2015 EBR 1190SX First Ride Review

Because motorcycles are better when you’re naked

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2015 EBR 1190SX

Editor Score: 85.25%
Engine 18.5/20
Suspension/Handling 14.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.0/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 7.0/10
Overall Score85.25/100

The heavyweight Streetfighter category of motorcycles has exploded in popularity lately, with seemingly every manufacturer jumping on the bandwagon for a piece of the pie. Japan’s represented with the Kawasaki Z1000, Honda CB1000R, and even Suzuki is entering the ring in 2015 with the GSX-S1000. Italy’s three representatives include the MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR, Ducati Monster 1200 and Aprilia Tuono V4R. Germany, of course, gives us the BMW S1000R, and we can’t forget BMW’s Austrian neighbors and their contribution to the party: the all-conquering KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Motorcycle.com’s 2014 Motorcycle of the Year.

With so many players in the game, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. So what’s a small company like EBR to do? If you’re Erik Buell, you carve a different path, create a new category and become a party of one. Introducing the EBR 1190SX, the all-American Superfighter.

Unlike the P-51 Mustang in the background, the EBR 1190SX is a fighter of a different kind.

Unlike the P-51 Mustang in the background, the EBR 1190SX is a fighter of a different kind.

If the SX looks like the 1190RX sans clip-ons and front bodywork, you’re right. During the incredibly short press briefing, the folks in EBR shirts made note to mention the team took a “no compromises” approach to building a superbike for the street. What this means to you and me is EBR simply made the SX a naked version of the RX. Sharing many of the same components as the RX, like the fuel-in-frame chassis, 72-degree, 1190cc, liquid-cooled V-Twin with swirled intake air, and perimeter-style front brake, it’s actually easier to talk about what’s different between the two models: upright handlebars instead of clip-ons, minimal bodywork instead of full fairings, a slightly different underbelly exhaust cover, and a softer shock spring. That’s it. The rest of the SX shares the same part numbers as the RX. Even the EFI tuning is identical to the RX, meaning, unlike other streetfighters, this engine hasn’t been re-tuned or detuned to benefit torque production at the expense of top-end power. Not that the RX’s mill is lacking in this department, anyway.

Superfighter or streetfighter? Tomato or to-mah-toe? Whatever category you want to place the 1190SX in, the EBR matches nicely against three competitors: the Aprilia Tuono V4R, BMW S1000R and KTM 1290 Super Duke R, which just so happened to comprise our 2014 Ultimate Streetfighter Finale. Looking strictly at the numbers in the spec chart below, the EBR appears to be a formidable challenge to its three European competitors. At 1190cc, its engine is significantly larger than both the Aprilia and BMW, while its approximately 160 rear-wheel horsepower and 13.4:1 compression ratio is tops in this field. The KTM’s monstrous 96.5 ft-lbs is still king of the class, 10 up on the EBR, which itself then towers over the Italian and German.

