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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Buell is Back With a Made-in-USA Street-Legal Superbike

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.


  1. Dave Tweed says:

    I love reading the comments from some of the I4 crowd. 50 of the 100 are already promised in Europe I’ll bet there are several celebrity types who will own 1 as well. The Bikes when the actual production for the public starts should come in in the high teens and for that knowing what I know I will buy one. I have owned and liked some of the other liter bikes available and I even really liked a couple of them. But I love my Buell it is the funnest bike I have ever owned only my 1978 RM 250 C2 was even close.
    GO ERIK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jeff says:

    Lots of posters are missing the big picture wrt the price. This is a race bike that is one slightly thinner base gasket and a fuel map away from being an AMA Superbike class machine. It was not built to be ridden on Sunday morning, it was built to race in AMA Superbike. Buy an R1 or a GSXR1000 and count the dollars you’d need to spend to make it competitive. 40K is a bargain.

  3. Wilson R says:

    OK, whose going to be the first to pony up $45,000 for CBR1000R performance with less reliability?
    Uh, huh. That’s what I thought.

  4. Scut Farcus says:

    Wow, once he gets the AMA to add 100 kilos to the 600cc Japanese bikes,(for all their unfair advantages) he’ll be ready to Dominate the Daytona Sportbike class all over again with this thing!
    I still remember back in the 80s when dirt-track started really becoming popular. So much so the Japanese started to enter the frey. Harley fixed that though, through the AMA. Maybe pretty soon AMA Pro roadracing can go down the drain too. Probably well on their way.

  5. Scott says:

    I can’t convey with words how cool this is. I’ve been waiting my whole life to be able to point to an American motorcycle and be able to say: “That’s one of the best bikes ever made.”

  6. RACER X says:

    “Made in USA Street Legal Superbike” Hmmmmmm…..

    1. The engine is Rotax (Made in Austria)
    2. The frame and swingarm are Verlicchi (Italy)
    3. The suspension is Ohlins (Sweden)
    4. The tires are Pirelli (Italy)

    Sounds more like “Assembled in the USA” to me….

    • Zuki says:

      Hmmmmm… you should read all of the comments and do some research before making out-of-date comments. The frame, subframe, and wheels are all made in the U.S. I’m sure there are many other components too that I don’t need to mention. The engine?… the Helicon was co-developed between Rotax and Buell, specifically for use in Buell motorcycles so it’s got plenty of U.S. blood in it. It wouldn’t have even been designed and built without the existence of Buell and their input into the design specification. Besides this, all the race-spec engine work is done at the Buell facility starting from a stock engine, no?

      How common is it for vehicles to be 100% sourced raw material and manufactured from their mother country these days anyway? To say even the tires are foreign is taking it a bit far. What do you expect in today’s world? You can’t ride up the canyon on single components alone. The motorcycle you see above is a complete machine. An American superbike, made in the USA.

    • Cajun58 says:

      I don’t think those frames are made in Italy any longer. And as with any product this complex it is sourced from parts and sub-assemblies from all over the world. You’d be hard pressed to find anything made completely in one country.

    • Benji says:

      And Harley Davidson has been using Showa forks for decades. Big deal.
      Who cares where its made, I dont. I’m just cheering for the little guy.

    • Scott says:

      In addition to the frame and most other bike specific parts (I’m not sure, but I’d bet the fairing and nearly everything except the suspension and tires – which are off the shelf rather than designed specifically for the bike – are made in the USA) we should also probably add the engine as a primarily US component.

      Even though the engine is based on the Rotax, it’s bored out and US sourced valves, valve-springs, camshafts etc. are used to turn it into a completely different engine.

      Let’s put it this way, I’m willing to BET that this bike has more US content than Harley, Victory or any other bike that is considered to be “American”. If you’re going to crap on this bike because it’s not “American” enough, than you better not buy any motorcycles at all.

