It’s always amusing when we have news to report about Erik Buell and his star-crossed motorcycle company. Most people are like me, pulling hard for EB to triumph over evil once again and build more great motorcycles. But every time his company dies, there are also plenty of voices who pipe up to say he deserves it! His motorcycles are junk, the rake and trail are all wrong! He’s a terrible businessman, he doesn’t know how to market…

Number one, how many brilliant engineers have also been great businessmen and marketers? Number two, many of our favorite current motorcycles come from Piaggio’s subsidiaries. Just because a thing lacks a huge dealer network and isn’t easy to acquire doesn’t mean it’s junk, does it? When the Harley connection went away, so did Buell’s distribution network. Everybody doesn’t want to eat at the McD’s drive-thru every day just because it’s there, do they?

Personally, I just don’t see how you can root against an underdog like Buell? Maybe if the only Buell you ever rode was a pre-XB, some of which did have their issues (which I personally bagged on), but most of which are still on the road and deeply loved by their owners. I don’t know if Soichiro Honda’s first strap-on bicycle motors worked perfectly from day one, but I have to think there are precious few start-up motorcycle companies whose first designs had zero bugs. And in more recent times, the EBR 1190sRX and SX – got great reviews (including ours).

Buell Factory Tour

In the latest falling-out, with Hero, more than a few overweight linemen have wobbled up to pile onto Erik, stating that his insistence on going World Superbike racing is what bankrupted the company, that nobody wants a sportbike anymore, that his mother dresses him funny…

In fact, EBR’s race budget came from Hero, who really wanted to go racing to get their name out there (probably why HERO was so prominent on the bikes I’d have to guess). And racing, of course, is the thing that drives tech forward at companies like EBR (and Honda, and Yamaha, Ducati, et al…) and leads the way to cutting-edge motorcycles. And if sportbikes are dead (a big if), the AX adventure bike was next in line to be produced, heir to the very popular Buell Ulysses.

Is the only good Indian a debtor Indian? Rumor has it EBR did a lot of work for Hero’s small-displacement home-market program in addition to the World Superbike deal.

Is the only good Indian a debtor Indian? Rumor has it EBR did a lot of work for Hero’s small-displacement home-market program in addition to the World Superbike deal.

So, the WSBK effort was less than successful, but still pretty impressive if you ask me: For a tiny company with 130 employees in Wisconsin to even make the grid against Ducati and Kawasaki in the first year of trying is a big accomplishment in itself. I wonder if Harley-Davidson would’ve made the WSBK cut with its VR1000, back when they paid Miguel Duhamel and Scott Russell big money to ride it? It almost did win one race in what, six years of AMA competition?

EBR’s last race win may have been the pair of back-to-back wins in the Chinese Superbike series at Zhuhai International Circuit last June, just after EBR had gone into receivership. Cory West had won the first two rounds on the Splitlath Racing bike, but decided not to compete. Splitlath called upon Australian Mark Aitchison, who’d never seen the bike or the track. He won both legs anyway, in front of a crowd reported at 70,000.

EBR’s last race win may have been the pair of back-to-back wins in the Chinese Superbike series at Zhuhai International Circuit last June, just after EBR had gone into receivership. Cory West had won the first two rounds on the Splitlath Racing bike, but decided not to compete. Splitlath called upon Australian Mark Aitchison, who’d never seen the bike or the track. He won both legs anyway, in front of a crowd reported at 70,000.

The naysayers re: the Hero affair, of course, are probably the same ones who were sure it was Buell’s fault when Harley yanked the rug out from under Buell Motorcycles in 2009. Clearly Buells were all junk nobody wanted, they said, and never mind the nearly 137,000 mostly satisfied customers who’d bought Buells in the 26 years it was in business. So, when Hero withholds the financing Erik Buell was depending upon, it only reinforces their conviction that it’s Erik’s fault for mismanagement.

What does Erik think? This: “The really nasty and untrue things being expounded on the internet about myself and EBR are tough to take, but I’m a pretty tough guy. I think there are enough minority independent thinkers to buy what we build. That’s why the 137,000 happened – more bikes than some other known (and less vilified) brands sold during that period. And perhaps someone will buy into continuing the journey based on that potential. Because there are free-thinking customers out there.”

Well, I have no idea what soured the relationship between EBR and Hero, but Hero is the biggest motorcycle producer in the world, with a market capitalization according to Wiki, of $5.66 billion in 2013. If Hero had thrown in another 25 million to keep Buell going, which was what they originally paid in 2013 for their 49.2% share, it still would’ve represented a mere drop in the bucket to the Indian behemoth (and the real sum EB had been counting on to keep the doors open was probably far less).

But I think I’m beginning to get it. An article I was just reading about the rise of Donald Trump brings into focus a thing I always knew existed but maybe didn’t have a word for; it’s all about the Authoritarianism. Take this simple test: If you’re raising a child, is it more important that the child be i) respectful or independent? ii) obedient or self-reliant? iii) well-behaved or considerate? iv) well-mannered or Curious? If you picked the first option for each question, you sir, identify as strongly authoritarian according to this study in Politico, and may therefore be prone to dig the Donald.

Erik Buell is “B” across the board: independent, self-reliant, considerate and curious – a bad seed through and through if you’re an authoritarian parent. According to the study, authoritarianism is “one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened.”

Did some people see the Buell Motorcycle Company as a threat to Harley-Davidson and the American feet-forward way of life? When he got shot down again by Hero, did the people who gained strength from seeing Buell fail the first time see an affirmation of their earlier conclusion? If Americans were meant to fly, would God have given us Ducati Panigales? Is there an even-stronger-than-usual undercurrent in the U.S. today that’s opposed to progress if it disturbs the status quo (even when the SQ ain’t so hot), and derives pleasure from driving slow in the left lane? Since when are we a country that hates to see Horatio Alger succeed?

So my question is, where’s the xenophobia when you need it? Why don’t we blame the Indians for killing Buell instead of Erik Buell? Why are the Indians the bad guys in The Searchers, even though John Wayne was a tremendous d-bag in that 1956 John Ford classic, but now we blame Erik Buell? Wait, what’s that? Different Indians? Sorry, my bad.