2014 Ultimate Streetfighter Shootout Specs
Aprilia Tuono
V4R APRC ABS
BMW S1000R KTM 1290
Super Duke R
EBR 1190SX
MSRP $14,499 $14,950 $16,999 $16,995
Engine Capacity 999cc 999cc 1301cc 1190cc
Engine Type 65° V-Four Inline-Four 75º V-Twin 72º V-Twin
Bore x Stroke 78 x 52.3 mm 80 x 49.7mm 108 x 71mm 106 x 67.5mm
Compression 13:1 12.0:1 13.2:1 13.4:1
Horsepower/Torque 148 hp @ 11,600 rpm / 73.4 ft-lb. @ 9500 rpm 155.3 hp @ 11,200 rpm / 79.7 ft-lb. @ 9,500 rpm 156.0 hp @ 9,100 rpm / 96.5 ft-lb. @ 8,200 rpm 160 hp @ 10,600 rpm / 88 ft-lbs. @ 8200 rpm (approx.)
Fuel System Electronic fuel injection Electronic fuel injection Electronic fuel injection Electronic fuel injection
Transmission Six-Speed Six-Speed Six-Speed Six-Speed
Final Drive Chain Chain Chain Chain
Frame Aluminum dual beam chassis with pressed and cast sheet elements Aluminum composite bridge frame Tubular space frame made from chrome molybdenum steel, powder-coated Aluminum frame with integral fuel reservoir
Front Suspension Sachs 43mm inverted fork with one-by-one separated damping adjustments Sachs 46mm inverted fork with Dynamic Damping Control semi-active suspension WP Suspension 48mm inverted fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping Showa inverted Big Piston Fork
Rear Suspension Sachs piggyback monoshock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Dynamic damping control semi-active suspension WP Suspension monoshock, fully adjustable Showa monoshock
Front Brakes Dual 320mm floating discs, Brembo M432 4-piston monoblock radial calipers and ABS Dual 320mm floating rotors, Brembo fixed radial-mount 4-piston calipers and ABS Dual 320mm rotors with Brembo M50 4-piston monoblock calipers and ABS Single 386mm perimeter rotor, 8-piston inside-out caliper
Rear Brakes 220mm disc. Brembo 2-piston floating caliper Single 220mm rear rotor, single piston floating caliper Single 240mm rear rotor with two-piston caliper Single 220mm disc, two-piston Hayes Performance caliper
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire 190/55 ZR17 190/55 ZR17 190/55 ZR17 190/55 ZR17
Seat Height 32.9 in 32.0 in 32.9 in 32.5 in
Wheelbase 56.8 in 56.7 in 58.3 in 55.5 in
Rake/Trail 25.0°/ 4.2 in 24.6º/3.9 in 24.9º/4.21 in 22.4º/3.8 in
Curb Weight 474 lbs 450 lbs 469 lbs 441 lbs. (est.)
Fuel Capacity 4.9 gal 4.6 gal 4.7 gal 4.5 gal

From there, all four bikes are similarly matched. Seat height is 32.5 inches, directly between the 32.0-inch BMW seat and 32.9 inches for both the Aprilia and KTM. At 55.5 inches, the EBR’s wheelbase is more than an inch shorter than the BMW, the next shortest one of the four at 56.7 inches. The SX also has the most aggressive rake and trail numbers at 22.4 degrees/3.8 inches, respectively. The BMW S1000R, at 24.6 degrees/3.9 inches, almost seems lazy by comparison. Interestingly, EBR lists the 1190SX’s wet weight, minus fuel, at 414 lbs. Factoring in its 4.5-gallon fuel load at 6 lbs per gallon, the SX should come in at approximately 441 lbs. If accurate, then the EBR will come in 9 lbs lighter than the BMW, the lightest bike from our shootout, and a whopping 33 lbs slimmer than the Aprilia!

The 1190cc 72-degree V-Twin is a torque lover’s dream. However, the cooling fans on either side will blow heat right towards your knees. Nice on cool rides, not so pleasant otherwise.

The 1190cc 72-degree V-Twin is a torque lover’s dream. However, the cooling fans on either side will blow heat right towards your knees. Nice on cool rides, not so pleasant otherwise.

Numbers Don’t Tell The Whole Story

Being nearly identical to the 1190RX I tested at Indianapolis Motor Speedway only a few weeks prior, what stood out to me about the EBR in a track setting was a seemingly endless amount of torque along with an incredibly agile chassis. Without any street time aboard the RX, however, the SX press ride would provide a glimpse into normal life with both bikes.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t seem to cooperate with EBR press launches. First she rained down during the 1190RX launch at the Brickyard, then she did the same on our SX ride day in East Troy, Wisconsin, EBR’s own backyard. The rain was spitting at first, followed by a downpour later in the afternoon.

Rain meant any real testing of the 1190SX’s limits would have to wait for another time. However, the upright seating position compared to the RX is a welcome feature during any street ride.

