Maybe fledgling sportbike company Erik Buell Racing shouldn’t have held its press event at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway—the venue overshadowed what is a remarkable sportbike. I spent most of the day getting comfortable on the fast, exquisitely paved, mostly infield course, so that experience—though enhanced by the 1190’s rideability and quality chassis—dominated.
That distraction, as well as my haste to get the story up before the other outlets, made me leave out some details, details you may find illuminating. I wanted to point out some unique features on the 1190, as well as relay some rumors about the company’s future.
Footpegs, compared to things like traction control, rim brakes and 185-horsepower engines that return 60 mpg, aren’t very sexy. But the EBR’s are notable, particularly to trackday riders and racers. That’s because they’re designed to meet the needs of both the DOT and trackday junkies alike—the rider pegs are designed to be used without the pivot, bolted to a choice of mounting holes. The shift and brake pegs are also adjustable, although it looks like setting up a GP-style reverse shift pattern may be challenging due to the lack of a linkage.
Bodywork is racer-friendly as well. It’s light and flexible, and the color is molded into the plastic. That means it doesn’t add a lot of weight to the bike and it’s also crash resistant—and won’t require repainting to repair scuffing. Just polish it out and ride. Or better yet, do what I did when racing and sign up with another sponsor so you can cover the scuffs with stickers. The more you crash, the more you earn! If stuff does break, have no fear, says Director of Product Development Tony Stefanelli—”the regular replacement parts—stuff you damage at a trackday—will have minimal markup.” We will see.
While riding, I heard a curious whining/whirring sound that made me think EBR had gone back to sourcing Harley-Davidson transmissions. Nope, that’s not it: Stefanelli told me it was from an idler/tensioning pulley for the chain, concealed behind the clutch cover. It keeps the chain in perfect tension under different loads, although it is a noisy sucker—I could hear it at 70 mph, through earplugs and a helmet, over the EBR’s intake and exhaust noise. Oh, yeah, that reminds me: no cush drive on the rear hub! It’s tucked somewhere into the countershaft, which means less weight on that unsprung mass of the rear wheel.
If Erik Buell hisself were in the room with me I’m sure he could point out many more cool innovations, but I’m picking these because it shows the achievements of the nascent company. Motorcycles like BMW’s S1000RR and Ducati’s Panigale are both dripping with innovation, but sheesh, they should be, given those company’s Pentagon-like R&D budgets. EBR didn’t get its sticky fingers into Hero MotoCorp’s bulging pockets until last year—most of this bike was developed on a shoestring budget, though it’s based on the Buell 1125R and prototype Barracuda that broke cover in 2010. Asking Stefanelli which feature on the bike he’s most proud of, he says it’s that a “handful of people, with very little money, were able to make this.”
The claimed load capacity of the 1190RX is 375 pounds, which is a lot when you consider how little baggage the bike carries compared to its 1125R daddy. Harely’s management didn’t want that bike to have a full fairing, didn’t like real clip-on bars, didn’t want sportbike footpegs, and just in general didn’t like anything too sporty or athletic. Americans are fat and slow, dammit!
Not the 1190RX. This is a sportbike built like a sportbike, with all the equipment you need on a racebike or trackbike, with no compromises or half-measures. Looking for conchos or chrome for this bike? You’ll have to do it yourself.
My final question about the 1190 is this: how do you build a successful business out of a product line consisting of two or three (don’t forget, an “AX” adventure-tourer is also coming) high-end luxury items? You don’t, and that’s where Hero comes in.
I don’t want to get anybody in trouble, so I won’t name names, but the EBR crew are a friendly bunch and happy to answer questions, even from nosy journalists. So here’s what I found out about EBR’s relationship with Hero.
Hero, as we’ve reported before, is as big as EBR is small. But the Hero/EBR relationship has already paid big dividends for both parties. EBR has the capital to bring its 1190 to market, and Hero is already selling models infused with EBR technology. Will Hero do the giant faceless corporation thing and water down the passion emanating from the fledgling EBR? No, says Hero’s CEO, Pawan Mujal; “You are different and that’s healthy.”
Right now, EBR’s management won’t say if Hero products will be offered in EBR dealers, either as Heroes (if you ask for a Hero sandwich in India, do they give you a small motorcycle between two giant pieces of nan?) or as EBRs. But there was some talk—I won’t say from whom—of the exciting Hastur 650cc Twin appearing as an EBR model, which would nicely fill in the gap between the 1190 and the single-cylinder HX250R Sport, which could also be an EBR offering. That gives EBR a decent street-model lineup, making an EBR franchise a money-making opportunity for new dealers.
Erik Buell Racing selling a full line-up of streetbikes, with assistance from an Indian scooter-manufacturing behemoth? What’s next, electric Harleys?