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Erik Buell and the History of the Buell Motorcycle Company

Erik Buell rode his first motorcycle at the age of twelve and was instantly hooked. Later, when he took a job at a local motorcycle dealership to pay for night school classes, he rapidly worked his way up from trainee mechanic to service manager.

During that time, he started road racing at amateur level and his dedication and talent soon took him to the highest level of professional racing in the States. In 1978, he recorded the fastest newcomer qualifying time for the Daytona 200 race.

Erik attained his degree in engineering with one intention he wanted to continue to work with motorcycles. After graduating, he went to work for Harley-Davidson as a chassis engineer. Through his time with Harley he holds several motorcycle-related component patents.

Erik left Harley-Davidson in 1982 to pursue the dream of creating his own race bike. He developed the square-four, two-stroke RW750 to compete in the AMA Formula 1 road race series. A rule change rendered the RW750 ineligible for the class so Erik turned his talents to creating an American sportbike for the street. Harley-Davidson supplied Erik with engines for a series of innovative models between 1987 and 1993, each of which incorporated unprecedented features. For example, Buell was the first manufacturer to use upside down front forks and braided steel brake hoses on a production motorcycle.

By 1993, Harley-Davidson had decided to expand its business by attracting new customers in new market segments. Harley had been keeping a close eye on Erik’s work and naturally turned to him at this time. In February 1994 the new Buell Motorcycle Company was born, 49% owned by Harley-Davidson. Four years later, Harley purchased a further 49% of the company to become the majority investor, with Erik retaining a 2% share and a long term employment contract to ensure continuity of line in terms of innovation, engineering and styling. The Buell Motorcycle Company was now a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, Inc.

With the full support and backing of Harley Since 1993, Buell has introduced a series of mould-breaking, provocative sport and standard motorcycles for the street. The 2004 model year range represents further refinement of the already proven and acclaimed Buell models.

In the late 1980's, Buell's annual motorcycle production could be counted in hundreds. Today, the purpose built factory in East Troy Wisconsin has over two hundred dedicated employees, who assemble in excess of 10,000 bikes a year. This aggressive growth is set to continue.

At its launch the Firebolt XB9R featured a unique combination of innovative technology: fuel in the frame, oil in the swingarm, ZTL inside-out front disc brake and radical chassis geometry including a 1320mm wheelbase and 21° front fork angle. The Firebolt XB9R is powered by a new 984cc force air cooled 45° V-Twin engine that has been developed by Harley-Davidson and Buell to deliver optimum performance, which for Buell means great torque over a wide rpm range and sufficient, controllable power, user friendliness and an exceptional level of reliability.

On the 16th of July 2002 Buell announced its 2003 model year featuring a 2ND model on the XB platform: the Buell Lightning XB9S. The Lightning XB9S is the reincarnation of the 1995 Lightning S1. It captures the soul, spirit, emotions of the S1and combines them with the XB9R’s radical, modern, technology.

In July 2003 Buell extended the XB range with the introduction of the Lightning XB12S and the Firebolt XB12R.

The new Firebolt mates the intuitive handling and innovative technology of the original Firebolt XB9R with a torque-monster engine a 1203cc air-cooled V-Twin rated at 100 peak horsepower and 81 ft.lbs.

The Buell Lightning XB12S is just as agile and sophisticated as the XB9S but powered with the new XB1200 V-Twin engine it is almost brutal.

The current XB platform now consists of two families; the Firebolt XB12R and XB9R and the Lightning XB12S and XB9S.

World-wide Production Figures of Buell (As per end of April 2003);