(Personally, I blame Harley-Davidson for prematurely ejecting Buell in 2009, but I do give the Motor Company full props for bankrolling MV Agusta’s 800 Triple! I’m off to ride the new Brutale next week.)

Erik thinks: “Maybe a good thing to think about related to authoritarianism: To maintain trust of the fawning masses, a lot of disguising of the truth is required. Lots of historical precedent ranging from the humorous emperor-has-no-clothes, to the very not humorous “Arbeit macht frei” and the like. I guess you can get depressed, give in, or fight back.”

Why do I care anyway? Because I hate to see geniuses work their butts to the bone in the service of motorcyclekind, only to suffer ridiculously poorly aimed slings and arrows from the thickest section of the peanut gallery, that’s all. It almost makes you feel sympathetic toward President Obama, who recently claimed that if he found a cure for cancer tomorrow, the opposition would be all over him for putting all those nurses and drug companies out of work.

As for Erik Buell, he’s not going to complain about broken promises or what went wrong on this or any other forum, because, “What I say about topics like this could be twisted to be whining. And I don’t whine!”

What he does do is stay positive, and believe there’s a good chance the final chapter for Buell motorcycles has not yet been written. It’s more fun to watch than a Trump debate. Go Buell!!

Erik Buell inside the shop where he built his first motorcycles.

Erik Buell inside the shop where he built his first motorcycles.

  • DickRuble

    If the bike had the ergonomics of the SuperDuke, for $10K I’d buy one. I like the looks minus a few, fixable, miscues. Unfortunately the bike doesn’t fit me. But that’s beside the point. The main reason EBR failed is that it grew too much for its own britches. All the rest is secondary but contributed: bad partnership (really, what was Eric thinking when he signed? Had he learned nothing from working with HD? Didn’t he do any DD? Was he that strapped for money?), less than perfect product (stupid perimeter brakes that the racing team complained, and complained, and complained about just to be told to keep trying. Might be ok for street, definitely not up to Brembo level). Ultimately, the only solid fact is that EBR no longer is and its partnership with Hero probably gets in the way of serious acquirers stepping in. Too bad. I liked EBRs better than any Polaris product.

    • john burns

      the 1190 SX has practically the same ergonomics as the Super Duke, Dick.

      http://www.motorcycle.com/shoot-outs/brutish-v-twin-streetfighter-comparo-part-3-2014-ebr-1190sx-vs-2014-ktm-1290-super-duke-r-video

      And they’re all over the net for $10K. Let us know how you like yours!

      • DickRuble

        May be to you the ergos are the same. For those of us who don’t need GH replacement therapy, the seat to peg distance on the SX is too small, at least according to cycle-ergo and MO’s own review.

        • john burns

          nice selective editing there Dick: From an ergonomic standpoint, the SX is literally the 1190RX fully faired sportbike sans bodywork and with the addition of a handlebar.

          • DickRuble

            The handlebar doesn’t fix the seat to peg distance…

          • john burns

            it’s maybe an inch difference, it didn’t affect me at all. If you buy an SX, MO will buy you some highway pegs for it, how’s that?

  • Starmag

    Being a highly biased leftist publication, Politico should sure know about authoritarianism. Stalin ,Mao, Castro, etc.

    Erik strikes me as a good man who had intentions of being the next racing-centric Count Augusta without the helicopter money. It’s a shame he didn’t get to release his next ADV or a worthy entry-level bike which moved better numbers enabling the racing. As you infer, the collapse of repli-racer sales didn’t do him any favors since that’s all he offered at the end.

    • john burns

      except for the excellent 1190 SX, which was more a standard naked like our Motorcycle of the Year KTM Super Duke. The Buell made a bit more power, weighed substantially less and cost a few $$ less.

      • Starmag

        I’m aware of that but it came right near the end, was expensive, and was basically the repi-racer stripped of it’s fairing. I think he might have had a better shot at some sustainable profit with something like multi platform Ducati scramber models. ADV, cafe,racer, sport tourer off one engine/frame around 800cc without trying to win the techno/power wars.

        • Kevin Duke

          I think EBR’s AX model could’ve been the tonic the company needed to expand its market and its revenue. It would’ve been interesting to see how it turned out had Hero kept the lights on for another year or two.

          • Auphliam

            The AX vs XR comparo would’ve been the tits for sure :)

      • DickRuble

        Allow me to refresh your memory, from your own article

        “which means your feet are noticeably higher and further rearset than on the KTM. ”

        “Around town, the EBR is a little surgey at low rpm, but not a problem above 3000 rpm or so”

        “the Super Duke properly trounces the SX”

        “Where the EBR would occasionally hesitate at slow-speed, on/off throttle movements,…. the Super Duke R was the embodiment of smooth”

        “[SX’s] mileage in the mid to high 30s in normal use. Not great, but acceptable. Meanwhile, the KTM returned 40 mpg.

        “The KTM has a better seat and better suspension for casual, sport-touring use.”

        “The KTM’s ergos? ….. The pegs are low and forward, seating position is comfortable, and yet it’s still ready to tear up any path in front of it.”

        “You can look at the EBR’s `rawness’ as a demerit, but I kind of like that part of its personality.” — to each his own..

        “The EBR makes a mixture of pleasing and, well, not so pleasing sounds.”

        … and on and on..

        I don’t know how you can argue with a straight face that these two bikes were close..

        • john burns

          maybe read the last paragraph conclusion. They were very close. We liked the rawness of the Buell but had to give the win to the KTM for its refinement. I’d get a red one if i were you.

          • DickRuble

            Or I could be reasonable and get a low mileage PC 800.. there’s one for about $3K with less than 7000 miles…

    • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

      Authoritarian Personalities will follow and venerate strong leaders, regardless of political leanings. Hitler and the Nazis would be considered left-wing by our contemporary USA standards. Consider the Nazi state’s control of private industry, political parties and labor unions, as well as having a national government with incredible power.

