Buell Motorcycles Is Back But It's Not What You Think

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Photo: Buell Motorcycles

Buell Motorcycles has resurfaced, and it has some ambitious plans for the future. But that future will be without its creator, Erik Buell.

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The story of Buell Motorcycles is a wild one. The motorcycle brand was once known for its quirky designs and forward thinking. But in recent years the brand struggled to exist at all.

More than simply being back from the dead, Buell is hitting the ground running with future models already in the works. The manufacturer says it’ll launch 10 performance oriented models by the 2024 model year. Among those new motorcycles will be dirt, dual-sport, cruiser and touring models. One of the concepts presented on Buell’s website is the 1190 Super Touring. Designed by J. Ruiter, it looks like a modern interpretation of the Buell Ulysses of the past.

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Image: Buell Motorcycles

Buell is the brainchild Erik Buell, a motorcycle racer and engineer who started Buell Motorcycle Company after working at Harley-Davidson. Buell built his sportbikes using a mix of Harley’s engines and his own out-of-ordinary design ideas. Later, Buell’s company would become a division of Harley-Davidson, allowing it to build wild streetfighters, adventure bikes and a controversial beginner bike.

Unfortunately for Buell and his namesake motorcycle company, Harley’s non-motorcyclist CEO through the Great Recession, who infamously wondered why people ride sportbikes, closed Buell down. As Roadracing World reports, Liquid Asset Partners was used to liquidate Buell’s assets.

But the founder wasn’t going to just give up, so he established Erik Buell Racing in November 2009. EBR started with the 1190RR racebike, then moved to the 1190RX, 1190RS and 1190SX street motorcycles. Hero MotoCorp, the giant Indian bike maker, helped EBR’s bottom line by contracting EBR for engineering work. But Hero didn’t pay its bills, and Erik Buell filed for receivership in 2015.

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Liquid Asset Partners liquidated EBR just as it had done earlier with the Buell Motorcycle Company. However, this time Liquid Asset Partners kept the Erik Buell Racing name alive and even produced EBR motorcycles in small numbers.

Now, EBR owns the Buell Motorcycles name and is bringing the brand back from the dead. Bill Melvin, CEO of Buell and Liquid Asset Partners said:

Buell is back!
We are excited to bring Buell back with this awesome assortment of superbikes and performance motorcycles. We start with the fastest American production motorcycles, hand built in the USA, so that’s a nice start! We’re building out those platforms for more touring & adventure models, then we’re expanding our displacements to be competitive with other global brands. The passionate Buell Nation can grow and thrive again.

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How does Erik Buell feel about all of this? A post on his personal Facebook page reads, from Roadracing World:

At the end of the day, it’s just a brand name.

At one time it stood for innovation, but it was parked by H-D for 12 years. Time will tell what becomes of it next.

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Another comment from him says he is not involved in this new venture at all. Buell’s been at work with electric bicycle and motorcycle company bearing part of his name, Fuell.

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Photo: Fuell
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The first of Buell’s 2021 offerings are the sleek 1190RX and the 1190SX streetfighter.

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Photo: Buell Motorcycles
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In reality, these motorcycles appear to be old EBR models with a bit of plastic restyling. The specs of the old bikes and these “new” ones are essentially the same.

This year is shaping up to be a fun year for motorcyclists and as a huge fan of Buell, I was extremely excited to hear this news. It’s not what I expected, but I’m still hopeful that the revived company will do some cool stuff. Otherwise, my eyes are still on what Fuell does.

DISCUSSION

By
rcasi

I’m glad to see them back - they had some really great designs, innovative quirks and generally made some very cool bikes. Buell could and should have become THE benchmark for naked sportbikes and streetfighters - a motorcycle segment that has grown significantly since the company stopped making bikes.

As Harley tends to do, they squashed what could have been the innovative future of their company in favor of just making the same ol stuff and short term gains for their shareholders. If that isn’t a perfect microcosm of American big business failings, then I don’t know what is.