Rain meant any real testing of the 1190SX’s limits would have to wait for another time. However, the upright seating position compared to the RX is a welcome feature during any street ride.

Nonetheless, a few things stand out about the 1190SX. First, the simple change from clip-ons to handlebars noticeably alters the riding position. It sounds obvious, but the more upright stance is easier on the back and wrists, which is especially appreciated on highway jaunts (either that or I’m just getting old). If it were mine, I’d opt for bars that are slightly higher still, while moving the pegs down to their lowest (of two) positions. This puts the feet about half an inch lower and a quarter-inch forward.

Just as I experienced at Indy, the 1190cc V-Twin is the center of attention. Twisting the throttle is met with an utterly addictive surge of torque that, from the seat-of-the-pants dyno, feels more outrageous to me than even the Super Duke R. And yes, I’m aware how audacious that sounds. No matter the gear and no matter the speed, if the gigantic torque curve the EBR delivers doesn’t put a smile on your face, there’s something wrong with you.

Aggressive rake and trail numbers combined with a short wheelbase gives the SX superb agility. Standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires work well, even in the wet.

Aggressive rake and trail numbers combined with a short wheelbase gives the SX superb agility. Standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires work well, even in the wet.

A tall first gear slightly tames that power when leaving a stoplight, but, assuming the traction control isn’t set too high, hoisting a wheelie accidentally will be a fate many experience – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Shifts are done without the help of a quickshifter, though one will be available through EBR parts and accessories in the future and will fit both the SX and RX. Personally, as I was never able to shift cleanly from first to second without using the clutch, opting for the quickshifter option is a no-brainer. That said, shifts through the rest of the gears are smooth. Considering the $16,999 KTM Super Duke R, which is only $4 more than the EBR, is also sans quickshifter (something the $14,950 BMW and $14,499 Aprilia are both equipped with), the lack of one on both the KTM and EBR just doesn’t make sense.

Equally pleasing as the torque are the wonderful sounds the bike makes. It barks loudly at every twist of the wrist, with a mean, two-pronged guttural attack on the senses coming from both the exhaust as well as the huge 61mm throttle bodies as they suck all available air in the vicinity. Although it’s already intoxicating in stock form, an aftermarket pipe will surely make it come alive. As an added bonus, hearing the chain idler whine as it keeps proper tension on decel sounds similar to a supercharger whine, giving the EBRs a distinctive noise unlike anything else out there.

It wouldn’t be an EBR without a massive perimeter rotor. While it no-doubt looks cool and performs well, they aren’t quite at the level of a high-end Brembo setup.

It wouldn’t be an EBR without a massive perimeter rotor. While it no-doubt looks cool and performs well, they aren’t quite at the level of a high-end Brembo setup.

However, good things come at a cost, and once revs exceed the 5000-rpm mark, noticeable vibration is felt through the bars. It’s an annoying buzz that puts hands to sleep quickly if the engine speed is sustained, but fortunately, highway speeds are easily met in higher gears at lower revs. Also, while the radiator fans are placed in a prime location to accept fresh air and expel heat, their positioning blows that hot air directly on your kneecaps.

As you might expect, twisty roads are hard to come by in Wisconsin, and the wet conditions meant exploring the limits on the few corners we did find was out of the question. Nonetheless, the standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires provided impressive grip levels considering the conditions. As with the RX, transitions are made quickly, but the shallow steering sweep makes slow-speed maneuvers, like U-turns for photo passes, a little tricky.

Cue the Tom Cruise scene from Top Gun.

Cue the Tom Cruise scene from Top Gun.

The mixture of rain, street tires and a fat torque curve is a recipe for highsides, but the traction control system employed by EBR, which relies strictly on wheel-speed sensors, provides a safety net for those who get overzealous with the throttle. With 20 different settings (plus off), the lower numbers allow quite a bit of slip before intruding, while the higher numbers virtually eliminate slip entirely. The multi-level settings allow a suitable one for almost any rider.