      Weirdly, people with a high “authoritarian index” in the USA have associated more strongly with conservative politicians, but I think it has more to do with just agreeing with a strong person (“Dittos, Rush, Dittos!”) to be aligned with them than with their actual political views. Some of Trump’s views are far to the left of his competitors–abortion and gay marriage, for instance, as well as the government’s role in protecting businesses from bankruptcy.

      • Starmag

        “Weirdly, people with a high “authoritarian index” in the USA have associated more strongly with conservative politicians”
        Highly unsubstantiated opinion Mr. 2.6
        Trump and Sanders crowds prove only that Americans are rightfully PO with the status quo.

        First guns, then politics, what’s next Burnsie? Religion? There’s probably some of your customers (readers, clickers) that you haven’t offended yet. I’m surprised you have heard from your advertisers yet. Personally, I love fight club but I thought this was a motorcycle site. Care to weigh in Duke?

        • john burns

          Sorry, Starmag. Which parts offend you?

          • Starmag

            I’m not. I’m a big fan. Hot buttons is a risky strategy for more clicks that Duke must feel is worth it. No risk, no reward I guess. It must be disorienting having Ruble in your corner!

          • john burns

            the buttons are only hot if your skin is too thin. Dick Ruble is a reasonable, sensitive human deep, deep inside.

          • DickRuble

            Oh.. you think you know me, now? Ok.. guess my F score then.
            That test is total BS, by the way…

          • john burns

            See, I don’t even know what makes it “political”? I said I was reading an article about Trump that introduced me to Authoritarianism. And I used Obama’s quote as a guy who feels like he can do no right. And applied them to Erik Buell’s situation. How is that political? Answer: It’s not! Unless you’re just looking for it to be.

          • DickRuble

            Huh? I didn’t say anything one way or another about the “political” aspect of it… I am as befuddled by Starmag’s comments as you are.. This being said, in general terms, everything we do or don’t do has a political substrate.. I bet you that motorcycle ownership (what type of motorcycle) is heavily divided along political lines in this country. IMNSHO Democrats/liberals/communists/socialists/anarchists are more likely to avoid HD. Someone should study motorcycle ownership and political affiliation. Would make an interesting editorial.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and have been riding HDs for over 30 years. Where do you come up with these generalizations?

          • DickRuble

            A generalization is just that. There are exceptions to the rule. I am going to guess that more than 65% of HD owners are republicans or conservatives. Is that still puzzling to you?

          • Starmag

            Poor sympathetic Obama. No president has ever face divisiveness before. He asked for the job!
            Trump supporters ( I’m not one )= Authoritarians=bad
            You linked to PolitiCO and you don’t know how it’s politicAL.
            I hope that’s humor John.

          • john burns

            I looked up Politico on Wiki after you said that, and learned it spun off from the Washington Post. Which I think is known as a conservative paper no? It’s been labelled both too conservative and too liberal at different times by different people. I do like to consider the source, but I also like to try to hear the message when I read a thing, wherever it comes from. I enjoy your posts, too, because they remind me Duke predicted 50 people would be up in arms over the Obama mention. And you’re the only one so far. MO has come a long way, it makes me happy we can have a rational discussion on here. Check your caps key, it’s sticking randomly or is that flying spit?

          • Starmag

            I didn’t look it up, I went to the site and noticed Republicans = bad, Democrats=good articles and being more of a centrist, that sort of thing always turns me off. Just like the opposite Fox “news”. I look at what both “teams” say and make up my own mind. I’ve noticed they are remarkably similar when it comes to such things as war, torture, dronings, renditions, whistleblowers, etc. Sometimes I actually listen to independents (radical, I know). I come to motorcycle sites to get away from the divisiveness for awhile. Thanks for your concern about my caps key, but it isn’t sticking. I was actually emphasizing the similarity of the beginnings of those words not the ends, and not “shouting”. I could have emphasized the beginnings with caps, but i thought if I did it would look like shouting. Ironic, huh?

          • john burns

            If you come to motorcycle sites to get away from divisiveness, why are you the only guy hell-bent on dragging it in here? How did you do on the Authoritarian test?

          • Starmag

            You claim ” I enjoy your posts, too, because they remind me Duke predicted 50 people would be up in arms over the Obama mention.” which I take as meaning you were aware beforehand of the political nature of this and then later claim ” How is that political? Answer: It’s not! Unless you’re just looking for it to be.” That seems a bit less than honest and an attempt to blame me for what you knew ahead of time.

          • john burns

            He thought a lot of people would mistake it for being political because it contains the words “Trump” and “Obama.” So far just you. OK, I’m done you can have the last word and be the winner. Thanks for reading.

          • Starmag

            I remain a big long-time fan of yours. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.

          • Starmag

            Well, MO will certainly be the first publication daring enough to cross the twin ghostbusters streams of politics and motorsports. I say leverage your firstiness by changing the name to Politicalmotorcycles.com and take credit where it is due. Unfortunately, that would make us all Po’ MOrons and nobody wants to consciously be one of those. Let’s see, motorcycles and politics…hmmm…. I know! How about MOronical.com! No wait….that’s not good either. Oh well, you decide.

          • DickRuble

            Why don’t you migrate to cycle world… the hottest debate there is as scalding as a fresh yogurt.

          • Starmag

            And miss your aneurysm? No way.

        • DickRuble

          Ahhh.. the perpetually offended …How about you … get on your Harley and get lost…

        • Kevin Duke

          John’s column, as all MO’s columns/editorials, are subjective pieces. As long as the vast majority of the content is about motorcycles or the moto biz, I prefer to let my writers opinions stand on their own. I save my jackbooted authoritarianism for their reviews and feature stories. 😉

        • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

          It’s actually a very well studied and substantiated phenomenon. I highly recommend you read the second link, written by famed hippie communist John Dean.

          http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-authoritarian-213533

          http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/07/john_dean_autho.html

          • Starmag

            So you and the reprehensible John Dean are trying to tell me that these people weren’t leftists, weren’t Authoritarian, or didn’t have huuuge followings of brainwashed authoritarian leftist followers? I eagerly await your response.

