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Excelle

Lotus Excelle Sloping Crown
"A true sport bike in chrome-moly for demanding riders who also want a bike tough enough for commuting and daily use.
~~ 1981 Sales Catalog ~~

"Rated #1 for quality and performance by (Consumer Reports), the EXCELLE has been our #1 model for six consecutive years!"
 
~~ 1987 Sales Literature ~~

"Top-rated $279 Lotus Excelle earned excellent scores for pedaling, handling and shifting."
~~  Consumer Reports November 1985~~

The Lotus Excelle was by far the most-popular and best-selling model in the Lotus line.  It is easy to understand why when one looked at the quality of the components, frame materials, and features the Excelle offered, all for well under $300.00 in the early 1980's. The $300.00 bicycle at that time was a very hot price point and most manufacturers strived to bring a bike to market at that price level. Lotus succeeded so well with the Excelle, many bike shop employees from back in the day, tell us that it was very difficult to sell any other brand's competing model next to the Excelle as it was such a great value.

Even from the beginning, the Excelle offered a high-quality steel frame, forged dropouts and most major components on the Excelle were respected name-brand parts in aluminum alloy.  Lotus balanced the design, quality, and affordability to perfection with the Lotus Excelle and the Excelle Mixte models. 

It also comes as no surprise that the Lotus Excelle was given top honors along with the Lotus Challenger in the November 1985 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.  You can see the ratings chart here.

By 1987, the Excelle would be offered in nine different sizes, two frame styles, and three different colors, more variety than any other Lotus model.  Even through the Plaza Accord and the subsequent bicycle price inflation of the mid-1980's the Excelle was still sold in the $300.00 price range.  

The Lotus Excelle and the Lotus Unique are similar bicycles (we call them sister models), but the Unique has slightly upgraded features from the Excelle and those improvements generally pushed the price of the Unique slightly above the all-important $300.00 mark. 

The Excelle evolved through three generations of major changes over the years. The introductory first-generation models were produced from 1980-82, the second-generation models covered 1983-85 and the final years of production were the third-generation 1986-88 bicycles.  After 1988 the make-up of the Lotus company was changing and the closest model to the Excelle was probably the Pro Series 3000R

1980 Lotus Excelle in Silver

1980 Lotus Excelle in RedThe photo above shows an early first-generation silver Lotus Excelle, circa 1980.  The earliest Lotus Excelle models carry a few identifying features, most notably the exposed section of rear brake cable on the top tube, narrower range 28-tooth freewheel, short- cage Shimano 600 Arabesque derailleur and a Lotus decal on the head tube.

Other variations from later editions, found on the earliest Lotus Excelle models, are a lack of a rear spoke protector, fragile water-slide decals on the seat tube and unbranded frame tubing.
 Early Lotus bicycles used water-slide decals that were prone to damage, so it's not uncommon to find the bikes with those decals completely missing.  Later first-generation models changed to a more durable Mylar-type seat tube decal material. 

The photo on the right shows details of an early first-generation 1980 Excelle in Red with the same Lotus flower logo decal on the head tube as was used on the seat tube. Also note the owner added period correct Zefal pump and clamp-on water bottle cage. The Excelle would not see water bottle braze-ons until 1983.

As shown (with arrows) in the photo below, 1981-82 Excelle bicycles would have fully encased rear brake cables with three top tube brazed-on cable guides. 1981 models use a wider range freewheel with a 32-tooth cog in conjunction with the long-cage version of the Shimano 600 Arabesque rear derailleur needed to shift the extra range gearing. 1981 models have a riveted head tube badge, a Shimano plastic rear spoke protector and should carry a decal on the seat tube specifying Tange Champion plain gauge chrome moly frame tubing. The fork crown is also of a different design than the 1980 models.

We have observed a few Excelle models with a mix of early and late features suggesting that the changes were introduced gradually or the specifications slowly modified as parts became available. 

The possibility exists that some of the earliest Lotus models were not made by Tsunoda, but Tsunoda was probably awarded an exclusive production contract by 1981. This would also explain much of the variation in the models. However, we are unable to prove this theory at this time.

