Excelsior Manxman

Excelsior motorcycle
Most vintage motorcycles look spindly and fragile. Others look bulbous and unbalanced to modern eyes. But a select few—Vincent included—look hunkered-down and purposeful, and strangely modern: their aesthetic balance has endured.

Excelsior is a name that can be added to that list, as long as you get the right Excelsior—because there are at least eight motorcycle manufacturers who have used that brand name (meaning lofty, or higher) in the past. The 1937 Excelsior we’re looking at here was produced by Britain’s very first motorcycle maker—the firm of Bayliss, Thomas and Co.

The company has an interesting history: after making its name with penny-farthing bicycles, the Coventry-based outfit created the Excelsior motorcycle brand in 1910. Three years later, on the eve of the Great War, it brought out an 800 cc single cylinder motorcycle—the biggest production single ever to be made.

Excelsior used engines from the likes of JAP, Blackburne and Villiers, and following the War, took to the racetrack to promote their bikes. After experimenting with a Blackburne-made racing engine, Excelsior created a simpler and sturdier design of its own—the Manxman. This thumper was produced in capacities of 249, 348 and 498 cc, and the machine featured here is the ‘big’ Manxman.

The company closed in 1965, but there are still a few early models around. The motorcycle in the pictures was recently sold by the leading Dutch dealer Yesterdays, and described as a “well-restored, super fast machine”. If you have a few minutes to spare and like classic motorcycles, the Yesterdays website is well worth investigating.

Excelsior motorcycle
Excelsior motorcycle