Falconer Cycles is now making titanium frames and last weekend, he unveiled a stunning titanium hardtail touring bike to John…
For creatives – be it sculptors or painters – expanding into other mediums is often fulfilling and cathartic. Learning new methodologies and processes keeps makers engaged with their work. Lots of bicycle fabricators start out TIG welding steel frames and, later, expand into working with titanium. This offers new horizons for not only the brand but also for loyal followers to access a superior material.
Cameron Falconer is the latest builder to be documented here expanding into titanium from steel. While in Southern Arizona last weekend, John caught up with Cam who showcased a titanium hardtail touring bike with a custom titanium rack. This was “John’s modern bike shoot of the year” as he put it excitedly and you can see why below…
We spin a lot of words around here extolling the virtues of titanium as a superior material for building bicycles in comparison to steel. Titanium won’t rust. It’s hard to bend. The ride quality can be engineered to absorb road chatter and vibrations. It’s flexy in all the right ways. It’s light. It’s beautiful raw. But it’s hard to learn to weld, and it often doubles the builder’s cost for producing a complete bike. The parts, like dropouts, brake mounts, and other miscellaneous bits, all from Paragon Machine Works, are expensive. The tubing is expensive. Yet the ride quality is divine, especially for a touring bike.
The most expensive bike I own is a 29×3″ wheel titanium touring bike made by Sklar Bikes. It has a large front triangle for a massive frame bag and a flexy steel fork. This bike rides like a dream when loaded down and it’s set the hook for me. Ti just feels better on tours. You’re less beat up at the end of a long day, and when paired with titanium handlebars and seatpost, your contact points are less sore after miles upon miles of corrugated washboard roads.
All these reasons and more were the impetus for Cameron Falconer to learn to work with this material and inspired him to make a new hardtail touring bike.
Falconer Hardtail Touring Bike
What makes a hardtail a touring bike? My take is any bike with rack and cargo mounts is a touring bike. Not just cargo cage mounts but actual rack mounts. We saw this from the inception of the mountain bike, and we continue to see this today. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Cameron and I discussed how having proper stack height (i.e., a taller head tube) solves a lot of problems in such an application.
First, it gives you more frame bag space since the head tube is taller. It also puts you in a more upright riding position, which not only handles better on steep singletrack descents when loaded down but aids in comfort. A higher stack won’t have you all hunched over. Rather, you’ll be a bit higher when it gets steep, and when you’ve got a loaded-down bike, that makes it all the easier to wield it in unruly terrain.
Cam pinged the guys at Outer Shell Adventure to make him an ultralight framebag and it really ties the room together…
The bike has a 66.5º headtube, 72.5º seat tube, 660mm effective top tube, 450mm chainstays, and 70mm of bottom bracket drop. He has 2.5″ tires on it, but a 2.6″ could be crammed in there depending on your riding terrain. If you live somewhere without mud, then cram that rubber in there! Cam mentioned he wished he would have slacked it up to 66º on the front, but overall, it is an excellent proof of concept for this use case.
As mentioned above, a proper touring bike has rack and cargo mounts. Yet, Cameron wanted to do something more sleek, minimal, and integrated with this rack…
Built in an afternoon from scrap parts and “thrown together” as fast as possible, this rack is not a final product. It’s an experiment. It’s a prototype and should be viewed as such. Racks take a lot of time to ideate and create. Most builders have stepped away from designing racks because they are so time-intensive to make. Yet, with titanium, the reward of an ultralight, strong rack is worth it to some customers, myself included. After holding this rack, I’d say it weighs ounces, not pounds, and it features some unique problem-solving.
Cameron was inspired by racks that don’t require mounts. He named the Tailfin rack as one of the rack systems he took inspiration from. Salsa’s rack seatpost clamp made it possible, and Cameron machined a special thru-axle extension, similar to Old Man Mountain‘s designs for the drive-side mounting, and used a disc brake tab bolt for the non-drive. The result is an asymmetrical rack design that carries two large Nalgenes, some mini panniers, and a tent or Z-rest pad on the top platform.
He built this bike to ride part of the Adventure Cycling Association’s Idaho Hot Springs Route, a mix of fire road, double track, and singletrack. I.e., the perfect terrain for a lightweight hardtail.
Approximate Cost and Specs
Cameron is welding with straight gauge titanium. He makes custom geometry bikes specifically tailored to his client’s needs. He can do drop bar or flat bar bikes; the frame alone will run approximately $4,000. If you wanted a custom titanium rack, you’re looking at north of an additional $1,000, and Cam would be losing money because racks take a lot of time to build correctly.
Yet, to own a bike like this is to own it for the long run. Ti bikes offer the most unique ride quality out of any material, and now you can own one with the Falconer name on the downtube.
Look, I shoot a lot of bikes. From rare Cunninghams to longtail production, Ti hardtails and this bike really resonated with me. I’m not a fan of “bikepacking” saddle packs, and a nice, minimal rack solves a lot of problems people face when loading up for a tour. A bike like this can be stripped of its rack (and even frame bag) and look like a standard hardtail, yet within a few minutes, it looks ready for the long haul!
Thanks for the hang, Cameron. Well done, my friend.
Holler at Falconer Cycles for more information. Tell him I sent ya…