The first-generation Excelle was available in Black, Red, and Silver in both the men's and mixte frames.

Lotus specifications in their 1981 catalog call for side-pull brakes, but we have never seen a first-generation Excelle with anything other than center-pull brakes. If you have a first-generation Excelle with side-pull brakes, it's quite possibly a 1982 model, and we'd love to see a photo of your bike. Please Contact Us!

For more information on the 1981 Excelle, please visit our 1981 Excelle Mixte Featured Bicycle page. 

1981 Lotus Excelle in Silver

The Silver 1981 Excelle in the photo above appears to be a very original example of the model.  This bike still has the original Kashimax Super saddle and the original front and rear Cat Eye reflectors with white housings. While the matching red bar tape and cables look handsome with the red seat tube decals, there is no evidence to show that the first-generation Lotus Excelle handlebar tape and cable housings were offered in any colors other than black. Please note, the front brake cable in the photo is routed improperly and could cause a binding problem if not moved from under the handlebar to over the handlebar.                                  
 1983 Excelle in Black

The beautiful black and red second-generation Excelle shown above, was purchased new by the original owner in April of 1983 for $280.00.  The components have been dated to 12-1982 so we are relatively certain the bicycle is a 1983 production model.
 Significant changes to the second-generation bikes include the switch to Tange Mangaloy double butted tubing, a one-piece solid seat tube decal with the vertical LOTUS name, contrasting painted head tube to match the seat tube decal, and brazed-on bottle bosses and shifter bosses.

The photo below shows the 1983 Excelle Mixte in New Silver with blue accents.  Due to the design of the mixte frame and the limited space for the new style seat tube decal, the double seat tube decals were carried over from the first-generation models.  The rear carrier rack, saddle, and stem mounted shifters were added by the owner. Note the side-pull brakes and fluted seat post for 1983. Colors available were Black, New Silver, and Burgundy.

1983 Excelle Mixte in New Silver

Other improvements found in the second-generation Excelle were a one-piece SR Custom forged crank. Earlier models used a Sugino Super Maxy two-piece crank and spider that was swaged together into one unit.

The later second-generation Lotus Excelle, circa 1984, also came with some rather nice upgrades.  Maintaining the two-tone paint style the Tange Mangaloy frame was now enhanced with LOTUS engraved seat stay caps and a sloping fork crown.
  The Excelle decal on the top tube is now in a block letter style, replacing the Edwardian script style used from 1980-1983.
1984 Lotus Excelle in Ice Blue
1984 Lotus Excelle in Silver

1984 Excelle models were available in Ice Blue, Silver, and Burgundy. The photos above clearly shows the new for 1984 sloping fork crown, engraved seat stays and gold outlined EXCELLE decal on the top tube.  Also new was the Shimano 600 shifter group, a cleaner style now replaced the fancy Arabesque design.  The Kashimax saddle also had a reflective Lotus nameplate glued to the rear of the plastic frame. 

By 1986 the third-generation Excelle had been almost completely re-designed  and now wears the stylized LOTUS flower logo decal on the down tube. The frame tubing is now Tange 900 or 1000 double butted tubing and features under the bottom bracket cable guides and forged horizontal dropouts with threaded adjusters. The fully painted fork is made of either Ishiwata or Tange Mangaloy and still uses the sloping fork crown found on the 1984 models. 

The 1986 Lotus Excelle now features SIS Shimano indexed shifting and the SR crank is without a chainguard, enhancing the sporty appearance of the bike.  New for the Excelle is factory installed rubber brake hoods, yet the Shimano brakes still sport extension levers. Foam grips were also standard equipment on all Excelle models for 1986, but would return back to handlebar tape for 1987. Vetta would now displace Kashimax as the saddle of choice on almost all Lotus models.

The 1986 Excelle was available in Electric Blue, Metallic Red, and Black with the mixte model being available in Electric Blue and Raspberry.