EBR’s signature 386mm single perimeter brake rotor and 8-piston caliper is fed with a steel-braided line, and though braking performance is strong, I’d stop short of rating it above the Brembo units on all three of the European streetfighters mentioned earlier. With all due respect to Erik Buell’s outside-the-box approach to stopping a motorcycle, the perimeter brake doesn’t quite match up to the M50 calipers on the KTM (and Ducati 1199 Panigale), which provide unmatched levels of power and feel.

EBR On The Move

Considering the infancy of EBR and the limited resources at its disposal, the 1190SX is an impressive machine. With his unique approach to chassis design and braking methods, Erik Buell is setting the 1190SX apart from the rest, which, in the street/superfighter category is an important element for consumers. Then again, so is price. At $16,995, it’s one of the more expensive players in the category and yet it lacks much of the technology of its less expensive rivals, including ride-by-wire throttle actuation, ride modes, cruise control, wheelie control, dynamic suspension, quickshifter and ABS.

On paper, the EBR 1190SX poses a formidable challenge to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R. We can’t wait to get the two together for a head-to-head faceoff.

On paper, the EBR 1190SX poses a formidable challenge to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R. We can’t wait to get the two together for a head-to-head faceoff.

However, what the EBR lacks in technology, it makes up for by appealing to the senses – the intangible X-factor. Erik Buell is relying on the torque, agility, sounds, and performance of his bikes to put a smile on your face. A smile big enough to head to one of 82 dealers (and growing) in this country, fork over 17-large and bring one home.

+ Highs

  • Torque!
  • Good looks in a field of attractive streetfighters
  • Relatively comfy ergos for street riding
- Sighs

  • Excess heat gets blown to kneecaps
  • The cost vs. technology ratio may not add up for some
  • Bars are buzzy above 5000 rpm

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  • Craig Hoffman

    Loving that Buell did not dumb the ‘Fighter down in the engine bay. An example the Japanese can seriously learn from.

    • Price Action Guru

      “An example the Japanese can seriously learn from.”
      Exactly!

    • panthalassa

      respectfully disagree in principle; certainly i don’t mean they should neuter/spay’em, but if trimming the hp @ 12000 rpm by 15% can yield, say, 10% more torque at 4000 thru 9000, i’m ok with that … especially on unfaired bikes.

      • Craig Hoffman

        When it comes to the Japanese bikes, I can’t think of any standards that actually produce more power from 4K to 9K than the sport bikes they sprang from. The Japanese, for some reason, love to lower the compression, put a crappy exhaust, inferior ai box and otherwise shove a cork in it and rain on the standard bike parade.

        KTM and the other Euro makers march to a different and much cooler super standard bike drummer. They realize that there are former super sport riders like myself who do not want to assume the butt up and hands down position any more, but who also do not want to give up the ludicrous liter class sport bike power. It is rampant overkill to have such power in a naked bike of course, but I have a seething mid life crisis to look after :)

  • Dale B.

    I just checked insurance rates, and it is sky high. This from a 14 year Buell Thunderbolt rider. EBR needs to call Geico and talk to them.

    • Guest

      Not surprised if you’re 14.

      • Dale B.

        Ha! You got me. I meant to say 57 year old Buell rider of 14 years…

  • Aussiebikerdave

    The EBR is looking good and probably deserves a visit to the dealer to have a gander and maybe even a test ride if one was contemplating a naked but I have a question of the assembled motorcycle press. I have noticed that there is generally no mention of the Triumph Speed Triple R when compiling a list of alternative players in this category. I fully realise that the venerable S3 has become the “old man” of the category and is somewhat down on power when in esteemed company but surely the MC press could cut it some slack.
    So, I am wondering how the “R” model, say equipped with the low Arrow accessory pipe, might compare with the current crop of naked missiles. Yes, I know it would still be down on power even fitted with the aforementioned Arrow, but might the Triumph’s three cylinder charms be enough to have the bike nipping at the heels of the others on a score sheet result …and maybe even lap times during the track shinanigans???

