Excelsior 150 (May 1963? - July 1964?)
|No, this isn't mine, it's too shiny and it has a pukka Excelsior engine. Mine was later, was a yukky orangey brown colour, and didn't reflect a lot of light. I bought the bike from John Fisher's in New Road, Portsmouth in 1963. It cost £16 and I had to visit my mother in hospital to borrow the money!|
|Excelsior (the British company) was not long for this world. From the glory days of the 'mechanical marvel' through a period when they still made their own engines, they descended to sticking Villiers units in their frames - mine was one of those. It was in a poor state (presumably a trade-in) with no MOT.|
|I was told that the fork bushes needed replacing so I set off for the fabled E W Burnett's (in Eldon Street) who were the agents (they also did Norton, AMC and Velocette).The owners were the sons (twins?) of the founder who had started in the early 1900s, actually selling his own motorcycle (using a Minerva engine). The shop did not seem to have changed since then - the floor was flagged and one wall was covered in small wooden drawers with brass plates on the front. It was rumoured that you could get new parts for veteran bikes there!|
|On a Saturday there was always a queue out of the door, but you could never detect a sense of urgency about either brother. If anything we appeared to be a nuisance! I think I also purchased some exchange shoes and a front brake cable. Later the nipple pulled off the handlebar end, happily only giving me a nasty fright. I took it back, queuing for a good half hour before I reached the counter, and complained. Muttering imprecations as to my abuse of the cable, he took it away, and kept the whole queue waiting while he re-soldered it. I wonder if he did it hoping that I would be attacked on my way out!|
|The shop remained open, more or less a museum, until about 5 years ago. Bikes which had been unsold in the sixties still stood there, but the place had been cleaned and tidied. It closed on the death of the remaining brother and now looks like this - it's hard to believe it was one shop.|
|After going everywhere on a push-bike, I will never forget the sensation of first pulling away on this bike. I had a few near misses with the cops while 'testing it for it's MOT' (well that was my story anyway) for it was hard to resist riding it beforehand.|
|The bike eventually passed its MOT although the front brake
was so bad that, during my driving test, I very nearly ran over the
examiner who, to signal for an emergency stop, had inadvisably stepped out into the road. He made me
do it again, this time staying on the pavement!
I started to ride to school on it. I remember bursting into class one day and bragging that I had just done 11 hundredweight (55mph) - well that's what the speedo said, but with only 4.7 hp I'm not so sure. In spite of its low power, one of my friends managed to loop it when pulling away (well. it was his first time on anything powered!).
|I fell off it a few times - well, rather a lot really. The worst case was when turning right into a small road near my house.|
|I ran wide, the wheels struck the kerb, the bike flicked upright smashing the tank against an inconveniently placed lamp-post, twisted sideways and slid up the pavement with me in hot pursuit (on my backside). A woman pushing a pram on the other pavement must have congratulated herself on her decision to cross the road earlier! It made my head ring for a few days, but it wasn't the last time that the helmet (purchased by my mother for £3.19s.11d) came in useful. In fact, she still has it.|
|After the accident I was left with a beautifully formed hemispherical dent in the side of my tank, which I had recently painted white (with a brush, naturally). Making a virtue out of a necessity, I painted the dent bright red and fitted the handlebars upside down to make it clear how bad an outlaw I was. I can't remember how I came to part with the bike, but I do remember pushing home its replacement in July 1964 - but that's another story.|
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