The photo below shows an Electric Blue Sport/Touring Recreational Series model from 1986 which also included the Challenger SX, Challenger, and the entry-level International.  Note the pentagon shaped wheel reflectors used in 1986. 1986 Lotus Excelle in Electric Blue
1987 Lotus Excelle Sport Series in Electric Blue

The third-generation 1987 Excelle, shown above, is very similar to the 1986 models and saw some componentry changes, the most significant being the switch to 700c rims from the previous 27" versions. Some Excelle frames, depending on the size, are now made from Ishiwata triple butted chrome moly tubing.  Larger frames would continue to use the double butted Tange 900/1000 tubing for added strength.  Fork blades are Tange Mangaloy.

The 1987 Excelle uses a Shimano Bio Pace crank and the handlebar and headset are inscribed with the Lotus name. Model colors included Electric Blue, Burgundy and White, all shared with the mixte model.  

1987 Excelle models now carry a
Sport Series decal on the top tube, a designation shared with the Challenger SX, Challenger, International, and the entry-level Special.

Below, an all original 1987 Excelle in White. Note the blue protective tape still on the chrome chain stay protector, this bike has probably not seen many miles. 

1987 Excelle Sport Series in White
The one owner White with Red fade Excelle shown below was purchased by Matt F. as a close-out model in July of 1990 from Montgomery Cyclery in Ohio.  The serial number, Y7N4324, indicates the bike was built in the middle of 1987, 7N = 28th week of 1987.  The components have been dated to early 1987. We'd classify this model as a 1987½  or possibly an early 1988 model.  To view the actual sales receipt, please mouseover the image.

1987 1/2 Lotus Excelle in White w/ Red fade

The third-generation Excelle continued at least into the 1988 model year and 1988 models can be identified by a bold EXCELLE shadow decal on the top tube and a Design LOTUS U.S.A. decal on the seat tube as shown in the photo below.  Some 1987-1988 models have been spotted in a paint fade style of Charcoal Grey w/ White fade and White w/ Red fade.

We do not have published specifications for 1988 Excelle models, but they appear similar to the 1987 versions. 

1988 Lotus Excelle in Charcoal Grey with White fade
1980-82 Lotus Excelle

Frame Details Top tube cable guides, down tube shift lever support brackets, Suntour forged vertical drop outs.
Frame Tubing 1980: Unmarked
1981: Tange Champion Cr-mo 
Headset Tange chrome
Fork 1980: Unmarked, stamped crown, ½ chromed fork
1981: Tange Champion Cr-mo, cast crown, ½ chromed fork 
Handlebar SR alloy
Colors Black, Red, Silver Stem SR alloy
Frame Sizes 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 inches
19, 21 inches, Mixte
Brakes 1980-1981: Shimano or Dia Compe alloy center-pull w/ extension levers.
1982: Dia Compe alloy side-pull w/ QR, centering and extension levers
Crank Sugino Super Maxy w/ Chain Guard, 42-52 Seatpost SR ASP-180 alloy
Pedals MKS 2K Quill alloy Saddle Kashimax Super Anatomic black
Shift Levers Shimano 600EX Arabesque on Down Tube Rims Ukai 27" x 1¼ alloy
Front Derailleur Shimano 600EX Arabesque Hubs Shimano  AQ-11 QR Front and Rear
Rear Derailleur 1980: Shimano 600EX Arabesque Short Cage 
1981: Shimano 600EX Arabesque Long Cage
Spokes
Freewheel 1980: Shimano 6-speed 14-28
1981: Shimano 6-Speed 14-32
Tires IRC 27" x 1 1/8 100 psi
Chain Shimano Uniglide black Weight 27 lbs.
Notes See page text for examples of further variations between model years.
1983-84 Lotus Excelle

