Last column, Skidmarks – (Excelsior-Henderson) X Factor, I related the curious case of die-hard Excelsior-Henderson fans, men and women who love their motorcycles and loyally keep them running, year after year. I chatted with a few of them to get an idea of why they liked the big V-Twins so much. Performance, handling and style came up, along with that amorphous quality we all desire but can’t easily define: soul.
What gives the Excelsior-Henderson its soul? Why is it still a desirable and functional motorcycle after all these years? Well, probably nobody would know that better than company Founder Dan Hanlon, so I called him up, and he graciously took the time to answer my questions.
Dan Hanlon in the jacket photo of his book, Riding The American Dream.
Hanlon, now nearing his 60s, was the point man for the Hanlon family, the folks who, in 1992, decided to re-launch the Excelsior-Henderson brand. Their decade-long journey (documented in Dan Hanlon’s book, Riding the American Dream, ended in bankruptcy for the company, but it did create a lasting legacy, with members of the Excelsior-Henderson team going on to share what they learned with other manufacturers, and a litany of lessons learned about starting a motorcycle company from scratch.
But at the end of the day, Dan told me, “The goal is to produce a motorcycle. That’s what you’re judged on.” The motorcycle Hanlon and his team built was an impressive product. At the heart of it was the engine, an air-cooled 50-degree Vee dubbed the “X-Twin,” as it resembles the upper half of an X, playing a bit on Excelsior-Henderson’s heritage. Like the old bike (built 1925-1931), it uses an air-cooled V-Twin and has a springer front end, but that’s where the similarity to the vintage Super X ends. It was …read more