  7. Tom says:

    Erik could sell a bunch more if this bike wins a popular motorcycle series. Does it fit well into some class and will it win?

    • Cajun58 says:

      AMA Pro Superbike Championship with many top ten finishes and rarely a DNF.

    • Norm G. says:

      so as not to perpetuate misinformation. not AMA superbike exactly, but the DMG Sportbike category. season was 2009. 3 core elements (frame, engine, and swingarm) of the original winning 1125r version have been carried forward to the 1190rs. yup, eslick pretty much wrung the neck of that bike basically every race without a single crash, or DNF. names like cardenas, hacking, herrin and zemke saw to that. class and displacement controversy aside, the only problem came in the 200 with the fairing and the safety car debacle which later saw him disqualified. as they say, this is NOT your grandfather’s harley davidson.

  8. DudeK says:

    Pinto anint cheap I have a hard time believin he cant afford one of these things. Apparantly he aint the typical rapist American CEO

  9. Jerrylee says:

    A good “restart” for Eric. I bet he has no problem finding 100 wealthy individuals that have an interest in a rebirth of the brand. A good foundation to start the next generation of Buells. Best of luck Eric.

  10. bipedal says:

    40k? LMAO, I could buy a Ducati, an Aprilia and go on a month vacation for that much.

    • Sid says:

      The above comment is mindless. It shows no understanding of small volume production, regardless of the bike (e.g. Bimota). Ducati doesn’t sell a $30-40k bike that the new Buell can compete with?

  11. jrace says:

    Neat thought. Seems well executed. However at $45k+ (guesstimate based on the RR version), this seems more than a bit stillborn. At that price, a guys sells maybe 50 or so (remember the XBRR, anyone?).

    Seems to me, the value is in the wheels. Might be a wiser decision to formulate a company that manufactures aftermarket wheels based on those in the photos. Perhaps a line that packaged the wheels and a kit containing lowers, rotor, and caliper to mount the wheel/perimeter brake combo to any late model 600 or liter bike of choice. If that was stretching it a bit, perhaps add some extra structure and a necessary amount of weight back in around the hub, to allow for conventional drop in of dual discs on the wheel – again targeting any 600 or liter bike on the planet.

    Too boot, might even be able to market them under the Buell name – as it isn’t a bike, only a wheel.

    Just thinking it might be easier to sell hot-rod wheels than a hot rod bike, and if a guy gets the volumes and margins right, could be a winner.

    That’s a freebie for you EFB – think a bit outside the box. Use what you know to get what you don’t know…..

    Kind regards.

  12. Mick says:

    Life is cruel. Erik should be able to have one of these bikes. If I was any good at organizing things I would set up a fund to buy him one, his cost natch.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have no interest in the bike. When I toured the Buell plant during the 100th anniversary thing, the people there lied to me. Several of them. I was hoping he would have moved more toward the great street bikes idea. But racing is his passion.

    But this guy has been making his mark on the motorcycles for decades. He should at least be able to have one of his own bikes.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “When I toured the Buell plant during the 100th anniversary thing, the people there lied to me. Several of them.”

      not sure i follow, buell peeps…? HD peeps…? can you elaborate…?

  13. WARPT says:

    Well, by far the best looking Buell ever produced!
    Ugly exhaust, license plate holder (but most sportbikes are simular), and I’m not a fan of the stacked headlights.
    But overall the bike looks mean and fast. Several of the posters on this page mentioned the seat. My 1995 Ducati 916 seat looks very simular, and it’s not bad as far as comfort as far as sportbike seating goes.

    I wish Mr. Buell the best of luck…but for $40k a bike in this piss-poor economy I wonder how many he will actually sell? I’m sure Jay Leno will have to have one or maybe two. Also, it sounds like Buell is operating on a shoestring budget wich concerns me. Will these new Buells be like the ’98 White Lighntining that I owned with 7 or 8 recalls!?!?!

