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1911 Excelsior twin. “Silent and sure as the flight of time”

December 11, 2011
somewhere near Creston, CA


Jumping back 100 years from this holiday season, Excelsior had a great line up of motorbikes for their customers.  For their new 1911 models, Excelsior modified the bikes to bring the seat down lower, and make it easier for riders touch their feet down while stopped.  Excelsior was not the only manufacturer who saw the need to lower the seat, as riders worldwide had been asking for the change.  Builders in the US, UK, OZ and Europe gradually revised their frames prior to The Great War, some adding other novel features such as rear springing or suspended footboards.  The Chicago team continued in 1913, with the rear portion of the gas tank sloping down further, culminating in the streamlined design of the beautiful 1915 X, which became a trend for the whole bike industry.


The 1910 X twin.  Note the frame top tube, straight back from the steering head to the seat post.  Also see the neatly curved intake manifold.

 1910 X

1911 Excelsior


1913 X advert


1915 ad



A humorous cartoon from the 1909 Motorcycle Illustrated magazine, showing a suggestion multi-cylinder, low seat motorbike, with some very interesting features.  Dogs and cats beware!

multicylinder 1909


Greg N’s 1911 Excelsior, belt drive 50ci twin, as seen at the Atascadero Rally and Minden too.  He’s had the bike for years, and knows how to get the most out of it.  I enjoyed following him through Peachy Canyon, and watched as the bike kept its speed up and down the various hills, with no need for a gear change.  Indeed, there was no possibility for a gear change, as the bike has a single speed on the fixed belt and pullies.  He would adjust the throttle and timing as needed, and never had to resort to any L.P.A. going up the hills (light pedal assistance!)  In the background is Wes’s 1913 X,with the later frame design and two speed gearing, in addition to the leaf spring front forks.  The constant development of the bikes year after year kept the design engineers and factory workers very busy.IMG_1711


The original tank, with some patina.  Where the paint has worn away, the copper is visible.  These early tanks were soldered from copper, before the change to steel sheet.  One advantage of the copper is that it won’t rust out in the presence of moisture.DSC08092 



The 50ci motor can be identified by the base flanges of the cylinders.  On the larger 61ci (1000cc) motors, the base flange had to be larger to accommodate the large bore and pistons.  They have a round  protrusion on the flanges bulging out around the four studs and nuts that attach them to the crankcases.DSC08095


The rear wheel pulley is made from wood, but I haven’t been able to identify it.  Maybe hickory?  From this angle you can also see the gentle curve of the pulley’s cross section.



A series of snaps as we rode down the road:



An old photo I bought on eBay a while back, showing a similar 1911 X belt drive twin.  Note that this bike does not have an Eclipse clutch on the end of the motor’s mainshaft, nor the long clutch lever up to the gas tank.IMG_0619



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Abbott permalink
    December 11, 2011 10:30 am

    “Silent and sure as the flight of time”. HAH!! I used to write ad copy and that’s about as good as it gets!
    Jim A., Tucson, AZ

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