Time keeps on tickin’, tickin’, into the future. Twenty years ago, though, a happy harmonic convergence had me and my 8-year old son on the same wavelength when it came to two-wheeled toys. The new Buell XB-9S was at the top of my list; a Razor scooter was at the top of his. Later, we learned what might have been if Erik Buell’s turbocharger plan hadn’t been last-minute aborted by the higher-ups at H-D. But even in its normally aspirated state, I still remember the 9S being a complete hoot. Luckily, Erik Buell is still out there swinging away; it sounds like the Fuell Flow is ready for prime time.
In 1997, Harley-Davidson owned 49% of Buell Motorcycles and a lien on Erik Buell’s house; outwardly, the relationship appeared to be somewhat symbiotic. The M2 Cyclone was almost the last of the tube-framed Buells, while the first turbocharged XB fuel-in-aluminum-frame bike was on the drawing board. It was close, but sadly, none of it quite went according to plan…
Well lookit that: I was already a Buell apologist 20 years ago. The low-handlebarred XB9R was Buell’s first with the sweet Verlicchi fuel-in-frame design, but it was the XB9S that came out the following year that we still covet. Meanwhile, taste may finally be catching up to the new Ducati 900SS Pierre Terblanche designed in 1998.
The Buell Motorcycle Co.’s comeback is ready to begin, with the revived brand announcing production of the new 2022 Hammerhead 1190 superbike set to begin on Nov. 1. Based on the EBR 1190RX, the Hammerhead will be produced in Grand Rapids, Mich., and offered through an online reservation and delivery system called “Buellvana”, which the company will detail further on Oct. 21.
Years later, we learned that the 984 cc Sportster-based engine in the Buell XB9R was supposed to have been turbocharged to the tune of 150 horsepower. A last-minute Harley-Davidson-induced change of plan scuttled that, but if the turbo had happened, the whole arc of Buell would’ve bent much more toward justice. As she stood, the 9R never quite caught on. But we’d still give our left ventricle for a clean XB9S, preferably with blue translucent gas tank cover…
And Jesus was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, but when he emerged from the tomb and saw that people were still using dial-up modems and AOL, and that the MO photos were tiny and that Harley-Davidson had just bought Buell… he said, Y’know what? This is ridiculous. I’m going on back in the crib to sleep a bit longer. Let’s try this resurrection thing again in a few years, mm’kay? And so it is written, far as you know.
Yea verily, with all that’s come and gone with Erik Buell and his motorcycles, it’s hard to believe only 20 years have transpired since he begat the X1. This was truly a motorcycle that was stealthily sneaking up on being a machine that could compete with some of the best in the world. At that time, Harley-Davidson had just bought up control of Buell Motorcycles. Surely goodness and mercy would follow Buell all the days of his life?
Has it really only been 10 years since Erik Buell’s first modern 8-valve engine appeared? Verily, what with all the openings and closings, and everything we’ve been through – it seems like far longer. Alas, no. The Apostle Pete was there, rockin’ the MO leathers. Before the cock crowed, someone would betray us…
Church of MO: 2008 Oddball Literbikes Comparison: Benelli Tornado Tre 1130 Vs. Buell 1125R Vs. Ducati 1098S
On this 100th Armistice Day, what better, less inappropriate way to remember all the WW1 gefallenen than by throwing an American and two Italians into battle. Okay, yeah it would be better with also a BMW and a Peugeot or Midual. It didn’t happen ten years ago, alright? But this comparison did. Nice work, Pete, and a moment of silence please, for Erik Buell – who gave the last, final measure of devotion not once, but two or three times. So far.
In 2009, the firearms engineers at Magpul in Denver, Colorado, began an interesting side project – turning 47 Buell 1125s (acquired in the first Buell fire sale) into 47 unique customs. We’re not sure which came first, 47 Buells or 47 Ronin, but the 47 Ronin were legendary samurai warriors of Japanese history: Each bike was named for one of them and numbered, and now there are only two more left for sale. The one in our lead image is the #2 Teraoka Nobuyuki:
And in that happy time Erik and factory had everything they needed in the Garden of East Troy, and were content to spend their days plucking brake levers and skinny grips from the Ducati trees, and herds of horses roamed free among the unicorns to provide more power. And in 1996 the factory gave birth to the S1 Lightning. If there were also serpents in the trees, they weren’t a problem yet.
