What are you thoughts on Excelsior Henderson... | Page 6 | Victory Motorcycles: Motorcycle Forums

What are you thoughts on Excelsior Henderson...

Discussion in 'Victory General Discussion' started by KeepRidin!, Aug 24, 2020.

  1. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    The 2000 model year introduced the first 'new models' to the line-up. I'm not going to kid anybody. These were essentially option packages available from the factory, mixed in with some finish changes. Truly new models were on the drawing boards and in development when the factory was forced to let most of the employees go and focus on selling what they had built.

    The first of the two new models introduced (with a different model designation and VIN) was the HCXT Touring Limited Edition, colloquially known as the Jennie. It got that name because the color was allegedly championed by co-founder Jennie Hanlon. Whatever the case, the new bike featured a single-color Oyster paint scheme (same as the co-color of the red and green bikes) with gold striping. It also came factory-equipped with all of the touring accessories (windshield, bags, spotlights, etc). Finally, a new, one-piece seat and factory wide whitewall Dunlop tires finished off the package.

    I believe 75 of these were produced (the claimed numbers vary between 60 and 75). According to the registry, there are some other color bikes that were produced and specified as Touring Limited Editions. I'm not sure if the owners entered the information incorrectly, or if the production line became the wild west at the end and employees made whatever sounded interesting. The VIN is different so it's easy to verify, though of no practical value.

    I originally wanted one of these bikes and drove the length of California looking for one before buying my red bike. None were to be found at the time. The dealer in Coeur d'alene had one but, he wanted a premium and it wasn't California emissions legal anyway.

    In 2012, this Jennie popped up on Craigslist, in Omaha, Nebraska. It wasn't cheap but, it wasn't out of reach either. It was listed for months. The price crept down a hundred or two each week. 1,600 miles seemed like an awfully long way to buy a motorcycle. It was mid-winter. A fly & ride on an unknown bike in questionable weather seemed insane. Driving seemed equally as bad. It eventually disappeared. Temptation relieved, disaster averted.

    In early summer, it came back with a greatly reduced price. Not running but, come and get it. "Cheap enough. Put a fork in me, I'm done."

    After some conversation back & forth with the owner, he assured me that he wouldn't sell it if I was truly on my way. I rolled out with van, trailer and a pocket full of cash. 23 hours and 1,550 miles later, I rolled into his shop. He was a little stunned. "Hey, new bike excitement." We've all been there.

    j03.jpg

    She obviously needed some clean-up. The missing saddlebags were included but, not installed. She was filthy from being parked in a diesel repair shop. The source of 'not running' turned out to be a bad crank angle sensor. Alcohol infused gasoline did a number on the o rings in the fuel pressure regulator, resulting in some cutting-out issues. She needed a stator and some other deferred maintenance. If you've read this far, you know she got all of that and more.

    This was last November on the valley floor in Yosemite National Park. It's a good running bike, though not really any different than any of the others except in VIN, color and the fact that she left the building wearing all the accessories to begin with.
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  2. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    And only 50 miles away too. Irony of ironies, that turned up about six months after bringing mine back from Wisconsin. It's a dealer and they're fishing for $8-9K. I haven't seen it in person but, without the necessary upgrades that's a $5K bike on a good day.
     
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  3. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    The other special edition model introduced in 2000 was the HCXS Deadwood Special. The lore was that the Hanlons regularly chose Deadwood, South Dakota as their hangout spot during Sturgis bike week. It was there that the first discussions of starting a motorcycle company supposedly began. This model paid tribute to that history.

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    Unlike the Touring Limited Edition, the Deadwood actually got some new part numbers, though they were all related to finish changes. The engine and chassis parts got numerous alterations to colors and highlighting. The previous owner of this bike had carefully installed a blue-dot in the tail light. No worries. He made sure that he literally kept everything he ever removed from the bike or had a spare (down to its first factory oil filter). He had a spare, NOS lens but, in the spirit of the bike, I've left the blue-dot in place.

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    The previously highlighted textured-black cylinders and heads became silver heads on gloss black cylinders, without highlighted edges. Other engine parts changed finish as well. The main engine cases became textured silver while the primary became gloss black instead of chrome. The rigid portion of the springer front end got chrome while the spring struts got blacked-out parts to accent the construction. The belt guard became black instead of chrome. Pin striping was dropped, flame decals added to the tank and both fenders and raised white letter Dunlop 491 Elite 2 tires finished off the wheels.