  14. harry says:

    Best American Sportbike? Can someone tell me what the other American sportbike is.

  15. tron says:

    I don’t see one single post saying “I’m going to place my order.”
    Maybe HD knew more than people think about marketing

    • Tim says:

      Yeah. Because if the twelve people who posted comments on here aren’t able to drop ~$40k on one, nobody will be buying them.

    • Dave says:

      What he ^^ said. The people that can afford this don’t look at this site but they are certainly out there. They buy Porsches. He made the right move with this. He knows good and well that he doesn’t have the resources in place to compete with a Japanese supersport bike so he’s going for big impact in a market where they aren’t competing. He’ll race this thing and sell off the 100 or so he makes while working towards a bike more people can afford. That will likely still be a low volume $15k+ bike. It’d take many successful years to get big enough to compete with the Japanese brands.

      • Norm G. says:


      • tron says:

        So only poor (relatively) people read this site?
        You can see how well the high end botique brands like Bimota, MV Agusta et. al are doing.
        Buell is a cool guy, very innovative. I don’t think targeting a very small niche market is very wise in this economic environment and I think Harley was smart to dump Buell when they did.

        • MikeD says:

          Well, u can count ME in into the POOR Team, yes…Broke, VERY Broke. lmao…but still happy to have something and somewhere to ride.

        • Dave says:

          If relatively poor means people that can’t justify spending $45k on a track day toy, yes, but we don’t know what EB’s goal is. I was just speculating based on what we’ve seen so far. I agree, MV and Bimota are probably not who he wants to compete with in the long term, but maybe Ducati, KTM and Triumph?

          I think Harley made a mistake dropping Buell instead of figuring out how to make the brand work. The Harley customer is well known but like Cadillac’s old customer base (before they revamped the line), it’s getting older and new customers aren’t coming in as fast. Buell represneted a way for them to go other directions and reach a differnet customer. To a lesser extent, it’s also what they were after with the V-rod, a customer that wasn’t buying Harley before.

  16. Norm G. says:

    to reiterate my comment from the previous thread on this, it’s good to see EBR continue with his unique design elements (ie. perimeter rotor, wet frame, underslung exhaust, etc). very important in an industry so “cookie-cutter”, he differentiate himself. hopefully this will go some way at mitigating the consumer tendency to devaluate the product (kneejerk). gabe, you don’t by chance have the other pics to update this article…? like the close up of the dash and top yoke, the rear wheel, etc. think it’d be nice to show the full scope of EBR’s work.

  17. Jack says:

    That’s sexy. I love the spokes on front wheel and the 2-strokeish exhaust. I’m sure it’s more bike than I can handle and I probably wouldn’t be able ride it for more than 30 minutes but I’d like to try. I’m sure some wealthy people will enjoy the hell out of it.

  18. Tom Barber says:

    If Darth Vader rode a motorcycle, this would be it.

    Personally, if I were a couple of decades younger, then maybe. But when I look at that seat, I cringe. It probably becomes painful after about a minute.

    • Norm G. says:

      no worries. who says you have to ride it…? buy it anyway as a deliberate demonstration of support for “americana”, drain the fluids, build a glass case for it, and set it in the man-cave as a conversation piece. you do have a man-cave don’t you…? 🙂

  19. HM in Appalachia says:

    So this is the real Buell?I like it,much better looking than the 1125 to me.True the changes are slight,but it is the little details.I am guessing that the ugly parts on the 1125 were mandated by HD,why am I not surprised?I wish EBR all of the best and hopefully the USA will still have Buell after that chopper factory folds!

  20. Steve says:

    I like it & I think ERB did a great job on the bike. Way too much $$ for a streetbike but ok cost for full on racebike.

    I hope Erik will immediatley dive back into AMA racing with this…. I hope this can go up against the other 1000cc Superbikes (not the 600’s)… I would love to see Danny Eslick move up to Superbike & ride this…. the sound of these big V-Twins is unbelievable at the track!