Harley-Davidson can’t seem to catch a break lately. The Motor Co. has come under fire for a multitude of different reasons, but mostly because everyone’s a bunch of whiners. That’s right, I said it. It seems like most people complaining about all the new Harley-Davidsons aren’t people who would consider buying one anyway, so what’s the point in voicing your displeasure other than for kicking someone while they’re down? Didn’t your parents raise you better? One of the new models coming out is the Street Fighter, which we can expect sometime in 2020, but Harley-Davidson, under Erik Buell’s leadership, used to build some pretty wicked bikes that were easily transformed into badass street fighters. Unfortunately, though, they went the way of the dinosaur.
I’ve always been a fan of anything that’s different or sets you apart from the rest of the pack, and it was for this reason I decided many moons ago to buy a Buell. I also grew up in a Harley family, so it was a natural choice. I was 17 when I got my first Buell, a 2003 XB9S. God I loved that bike, and I modified it quite heavily in the following years. After going through and upgrading the motor with higher-compression pistons, a five-angle valve job, porting, polishing, a better-breathing modified air intake, freer-flowing Randy Hawkins exhaust, more aggressive Andrews cams and a remapped ECU, it was cranking out 110 hp to the wheel – it was pretty wicked, and it sounded awesome on the pipe with the throttle pegged. And that’s just what was done to the motor.
From rags to riches and back to rags again, the formation of Erik Buell Racing, or EBR, is testament to Erik Buell’s unwavering belief in himself and his quest back toward the path of riches. Although he has experienced the full range of emotions during his career, if there’s one thing Buell is not, it’s a quitter, and the closure of Buell Motorcycle Company wasn’t going to stop him. In the spirit of the American dream, Buell uses setbacks as fuel for the immense fire burning inside him – one with a very clear and singular focus: to create the ultimate sportbike, and to create it in the U.S. of A.
Do a lot of riding in traffic? Are twisties your thing? Maybe an occasional long tour or checking out the local nightlife? If you're like most motorcyclists the answer is a little of each. For some folks, Buell's sporty S1 Lightning was just too uncompromising to be used as their only motorcycle. For this group who admired the S1 but wrote it off as impractical, Erik Buell designed the more pragmatic dual-seat M2 Cyclone. Last year Buell stunned the world with the S1. Here was a bike that was faster, lighter, better handling, and two grand cheaper than their previous offerings. Buell's S1 Lightning had it all, except a saddle that was tolerable for more than 150 miles.
Paul James, Buell’s Director of Product Communication, presented them to the press near the world’s first boulevard, Unter der Linden, just steps away from the deconstructed Berlin Wall. More specifically, we were beneath the urban streets of Berlin at the Potsdamer plaza metro station, in a rave-ready concrete space hidden between public floors of the station. Blending in to the landscape for the common folk, yet unique and worth taking a peek – just like the Buell 1125CR. It’s more than just “Harley’s sportbike” as Buells are often described. The CR is ready to compete against the Japanese.
Buell took a page from the simplicity of design of the XB streetfighter models and applied the iconic stripped-down philosophy to the company’s first and only liquid-cooled sportbike, the 1125R. Called the 1125CR, this nearly-identical sibling of the racier-looking 1125R loses the big fairing/windscreen found on that bike in favor of a minimalist flyscreen sitting atop on new, single piece headlight. The new Buell also has slightly lower (about 8% from the 1125R) final drive gearing for improved acceleration according to Buell materials. We say that means even easier wheelies. Everything else on 1125CR is carried over from the 1125R.
No doubt the forward momentum owes a great deal to the company's late-2007 release of the highly-anticipated liquid-cooled V-Twin 1125R, especially considering "dealer fill" (each dealer that wanted an 1125R has received at least one unit) has already been achieved. But the company's current sales success is also due to the humble Ulysses. Of the nine bikes making up the product line, six of those carry the letters XB; of those, the Uly is the strongest selling machine according to Chris Nelson, Director of Product Planning for Buell.
Those of you who obsessively pore through all texts motorcycle-related (as I do) probably have a basic impression of Buell motorcycles even if you've never ridden one. Almost every Buell review praises these innovative American-built sportbikes for their light, precise handling, their ability to carry serious corner speed, and the surprising feeling of light weight (they're not really that light, comparatively) - all features which were obvious to me my first time riding Buell's most recent sportbike, the XB12R Firebolt.
However, it does have the saving grace of being in between Buttonwillow Raceway Park, a sweet, three-mile sports car track 150 miles from LA, and highway 155, a twisty, beautifully-paved road that carries a motorcycle and rider from the grimy, overheated cesspool below to the cooler, cleaner mountains that rise above the California Central Valley.