            Joseph Stalin – Communist – murdered 62 million
            Mao Tse Tung – Communist – murdered 35 million (estimated)
            Pol Pot – Communist – murdered 2 million
            Che Guevara and Fidel Castro – Communists – Murdered 12,000, imprisoned 500,000
            Adolph Hitler – Socialist (Nazis = National Socialist German Worker’s Party) – 21 million killed
            Augusto Pinochet – Communist – 3,000 killed
            Mengistu Haile Mariam – Socialist Ethiopian dictator from the 1970’s – one million starved to death
            Slobodan Milosevic – Socialist – 230,000 killed, millions displaced

          • GreggJ

            You are mixing up preference for economic systems with a personality type (the Authoritarian Personality). Everyone you mentioned would score very high on Robert Altemeyer’s scale. “A right-wing authoritarian follower doesn’t necessarily have
            conservative political views. Instead he’s someone who readily submits to the established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional. It’s an aspect of his personality, not a description of his politics (Altemeyer, 2006).” By the way, if you are really interested in the topic, Bob gives a book on the subject away for free. Here is the link: http://www.whale.to/b/authoritarians.pdf

          • ADB

            Nicolae Ceaușescu

      • QuestionMark

        People with a high “authoritarian index” are most probable to be Trump supporters. Or Haters, whichever comes first

      • John B.

        Blather on!

  • Old MOron

    Closest I experience I have is a very brief bike swap with my friend who had an XB9SX. I don’t know about durability, cost to own, or anything else, but verily, that bike was both fun and pleasant to ride. On’tday etlay ethay astardsbay earway ouyay ownday, Rikeay!

  • major tom

    I like people who think outside the box, which being a conservative and thus an authoritarian I’m not supposed to have that ability like Mr. Buell. My family however would put me in the rebel camp by the way. Humans are a funny lot and can’t easily be put in round or square holes.

  • John B.

    By all means Hail the American Entrepreneur! Steve Jobs went something like 19 years without bringing a successful product to market (In Trump speak, he failed hugely), yet is remembered as one of America’s great inventors and entrepreneurs. The Apple III, The Apple Lisa, The Newton, Apple eMate, and The Power Mac G4 Cube, among others failed miserably, but the iPod, iPad, and iPhone, Apple Store, and Toy Story more than evened things out. Yes, super successful people fail a lot. Entrepreneurs, follow Teddy Roosevelt’s lead and don’t give critics much consideration. I know almost nothing about Buell other than what you and others have reported, but it would shock me if he cared much about the detractors. Of course, personal attacks are another matter.

    I am confused about your point related to authoritarianism and Donald Trump supporters. In addition to being a demagogue, Trump is an entrepreneur who threatens the media and political establishments. Trump is NOT respectful, obedient, well-behaved, or well-mannered. As such, it doesn’t make sense people who value such qualities would “dig Trump.” Like Buell, Trump is entrepreneurial, independent, self-reliant, and curious (though not courteous). Media political experts have been wrong about Trump from the outset, and seem oblivious to the anti-establishment sentiment Trump and Sanders have identified and harnessed. (In 2016, voters (left and right) dissatisfied with the status quo comprise a clear majority.) Entrepreneurs like Jobs, Trump, and Buell see opportunities others don’t see.

    Erik Buell has done amazing things, and even if he doesn’t have another act he’s been “hugely” successful in my book. 2016 doesn’t feel like the right year for establishment types like Bush and Clinton. I can feel the Bern!

    • john burns

      “While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened.”

      I think Trump supporters think of him as “a strong leader.”

      • John B.

        I read the Politico article and found it compelling. Interestingly, the article says non-authoritarians respond to threats by behaving more like authoritarians, which means Trumps support is not capped and he might actually become president. This means Clinton and Sanders must convince Americans they are safe so as to quell voters’ authoritarian tendencies. As for Buell, entrepreneurs don’t easily fit in at large companies unless they are in charge. It makes sense some people at HD would see Buell as a threat. I see your point more clearly now. Thanks for the link to the Politico article.

        • DickRuble

          You’re still here? What’s the FBI waiting to cut the electricity in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge? Too cold for you up in the watch tower? More comfy with the keyboard.. I bet you none of the occupiers even know what Malheur means… Hint: It’s something that’s going to befall them pretty soon..

      • Craig Hoffman

        Trump supporters like him because he speaks his mind in a raw and unvarnished fashion. We all have that “drunk uncle” who exhibits the same qualities. Woo hoo! Drunk Uncle guy for President!

        • John B.

          Have you spoken with any Trump supporters? I don’t know anyone who admits to supporting him. Do you really have that low of an opinion of fellow citizens who support Trump? What do you think about Sanders and Clinton supporters? Mostly solid citizens on that side I gather.

    • Ian Parkes

      I think you are confusing those who like authority with those in authority. Clearly they are different types. I do agree though that Trump’s entrepreneurship is essentially anti-establishment. I saw it calculated somewhere that if he’d left the fortune his father invested for him in the establishment’s hands (instead of messing with it) he’d have a considerably larger fortune today.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Yow! Nice job, Burnsie. Ever since I read about the book The Authoritarian Personality, I’ve been fascinated by this idea. I don’t know if you’ve dug into it much, but that book came from the research psychologist did on Germans in 1946. The researchers–one of them a Marxist, by the way–used Freud’s theories and influence to come up with the “F-Scale,” a score based on responses to a questionnaire (you can take it too! It’s fun! I’m a 2.6, which makes me a mamby-pamby liberal. See your score: http://www.anesi.com/fscale.htm). That means this stuff is probably not so solid scientifically, though it has plenty of truthiness and sounds about right.

    I think critical people in general will score higher on this index. I don’t know if that means they are repressed homosexuals (which is what the book suggested, according to the Wikipedia article) or Republican voters. I do know that Trump has fascist tendencies evidenced by his extreme anti-immigration and “make America great again” stance.

    I also agree those who hate non-traditional motorcycles, including electrics and avant-garde styling, would probably have a very high F-Scale score.

    • john burns

      I would probably max out the F scale! if the link worked? yeah, i have always chafed under the hobnailed boot of Authority, but i never thought much about Authoritarianism. I think lately there’s more of it about than when we were youths? More rats less cheese…

      • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

        Oops! Looks like I put the closed parentheses too close to the link. We can’t all be Tom Roderick, you know. Try it again!

