Battle Of The Basic Big Twins 2000 Excelsior-Henderson American X

One of the contenders that enters the big ten ring

excelsior henderson
Excelsior-Henderson American XCruiser

This article was originally published in the August 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

“Are they still building bikes?” Motorcyclists who saw the Excelsior-Henderson parked among our big 10 asked that question repeatedly. The short answer is, “No, but the company plans to start again now that it has an escape route from its money woes.” The return to production is not planned for a few months yet, perhaps even the beginning of 2001, but gloomy predictions (our own included) may have been premature as Excelsior-Henderson now has a plan—and the cash—to restructure. Currently, the company is just servicing existing customers with warranty problems, parts, etc.

When Excelsior agreed to supply a bike for this test, we were asked if we would like the telescopic-forked American X. Though the leading-link fork Super X appears to be functionally superior, we suspect the telescopic version will be more popular because of its appearance. Using a conventional front suspension also permits the firm to lower the price by more than $1000—which will make this model even more appealing, though still pricey. The company expects a retail price between $15,000 and $16,000. With that in mind, plus the fact that the American X has not been previously tested, we opted to include the telescopic-fork version. Although the rest of the bike is off the production line (but may see some changes by the time production resumes), the fork and other front end components were prototypical and will probably change. Excelsior expects to use a longer fork for production. The American X (the model name may also change) uses a slimmer fender than the leading-linked Super X. It wraps around a 16.0 x 3.0 chromed wire-spoked wheel with an MT90B16 tube-type tire. The fork has shapely, curved-profile chromed sliders topped with chromed seal covers sliding on stout 45mm stanchions. Like the leading-link item, this fork distinguishes itself in the crowd for both its appearance (which in this case we think will be more appealing than the leading-link design with its external springs) and functional edge.

This unique-yet-functional approach is repeated in many components. The curving tubes of the frame’s front downtubes and the swingarm distinguish themselves and are backed up with enough gusseting to assure strength. Excelsior has the only full tank-top instrumentation that includes a tachometer along with a speedo and fuel gauge. The ignition switch, which you unlock and remove the key from before starting, is conveniently located under the right side of the fuel tank. Its large size makes it easy to operate even when wearing heavy gloves.

However, the firm also used conventional designs when they were appropriate. The handlebar switchgear follows the pattern used by most other motorcycles without any eccentricities such as the two-button turn-signal systems used by BMW and Harley. E-H also adopted a locking-type sidestand used on Harleys, which will not retract when there is weight on it. This enables the bike to be bumped or even moved around on a smooth surface while resting on the stand without the stand retracting.

Rear suspension is via a single damper that may be adjusted for spring preload and rebound damping after you remove the saddle. The shock is well out of sight (under the saddle) giving the frame a clean, hardtail appearance. The swingarm wraps around a similar wheel and MU90B16 Dunlop K491. Both ends are stopped with four-piston calipers pinching 11.5-inch discs.

The American X gets its own seat, which features a basket-weave finish and a unique retaining slot for the passenger grab strap. The generous 5.5-gallon fuel tank and the rest of the bike (rear of the steering head) are the same as the original Super X and are production pieces. The tank features the same notches in its bottom edge to clear the tall cam towers atop the cylinders. The battery resides under a ribbed chrome box on the left. Our bike was finished in solid black with tank graphics that keep it from getting too subdued. E-H plans to offer it in four additional colors that have yet to be decided.

The 1386cc “X-twin” engine sports a 50-degree V angle. Incoming air from the unique airbox on the left side of the engine is mixed with 92-octane fuel by a port-sequential closed-loop fuel-injection system. The air passes through 42mm throats—one for each cylinder—and past two intake valves in each cylinder, then exits through two exhaust valves. Chain-driven dual overhead cams operate each cylinder’s four valves with hydraulic adjusters between the cam lobes and the tops of the valves to eliminate the need for adjustment. The silent Hy-vo-type cam chains are also tensioned automatically. The engine management system includes a diagnostics port for troubleshooting.

The bottom end uses a single-crankpin crankshaft with conventional side-by-side rods running on plain bearings. Lubrication is a dry-sump system with the sump located below the transmission. Oil is added through a long-neck filler tube that emerges from the right side panel. The primary drive is by gear, and a toothed belt gets power to the rear wheel.

We found lots of details to like on this bike. Among those that bear mentioning are its tire valve stems, which are offset to the right side of the wheels’ centerlines making them easy to reach. A four-way flasher system is standard. The rear fender rail has notches for bungee cord attachment.

If Excelsior-Henderson can leave its financial problems behind and get its bikes back into production, the American X is ready to deliver the goods.

Excelsior-Henderson American X
Seat height: 27.2 in.
Wheelbase: 62.8 in.
Wet weight: 728 lb., 54% rear wheel
GVWR: 1140 lb.
Overall length: 94.3 in.
Rake: 30.5°
Trail: 5.5 in.
Suggested base price: $15,000–15,800
Standard colors: Black
Extra cost colors: To be announced
Standard warranty: NA
Recommended service interval: 2500 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air-cooled, 50-degree, V-twin
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1386cc, 93 x 102.1mm
Compression ratio: 9.2:1
Carburetion: EFI, two 42mm throats
Lubrication: Dry sump, 4.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 92 octane
Transmission: Wet clutch, five speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/32
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 16.0 x 3.0 front, 16.0 x 3.5 rear
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop K491 tube-type
Rear tire: MU90B16 Dunlop K491 tube-type
Front brake: Double-action 4-piston caliper, 11.5-in. disc
Rear brake: Double-action 4-piston caliper, 11.5-in. disc
Front suspension: 45mm stanchions, 4.2 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.0-in. travel, adjustments for spring preload, rebound damping
Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal.
Handlebar width: 33.9 in., 1.0-in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 33.5 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 420 watts
Battery: 12v, 18AH
Forward lighting: 7.0-in. headlight, position lights
Taillight: Single-bulb taillight, license light
Instruments: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, LCD odometer/tripmeter; warning lights for high beam, neutral, engine, turn signals, low oil pressure, low voltage, low fuel
Fuel mileage: 37 to 45 mpg, 42.0 mpg avg.
Average range: 231 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2270
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 66.1 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 15.08 sec., 85.6 mph