Thank You Erik Buell

erikbuellcyrilhuzeblogAs you already know, a very emotional and visibly exhausted Erik Buell confirmed this morning Harley-Davidson decision to end Buell Motorcycles (see video). And today I feel a lot for somebody that I admire for pursuing his dream during 26 years. In business, for good or bad reasons, commercial and/or economical, some dreams have to end. In these sad circumstances all those belonging to the industry should feel Erik’s pain and the one of his 180 passionate and devoted collaboraters right now devastated in his East Troy, WI factory. Since his first bike bearing his name, a 1983 RW 750, to today October 15, 09, one can only admire a man whose philosophy has always been, even when supervised by Harley-Davidson, “If you have some crazy idea, I am listening”. His well known unconventional attitude has netted him numerous patents, the 3 most well known being. 1- Fuel in aluminum frame 2- Engine zero torsional load inside-out rotor front brake system 3- The underslung exhaust. I cannot imagine Erik uBell retiring from the motorcycle industry. The end of a dream is a start of a new one…Thank you Erik for all your accomplishments.

Zipper's

45 Responses to “Thank You Erik Buell”


  1. 1 Rosie Oct 15th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    This news just brakes my heart! I have admired Buell motorcycles ever since I was a young brat… so, being born in 1982, I’ve never been without the brand. It has always been one of my big goals in my “adult” years to purchase and own a Buell… right up there with buying my own home, or starting my own business. People like Erik Buell gave me the spark to pursue my dreams. I hope he doesn’t give up. He’s kind of a hero to me.

  2. 2 Darin Maltsbeerger- Instructor @ MTI Oct 15th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Erik,

    I remember seeing my first Buell bike on display at the Indiana State Fair in 1989, just like it was yesterday. I have a huge amount of respect for you and all of the innovations you have brought along to an ever changing industry. Having had one successful career and having the direction of my life changed by hands of fate, I can honestly say that I know what it feels like to have your dream shut down by other people. I can also say, that sometimes one dream leads to another that we never expected or even considered. I can truly say I get up every morning looking forward to a new day and a new adventure. I hope you can too. You have so much to offer the motorcycle industry, just change the dream and stay in the fight. All of us little guys out there are cheering for you!

    -Darin

  3. 3 Bigalyts Oct 15th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Erike Buell, they threw you under the Bus! I am sure you got Paid well. I know that money isn’t everything and You are a great Motorcyclist. A shoe in for the Hall of Fame and I don’t know How much of Buell you can save Legally. But good luck and IN THE REAL WORLD ” I think Your Run with Harley Davidson Lasted way Longer then their Sales of Buell’s Aien’t No Big Surprise . The Rumor of Giving up Buell has been around since 2000, 2001. Never did much for Converting the Traditionalists !

  4. 4 Dave Blevins Oct 15th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for bikes and the balls Eric! I always liked the Buells, right to thr Rotax ones anyway… all of us Sportster fans appreciate the job you have done to pump up our bikes and enjoy the roar and fun only a Buell could deliver. Good luck in the future and thanks for a great ride.
    Dave Blevins
    Blevins-Jones USA

  5. 5 Ken Oct 15th, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    This is a very sad day for the industry.

    Erik has done some very cool things for the sport and has a vision that is ahead of it’s time. This is a sad day indeed.

    Ken

  6. 6 Triumph Oct 15th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Damn, that almost made me cry. You’ve got to respect a man who so obviously loved what he did and dedicated his passion to it. I was a certified Buell technician at the dealership where I worked and they really were good bikes. It’s too bad they just never took off the way they could have. Regardless, the motorcycling world is better off today because of Erik Buell’s contributions to it.

  7. 7 just my opinion Oct 15th, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I am sure this was a very hard choice to make but at some point HD has to stop the bleeding. HD has threatened to do this for years and from what I have been told, buell never turned a profit. All companies are in business for one reason, Profit –plain and simple if the Buell bikes could not get that accomplished then it was just a matter of time. Life is not fair but I am sure Mr. Buell will land on his feet and do well again. Some times these things turn out for the best. I hope this will be one of those times.

  8. 8 Brian Klock Oct 15th, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Excellent Run! Erik and those passionate about Buell have done more than anyone originally gave them credit for and did so in the name of motorcycles, not cash. The industry is often fueled to new levels by that same fire as was evident of the early days of motorcycles. I feel they are to be commended, I for one am sorry to see it end, as a fan of the early bikes and the most recent, it has been fun to see my daughter set a land speed record on a blast at age 14, and my other every year from 16-18. Many have tried and failed, but so much better than never trying at all. Race on Erik!

    Thanks for pushing the envelope and all the best in the future.

    Brian Klock

    Proud owner of #116 of the original S2’s since new!!

