Buell Fights Back - Special Feature

Erik, that is, not the former brand that carries his name.

Erik Buell is building something in East Troy, and it’s more than a few racebikes. While his new company, Erik Buell Racing, has constructed and sold a handful of roadrace-only 1190RRs, including the one currently dominating the European Twins championship, the real work is going toward building a new company to produce road-going American sportbikes. Currently, he and his team intend to raise the capital from private investors to make that happen, with the emphasis on maintaining sufficient independence from any large, corporate parent to prevent painful replays of the past. That means not just motorcycles are being designed; business plans and a very lean company structure are being constructed, as well. This is intended to demonstrate the kinds of margins and quick path to profitability that get people whose business is money rather than motorcycles as excited as Erik is about the venture.

The first product for the new company—which cannot be called “Buell” because Harley retains ownership of that name—will almost certainly be a liquid-cooled V-Twin using a derivative of the Rotax engine that powered the 1125R. This will be the sixth generation of Erik’s liquid-cooled V-Twin, beginning with his VR design of 1988, then the stillborn Loki I designed around the initial Buell-requested, compact-and-light Porsche motor that eventually bloated into the V-Rod engine, followed by the 1125R, the 1125RR Superbike and finally, the 1190RR. The intent with the new bike is to take all the lessons learned along the way and make an American sportbike that is also a world-class Superbike.

That shouldn’t be too hard, as current Buell development rider and racer Geoff May says that the yet-to-be-homologated 1190RR handles “more like a 600” than the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Jordan SuperBikes he raced last year. He claims the 1125RR’s nimbleness, great edge grip and ability to dive deeper into corners allowed his sixth place at the VIR AMA SuperBike round: “We were 20 horsepower down, but you would never know it by looking at lap times.” Then he wistfully wishes the much more powerful 1190RR were allowed in AMA racing. That may never be the case, but a new Erik Buell street-going superbike would be. Complicating matters slightly is that Harley retains ownership of many patents that list Erik as “inventor,” so the new machine will need to have some different parts and design solutions to escape ending up in intellectual-property hell.

As for positioning of the new bike, it's going to be much more Bimota or Ducati 1098R than the original plans for the mass-production Barracuda 2. It will be a true exotic, using the best parts and techniques for low-volume production, and almost certainly will be the lightest 1200cc Twin in production. And Erik is excited: "We could do some amazing things with an American company that didn't have any restrictions placed on it." Parties interested in getting in line for the motorcycle, sponsoring the Buell SuperBike effort or investing in the new company can reach Buell through the Erik Buell Racing website (www.erikbuellracing.com).