Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Conversation with Erik Buell

Erik Buell
Erik Buell Erik Buell Erik Buell Erik Buell
From the mid-1980s RR1000 BattleTwin to the current EBR 1190RS, it's been a long and significantly interesting journey for Erik Buell and his motorcycles...

Talk about innovation and engineering brilliance in motorcycling and the one name that immediately comes to mind is that of Erik Buell. Erik has been building some pretty exciting motorcycles for about 30 years now, having started with the RW750 Road Warrior and RR1000 BattleTwin in the early-1980s, to the current EBR 1190RS.

It’s been a long journey for Buell motorcycles and as it must be with such journeys, there have been highs and lows. But the man behind the bikes – Erik Buell – remains committed to his motorcycles and continues to innovate, engineer and build some of the finest motorcycles in America. All right, for now, just one of the finest motorcycles in the US – the absolutely amazing 1190RS – but we’re sure there’s more to come.

We’ve been big fans of Erik Buell and his bikes for the last 10 years. And now, finally, we’ve managed to ask him a few questions about his bikes and about himself. Here is what Erik had to say:

On the bikes he wanted when he was a kid

I fell in love with motorcycles when I was about 12. The bikes I loved back then were the Kawasaki H1, Velocette Thruxton and Maico MX

On how it was to work with Harley-Davidson in his early days

In the late 1970s and early 80s H-D was much smaller and stressed to survive, making less than 30,000 bikes per year. Working with Harley was cool because you could get a lot done, with no bureaucracy. We moved H-D a long way in technology and quality in those few years. The Evo motor instead of Shovelhead, rubber mount engines, tube frames instead of big cast lugs, dramatically improved handling.

On why America is unable to build a sportsbike [with the exception of the EBR 1190RS] that can compete with Japanese and European machines

Well, the US was distracted by the cruiser market boom for a while. But beyond that, it's not at all easy to build a bike that can compete with the performance technology from major sport bike manufacturers. Decades of learning at high cost have gotten us to where we can produce a bike like the EBR 1190RS. You have to never give up.

On which modern sportsbikes he likes best

Oh, I like many motorcycles; they are just fun. And we benchmark many models. But, of course, I like the EBR 1190RS best. As you know, EBR and Buell before it are about pushing the envelope on design. I think you can be sure we will continue to do this going forward.

On the use of advanced electronics on modern sports bikes

Electronics on a performance sport bike need to really work seamlessly and actually enhance the rider's control. Some systems solve extreme problems but take away a lot of performance. We have worked on lots of systems for years, and when we deliver them, they will be a mix of supplier and EBR internal engineering. Interestingly, at the last two AMA Superbike races where we finished on the podium with the 1190RS, the expert analysts were saying the bikes with traction control had a disadvantage to our bikes without. And that was a $40K aftermarket system with a full time engineer to tune. So the systems are getting there, but there is still a little work to do to make affordable quality.

On how motorcycle brands from Europe, Japan and the US are different

Certainly, European brands are different from the Japanese ones and America is inherently different from both. Because of our extreme diversity and a tradition of pioneering, we simply do things well. We also are very open to working with all other countries and cultures, since they are all blended in America.

On how the 2020 EBR 1190RS might be different from its predecessor from 2012

Well, I certainly have my thoughts and opinions on that, but you will have to wait and see!

On whether electric power will replace the internal combustion on motorcycles in the foreseeable future

It will not replace but will become more available. We were deeply involved in the Hero Leap concept displayed at the Delhi Auto Expo in January this year, so you can be certain we have expertise in that area.

On his dream bikes and the future of EBR

I can't speak of dream bikes because we plan to build what we are working on! But one thing you can be sure of, there are many surprises in store from us that will excite the motorcycling world. I am very energized by the fact that the world is turning towards efficiency in personal travel, so the future of motorcycling looks fantastic.

On his favourite music

Erik Buell and the Thunderbolts (ha ha!). Well, I like playing a lot, so does that count as a favorite? To listen, well, music is a big passion and I listen to so many, in many styles. Some new, some revisiting old. Recently? Muse, Chris Cornell, Alice in Chains, Black Keys, Chris Whitley, Lucinda Williams, George Lynch, Daytrader, Tremonti. I like intense music.

On his favourite riders in MotoGP

There are many, and I have huge respect for all at that level. But in MotoGP, Valentino of course for all the spectacular years, Casey who is just amazing right now, Nicky for riding so well and never whining, Colin because he may not have been a GP champ, but must have more total points than anyone evah! In WSBK, Carlos without a doubt, Jonathan Rea because he is doing things he shouldn't be able to do, Marco for riding the wheels off whatever he gets on, Tom Sykes, and so many more.

On what he wants to say to the readers of Faster and Faster

I want to say that I hope to touch all of their lives in a positive way with what we do at EBR. We love motorcycling and want to do everything we can to make more riders, and to make more riders happy!

Erik Buell
Short Shift
The bike(s) you currently ride: EBR 1190RS, Buell Ulysses, all kinds of dirt bikes
The car(s) your currently drive: Mitsubishi Evo IX, Ford F-250 Diesel
The motorcycle you wanted most when you were a teenager: H1 Kawasaki (I had three – worked a lot of jobs!)
The car you wanted most when you were a teenager: 1957 Corvette (I had one – see above)
Your favourite cuisine: Whatever my wife makes for dinner! She is an amazing cook.
Your favourite drink: Ice water or, once in a while, Laphroaig...
Your favourite place to go on a holiday: Family vacation at the beach
Your other interests outside of motorcycles: Writing, recording and playing loud rock music live, hanging out with my family

Thank you, Erik, for talking to Faster and Faster. We are big fans of you and your motorcycles and we wish you all the very best for the future!

Erik Buell's photos by Tom Davenport - RDImage

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