      • Old MOron

        Uh-oh, trouble in paradise? Your discourse posits John Wayne’s character as “a tremendous d-bag.” And his famous nickname was “Duke”.

        Dun, dun, dun!

        Is there another Duke in your life who is a tremendous d-bag, perhaps one who wears “the hobnailed boot of Authority”?

        • john burns

          Hmmm I really didn’t make that connection. I am babysitting a Rhodesian ridgeback right now tho named Duke, who keeps wanting to crawl in my lap while I’m trying to work.

          • Old MOron

            Unlike hobnail booted authorities, dogs are wonderful companions.

    • John B.

      “Ever since I read about the book The Authoritarian Personality, I’ve been fascinated by this idea.” Not fascinated enough to read the actual book (available at Amazon.com), but fascinated enough to read a Wikipedia article, and use that second hand account to deride people who don’t share your world view. Congratulations, you broke your own record for intellectual indolence. Are you always this lazy, or only at work?

      • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

        Don’t you have to be paid to do something for it to be work?

    • John B.

      To summarize: Anyone who disagrees with Gabe’s world view is either a repressed homosexual, a Republican voter, or a fascist. Impressive rhetoric Gabe! You’re not a Liberal. Liberalism is a political philosophy founded on tolerance, inclusion, liberty, and equality, and you’re uncompromising, intolerant, and dogmatic. The Dalai Lama is a Liberal, Elizabeth Warren is a Liberal, Joe Biden is a Liberal, Ted Kennedy was a Liberal, you’re an intellectually indolent ideologue.

      • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

        To summarize: Anyone who thinks the above is what I wrote or believe is a very poor reader, but also very likely to post angry things on the Internet and possibly spray you with spittle as they get angrier and angrier.

        I gotta say that “intellectually indolent ideologue” sounds like something Vice President Agnew would say.

        Spiro, is that you?

        • John B.

          Not that you would read it, but the link below takes you to a page that defines and discusses various forms of fallacious argument. In your comments, you invariably resort to one or more fallacious arguments; your favorite being ad hominem. (As a courtesy, I double checked to make sure the link works.)

          I read well and have excellent comprehension. As such, if I misunderstood your points perhaps, instead of ridiculing me, you could clarify what you meant to say. The lazy way out is to dismiss me as hopelessly obtuse. Of course, clear thinking precedes clear writing, which means you may need to venture beyond reading Wiki articles about books to actually reading books if you wish to write more clearly.

          I argue about issues for a living mostly in settings where flawed rhetoric leads to unpleasant outcomes. I never get angry about ideas. (You’ve used the angry spittle line several times now. Try to write something new.) Passionate for sure, but never angry. At present, I don’t involuntarily spittle due to anger or otherwise, but can foresee a time when that may occur.

          Finally, I admit “intellectually indolent ideologue” was a mangled attempt at alliteration. I Googled the phrase and found a book entitled, Disraeli and the Art of Victorian Politics. I doubt Spiro Agnew ever uttered such a phrase. Agnew once said, “If you’ve seen one ghetto, you’ve seen them all.” I would agree Agnew was a piece of work.

          Keep up the good work!

          http://tinyurl.com/fallaciousArgu

          • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

            Thanks counselor! Please bill Verticalscope directly.

          • John B.

            His invective stream exhausted, the reprobate halfling retreats to Oakland’s disconsolate bowels.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            What are you guys fighting about?

  • Sayyed Bashir

    First the gun control debate, and now republican politics – both incendiary topics, not related to motorcycling. Regardless of what people say about Eric Buell, the success or failure of his companies still comes down to him. The world’s largest companies believed in him and invested millions of dollars toward his success. They cannot be blamed for his failure. Harley has a history of investing in companies and then changing their mind when times get tough. They could not see themselves pouring money into Buell like a bottomless pit and ignoring their own lines, especially in a time of economic depression. Hero also invested millions in EBR and wanted something in return. When they didn’t get it, they pulled the plug. It was up to EB to make something out of the opportunities presented to him. I understand he is a brilliant engineer, but he needed to add business and financial expertise to his enterprise to make it a success. No one else can do it for him.

    • Bruce Wayne

      You make a lot of assumptions. I will add one of my own. No one but Mr. Buell and HERO know what really went on.

      • john burns

        Thank you Bruce Wayne. Or Buell and H-D for that matter. There are non-disclosure agreements, and Erik points out that huge corporations also have huge legal departments, another place where Buell is at a disadvantage. I vetted the John Wayne vs Indians paragraph with a friend of Indian descent, who gave me the green light. He also told me poor Erik wasn’t the first businessman to be don in by “Eastern business practices.” I don’t know what that means.

        • Jimmy Connors

          “Eastern Business Practices” refers to this historical fact. Jeep in China is a perfect example. Here’s the common practice 1. “We like your product and can open up our domestic market to you” 2. “Your technical expertise would be best appreciated and utilized if you move production facilities to our country”… (meanwhile, obscure laws are utilized by their corporate lawyers and politicians to “set you up” to essentially give up patents and control of anything related to ownership or oversight) “Our tariffs make it difficult and expensive to import”.. etc. Now that the production is up and running with your expertise… “You really are no longer needed here… and by the way…. here is a check for all your efforts… perhaps your lawyers should have lunch with our lawyers and owners to terminate this fine partnership” ….
          Then “your lawyers and legal department” find out that you will not be eating lunch but will be eaten for lunch… bye bye. I am not saying this is what happened with Hero. As John Burns said.. there are confidential details here we will NEVER know.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            So you are saying that Jeep’s lawyers were not as smart as the Chinese lawyers? They should have been fired! It is the classic balance between greed and risk. China is a huge market and everybody wants to get in. Every country has barriers to imports. They will only let you in their country if you transfer the technology and manufacturing. China has lax copyright laws so your technology may leak out to copycat companies. Manufacturers go in knowing all this. Instead of blaming “Eastern Business Practices” they should blame their own stupidity.