Frame Details Top tube cable guides, bottom bracket cable guides, down tube shift lever bosses, bottle bosses, forged drop outs, chain peg, spoon shaped seat stays.
1984: add Lotus engraved seat stay caps
Frame Tubing Tange Mangaloy Double Butted all 11 tubes
Headset Tange chrome
Fork 1983: Tange Mangaloy, ½ chromed fork
1984: Tange Mangaloy, ½ chromed fork, sloping crown
Handlebar SR Custom alloy, Cotton Tape
Colors 1983: Black, Burgundy, New Silver
1984: Ice Blue, Silver, Burgundy
Stem SR Alloy
Frame Sizes 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 inches
19, 21 inches Mixte
Brakes Dia Compe alloy Side-Pull w/ QR, Centering and Extension Levers
Crank SR Custom MD alloy, One Piece Forged Spider and Crank w/ Chain Guard, 42-52 Seatpost SR alloy fluted 
Pedals MKS Quill alloy w/ Toe Clips and Straps Saddle Kashimax Super Anatomic 
Shift Levers 1983: Shimano 600EX Arabesque Brazed On Down Tube
1984: Shimano 600EX Brazed On Down Tube 
Rims Ukai 27" x 1¼ alloy
Front Derailleur 1983: Shimano 600EX Arabesque
1984: Shimano 600EX
Hubs Shimano AQ-11 QR Front and Rear
Rear Derailleur 1983: Shimano 600EX Arabesque Long Cage
1984: Shimano 600 EX long Cage
Spokes
Freewheel Shimano 600 EX 6-Speed  Tires IRC 27" x 1 1/8 100 psi Hi-Center Ridge
Chain Shimano Uniglide  Weight 25.25 lbs. For 21"
Notes
1986-87 Lotus Excelle
Sport Series
Frame Details Under bottom bracket cable guides, water bottle bosses, micro adjusting screws on rear forged drop outs, top tube cable guides, shift lever bosses on down tube, chain hanger.
Frame Tubing 1986: Tange 900 or 100 double butted chrome moly
1987: Ishiwata triple butted chrome moly
Headset 1986: Tange chrome
1987: Tange UQ-7 Sealed, Color Coordinated, LOTUS Inscribed
Fork Tange Mangaloy or Ishiwata Handlebar 1986: SR alloy w/ foam grips
1987: LOTUS Engraved Kusuki alloy w/ tape
Colors 1986: Metallic Red, Black, Electric Blue
1986 Mixte: Electric Blue, Raspberry
1987: White, Electric Blue, Burgundy
Stem 1986: SR alloy
1987: Kusuki S-Win alloy
Frame Sizes 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 inches
19, 21 inches Mixte
Brakes Shimano Z-570 (105 Model?) Alloy Sidepull
Shimano Z-325B (105 Model?) Levers,  Extensions Optional
Crank 1986: SR CRC 301 forged alloy
1987: Shimano B126 forged alloy 42-52 Biopace, Sealed Bottom Bracket
Seatpost 1986: SR micro-adjust forged
1987: Sugino KCL w/ Scale
Pedals 1986: KKT Pro Vic II alloy quill w/ clips and straps
1987: MKS CR-2 alloy quill w/ clips and LOTUS Straps
Saddle Vetta Anatomic Black 
Shift Levers 1986: Shimano Down Tube S.I.S 
1987: Shimano S424, Z-Series, Down Tube S.I.S.
Rims 1986: Ukai 27 x 1 ¼ alloy
1987: Araya SS-45 700c alloy 
Front Derailleur 1986: Shimano L-Series S.I.S
1987: Shimano Z206 Z-Series
Hubs 1986 Suzue sealed small flange, QR
1987: Sanshin CE-60 sealed small flange, QR
Rear Derailleur 1986: Shimano L-Series S.I.S
1987: Shimano L532, Light Action series, S.I.S.
Spokes 1986: not specified
1987: 14 Guage Stainless Steel
Freewheel 1986: Shimano L-Series black
1987: Shimano Z012, 14-28, 6 cogs, Silver 
Tires 1986: IRC Hi Center Ridge skin 100psi 
1987: Panaracer 700 x 25c skin 100psi
Chain 1986: Shimano L-Series 
1987: Shimano Uniglide silver/black
Weight 1986: approx 25 lbs.
1987: 24 lbs. for 21" Mens
Notes
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