How Motorcycle Designer Erik Buell Got His Vroom Back, Post Harley-Davidson…

9 Июн 2015 | Author: | Комментарии к записи How Motorcycle Designer Erik Buell Got His Vroom Back, Post Harley-Davidson… отключены
Buell 1190RS

How Motorcycle Designer Erik Got His Vroom Back, Post

Fuel-injected: Rider Geoff May on EBR’s 1190RS in the American Association Superbike series in Ohio.

Trailblazing motorcycle Erik Buell followed up a collaboration with Harley-Davidson by a new company, a showcase for innovative bikes.

Now his lightweight, high-style rockets are riding away international competitions and legions of fans. But can a tiny American of a premium product get the funding it to survive in a mass-produced world?

A powerful sport bike is a Ferrari on two wheels—a symbol of danger, beauty. For Erik it stands for something else, rebirth.

Last summer at the American Motorcyclist Association series in Lexington, Ohio, debuted a pro racing version of the the first offering from his motorcycle startup, Erik Racing (EBR). The rider a respectable 10th. A few months at the German Superbike Championship, an customer entered with an EBR and won, beating out established on Ducatis, BMWs and KTMs.

It was a for EBR, a company of fewer 20 people with an extremely 2011 production run of just 100 street racers, priced $37,499 and $43,999. And it was a real for Buell, who’d spent the year and a half recovering the crash of his first startup, Motorcycle Company (BMC).

The of BMC’s rise and fall was 26 in the making. In 1983, Buell an engineering gig at Harley-Davidson to start the first American sport design and manufacturing company. was king when it came to bikes, but as a racer, Buell was about the more athletically crotch rockets and had ambitions to in a market that was—and is—dominated by Japanese and European (Sport bikes represented 15 of total U.S. motorcycle in 2010, according to the Motorcycle Council. Total motorcycle were valued that at $5.87 billion, with an 560,000 units sold.)


Harley-Davidson, looking for ways to into new consumer markets, an interest in Buell’s early bikes, designed in the garage-turned-workshop of a farmhouse in Mukwonago, Wis. 40 miles from Harley’s of operations in Milwaukee. The motorcycle bought a minority share in BMC in (Buell got a headquarters and factory in East Troy, Wis. on a named Buell Drive), and years later went all in, 98 percent, ostensibly providing with everything he would to become a worldwide phenomenon: to a tremendous marketing budget and a network of distributors and suppliers. seemed just around the hairpin turn.

But BMC never gained traction—due, it seems, to from Harley’s cruiser-focused network and traditional fan base, as as what would turn out to be marketing support for the sport line. BMC’s sales at approximately 15,000 bikes in Then, disaster struck.

was hit hard when the economy with third-quarter 2009 down 21.3 percent the same period in 2008, and revenue down by more one-fifth.

Management’s solution was to down non-core divisions as BMC.

At the time, Harley-Davidson CEO Wandell noted in a prepared The fact is we must focus our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson as we believe this provides an path to sustained, meaningful, growth. What wasn’t was that Buell had lost it the rights to the Buell Motorcycle

I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, jokes, leaning back in his in a conference room at EBR’s in the one building on Buell Drive he to salvage in the sell-off. I had to turn to my for a creative outlet.

Feel the

Buell designed the 1190RS for and fleetness, using computational dynamics to develop the aerodynamic Here are some key features.

that was no joke. He released a rock album, Anthem, the band name Erik and The Thunderbolts, which hit the top spot on the charts in his category and state. By own admission, the tracks are a front-row to his angst after Harley BMC, and his ultimate decision to things another go.)

These days, Buell’s is much improved. He is stocky, squarish features accented by black plastic eyeglasses and hair. When he’s he talks quickly and assertively, and he like he’s overflowing energy.

The goal with he declares, is to become a serious manufacturer, with a production supporting domestic and international and design and assembly in the U.S. a diverse country, and Americans a broad scope of thinking and a mindset, he says. EBR is going to focused on invention and intellectual and do radical things that the of the world isn’t doing.

how we’re going to bring American flavor to the sport industry.

Extreme Design

and foremost, sport bikes are absolute performance. It’s a great pair of skis, Tony Stefanelli, head of product development. All you should be about is how you want to get from one to the next.

If you flick a good it should just do what you it to do.

Since EBR is still building out a network, many of the bikes have been produced at the company’s headquarters in East From Milwaukee, it’s a 40-minute ride on the I-43S, Sawyer’s Farm Meat and the East Troy Electric to where EBR’s operations are The building is unassuming—a blue-trimmed facade—but the distinct smell of oil and assaults your nose the you clear the glass doors, and in the lobby area, there’s a of a dozen Buell-designed bikes various decades.

On the left is the It’s an undeniably beautiful Buell’s signature styling are there, including the sporty, lines from handlebar to tail; exposed technical Buell’s innovative Zero Load (ZTL) brake, lightens wheel weight by the need for hubs; and the underslung placed under the engine to noise and maintain a lower of gravity.