    261.jpg

    Not being a fan of the Dunlop Elites, I chose to not replace them with the same. The bike needed something different and it came in the form of these IRC Wild Flare tires. Yeah, shoot me. :) I wanted something with a little extra over basic black tires and they carried the flame motif of the rest of the bike.

    If anybody is wondering: the sidewalls are soft compared to Avons, Continentals or Dunlops but they are on the cheaper side. They don't handle badly enough that I would notice if I didn't have other bikes to immediately compare against. They'd probably be scary if they went flat but, I can't say the others would be a lot better on such a heavy bike. No regrets and if you have a flame-paint Victory...

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    How rare is it to see an Excelsior-Henderson in the wild? Rare enough that this guy visited the factory a number of times back when they were in development but, never saw the final product until last November. He spent an honest 15 minutes chatting with me about them at this British bike event. I reasoned that the engine was Weslake-born so that makes it part British, no?

    264.jpg
     
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  4. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    I guess I hadn't shared what they're like to ride.

    Those of us who rode prior to the mid '90s, remember when there were no Triumph Motorcycles. I guess some of us are old enough to remember when Triumph disappeared (damn, I'm getting old). Anyway, the Triumph brand was revived at least partly by a British gentleman by the name of Allan Hurd. He was the brains behind resurrecting the heritage English brand and returning it to the marketplace. Needing a team of the right people, Allan was recruited by Dan Hanlon to work on the new Super X.

    As a result, the controls and construction of the new Excelsior-Henderson ended up looking like many other world-class motorcycles of the time. He already had industry connections and had established working relationships. The Super X was more Moto Guzzi, Triumph or Aprilia than Harley.

    Familiar Nissin master cylinders adorned the bars and control switches from the same suppliers as the big-four Japanese brands. As a result, parts like the brake light switch on the bars are shared with other brands and models. Want wide-blade Kuryakyn levers? No problem. The lever set for the Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 matches perfectly (7427 part number). Engine management was via Sagem MC1000 (same system as Triumphs and Aprilias of the time).

    Any early Victory owner would recognize these handlebar switches (same supplier). The Super X didn't need the mode switch and I think you got a passing flasher button on the front of the left switch? The Super X didn't get that either. We did get a high-tech turn signal controller that incorporated multiple self-canceling modes as well as 4-way flashers. I'm not familiar enough with the V92 models to compare.

    Sitting on the bike, you look over acres of chrome. The headlight bucket, suspended out front, provides a rolling panorama view of yourself in the surrounding landscape. The large diameter springs on the fork dance as the bike rolls down the road. Those were the first things I remember from the first blocks of test ride in July 2000.

    Twin chrome caps (one functional and one dummy) flank the tank-mounted instrument cluster. Again, trying to capture elements of the heritage Excelsior and Henderson motorcycles, the cluster was laid out in a shape reminiscent of the 1931 Super X.

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    While most of the bikes came with a conventional swept 1" diameter bar (above), the Deadwood was equipped with narrower and more aggressive drag-style 1" bar (below). These accessory spotlights seemed out of place on the Deadwood so they were removed and put away last fall.

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    The factory accessory windshield is quickly removable using four 1/4-20 screws. The shot below is on the blue / silver 1999 two years ago, in late fall. The wind protection is good enough to make riding ATGATT too warm above 70 or so. This one is now on the shelf too.

    190.jpg

    The riding position is standard cruiser: wide, rubber-mounted bars, forward-set floorboards with heel-toe shifting and a soft seat. You either love it or hate it. I honestly prefer a more upright, neutral position but, that's no fault of the bike. It's a cruiser and that's what it does.

    251.jpg

    Having not shot any of these bikes in Yosemite, I set out one fall morning a couple of years ago on the Deadwood. The goal? A picture of the bike in the last turn descending into the parking area at Glacier Point. The valley floor is about 260 miles from home, including the loop out to Glacier Point. A one-day ride would put me at 520-ish miles. It was well within my comfort range on other bikes but, I wasn't sure about the cruiser riding position for so long.