    • Bill Jones

      He didn’t fail. The Indians pulled their money from him, after using him for his skill.

  • Sven Ram

    Nor the RX or the SX were better than any of its competitors. That’s were the story ends.

  • Matt Sweeney

    Nice piece, I would add the P column to Erik’s attributes as in Polite. I’ve met him several times, I can say I was amazed to talk to the head of the company that built my bike, yes I’m am a Buell owner (2001 X1, ~50K on the clock going strong) . He actually stopped to chat with my group about the design of the X1’s seat, something I wasn’t happy with , and hang with us for a bit. I’m pretty sure a run of the mill guy like myself wouldn’t get that treatment from KTM, Ducati, Guzzi….. not to mention Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha (btw I think they all make great bikes) . I’m sure there were contributing business drivers, mistakes, successes as there are in any business with EBR and Hero. But to root against the home town guy is insane. I never understood the hate the Harley or Kawasaki or BMW (I have one of each) mentality. Ride Motorcycle =Have fun and if you toss in be nice to other people, that makes for great experiences in life. I guess people just crave crappy experiences/lives these days. Just my opinion, and as the drill sergeant told me way back, it’s worth what you paid for it :)

  • ljohn

    This authoritarian argument is fallacious. It is based upon an equivocation, proving nothing more than those who prefer Trump like children to be well behaved. It is as specious as the arguement: “Noisy children are a real headache. Two aspirin will make a headache go away. Therefore, two aspirin will make noisy children go away. . . .”

  • DangRight

    How much personal money has Erik invested in his motorcycle company(s)? It would seem in all the sales of equity throughout the brands history he would have a pretty good nest egg. God bless him for that.
    I don’t want him to go broke, I just wonder how much he could save the company on his own.

    • john burns

      I think I remember reporting he used most of his own money to reinvent EBR after The Buell Motorcycle Company folded, mostly out of allegiance to his employees. I don’t have time to look it up right now. Google is free for everyone.

      • DangRight

        Free google shows nothing about Erik investing most of his own money, at least anywhere I could find. Hence, my question.
        Hero MotoCorp bought 49.2% of EBR with $25 million in July 2013, along side Buell’s own investment.
        Says nothing of Buell’s investment amount.
        What about now? Does Erik have enough money to invest in a rebirth? I don’t know. Maybe he isn’t willing to put it all on the line. I certainly don’t blame him. Just curious.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          Under “Buell Motorcycle Company” on Wikipedia it says “In 1993, Harley-Davidson purchased 49% of Buell, investing $500,000 and taking Erik Buell’s house as security”.

  • Fidel Cash-Flow

    It’s actually a pretty easy explanation for why the company went out of business: EB sold a bike that was more expensive, less beautiful, and had a degree of fit and finish that was Fisher-Price level bad compared to the competition. It may have been Erik, a 65 year old man’s dream bike, but can any of us honestly say you’d have an SX over a Duke 1290? An RX over a Panigale? You can’t just sell bikes based on the sympathy people have for you from the old company. Come on Erik, lose the guys from the Buell days. Get some legitimate young designers to sketch you up a bike, trust in their ability to make a modern, beautiful product. Give it competitive specs with a normal brake and I WILL BUY IT. Instead of being Fiercely Independent, be being Fiercely Competitive with companies that are clearly doing it right. Also, consider making lifestyle bikes… Ducati, Yamaha, and BMW are killing it with products that aren’t balls out performance oriented right now. Something to think about, if the company springs back.

    • http://batman-news.com Nico du Plooy

      Well said. I have been pretty close buying a Buell on several occasions. Every time though, little somethings just spoiled the passion wanting to sign on that dotted line. I would be lying if I did not admit that the previous association with H-D was one of those ‘little somethings’. The name just does not rhyme with Superbike or with Super Naked per se. More so the
      last linkup with Indian ‘Hero’. Hero Motorcycles, like Tata Motorcars, might represent phenomenal Success Stories in their own right. But they do not impart much in terms of heritage, image and pure pizazz that is mandatory when owning a certain Brand and the bragging rights, smugness and associated BS that is obligatory for that to take root. Would I buy a ‘pure’
      EBR even though it lacked ‘heritage’? Almost, given Erik’s passion and uniqueness – probably, once I took it for a spin. Would I buy one governed from a H-D or Hero Boardroom? Probably never. The same thing is has started spoiling Ducaudi for me. If I wanted German finesse I would buy BMW. But if I wanted a tempestuous, gurgling and popping Vee that toasted my @ss and that I needed to take home and complete myself, I would get a Ducati (I have two). But lately a certain less-passion-more-bottom-line
      Boardroom has started upsetting that balance too. Can’t see myself buying many new ones in future. But there are many more hipsters than there are purists of course.

  • Ray Boone

    I rode several Buells prior to Harley ejecting them though sadly never owned one. I liked the bikes I rode a LOT and still look for them on Craigslist when I get the itch to switch. Of course, I like almost ALL motorcycles and so far something more interesting has always come along. One day, though, I will own one.

  • mackja

    I have been riding for over 30 years, have owned 14 motorcycles, 4 of which have been Buell/EBR machines. Currently I own both, EBR 1190rx, and 1190sx, before I bought the 1190rx, I went out and test road the Ducati Panigale, MV Agusta F3800, Aprillia RSV4, Kawasaki ZX10 and owned a KTM RC8R. With out question I found the EBR to be the overall best bike, comfort, power, amazing handling, while the KTM is a really nice bike, it cannot hold a candle to the EBR. Before I purchased the 1190sx I did a long term test ride on the KTM Superduke, I was disappointed with it. made that decision easy. This year I will be putting the 1190rx on the track, retiring my Buell 1125r. Everyone has a reason for the bike they ride, Erik built a great motorcycle, something not to many people get the opportunity to do, that in itself is enough to merit admiration. I ride a lot of track days, and all the people I ride with have nothing but admiration for Erik and his bikes. Erik is one of the most respected people in the paddock, even if you don’t care for his bikes, you have to admire his passion, drive, and attitude. Never Quit! Go EBR

    • DickRuble

      Talk is cheap. Show us a picture of the two EBRs and the 1125r. Put a boot between the front wheels so we can know you’re for real.