    • TroySiahaan

      Sure, anything’s possible with enough time, skill and money…

      My opinion: Bikes like the EBR, KTM Super Duke R, BMW S1000R and Aprilia Tuono are rough, rugged and raw. It goes back to the visceral intangible X-factor I mention in this story. The Speed Triple is a great bike, and with an aftermarket exhaust will be a lot of fun to ride. However, for lack of a better word, it’s more refined than these other nakeds. It doesn’t rev as quickly or send the same vibrations to the rider. I doubt it would make much of a difference in the scoresheet or lap times, however.

  • DickRuble

    I had doubts about the single perimeter mounted front brake and they are now confirmed. Let’s hear it again from the peanut gallery on how they made huge progress, etc…. That progress isn’t enough it would appear. At least not at the price point sought by EBR.

    • Stuki

      Brembo has had an insane amount of time and resources to it’s disposal to get the M50 to where it’s at. As long as the objective, hard, measurements of power and unsprung weight is there, Buell and suppliers will be able to start refining once they get more bikes out in the wild, giving more datapoints from more riders riding in more different ways.

      As long as there is reason to believe an ultimately refined perimeter rotor setup will be better than a traditional one, I applaud Buell for staying with it.

      There’s also the familiarity problem. All reviewers have spent all their time riding traditional setups. Any “difference” will be less comfortable to them, even if that difference is not necessarily better or worse. Just like how Beemer riders used to telelevers often initially find all telescopics a step back, while riders used to telescopics feel the telelever is devoid of any feel and feedback.

      I have seen no overwhelming reason why mounting the rotor to the trim instead of the hub shouldn’t be an improvement (More so on street than track, where bumpier surface puts an even higher value on reduced unsprung weight). Buell just have to stick with it until he’s closed the gap on refinement sufficiently, and until more riders gain more familiarity with the peculiarities of feel they get from that kind of setup.

      • DickRuble

        They’ve been using this approach for twenty some years now. They improved, but not enough to play with the big guys. You are applauding from the position of an armchair rider but are you ready to applaud with your wallet? I understand the arguments of insufficient time and money, but that weighs little when it comes to purchase decisions. Yugo was a great car, given the resources and geopolitical situation of ex Yugoslavia.

  • Reid

    One day…one day. This is the bike of my dreams.

    • DickRuble

      Don’t delay. They may not be around “one day”.

      • Reid

        I would get myself killed riding a bike like that. I’m not ready yet.

  • Aussiebikerdave

    Gotta ad another comment, the more I look at the images the more I like this motorcycle. I think the stylists have done a good job on this bike as to my eye, there are no glaring optical disasters (eg BMW with their eye-sore ‘asymetricisms’).
    The 1190SX looks good in detail as well as a package of individual pieces. Now if Eric would only disassemble the clutch mechanism of the 1290 Superduke to discover how he can reduce the effort required at the clutch lever to a svelte one-finger clutch pull (to allow for my arthritic left hand), I reckon I’d be in like Flynn!

  • http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/ Das Boot

    I love this bike and I love what EBR is doing. Hopefully we’ll all get to see what they “can be” doing in the future. I feel like a Buell engineer as I ride a 2009 1125CR. I have had to reconfigure my wiring/rotor/stator/voltage regulator to keep up with cooling and battery issues caused by the large draw of power and excess heat from the dual fan set up.

    Spending 5k on an 1125 cr with 2k miles on it leaves plenty of budget room to refine, upgrade, and customize the bike. That price cuts away the time and frustration caused by unforeseen issues. Spending 17k on a bike and having these issues would be traumatic.

    I am a true EBR believer but I need to see reliability data before I feel comfortable shelling out the steep price tag.

  • enzomedici

    They totally went 1980s Japanese with that pipe. Fugly.

  • Phil Klosterman

    Sign me up for a red one