    What I hadn't planned on was numerous construction delays in the park. Two separate ones after the entrance gate delayed the day more than an hour.

    172.jpg

    By the time I made it to the valley floor, the late sun in the picture above is obvious. Faced with returning through the same traffic delays, there was a choice to make: wait hours for the escort cars, or opt to ride over 10K foot Tioga pass and south on US 395. Being a rider, there was no question, even though it added nearly 200 miles that I hadn't expected to do.

    I arrived home before midnight, after a tad over 700 miles in a single day. On a sport tourer, that's my normal routine up there. The ride went better than expected for the laid-back cruiser ergonomics. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't done it.
     
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  5. jackthebiker

    jackthebiker Member

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    Lets remember one thing about the EH fiasco, a lot of people lost a lot of money. They raised a lot of money, set up dealerships, built a palace for a manufacturing plant, and the whole thing went under because of their mismanagement of the money. Borderline fraud. Thats what I think of when I see their motorcycles.
     
  6. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    You can't toss a stinky fish out like that and not expect a response, can you? :biggrin:

    Yeah, that's the popular belief. This gets away from the subject of the motorcycles (which the OP asked about) but, since you mentioned it...

    In his book, Dan Hanlon explains all of that but, few want to listen or accept the reality. Most people were emotionally invested (or even financially) and the easy way out is to just blame it on fraud and mismanagement.

    The building, for example: nothing but a cheap concrete tilt-up in a farm field. Dan outlines the locations of where he tried to buy, lease or build a building. It was the tail end of the dot.com boom and anybody with a suitably-sized building thought they had a pot of gold. He eventually came up with the idea to build a new building, in his home town, using some sleight of architecture to make it look fancier than it was, and not exceed the budget.

    Take a look for yourself:

    Google Maps

    It's a warehouse on cheap land. 22 years later, it's still got vacant dirt around it. It looked fancy because they colored the concrete and did some low-cost gingerbread around the window openings in the side panels. They attached the corporate offices to the front, in a separate structure. The fancy atrium that so many thought was an expensive addition, was truthfully, a gap in the building, lined with paving bricks and enclosed with overhead glass.

    I saw it--one year ago, right now (Labor Day at 7:30 AM). It was on my way home with the green bike. The whole thing was a clever cheat to get them a location, within their budget. I unloaded the bike on the road behind the plant and took her for a ceremonious lap around the site.

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    The rest of the investment money went into R&D, designing and building an assembly line, etc. Engineers are not cheap and salary eats a lot of money. I'm a retired aerospace engineer and lived this for too many years. It's eye-watering to see how quickly labor chews through cash.

    Dan explains where every dime went in each stock report. In the book, he even explained how being publicly traded was the walk of death for them. It meant that every move was under the scrutiny of the shareholders (disclosed in the annual reports). He couldn't go out and spend money as he saw fit, whether it was the right thing in his mind or not.

    It was panic of the shareholders and a delayed production start in 1999 that ultimately sunk the ship. Everyone thought they'd get rich right away and the dot.com boom had spoiled them into believing that's how it works. A motorcycle is a hard product (not software) and requires parts, people and space to come together to build and distribute. It didn't match the get-rich-quick culture of the time.

    Model year production normally begins around June / July of the previous year (June 1998 for the 1999 model year). That's why new models show up in dealerships in the fall. The Super X experienced multiple delays that pushed those first bikes out to February of 1999 and the bulk of production hadn't started rolling until April. That's 8-9 months late (details in his book and more than anyone would read here).

    The problem was that they didn't have the luxury to stay afloat another calendar year. It had to happen in 1999 or it wouldn't have happened at all (no motorcycles). They took their shot, transitioned into 2000 model year production in June 1999 and kept fighting. The money ran out in December of 1999 with the 2000 buying season still ahead of them. Dan Hanlon was faced with laying off his family and friends right before Christmas. Not something he wanted to live but, the money was gone. Now-wounded, nearly 2000 very good motorcycles were a tough sell with a failing company back in Minnesota, waving a big American flag.