Our design DNA is radically different, says, noting the fuel integrated within the bike (available in a light carbon-fiber which reduces vibrations and off even more weight the frame. In fact, all these combined make the 175-horsepower, 1190RS a full 50 pounds than some competing

The bike is also eco-friendly, just one-quarter of the allowable emissions listed by the Environmental Agency, and about a third of the required in California. You can have performance and meet environmental Buell asserts. You just to stop whining and fix it.

This philosophy likely stems his time at BMC, when he was to build bikes that appeal to both racing and traditional Harley-Davidson fans (in words, a virtually nonexistent base). It was difficult to design a that handled like a rocket but utilized Harley’s air-cooled V-Twin engine—a loud device perfect for a American cruiser but not appropriate for a racing machine. The awkward was probably another reason for sales than Harley had

Buell, however, likes to positive about his corporate and notes that it sowed the for EBR’s design philosophy. might have kept me doing my best work, but it me to extreme innovation. I made inventions, and squeezed every of potential out of our designs, he says, that he even figured out how to city, cross-country and training models off a single platform.

Kerr, co-founder and president of the Design Association, says designs at BMC were never enough to drive big sales. were very interesting and technologically, Kerr says, but I Erik wanted his bikes to very unique, and if you deviate than 10 percent from the well, there’s only a level of newness that a will accept.

Kerr that Buell is fueled by passion and persistence than by of commercial success—a formula is both his greatest strength and his weakness. Most people have thrown in the towel Harley took him over, his vision. He must have destroyed, watching his company sold off piece by piece but never been scared to the envelope of what could be to a motorcycle, he says.

Buell 1190RS

He was always less yoked to thinking than engineers at companies, says Cycle magazine editor in chief Hoyer, who notes that of the design elements Buell for sport bikes, such as mufflers and ZTL brakes, have adopted, years later, by companies.

Meanwhile, the 1190RS to win accolades. It was Cycle World’s for 2011 Best Superbike; magazine named it Best and named Buell Motorcyclist of the After a ride on the track which he used turn as he blew past other Motorcyclist reviewer Aaron praised the 1190RS as gorgeous, and remarkably fast everything we wanted an American superbike to be.

On top of the 1190RS has been a hit at international shows, and Buell has secured and three-year sponsorship agreements for two to race in the American Superbike By the end of this year, EBR plans to up its level to 900 bikes and will be to coming out with a mass-market in the range of $10,000 to $20,000.

Harley, our bikes were but we didn’t hit people’s hearts, says. They didn’t anyone go, ‘I gotta that.’

Slow Ride

remains a big part of Buell’s There are two BMC bikes on display at the museum, a two-story monument to chrome and vintage memorabilia outside of downtown Milwaukee. The is the 2001 XB12R Firebolt, on racing legend Craig set the record for longest stoppie, or wheelie, in 2006 (305 at a speed of 120 mph).

The plaque in of the second, a 2003 FXB9R, Buell’s trilogy of technology, his philosophy promoting chassis low unsprung weight and mass

Timothy McLean, a retired detective who works at the museum, up when he talks about his old an aerodynamic 1997 S1 Lightning had instantaneous response on the throttle and really well on the curve—very very powerful. But what McLean most is Buell’s He was this individual guy who did his own thing so he was able to convince Harley to buy his business.

He came out with a machine, and he kept things at he says. It’s phenomenal, and nice to see things happening for

The only real obstacle to growth has been sluggish given that Buell has 30 of experience designing championship-winning owns rights to about $40 worth of tooling; and has produced a acclaimed product in a booming that could be leveraged as an while exchange rates are (More than 50 percent of his thus far have been to customers.) And he wants to do all this in a that could use more jobs.

The fact is there are of interested customers, but EBR can’t them until a dealer is established, a lengthy process requires a huge legal Setting up international distribution is more expensive, not to mention the to match up production timelines cash flow.

We had the potential to do bikes in 2012, but we had to revise down to 900. I didn’t it would be this hard to $20 million, Buell laments, out that the total he needs much more than many less-established tech and companies are getting every day banks and venture capital

I think there’s a lack of and understanding in this country what we’re trying to We’re not trying to be like James’ West Coast he says, referring to the small-volume, bike brand. We’re to be BMW and produce, in volume, hundreds of of dollars worth of sport

Buell has thus far kept going at the fledgling company a combination of small private and investments and an early move design consulting. I wanted to until we were strong and had a line in place, he admits, but you to be flexible and tenacious if you want to when things aren’t the way you want.

Project details are but Buell says EBR has been by several companies, including one of the Asian motorcycle manufacturers, to do research and conceptual projects. forced him to stretch, learn new test processes, build and look for opportunities. (Buell he just finished a consulting in eight weeks that have taken others in the close to eight months—a he likens to a lap of terror in a qualifying

Buell says he has been to accomplish so much with so because EBR has a tremendously talented and almost everyone is a racer. brave when we make because we all want to be first. To be we have to get there fast, and we make mistakes.

Expect a showing when EBR heads to for the 2012 Superbike Championship in March. We found an additional 10 mph in the season, and the bike can reach 213 mph in trim, Buell says, If true, this would make the 1190RS the fastest on two wheels manufactured in the U.S.

Buell 1190RS
Buell 1190RS
Buell 1190RS
Buell 1190RS


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