  9. 9 Dave Oct 15th, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    “…and from what I have been told, buell never turned a profit. ”

    Can you cite sources that support the above comment?

  10. 10 Ben Oct 15th, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Erik was a great mad scientist. We used to call him Doc, after the character in Back To The Future.

    Erik had a vision and the passion to make it happen.

    Buell has been an amazing brand.

  11. 11 patrick de gregoriis Oct 16th, 2009 at 12:58 am

    HD’s are too expensive anyway… in Europe HD’s cost 30 to 40% more… In crisis moments, people cut down on luxury items. It’s not HD only who is suffering, see what’s going on at BMW, OPEL/GM, …

  12. 12 krugger Oct 16th, 2009 at 3:06 am

    That’s a bad day. Erik Buell is one of my heros!

    But business and passion never take the same way…..

    Erik, i wish you the best for the futur !

  13. 13 J Oct 16th, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Ya, I suspect Buell will actually prosper without the Company hanging over his head now; Perhaps he even would have been better off without the Company during the boom, but at least now he has a pretty spiffy resume-

    Good industrial designers always find plenty of work- Buell will do well.

  14. 14 jatinder pal Oct 16th, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Eric had enough money to start on his own and he can find as many investors…..only thing matters is the brain and ofcoarse the product u try to sell….

    Beulls r american sportsbikes….its sad to see end of them……

  15. 15 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycles Oct 16th, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Erik was 1 guy in our Industry I wanted to meet and by chance it did happen just after.he came out with his latest design engine. I was impressed with this most brilliant gentleman. Such a talented engineer or maybe best said, mad scientist yet able to create such a loyal following. Wherever your next venture takes you, you will excel. It is a sad day but now your hands have been untied and you can really push forth with even bigger and better plans. You are a true genius.

  16. 16 BikerMarc Oct 16th, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Hey Erik,

    Sure do admire your innovative drive.

    Good things happen to good people like you.

    All the best in your next endeavor.

    BikerMarc

  17. 17 choppertom Oct 16th, 2009 at 9:05 am

    i hope to see you resurrect in some way to become better & stronger…..show the assholes in power how capitalism is supposed to operate.

    i hope you don’t take any handouts……
    although, “TOO BIG TO FAIL” may work, in your case…..

  18. 18 Joe Skonecki Oct 16th, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I was always fascinated by Buell since I seen my first one as a kid. I had friends with Harleys and Rocket bikes and I knew the Buell would be a perfect ride in either party. The 99 Buell X1 Lighting was the first new vehicle I have ever bought. The X1 turned heads everywhere I went. In Tucson Feb 2000 I was at a stoplight when a guy fixed his eyes on the bright yellow X1 he did not see his light turn red and skid into the intersection. I had a lot of fun riding in Ohio and Arizona from the hills to the mountains. Mr. Eric Buell is definitely one of my mentors.

    You have my best wishes Mr. Buell.
    God bless.

  19. 19 Dale Oct 16th, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I agree with many that this is a VERY sad time for the industry. Erik Buell is a genius and world-class innovator of the industry. Personally, I am a down to the bone Harley enthusiast. I own two H-D bikes, saving up for a third and have many thousands of dollars invested in H-D memorabilia. I know times are tough but I think this is a shortsighted decision by the motor company to eliminate Buell.

    It has been clear that the motor company has been targeting their efforts on customer demographics other than the traditional middle aged male — more specifically they have been targeting women and younger customer and rightly so. In my mind with the elimination of Buell, they have closed a door on many of the younger customers. Yes, the Sportster Nightster and Iron 883 are cool retro looking machines that some of the young customers will gravitate to but let’s face it many of them are into sport bikes.

    Buell gave the younger customers sport bike products and as these same customers get older a bond to the Harley-Davidson brand which would be beneficial when they would be more interested moving into the larger cruiser motorcycle market. In addition, Buell gave those who want to buy American and wanted a sport bike an option to a quality, attractive machines at a competitive price. I guess the motor company can create sport bikes with the H-D brand but I do not think H-D resonates well with the younger crowd. Buell gave them a separate identity with a VERY strong bond to the H-D family tree.

    I wish Erik Buell and all of the employees of Buell the very best. You can tell that they all had a deep passion and dedication to the brand and the products they created. As a motorcycle enthusiast, I deeply admire and appreciate. THANK YOU!

  20. 20 Rebecca Oct 16th, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Back in my Hot Rod Bikes days I was lucky enough to get a Thunderbolt loaner right before they were released to the public…I will never forget all the stares and “what the hell is that?” comments I got riding Ortega Highway one Sunday morning…the squids were impressed to say the least! I also had the pleasure of meeting Erik at the track in Daytona way back when…very cool and down to earth genius!