  21. Brinskee says:

    Not digging the locomotive style 999 stacked headlight look, but the rest of the bike is well good. Nice job Erik, keep it up! Push forward, keep the momentum rolling!

  22. MarkF says:

    Good for Erik. I’d love an expensive Buell but if EBR can exist as the Bimota of America selling expensive hand built bikes respected around the world that would be just fine with me.

  23. Stillwelding says:

    Oh! and Swedish suspension.

  24. Stillwelding says:

    How can it be American made when it has an Austrian motor, Italian frame, and French brakes?

    • bucho65 says:

      The frame, like the 1125, is made in the US, so are the wheels and some engine components. I am guessing the body work is also. I believe the brakes are from Japan.

    • Cajun58 says:

      It’s made from components sourced from vendors all over the world just like every thing else you buy that’s made in the USA or any other country. However nobody would buy a bike with brakes made in france.

    • Dave says:

      The new Camaro is made in Canada. The new Hyundai Sonata is made in Alabama with 49% of it’s content coming from North America. I’d be interested in seeing the origin paperwork for a Harley these days.

  25. Nick says:

    WOW! Very Impressive! That is the first time I have ever been able to say that about a Buell. It’s amazing what Eric can create without the baggage of HD.

  26. Trojanhorse says:

    Awesome…this thing will be a weapon. He’s starting smart if he wants to make EBR a premium brand. The cachet from the 1190RS will carry over to whatever he decides to offer next in a more realistic/attainable segment…

  27. jim says:

    I’ll still call the bikes just Buell, to hell with HD.

  28. Marc says:

    Kawasaki could learn MC exhaust design from Eric. Just Saying…

    • MikeD says:

      LOL, i think u got that backwards this time. That thing is HIDEOUS (like it belongs in an Aprilia RS125 or some 2smoke). A TOTALLY HIDDEN set up IN the belly pan with a small tip poking out would be just fine.
      But i guess the EPA is not helping here at all and such a FUGLY compromise had to be made.

      • Doug says:

        I read at a Buell forum that some Japanese market regulation necessitated that exhaust setup. It’s nothing that a “race use only” pipe could not fix, I reckon.

        The bike is sick! I have a Buell 1125CR and now I feel like a Ducati Monster 620 owner does when a 1198R rolls by, haha.

  29. steveinsandiego says:

    i ride a ninja 650R, not a supersport. however, i did consider a buell as i was crossing over from cruisers to sportbikes. i liked the hydraulic valves especially, since they require no adjustments. if the new company happens to resurrect and refine some of the former models, i’ll look into it.

  30. Matt says:

    Nice flagship product! For your next introduction, a Uly version! Keep the weight less than 400 lbs and keep the price at $10-$12k and we are golden! You can even drop the HP down to “only” 120HP or so, I wont complain.

    I am digging the 2-stroke-ish exhaust, its like Knight Rider’s NSR or something..

  31. burt says:

    I’m happy for Erik Buell. But let’s not call this a “made in the USA” bike when the motor is from Europe, and most of the parts are made in Japan. How about “assembled in the USA.” And that goes for most bike builders in the USA these days who use parts from Europe and Japan but call it American made. Whatever! Erik is also stubborn on insisting that this bike has his signature wheel rim brake rotors…I’m sure this think has oil in the frame and gas in the tires or something too…But it is sexy and I’m sure it works. More power to him!

  32. Wilson R says:

    It’s nice to see Buell back in business. Now, if he can offer a sportbike that is priced around $10,000 he would stay in business a lot longer!

  33. kpaul says:

    OMG Awesome! Thanks Gabe. Go Buell!

  34. Marc says:

    Go Eric..
    Only wish I could afford one..
    Hopefully he can bring a competitively priced bike to the masses at some point.

