ON THE RECORD: Dane Hoechst, EBR Program Manager

Coming full circle with one of the Buell Faithful.

Dane Hoechst headshot

The entity formerly known as the Buell Motorcycle Company has been through the wringer. From its humble beginnings building racebikes in a Quonset hut in rural Wisconsin, it grew and grew and then suddenly burst as Harley-Davidson invested in it, purchased it outright and ultimately shut it down, whereupon it was resurrected as Erik Buell Racing (EBR). Today the 150-person firm offers three models and does engineering work for India's Hero Motorcycles. But through it all, many employees have remained faithful, departing and returning as circumstances dictated. One of these is Program Manager Dane Hoechst. After our rainy 1190SX test ride and factory tour, we cornered him under the former AMA race team transporter's awning to get his take on where the company is headed.

I spent over 13 years working for Buell. I started in 1996 as a co-op student working as a test engineer, and then was hired full-time as a design engineer. Later, I Ied product development for the XB platform. Then the economy took a hit and I was transferred to Harley-Davidson, where I worked in product development on the Rushmore project. Erik was growing EBR and was looking to expand his team, so in January of last year I made the decision to go back to work for him.

We have a small team of engineers. When I came on board, there were plans in place to do a platform of motorcycles including the RX, SX, and someday an AX . So right off the bat we were thinking about all the different models. Obviously, you choose which of the three is going to market first and more detail work gets poured into that. With just five engineers, we can't develop all of the bikes at the same time.

EBR Development Team

Development team, left to right: Tom Zipprian, Designer; Dane Hoechst, Program Manager; Aaron Brechtbill, Designer; Caleb Kehoe, Design Engineer; Dean Iwinski, Sr. Design Engineer; and Ryan Hahn,
Sr. Industrial Designer.

With the SX, we chose not to compromise. We've taken the power and performance of the RX and repackaged it in a way that provides a more relaxed seating position. It's a straight transfer: same motor, same fuel-injection calibration, same intake, same exhaust, same gearing, the same exact power and torque specs. We wanted to answer to the folks who complain about a streetfighter being a dumbed-down or detuned sportbike.

There are reactionary and anticipatory algorithms. There is no wheelie control per se, but the traction-control system, depending on which setting you're in, does control wheelies to a degree. If you crank it above 7—say you've got some bad conditions like you're riding in gravel or on wet roads—the vehicle will limit your acceleration to the point where you can't accelerate hard enough to wheelie.

We will have anti-lock brakes soon. ABS, for the European market, is going to be required very soon. So we will be ready in time for that requirement. We had an ABS project going on with the Ulysses before the old company shut down and we didn't have any issues specific to it being a rim brake.

The AX will be a completely new motorcycle. It won't be a simple variance of the RX and SX. A lot of work and investment needs to go into that. We've got to continue to grow our dealer network, grow our brand in the field. When is it coming? Hopefully someday. I have no direct answer for that, but we get that question all the time. I'd like to see it happen. I have a Buell Ulysses in my garage. That was a fun project!