If I cannot test ride a bicycle to determine its geometric integrity, then I follow a crude procedure for checking to see if the frame and fork set is straight and undamaged.

The Falcon frame passed the "is it straight and true test" just fine, and that is not always the case with vintage road bicycles.  Vintage frames are fragile and can be easily bent enough to negatively impact ride qualities.  I go completely through over a hundred vintage road bicycles each year, checking them for alignment very carefully.  More often than not, I do often find that an old road bike frame must be touched up a tad to get it straight and true.

More often than not, the rear drops will need a bit of a tweak to get them parallel to one another again.  Another common frame malady is spread rear drops.  Frame issues must be addressed before getting into a restoration or custom build of any kind.  Failure to check the frame's structural integrity might spell disaster during or even after the project is complete.  Check the frame set.  All you need is a tape measure and a piece of string.

Once satisfied that the Falcon had a solid and straight frame, I moved my attention to the mechanics.  Both the bottom bracket and head set were removed, cleaned and inspected.  Both were found to be in great shape, however...

The Falcon was originally fitted with a cottered bottom bracket spindle.  Though the cottered set-up is quite acceptable, a more modern tapered spindle arrangement is preferable.  Generally, a cottered set-up will involve an all steel assembly, which is quite heavy when compared to its modern tapered siblings.  These Old School cottered assemblies are secured into place with a single pin and, if improperly installed, the pin can come loose.  A loose pin will allow the cranks to flop around on the bottom bracket spindle and wear out very quickly.  Additionally, the cotter pins must be identical or the cranks will not fall into perfect alignment.  All in all, cottered assemblies are a pain to work on and maintain if one does not know what they are doing.

The tapered crank is held in place with a single bolt that forces the crank up a four sided taper shaft that is machined on the end of the bottom bracket crank.  This is a very positive mounting system and it is more user friendly from an installation and maintenance point of view.  Always choose a tapered crank set and matching bottom bracket if offered the opportunity to do so.

I swapped the Falcon's Old School bottom bracket for a more modern tapered one, paying attention to chain line when I did so.  Chain line is very important!  When setting up any drive, be it "Ten Speed" or Single Speed, you must try to get the front and rear sprockets in as perfect a line as possible.  An out of line set of sprockets will rob power, increase friction and cause very rapid wear of both sprockets.  Chain line is a simple situation to define for a "Single Speed" and impossible for a "Ten Speed" since there are two front sprockets and five rear.  It is impossible to have them all in line but it is possible to have them all set as close as possible.  That is the simplified explanation.

Of course, a special crank and ring set is needed for a "Single Speed" bicycle and I was not about to go out and buy one.  With this in mind, I used a standard tapered two ring crank set and discarded the big ring.  Actually, I did not discard the ring, I had it machined down to act as a pant leg protector and to help retain the original strength intended by the engineers who designed the crank set to begin with.  The result was an attractive and functional component that cost me nothing.  Of course, the machine work was done for free.  Since then I have figured out how to come up with a really attractive Single Speed crank conversion that costs nothing to implement.

The "Single Speed" drive is a simple and elegant assembly that draws the eye.  The absence of derailleurs and the serpentine path the chain must travel to accommodate the rear derailleur cleans up the bicycle's appearance noticeably.

Single speed freewheels are available from most local bicycle shops and they do not have to cost an arm and a leg to purchase.  I would suggest, however, that you don't go for the cheapest one on the shelf.  Freewheels are part of the running gear of a bicycle and a cheap one will "drag" or slow the bicycle and you down.  Anything that you do to negatively impact ride quality will ultimately decrease the quality or feel of the ride.  Increased freewheel drag is a considerable negative impact.

Since the Falcon Single Speed was a fun project, I decided to go with an unusual control center.  In an effort to maintain the vintage appearance, the original steering stem, a embossed GB was retained.  I also happened to have a few different sets of unusual handlebars that I had found here and there.  I selected a set of semi-moustache bars to which I mounted an appropriate set of brake levers and handlebar grips.  The effect was pleasing to view and added considerably to the vintage appeal of this nice old English bicycle.

This control group worked very well, offering a more upright seating position that lends itself well to shorter, around town rides.  However, this kind of handlebar does not allow for the variety of hand positions that the drop bars do.  But then again, for shorter rides, it doesn't really matter.  Does it?

