Buell Motorcycle History

Buell Motorcycle Company, a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, Inc., produces sport motorcycles, motorcycle parts, accessories and apparel. Started by former roadracer Erik Buell, the bikes bearing his name are powered by air-cooled engines based upon Harley-Davidson designs but tweaked for greater performance.
  • 1982 Erik Buell leaves an R&D job at Harley-Davidson to build his own race bike.
  • 1984 Buell completes the RW750 (Road Warrior), designed to compete in the AMA Formula 1 road racing championship and to provide an alternative to the venerable Yamaha TZ750. Buell’s motor is a square-Four two-stroke that was designed in Britain. He sells his first machine only to realize that the AMA has, with the stroke of a pen, eliminated the class.
  • 1987 Buell releases the RR1000 (Battle Twin), featuring a Harley-Davidson XR1000 engine. The bike had a dry weight of just 395 pounds and half of that was engine.
  • 1988 Buell releases the RR1200 (Battle Twin).
  • 1990 Buell release the RS1200 (West Wind). The RS1200S follows one year later and the RSS1200 a year after that.
  • 1993 Harley-Davidson buys minority interest in Buell Motorcycles Company.
  • 1994 Buell introduces the S2 Thunderbolt. The S2T Thunderbolt follows the next year.
  • 1996 Buell introduces the S1 Lightning streetfighter.
  • 1997 Buell introduces the S3 Thunderbolt and the S3T Thunderbolt. That same year the M2 Cyclone is released.
  • 1998 Harley-Davidson purchases an additional 49% interest in Buell Motorcycle Company to become the majority owner.

    That same year Buell introduces the S1W White Lightning.

  • 1999 Buell introduces the X1 Lightning.
  • 2000 Buell introduces the newbie-friendly Blast, which featured a single-cylinder engine.
  • 2002 Buell introduces the XB9R Firebolt. This is the first Buell with a modern aluminum beam frame. As usual, though, Erik Buell’s iconoclasm is evident in the way the alloy beams double as the fuel tank. It also features a perimeter brake rotor mounted to the rim of the front wheel, not the hub.
  • 2003 Buell introduces the Lightning XB9S naked bike.
  • 2005 Buell introduces the Ulysses, dubbing it “the world’s first adventure sportbike.”
  • 2006 The limited-production XBRR racer is built to the very edges (competitors say, beyond the edges) of the AMA Formula Xtreme rules. It’s to no avail. Despite bringing in ex-MotoGP star Jeremy McWilliams to ride the bike in the Daytona 200, the XBRR will not make an impact all season.
  • 2007 With the release of the 1125R, Buell breaks free of Harley-Davidson air-cooled engine technology. The new V-Twin motor is designed by Rotax and features all the modern conveniences: liquid cooling, DOHC, fuel injection, etc.
  • 2009 Danny Eslick takes the 1125R to his — and Buell’s — first championship in the AMA Daytona Sportbike class. Much controversy surrounded the 1125R’s eligibility in the class, which was comprised of mostly 600cc inline-four cylinders, though no other 1125R rider was able to even remotely match Eslick’s results.

    As a reward for Buell’s championship, parent company Harley-Davidson decides to shut down Buell in the midst of the economic downturn. Unfortunately, since Buell isn’t accounted for separately in Harley-Davidson’s books, Buell couldn’t simply be sold off. Erik Buell is down, but definitely not out...

  • 2011 After satisfying his no-compete clause, Erik Buell announces his new venture, Erik Buell Racing. EBR focuses on its founder’s first love: road racing, providing 1125R, 1125RR, and 1190RS machines for competition.
Prepared with historical input by Mark Gardiner and other sources.
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