Erik Buell: I wanted to make the 1125R for a long time !
While Denis Bouan has just won the Dark Dog Moto Tour for the second year in a row on his Buell XB12STT, we met Erik Buell, founder and boss of the brand, a few days ago at the Mondial du deux-Roues.
While Denis Bouan has just won the Dark Dog Moto Tour for the second consecutive year on his Buell XB12STT (read our and our), we met Erik Buell, founder and boss of the brand, a few days ago at the Mondial two-wheeler.
With an American accent to cut with a knife and a smile constantly illuminating his 100% cowboy face, Erik Buell walks his stand like a kid he knew how to stay. Difficult, therefore, to conduct a simple interview: he is passionate about !
Erik Buell is a great figure in contemporary motorcycles. As proof, he is part of the closed circle of the US National Hall of Fame "as a reward for his conception of a radical and innovative design", conscientiously remind its teams at the bottom of each press release.
However, the man remains available, whether for an interview with Site or to list the opinions of visitors to his stand at the Mondial du deux-Roues. Impossible, therefore, not to fall under the spell of this 57-year-old American, pilot, engineer, constructor, visionary and above all … terribly talkative !
Because Erik Buell is above all an enthusiast – a possessed one? – which transmits, even around a table and for a quarter of an hour, an incredible dose of sensations … buellesques! With him, no time to get bored, to search for words or even questions. Meet.
Site: Hello Erik. First of all, could you tell us what the status of Buell is today in relation to Harley-Davidson? ?
Erik Buell : Well! I created my first "Buell" in 1983, it was the RW750. The Buell Motorcycle Company itself was born in February 1994. At the time, Harley-Davidson owned 49% of the company and it was only four years later that HD became the majority shareholder. So I just concentrate on designing new models and leave the "dirty work" to Harley, eg Harley Financing, Harley Services, etc.. !
MNC: What are your personal links with Harley? ?
E.B. : It’s a long story ! In fact, I was hired by Harley in 1979, after graduating from the University of Pittsburg in engineering. At the time, I was racing in AMA Superbike on Ducati 900SS and in Formula One on Yamaha TZ750. My everyday bike was a Suz GT750: cool, economical and reliable. In less than four years, I have been promoted five times! For a youngster like me, it was great. In particular, I worked on the concept of the "Nova" V4 designed by Porsche but the chassis at the time was not good, it had stability concerns. Then I worked on the FXR chassis and I was even asked to work on a "three wheel" project, but I couldn’t believe it: I’m a biker! And then what I wanted to do was a sports car, Harleys weren’t really my style.
It was when I saw guys who were made redundant, go away in tears while clearing their desks full of old memories with a small box, that I said to myself: "I don’t want to steal the place of a motivated guy who is attached to the mark like that ". So I left and focused on making my own racing bikes….
MNC: How Harley-Davidson reacted when you decided to fit a Rotax engine on your new model ?
E.B. : That too is a long story … To make it short (difficult for Erik Buell, NDLR), I wanted to create the 1125R for a long time! In 1988, Harley included me in the V-Rod project. The engine was ready, validated, but the people in charge couldn’t believe it … Yet the market for air-cooled engines was tending to shrink and I wanted a liquid-cooled engine for my motorcycle. In 1995, the "Revolution" project could have been interesting for me and I followed it closely. Unfortunately, Harley’s specifications and mine weren’t the same. As the development progressed, our projects moved away from each other and I was not able to take advantage of it.
Then the 2000s came and I still wanted that liquid cooled engine! But Harley-Davidson already had tons of projects on the way … They told me they couldn’t start any new ones in the next 6-7 years … So the guys at Harley got to me. said: "OK, since we can’t, you can go elsewhere to create and produce it". It all happened on very good terms. I went to see Rotax, from whom I asked for a very specific engine: not less than 60 ° (like the Mille Aprilia, NDLR) but not more than 90 ° either so that the motorcycle is not too long and there is not too much weight on the front. They developed the engine from my ideas !
MNC: Obviously, you seemed to like the 2-stroke. Why not have installed an engine of this type that BRP Rotax is developing to make a sport definitely apart? ?
E.B. : Indeed, that would be fun! But I think the current market is not ready for this type of engine. It’s a shame … BRP Rotax has beautiful machines like the Johnson and Evinrude outboards !
MNC: Will there be other versions of the 1125 ?
E.B. : There are no projects. Well, nothing I can say…
MNC: Who is the 1125R for? ?
E.B. : Mainly to new customers. What appeals to Buell are handling, precision and power. Unfortunately for some, this power stopped too soon (it mimics a nice full curve that falls steeply relatively early, Editor’s note). With the 1125R we have more, but we keep this side "without bad surprises", exploitable and fun !
MNC: Congratulations on the victory of the XB-RR in French Pro Twin !
E.B. : Yeah, thanks! I can not believe it ! I followed the whole season from home thanks to the Internet. I could not believe my eyes ! I remember for the Spa event, I said to myself: "Naaan, they are going to have too much trouble on this track"… (He hides his eyes with one hand and with the other pretends to type "Enter" on a keyboard)… But they won! And won the challenge even before the final at Magny-Cours! Awesome! All thanks to two dealers (and in Montpellier, NDLR), real enthusiasts who do incredible work !
MNC: And in the USA, how is Buell defending itself? ?
E.B. : In the United States, it’s not the same! I have the impression that Americans are less passionate than you. They just want a motorcycle that works, get on it to win and get off without touching it. They seem to be less DIYers at heart than the French. Too bad.
MNC: Do you plan to get into Superbike now that the Twins can cub 1200cc? ?
E.B. : Râââhhh … The 1125R has the potential, I’m sure! Now it’s like a lot of things: you have to find the sponsor, the money … But as a competitor, the new Buell could work, I think….
MNC: Why not equip Michael Jordan’s team ?!
E.B. : Hehe not stupid! His riders are racing on Suzuki you know … Yeah it would be a good match. You should ask him !
MNC: What do you think of Lazareth’s work presented on your stand? ?
E.B. : She’s really cool! It’s very technological (not in the "MotoGP" sense of the term) but I like it that way. I watched her a lot and I was like "Ouuuh, it must not have been easy to do that". But she is really very beautiful, very successful !
MNC: Do you think it would be marketable ?
E.B. : Hard to say … It represents hours and hours of manual work. The problem would be to build enough to lower the price, but producing this type of motorcycle "en masse" is not easy….
MNC: Thank you Erik and see you soon !
E.B. : Yeaaaah! Thanks !
Interview by Matthieu BRETILLE
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