To compliment the bicycle's vintage nature, a period correct Wright's leather saddle was plucked from a shelf in the Old Shed.  The Wright saddles are just about as comfortable as any other leather saddle.  However, they are not nearly as well made as the mighty Brooks offerings.  I decided to go with the Wright saddle simply because it was what I had on hand at the time.  And, the saddle proved to be reasonably comfortable.  That said, if I had kept the bicycle, I would probably have installed a Brooks B17 Special eventually.  The Special is a wider saddle and might have proved more suitable for the upright seating position that the Falcon control arrangement demands.

Seat post selection is another critical factor when selecting vintage as opposed to functional components.  The Old School seat post and separate saddle clamp is not a good set-up, in my opinion.  I am a heavy fellow, at two hundred plus pounds (at the beginning of riding season anyway), and the Old School post and separate clamp system does not work well.  The old system often times allows the saddle to twist from side to side, an annoying situation, at best.  Annoying becomes dangerous when the saddle unexpectedly tips forward or aft while riding.  Whenever possible for a street build, I go with an indexing saddle post.

What saddle post I decided to go with I cannot remember.  I do recall having a difficult time finding an appropriate one in my stash of posts.  Why difficult to find - because seat posts come in a variety of diameters to fit the into the seat tube cavity.  The difference in diameters is often very small and it is easy to install one that of incorrect size.  I finally managed to come up with a good indexing alloy seat post.  The post installed well, tightened up securely, thanks to the preparation of the seat lug and looked just fine on this beautiful old bicycle.

Since the Falcon "SS"  was to be an around town bicycle, I decided against strapping or clipping in.  With this in mind, I decided to use a set of Rat Trap pedals without the traps.  These pedals are identical, top or bottom and no time need be invested seeking out the proper way to engage them.  The idea was that such a set-up would be easier to use for the on and off kind of riding that one does in the city.  Additionally, any shoe would do for this set-up, again adding to the around town on and off user friendliness.

Braking power was the next concern.  The Falcon is a vintage road bicycle and even though vintage brakes are not as effective as modern brakes, they do the job just fine (usually).  I decided to go with the original brake callipers that were issued when the Falcon was new - Weinmann 810 Vainqueur 999 center pulls.  The Old School center pull Wienmanns would help to retain the vintage look that I was trying to retain for the Falcon conversion.

The Weinmann brake callipers have a long reach, which is what I would need for the Falcon since it was originally set-up for 27 inch wheels.  I intended to install a set of 700c wheels, smaller in diameter than the 27" units suggesting a need for a longer reach calliper.

Once again, I went to the stash in The Old Shed to see what I had for a decent set of wheels.  It was my good fortune at the time to have a really nice set of Maillard 500 sealed bearing hubs laced, with stainless steel spokes, to Matrix alloy rims.  The set even had good tires installed.  Though the set would do nothing to add to the vintage appearance of the Falcon, the wheels would add an improved lighter feel to the ride.  With this in mind, I chose the 700c set and never looked back.

As is always the case when building a bicycle and after ensuring that the hubs were in top notch condition, I dropped the wheels, one at a time into my home made wheel truing stand.  Little effort was required to true up and re-dish this nice old wheel set.

Truing wheels is a common task, when it comes to maintaining a vintage road bicycle but dishing is not.  A wheel rim must sit in line with the center line of the bicycle.  When one changes a five cog freewheel to a single cog one, it becomes necessary to reposition the wheel assembly to maintain chain line.  Repositioning the entire wheel will make it necessary to change the position of the rim to the hub.  This is called dishing and does require just a bit of skill to accomplish.  That said, with a little practice and very few special tools, just about anyone can accomplish the task.

With the wheels prepared, I installed a 16 tooth single speed freewheel that I purchased at a local bike shop for less that twenty dollars.  Chain installation, however, is a bit more tricky than it is on a derailleur equipped bicycle.

I started by moving the rear wheel as close to the entry end of the rear drops as I could.  This would allow for maximum chain adjustment once installed.  With the rear wheel temporarily secured in this position, I placed the chain on front and rear sprockets to determine where to cut the chain (the chain will be shorter than one used in a derailleur equipped bicycle).  With the cutting point determined, the chain was cut and then installed on the Falcon.  The rear wheel was pulled as far back as the chain slack would allow and then secured in place.  I checked to see if the rear wheel lined up with the seat post tube, as it should and did.  Do not make the chain as tight as it will go!  Some slack is necessary for a drive chain to function properly.  To little slack, and rapid wear will result.  Too much and the chain will have a tendency to fall off.

I gave the newly converted Falcon "SS" a final tune up, checking virtually every nut and bolt as I did so to ensure that I had overlooked nothing.  The bicycle was perfect and ready to go.  After two days of work (fun), the Falcon Single Speed was ready for the road.