That's right, just as I was thinking to myself, damn these Buells turn good on the brakes...
I locked up the front and took the guy out like a bowling ball heading into a tight little right. I also took a handlebar in the chest, and for the first couple of weeks afterward it hurt almost too much to smoke. Hence, I was all set to announce my retirement when the phone rang just now: Erik Buell calling to tell me don't feel so bad, Johnny, our timers said you were going faster than Don Canet at the time...
All the modern and technologically advanced parts were there for a reason. Even simple things were attacked and re-done for the sake of the Trilogy (low unsprung weight, mass centralization and chassis rigidity). For the most part, everything did work. Sure, sure it had its fair share of detractors -- mainly reactionaries deriding its peculiar front end feel or its engine or whatever.
In its place, the newest Buell features even more funkiness than the original specimens--but the same basic theory (either we do it my way or we don't do it at all) remains at the heart of every machine. If light makes right, then Buell's trying for complete infallibility. Buell's "Trilogy of Design" since day one has meant optimal mass centralization, minimal unsprung weight, and chassis rigidity. This theory has taken the new XB9R down an interesting road that, as it turns out, creates some new problems by so creatively solving others.
The Buell Blast targets beginning riders who crave big-bike styling and sound. Harley decided that a new, entry-level motorcycle was needed and requisitioned Erik Buell to build something that is "easy to learn on and looks hip and fun" in the hopes of enticing more new riders into the sport of motorcycling. They figured that the best way to go about this would be to produce a light, single-cylinder powered motorcycle that's easy to ride, providing beginners with an attractive platform to "learn to ride with confidence," at a retail price of under $4,400.00.
The California model will retail for $100 more.
'sI-"klOn Main Entry: cy-clone
Etymology: modification of Greek kyklOma wheel, coil, from kykloun to go around, from kyklos circle
1 : a storm or system of winds that rotates about a center of low atmospheric pressure, advances at a speed of 20 to 30 miles (about 30 to 50 kilometers) an hour, and often brings heavy rain
2 : a two-wheeled, motorized vehicle that leans around a center of low, tight, asphalt-coated turns, advances at a speed of 20 to 100 miles (about 30 to 160 kilometers) an hour, and often succeeds to entertain.
So we immediately decided to subject a Motorcycle Online staffer to the rack. Four hundred miles on the Lightning, stopping only for gas and vital fluids (coffee for the staffer, oil for the Buell). All your sensible instincts tell you it's going to be hell. Yet that 400 mile ride was survivable, enjoyable even. The tiny gas tank actually holds four gallons, giving a range of over 150 miles between fillups. With an extremely steady right hand, you could even get close to the 200 mile mark on one tank. The handlebars are 7/8 inch diameter, instead of the 1.0 inch bars used on the Thunderbolt, and that new dimension translates to an easier, more familiar grip on the smaller handgrips.
Needless to say, the S2 was an instant sales success. It was also one of the first ever test bikes to reside in the Motorcycle Online garage. We raved over the bike in our feature test of the Thunderbolt back in 1995: "This bike grunts out of corners with authority, its burly V-twin music straightening out the kinks in your favorite back road... Packed with tire-shredding torque and a well-sorted chassis, this bike screams. It's a good attempt at fusing together opposite ends of the motorcycling spectrum." And we declared we would never give it back. Riding the S2 is a grin-inducing experience that grows on you. It has an in-your-face persona that demands the rider's attention. But we quickly found out horsepower isn't a strong point with the S2's
The Buell Lightning series offers a unique blend of minimalist, naked styling and the real-world powerband of an American V-Twin engine. The riding position is athletic. Agility is uncompromised. The torque is unreal. Compact and narrow in profile, the Buell Thunderstorm— V-Twin engine is the perfect powerplant for serious street performance. Both the 92hp Thunderstorm 984 and 103hp Thunderstorm 1203 (these are *CLAIMED* numbers. MO tested these engines at an SAE corrected 76.7hp/69.8Lbft and 89.7hp/72.6LbFt respectively) engines are 45-degree air/oil/fan-cooled V-Twins with electronic fuel injection. Both are tuned to put out a mountain of ground-pounding torque and deliver the kind of midrange acceleration a rider can really use on the street. The Buell Uniplanar engine mounting system reduces vibration to the rider and increases frame rigidity by utilizing the engine as a stressed member of the chassis.
What we do know is that Buell isn't being complacent. The XB9R is a departure from standard Buell motorcycle design, but still maintains the trilogy of design that Erik Buell has insisted on since day one; mass centralization, low unsprung weight and chassis rigidity.