      • john burns

        show us the pic of your new 1190SX you said you were going to buy Dick.

        • DickRuble

          Never said I would. I said if ergos were the same as SuperDuke R. They aren’t..

          • john burns

            O that’s right you backpedalled into ergos must be exactly the same.

          • DickRuble

            Nope, it ain’t. Not to mention that after re-reading your review I am now a bit skeptical about the bike..

          • john burns

            go with your used PC800 instinct I’d say.

      • mackja

        You must be the same guy that asked me to do the same thing about my rx back in July or Aug last year. My avatar is my 1125r, here is the same pic I posted last year, another pic of my 1190rx being fitted with bodywork, and a pic of my 190sx I just purchased in December. No boot available for the sx, but I can do Sunday on my day off.

        • DickRuble

          I thought it might be you but wasn’t sure. Was hoping there was another EBR owner out there. At least one satisfied customer, or does that count for three?

          • mackja

            There are plenty of satisfied EBR owners, check Facebook “EBR 1190 owners group” that is one of our hangout spots.

        • DickRuble

          The unpainted one is the RX getting ready for the track?

  • Ian Parkes

    Thanks again John, Excellent, thought-provoking – and refreshingly free-ranging. Thanks too to those commenters who illuminate your point by getting agitated about that.

  • Paragon Lost

    Good read, I agree with your opinion John.

  • Jay Dee

    In 2006 I attended the Sydney Bike Show with the aim to check out the best Ducati Monster bike I could buy, planning well ahead for my retirement (late 2012). My youngest daughter went with me and she was happy as at the Ducati display. Stationed nearby was the small Buell section. From that moment on a Buell Firebolt was my retirement choice. Yes, I went on to buy one some years prior to retiring as I always plan ahead. It will never be sold. What a lovely bit of engineering! The XB series of Buells really nailed it! I have a small collection of bikes that continues to grow and none are the feet forward variety. My aging bones still climb aboard sport bikes but good luck to the cruiser crowd, the scooter crowd, the adventure crowd or any crowd that ride! If you have a Buell cherish it! Erik was shafted by HD and yet again things conspire against this small innovative AMERICAN company. Come you Yanks, fly the flag! Stick by your guy! What happened to American pride?
    An Aussie with a Yank sport bike,

  • Malcolm Turncoat

    Harley dropped Buell because it caught out in the GFC selling bikes on $0 down and 0% interest. It suddenly was faced with the real issues of repossessing thousands of near new bikes that no one wanted. Buell will never succeed because there is no market gap, a historical oddity like Bimota.

  • DHZ

    Good article John.
    Teddy Roosevelt said it best “Its not the critic who counts–The credit belongs to the man in the arena”.
    The whining and the bitching is easy for people who never reveal their true name or address, and never can be held accountable.
    You think you have the knowledge to attack and everyone is a fool, then get off your butt and start your own motorcycle company in your garage, in your spare time. There is no excuse. It takes nothing but a brain and limited money. There is no excuse. I look forward to the hordes of announcements of new bikes.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      What is your true name and address?

    • Reasonable

      We don’t all have the moxy to build a nest egg by misleading investors. High with airplanes down to motorcycles… What are you going to do after this one fails? The only thing lower is mining equipment, and that is hard to damage when shipping. How does it feel to be held accountable?

  • ADB

    86 comments in 48 hours. Well Mr. Burns, you touched the hot button this week, didn’t you?

    OK, here goes: I have two dogs in this hunt – my own Thunderbolt tube frame, and now my son’s brand spanking new EBR 1190RX. Here’s how it works at Buell: where else in the world would you be able to easily meet and greet the top guy at a motorcycle or car company? This doesn’t happen at Honda, or Kawasaki, or Yamaha, and most certainly will never, ever, ever, happen at the lofty BMW. Maybe Miguel at Moto Guzzi, and I did just meet Paul Stroud from Triumph, but a top guy at Suzuki? I doubt it. It’s easy to shake hands with Erik Buell.

    I lived about 45 minutes from the Buell/EBR plant in East Troy when I bought my Thunderbolt new in 2001, it was a standard S-3 model that I wanted to turn into a full fledged “T” model at the time of purchase. The folks at Milwaukee H-D were great, and added all of the needed bits to my original invoice so I could finance it all at one time – wide bags, bag liners, fairing lowers, tall handlebars, etc., (and at the time, when you are middle aged guy with a wife and three kids, the financing was a must – just to get the new bike in the garage). A few weeks later, the dealer was trying to track down my bags – “sorry for the delay, we should ship them soon”. A couple of weeks later, and still no luck. Being the Donald Trump that I am, I decided to pick up the phone, and call the plant in East Troy (what did I have to lose?). Not surprising, the lady on the phone was very polite, and kindly asked me to hold while she tracked down the right person. I’ll never forget Bruce coming on the line. Without prompting, said – “Is this Dale? I have your bags painted, but not built up yet. The lady that builds saddlebags for me had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago (in her mid-thirties if I remember correctly), and won’t be back with us for a while.” How did he know it was me? “I’ve had your order on my desk since the dealer entered it, I know who you are are and where you live”. He thought about my predicament for a minute, then came up with a solution. “Since you are in Crystal Lake, wanna come up tomorrow, and we can build your bags together? We’ll pack them them up, and you can drive them home and install this weekend?”. Did I want to come to the plant…? Uh, yeah…! Naturally, I took my boys out school the next day, and we proceeded to have one of those days that will never be forgotten. Here we were in the parts section of a real, live, motorcycle assembly plant, putting hinges, and latches, and gaskets, and locks on freshly painted Amazon Green hard covers. Bruce got us all packed up, showed me how the main bracket would bolt to the frame, then gave us his cell phone “just in case you hit a snag on mounting tomorrow, I’ll come down to your house and help”. Again, this does not happen in the everyday world, and this is how I became a fan for life.

    I still have my Thunderbolt (mint condition with 30,000 miles on it), and at 59 now, will probably have it the day I die. As a businessman, I understand how all of this could have happened to Erik, and I only wish he and his crew the best.