    Finally: the Hanlons didn't have much to personally show for the investment when it was done. Some on both the outside, and even some former employees, claim that they "took lavish vacations" and talk about the "palace" they built. They use words like "fiasco" to describe the whole thing. The way the Hanlons stood to make real money on the venture was to keep the company in business and reap more years of salary. What happened was the last thing the senior staff of a publicly traded company wants.

    The investment was not squandered. It stands today as the building and nearly 2000 very good motorcycles that were built from absolutely nothing. Had Victory not enjoyed the deep and guarded pockets of Polaris financing the venture, this forum wouldn't exist and we wouldn't be having this discussion. That's just what it costs to start a motorcycle company today. That's why it hasn't been done again since.
     
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  7. jackthebiker

    jackthebiker Member

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    Well each of us have an opinion. I see you just joined the forum? I too have been to the building as I live a couple hundred miles away and go by there occasionally. I have a friend that has a EH, and my opinion is based on road tests from the time period and info that is publicly available, and to call them a very good motorcycle is a stretch.
     
  8. jackthebiker

    jackthebiker Member

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    Now this is a good motorcycle, my 2012 Crossroads LE. 2012Crossroads.JPG
     
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  9. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    I have all of those magazine tests and articles too. If you go back and read them again, you'll find that the bikes were reviewed favorably by most, with the exception of Fred Rau.

    He was declined thirds of the BBQ ribs at some press gathering or something. He had a hard-on for the brand and published all kinds of provable lies. That's all I'm going to say about the self-absorbed loser. I told MCN that I'd subscribe for life if they fired him. They didn't and I stopped getting their rag shortly thereafter (no, seriously, I could start reading any article in the magazine and could spot his awful thought processes even before looking to see who wrote it).

    My opinion is based on currently owning multiple brands and genres of motorcycles, and continuing to buy and enjoy Super Xs. I've bought some Excelsior-Hendersons that had issues that drove their owners crazy that were nothing more than minor maintenance issues. I've got five Buells, a ZX11, a BMW GS PD, a few Italian bikes, KTMs and others. My opinion isn't limited to simply cruisers, or one brand. What I said stands: a good motorcycle. Full stop.

    Yes, your Crossroads is a fine motorcycle. I've ridden a number of Victorys. As mentioned previously: I've got a list of them I'd own and have been close to buying a few times. This thread is about Excelsior-Henderson. I can write about Buells. They aren't cruisers at all. Are we going to thumb wrestle over which one is better?
     
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  10. normthenomad

    normthenomad Active Member

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    Are you on BWB?
     
  11. broggyr

    broggyr Administrator Staff Member

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    I forgot how gorgeous those bikes are. Glad you were able to post the pics!
     
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  12. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    No idea what you're talking about. :biggrin:

    (Belle Plaine was not the only motorcycle birthplace visited on the trip last year)
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    Edit: I'll let the others in on the gag. That building is where Erik Buell and a small team hand-built the first 500ish Buell motorcycles (pre Harley Davidson investment). I have two that came out of there.
     
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  13. normthenomad

    normthenomad Active Member

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    BadWeatherBikers Buell forum. As valuable for Buells as the VOG is for Victorys. Own a couple of tube framed Buells. M2 and an S1.
    Looking to buy an S2 one of the members of BWB has for sale, Buells and Victorys both fine machines killed by bean counters.
     
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  14. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey Member

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    Yeah, I was active over there but, I haven't posted in the past few years. My Battletwin restoration is stalled for want of a donor, 1989 Sportster 1200 with an unaltered engine. The four-speed, evolution Sportsters had unique heads that usually got swapped for better ones, making this very difficult. The bike has been like this for 7 years. I never figured a Harley engine would be so hard to find.

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    And yes, the Buell brand was executed with prejudice. The guy can't even use his own name anymore. Now they're teasing with that Revolution Max engine that Erik would have killed to have available to him.
     
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  15. kaitiff

    kaitiff Well-Known Member

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    I met a guy back when I was a young man in the military on a trip between duty stations. He had a storage area full of VINCENT motorcycles.. he had shadows, lightnings, you name it. He knew obscure details and showed me hands on all the interesting peculiarities of the brand, and he made me love them on the spot. I get the same vibe from you when it comes to the Excelsior-Henderson bikes. I love meeting people with this much passion about bikes. Thanks for coming by our corner of the internet.
     
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