ride wasn’t remarkable. There isn’t a single geometry number that stands out as needing a short, steep, slack or long descriptor.
But I kept riding the bike and kept looking at it, and each time I came away more and more impressed. Subtle details like the gussets on the inside of the fork legs and the minimalist (and strong) dropouts show the care taken to fabricate this frame. Falconer says he, “aims for bikes that are quiet underneath you, literally and metaphorically.” The more I rode this bike, the more I felt at home and relaxed. Sitting comfortably between the wheels, I have to remind myself regularly to actually think about the bike so as to not write a “it rides like a bike” bike review.
Even with a firm saddle and cloth bar tape, this bike is comfortable on long rides. Some of it is the big tires, but my position on the bike balances the forces between all points of contact, making it easy to keep hands, butt and feet happy.
That balance pays off in more than just comfort. I took this bike all over the place, from paved commutes to all the local mountain bike trails. It took me a few rides to remember how to do dirt without a dropper, but now I’m happy rallying this rigid buggy just about anywhere.
It’s been nice looking at a bike without a few dozen braze-ons for the bikepacking lifestyle, but Falconer will add those bits if you desire. Custom is as custom does.
There are two Paul bits I want to call out here. I’m not usually a fan of the secondary brake lever, but I use this one regularly when sitting up to eat or shoot pictures. The Shifter adaptor mounts a SRAM shifter next to the stem, and while it isn’t as ergonomic as an STI-style shifter, it soon became second nature. It also stayed out of the way of handlebar bags, and the GX 1×11 drivetrain was a simple and perfect fit for this bike.
This bike has a tough job. Not only does it have to represent well for Falconer, as the only custom bike in this group, it stands in for the dozens of excellent custom builders out there. But like a jazz drummer, the Falconer keeps it steady; no flamboyant flourishes or extraneous beats.
Don’t pigeonhole Falconer as a monster-cross guy. While this is representative of his work, he builds everything from road bikes to plus-tired, all-mountain shredders all with the same understated dedication to making the small details matter.
Specs: (based on size tested)
Top Tube: 25.5”
Head Tube: 70.5°
Seat Tube: 73.5°
BB Height: 11.5”
Weight: 25.6 lbs.
Price: $2,100 frame, $500 fork