Friday, January 8, 2010

Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Excelsior

The Excelsior brand got its start in 1876 as a bicycle manufacturer called the "Excelsior Supply Company" in Chicago Illinois. Their first motor driven cycle was built in 1909, and had a single-cylinder engine with a leather belt-drive, and a top speed of around 40 miles per hour.

In 1910 the Excelsior 'Auto Cycle' Motor Mfg. & Supply Co. introduced its first v-twin engine under the models 'F' and 'G.' The 1,000 cc v-twin motor helped Excelsior win several speed, endurance, and reliability records, and in 1912 the Excelsior was the first motorcycle to reach a recorded 100 miles-per-hour.

Early model Excelsior motorcycles were designed by George H. Meiser, who went to work for the short-lived Black Hawk Motorcycle company in 1911, and the Black Hawk design bears a striking resemblance to Excelsior's 'Auto Cycle' design. The 1915 "Big Valve X." with a new three-speed transmission was advertised by Excelsior as "The Fastest Motorcycle Ever Built."

Excelsior Auto-Cycle "Model X"

In 1912 the Schwinn Bicycle Company purchased the Excelsior Company for $500,000. In 1916, the Henderson Motorcycle Company was sold to Excelsior, becoming Excelsior-Henderson. One of the last 1919 runs of a 1920 "Model X" Excelsior was owned by renowned aviator Charles A. Lindbergh.

In late 1917, the Henderson Motorcycle Company was sold to Excelsior owner Ignaz Schwinn, and folded into the Excelsior Motor Mfg. & Supply Company.

Excelsior Super X

The newly redesigned "Model K" was introduced in 1920, and the "Super X" was introduced in 1925. Excelsior's Super X constituted a major design upgrade from the 'X,' with its newly designed 1300cc 61 cubic inch motor, and leading-link front forks.

Due to economic pressures from the Great depression, Excelsior-Henderson's parent company Schwinn decided to close down the motorcycle plant in 1931, ending Excelsior's distinguished 55 year history.


  1. Amazing bikes. If you like these classic American motorcycles, check out Classic American Iron Magazine. Free and lots of great old motorcycles.