  35. Jeremy in TX says:

    After pulling my jaw muscles yawning at the 2012 Goldwing, this is certainly a breath of fresh air. I don’t like the styling of XB12R, 1125CR or 1125R (though I do like the funky vibe of the dual-headlamp XB’s), but this bike is a gem. And I am glad they didn’t try to carryover that hideous underslung muffler.

    • GaryF says:

      Funny … I find sportbikes like this boring. I’m sure it is not boring to ride, but any machine that forces you into a pretzel shape can’t be fun to ride for very long. When everything hurts it doesn’t matter how fast you are going.

      • Cory says:

        The ergonomic triangles on sport bikes vary wildly from model to model, just as the do on other styles of bikes. No set of numbers are the “magic number” though. A pre-98 Ducati 900ss is all day comfortable for me, but post ’98 is a bit of a rack. In contrast, an HD Fatboy with relatively stock seating position is a great ride, but a sportster, with any foot position, is just a jackhammer going up my spine, and I couldn’t ride one for more than 50miles.
        TL-Rs and 1st gen Hyabusas make great touring platforms, while the second gen Hyabusa is designed more for the drag racing set.
        Buells have always had a great reputation for great ergonomics that balance performance and comfort, so maybe this one will continue that tradition.

        • Stinky says:

          I guess we’re about the same ergowise. I’ve got a couple of Buells, love the seating positions of ’em. I’ve also got an old SS and R100. All day comfortable for me too. I kick myself for missing the 1125CR. This is completely out of my price range but let’s hope it’s just a start of a new line that continues where he left off and goes from there. 2013 is time for my next bike and Triumph or Buell CR or Speed/Street Triple. I’ve got my fingers crossed on a 1125 for 2013!

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I don’t ride sportsbikes or “insterstate” bikes as neither suits my style. But the 2012 ‘Wing looked 10-years-old to me. This bike from EBR manages to look fresh and unique in category littered with “me-too!” styling.

  36. ziggy says:

    Pretty cool, wish it were “ownable” !!! Thanks Gabe.

  37. Trpldog says:

    YES YES YES!! As a former XB9R and XB12R owner, I couldn’t be happier. I did a double-take on the price, but hey, the at least ball is rolling again, and if the price eventually drops into the Japanese superbike range and is available in Kalifornia – sign me up. I went from the XB Buell to a 1050 Speed Triple, and haven’t regreted it. The Triple is a fantastic bike. The XB9 amd 12 was a far better bike than many gave it credit for, but the HD engine spoiled the party. Erik – press on, press on, press on!
    We’ll be watching and waiting – we have been.

  38. Roadrash1 says:

    Ummmmm,I’m pretty sure Erik can afford one. LOL! as for the rest of us, well, not so much.

    I had four Buells and would love to see him make something affordable and more street-focused. (Look at that seat.)

    This is a tracktool for rich boys and girls. But… gotta start somewhere.

  39. monsterduc1000 says:

    Wow, that is actually a pretty sweet looking ride. I was never a fan of Erik’s aesthetic designs (I do although like his engineering designs with fuel in the frame, oil in the swing arm and sweet brakes), but this is really nice, besides the possible pricing. Maybe he could bring out a similar looking smaller, cheaper twin to get some revenue and eventually lower costs on this bad boy.

  40. Zuki says:

    A certain AC/DC song comes to mind…


  41. Mickey says:

    I would not buy this bike, but can appreciate it from a design and execution standpoint.

    I wonder how many readers will complain about the tail light/license holder ha ha ha ha

    Best of luck to EB, I thought he got a raw deal from HD. Hope he becomes successful beyond the Motor Company’s wildest dreams.

  42. Dave says:

    Outstanding Eric! Hopefully you will produce a street oriented bike like the ulysses again. Free from HD constraints – my mouth is already watering at the thought! Sign me up if you ever do….

  43. Tim says:

    Can’t think of a more perfect counterpoint to the 2012 GoldWing intro’d in the previous story. Wish I could afford two of these. One for me and I’d give the other one to Erik.