By B.P. Goebel
MMM’s resident engineering geek, Goebel recently had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Erik Buell. Buell, of course no longer associated with Harley-Davidson, is in the process of creating a “higher volume/lower price point” sport bike via his new venture, Erik Buell Racing (EBR).
MMM: Is there a story behind the Erik Buell Racing logo?
EB: The brand is really EBR. The little Pegasus goes way back. That’s actually on my family crest – I’ve always used it. It seemed like a nice logo. This time, we changed the look from before; it’s really aggressive, very modern. The idea being that we are now high-tech and modern instead of the classic look … which fit the Harley because they are more of a classic brand.
MMM: Is the 1190RS a street bike?
EB: It is a street bike. The limited run of 100 we already built are street-legal, California-legal, and legal in Western Europe. But in commercializing the 1190RS in higher volume/lower price point … we are about 75-80% of the way there.
MMM: Will the production version of the 1190RS be built here in the U.S.?
MMM: Is there a plan for a less expensive version? When will it hit the deck?
EB: Yes. Next year.
MMM: Are you considering a middleweight 600ish bike in the lineup?
EB: I want to get into the sport bike business. I have a whole range of bikes, but that stuff is way off. Right now I’ve got to work on this. Now we are an independent company and … ah, I’m really grateful for the things that happened with Harley. Learned a lot from it – built lots of cool bikes. As part of the big corporation, you know, our job was different; it was supposed to feed them with cash and things. Now being independent, we can focus on sport bike customers. So there’s many, many different sport bike things I would like to do. But, it will take me a while.
MMM: What is your degree in?
EB: Mechanical engineering.
MMM: Do you have any problems finding employees who think outside the existing motorcycle engineering paradigms?
EB: No, we have a lot of out-of-the-box thinkers. A lot of guys like that independent kind of smaller company atmosphere. So we get people from Europe as well as from around here who send in their resumes.
MMM: By now you have seen the many sides of manufacturing, are there any other manufacturers that you admire?
EB: There’s a lot of really cool companies out there. Hero is unbelievable. Working for them… they built 6.1 million motorcycles last year! You wanna see logistics …?!
MMM: Any companies outside of the motorcycle sphere?
EB: There are thousands of them. 3M is a really cool company. I like companies that just do innovative stuff. They’re breaking the mold often, you know?
MMM: You have furthered many sportbike innovations – inside-out brake, under bike exhausts, in-frame fluids – to name a few, why does the 1190RS have two exhaust cans?
EB: The secondary, the resonator takes out 3 db. We are actually 2 db under, but if we take it off, we would be 1db (over the EPA sound level limit). We couldn’t do it in the muffler; we had to use an extra. Same power, less noise. It’s got really good emissions-tail pipe and evaporative.
MMM: Is there a catalytic converter hidden in there?
EB: Yes. We are at a fourth of the requirements. So you take a high performance big twin with a lot of cam and that’s a great accomplishment. Usually people squeak under.
MMM: With your usual eye toward the future, where is the future of motorcycle design? Gurney Gator or TRON bike?
EB: (Smile and laugh) I rode Dans’(Gurney) bike. He brought it up for testing. Innovative stuff is cool. You will see some really innovative things out of us. We’re trying to be in the market for being innovative, rather than being innovative just to be innovative. We want to make sure that what we are doing has purpose, you know? The stuff you will see in the future is gonna be, you know … each thing will be unique depending on the situation and the purpose.
MMM: In the 1960s the frames were the weak link, as they got better, tires became the weak link. Where do you see the current weak link with regard to motorcycle design?
EB: Current bikes are awfully good. I mean the horsepower is getting, like, there’s nothing you can do much more with horsepower. Nimbleness … rideability … you can add electronics packages – that’s good – but I’m still trying to focus on what makes a bike light. That wins in every way. So that’s what I’m focused on.
MMM: Do you have any electric projects in the wings?
EB: Actually we are pretty far along on electric stuff. But there again, I want to make sure what we do makes sense. I don’t want to prove a point; I want to sell motorcycles that are really viable to people. So, there are some things we are doing. There’s a serial hybrid that has a regen(erative) motor that charges it. We have a bunch of patents on that kind of stuff.