Erik Buell and the History of the Buell
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
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);