    On Mr. Burns Piaggio note, I get it. Your 2014 Sport-Touring Final SmackDown video and the reviews by Troy Siahaan and Tom Roderick pushed me to buy a brand new Moto Guzzi Norge. No, it’s not a BMW, or FJR. At this stage in my life, I could have just as easily bought a new H-D Street Glide, but just couldn’t see myself….

    I hope Erik is reading all of these comments, and taking solace that most of the motorcycling community is wishing he and his folks well. Erik, you did well when you hired Bruce – a great guy.

  • JMDonald

    I should have bought a Ulysses when I had the chance.

  • Cobraboy

    Why the need to inject politics into a motorcycle article? It brought nothing to the table. We ride to get away from that stuff…

    • John B.

      Politics is the practice and theory of influencing other people. In any business venture, especially one that goes awry, politics precipitates outcomes. Managers make proposals and discuss issues, coalitions form, and investors and/or C-level execs make decisions.

      This is a political process where those with the most influence or power prevail. No one could understand EB’s latest venture and its outcome without discussing organizational politics. You will not see much politics in a Literbike Shootout article, but an article about a failed motorcycle business venture invariably involves politics.

      Unfortunately, EB can’t say too much in public about what happened (among other reasons) because he likely will need investors for his next venture and wants them to see he knows how to behave when things go sideways. This is why JB had to speculate about what really happened.

      • Cobraboy

        What the hell does EB’s situation have to do with PARTISAN POLITICS?

        I’m a fan of EB, an active motorcyclist, even own a motorcycle touring company, MotoCaribe.

        I fail to see the need for the author to inject HIS partisan bent in an article about Eric Buell.

        No venture capitalist will read that article as a key component of his due diligence process. Apples and oranges.

        • John B.

          “Partisan” means a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person. In the article, John Burns (the author) expressed support for Erik Buell, but expressed no opinion one way or another with respect to President Obama and/or Donald Trump. As such, JB did not “inject his partisan bent” in this article about EB. (Exactly what partisan bent do you believe JB injected into this article?)

          Furthermore, Harley Davidson and Hero (i.e., motorcycle companies; not venture capitalists) funded EB’s last two major projects, which means EB will likely seek funding for his next project from, among others, persons and entities within the motorcycle industry.

          Motorcycle.com is a leading industry publication, and anyone who considers funding EB will conduct due diligence that will include, at a minimum, research related to articles about EB and public statements EB has made. I conduct Google searches and Social Media searches before I depose any witness, and on all witnesses who may testify at trial. Due diligence to decide whether to invest millions in a business venture surely requires as much.

          Carefully chosen words are a journalist’s tools. JB referred to politicians, but did not express a partisan preference, and I’m sure that was intentional. Of course, JB can speak for himself.

          It fascinates me that people see what they want to see regardless the words written or the ideas conveyed.

          Good luck with your business; it sounds fun.

          • john burns

            what he said.

          • Cobraboy

            I did not miss the author’s nuance.

            However, am I to believe that if he is the Master of Choosing Words he could not have found better analogies that Trump=Authoritarian and Obama=Victim.

            I can only assume you agree with those choices of words.

            Again: totally unnecessary to inject partisan opinions/politics in an article about the trials, tribulations and future of Erik Buell.

          • John B.

            I agree with all JB’s word choices, and in my home we refer to him as, “Master of Choosing Words Burns.” And yes, the doer of deeds could always do them better. Okay, I’m kidding….

            You didn’t like the article, which is your prerogative. I find moto articles that exclusively relate to motorcycles and motorcycling less interesting than articles like this one. That’s because I’m (only) a motorcycle enthusiast, and not an aficionado, so I prefer articles that deal with motorcycles/motorcycling in some broader context. MO does a great job producing content I enjoy, but you may be looking for something different. If you Google “Motorcycle Magazine” you’ll find plenty to choose from.

            The media has thoroughly reported EB’s tribulations. Give JB some credit for finding something new to say about this topic. Or don’t…. your choice.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      I agree. One and a half years ago I decided to just read motorcycle news and I have been a much happier person since then. So it is jarring when the same unpleasant debates show up in motorcycle publications. There is no valid reason for it.

      • DickRuble

        One and a half years of reading only motorcycle news… Does that explain your being out of touch with reality?

        • Sayyed Bashir

          Ha, ha! Reality does intrude from time to time, but I try to keep it out as much as possible. We are living in the safest nation on earth, protected by the most sophisticated military in the world. Why not enjoy life instead of worrying about it all the time? Partisan politics does sour the taste in my mouth so I keep away from it. I say elect the people you believe in and let them do their job. Life is too short to waste it on things like that. You only get one chance to live. Live it.

  • Rider28

    Thank you for the positive write up of Buell. As a Buell Ulysses owner I’m a big fan of the brand. It’s nice to see a publication that isn’t interested in being skeptical or outright negative.

  • lundque

    I enjoyed the article, both for what it said about Erik and for the F scale discussion. More than 30 years ago, I did some minor research for a bachelor’s level sociology course. Over the course of several personal interview runs in a local mall, I found that the scale was not really a useful predictor of who a participant would support. However, when partnered with another scale that measured intensity of support to the left or to the right, I did get correlation. My recollection, admittedly hazy after more than 30 years, is that I wasn’t the only one who found issues using the F scale as a stand alone.

    My recollection of working with Erik is more recen t and much more clear. I found him quite delightfully charismatic and humble, someone who was able to imbue his own passion for the bikes in his teams.

    I wish him all the best.

  • sgray44444

    I don’t know the man, or the business deal so I’ll speculate with all the other windbags on here…
    While I appreciate the intense devotion to building a cutting edge sportbike, I often wonder if a better path might have been a more humble beginning to build up the company with the future intent on being innovative. It seems like a more logical business path to me.
    As far as this authoritarianism nonsense, I find many who hold to traditional values have rational reasons for doing so, and there are many more lemmings still holding on to their hope and change as the country goes completely into the toilet. Not that I buy into Trump. I see him as a different problem altogether.