Reading about how the Francis-Barnett pre-dated all trail bikes (OBM April) took me back to 1953, when the specification for the 197cc Falcon trials bike listed a ‘four-inch’ rear tyre and a four-speed gearbox.
Before this, the general view was that two-stroke bikes of 122 and 197cc would have only the capability to pull a three-and-a-half-inch tyre, and all Villiers engines supplied to manufacturers specified three gears only. This meant that every trials section could be ridden only in bottom gear.
Francis-Barnett transformed the performance of lightweights in trials, and I well remember the many super rides that the well-known works rider George Fisher achieved while competing with the best of heavyweights.
James and other manufacturers all demanded these updated specifications for the 1954 season.
I purchased my trials Falcon 65 on a special order which cost £127. It had no lighting and only a rigid frame was available, so these first machines were intended for competition use only.
The Francis-Barnett was a marvellous little bike to ride, and still brings back memories of trials riding in the 1950s, when the winters were really cold and wet!
Roger Hayes, Swindon
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