Yes, just 18 months after H-D surgically removed the Buell brand, Erik Buell Racing (EBR) is offering a street-legal motorcycle. Dubbed the 1190RS, it’s heavily based on the 1190RR racebike that has already been campaigned for a season on European tracks. That bike, in turn, is (sort of) based on the Buell Barracuda that was to be introduced to the public in the Spring of 2010. And that bike was based on the 1125R, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
We don’t have a whole lot of information on the RS as of the posting of this story. But looking at photos, reading spec sheets of the 1190RR and reading interviews with E.B., we know the bike should be well under 400 pounds full of gas (one available option is a ballast kit to make sure the bike is legal for the AMA Pro Superbike Championship) and probably makes about 160-180 horsepower at the back wheel, thanks to generous doses of expensive race-spec parts in the 72-degree Rotax V-Twin. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but it won’t be cheap — the 1190RR goes for $44,900, and the 1190RS has the additional street equipment needed for 49-state legality (Buell said the bike meets DOT and EPA regulations, thanks to an un-Buell-like side-mount exhaust with dual catalyzers, but no word about California) plus carbon-fiber bodywork.
Other important differences from the 1125R and Barracuda are indents on the frame (which, like other Buell frames holds the oil and fuel) to allow the use of clip-ons, a bigger cut-out in the head stock to allow a bigger airbox, and the use of real racing hardware like the rearsets, not the weird, chunky stuff Buells sported when the brand was under the H-D aegis.
Again, it won’t be cheap; even Erik isn’t sure he can afford one. “I was just telling the guys the other day, ‘I’ve got to have one of these,’ but I don’t have any money. My money’s all tied up in the business … I’ve got to sell my car and drive a Pinto or something. I’ve got to have it.”
True, this is probably not a bike I could personally ever own (I mean, if Erik Buell can’t buy one …) but I’d hazard that after the RS, a lower-spec, lower-priced version built around the simpler 1125R will emerge. And then an even lower-priced streetfighter like the one Gruner Engineering showed the world last year could hit the market. All the bikes would be hand-assembled (like Bimota or Ducati does) at the Erik Buell Racing shop (just a block away from the site of the liquidated Buell factory in East Troy, Wisconsin) in small quantities—Cycle World freelancer Steve Anderson reports just 100 1190RSs will be built in 2011—from components that are mostly available from suppliers Buell has known for years.
In fact, thanks to advances in manufacturing, design, communications and development, there is no reason a small-volume manufacturer like EBR can’t compete with much bigger players. Short some kind of sponsorship deal (and EBR did actually sign a three-year deal with Amsoil) or other revenue streams he probably won’t get rich selling small numbers of $45,000 motorcycles, but he can at least pursue his dream of building the best American sportbikes. Sounds good to us.