  21. 21 DK Oct 16th, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Maybe Buell bikes will morph into HD bikes. No extra advertising cost for Buell labels. Get young guys started on a HD sportbike rather than Buell. Just kill the Brand not the machines.

  22. 22 John Oct 16th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    DK I like that idea,other possibilites are Polaris”Victory Motorcycles” or S&S or even Volkswagen is rumored as wanting to get into motorcycles.I own an love my Harley Davidson and know they did what they had to but have always liked Buells and would’ve had one alongside my HD if I could have afforded it.I sure hope things turn out good for Eric Buell.

  23. 23 OldSkool Oct 16th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    VERY SORRY TO HEAR THIS.
    YOU HAVE TALENT, YOU ARE AN INNOVATOR & YOU INSPIRE OTHERS…
    THERE IS MORE TO COME FROM YOU!
    GOOD LUCK ERIK!

    OldSkool

  24. 24 Gary Bang Oct 16th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I remenber in 2002 myself and about 12-other dealers were at Juno Avenue having a large discussion with the heads of Harley-Davidson, “Eric was not their.” The president asked what we thought was wrong with the Buell brand? Their were many reasons most of the people in the room brought to the floor, Price to High, Not fast enough, To tall, to short and a host of other items discusssed. I remembered telling the President my take . “Their are just not enough people who like the Buell Motorcycle.” Most people in the room thought that was a real dumb statement. But I guess after all thats what it all boiled down to. “Not Enough People liked it” Just my opinion.

    Gary Bang

  25. 25 Frank Howard Oct 16th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Why in the hell is everyone doing the “Poor Baby Eric” routine? Jesus, this guy has made millions and millions of dollars off of the ride he has had with HD. That ride would have never happened without HD taking the Buell product under their wing. Now they have decided to drop the line, so what? Things never stay the same, ever, in business. If Mr. Buell was smart and retained complete control over the name, engineering and Patients and no conflict of interest contracts exist with HD, Buell will go right on down the road. If not, Mr. Buell will be laying on a beach somewhere in the islands sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them while you fools all are still saying “Poor Baby we wish you well Eric”.

    Eric, I say: Good job man, it was a great ride and drink one for me.

  26. 26 Woody Oct 16th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Not sure why so many folks are trying to make Harley such a villain here. Harley gave HUGE support when Erik left them in the first place to go on his own and he had access to tons of resources while “independent”. It was Erik’s decision to sell to Harley and give up control, and he was paid well for it. If he hadn’t sold out the brand would’ve been his to run. People vote with their wallets, and there just weren’t enough folks buying them. He was hobbled from the start basing a sportbike on a XL motor, and it just didn’t work out. You may be able to win on the racetrack with sympathetic rules, but sales are a different thing and folks with that much $$$ (or less) to spend on a sportbike could get a lot more performance elsewhere. Nothing against Erik, he’s a class act for sure! This is just about what will bring in money for the MoCo and what isn’t.

  27. 27 MDK Oct 16th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    So much for the high tech H-D’s now they are back to just black smith bikes. To you haters Erik actually had some vision when H-D’s IMO stil has none. For example you can look at 30 years of bikes and they really haven’t changed. Yeah if it ain’t broke….. B.S. They finally came out with the V-rod, granted I don’t like it but it is different and the Rockers finally something with some balls, musta been a chick at H-D’s design. Oops, American Chopper mighta had an influence. Either way good luck Erik and thanks for breathing some life into an American cough cough legend!

  28. 28 Woody Oct 16th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Am I the only one to notice a trend where people laugh at H-D for not changing, then laugh at anything new saying, “it’s not a Harley”? Then in their spare time waiting for something new to “not like” they make fun of Sportsters. Not replying to you, MDK, just the situation in general.

  29. 29 fuji Oct 16th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Woody.
    With all due respect to Eric for for his creativity but your statement is in line with the overall picture.

    He was fortunate to have such a window of opprtunity with HD. How many people get the opportunity to carry their name on a production motorcycle.

    Buell had many shortcomings in comparison to the technology in the sport motorcyle industry but the Rotax engine was a bright spot in Buells future but ” UNFORTUNATELY ” it came to late.

    HD did provide Eric with a golden oprtunity but kept him close to the hip with the wrong power plant for to many years.

    Lets hope that Eric can branch out on his own with ideas and R&D, for at the end he was never closer to a winner than with the Rotax combo.

  30. 30 Ted Sands Oct 16th, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I wish Eric the best, he put his heart and soul into building the Buell Motorcycle. The bikes we ride become memories of the past and one of my favorite memories was ridding a red 1992 Buell 1200S with the flip up back rest for the passenger. I took my 15 yr. old daughter for a ride on the back from So. Cal. to the Laguna Seca AMA races. We cruised Monterey and around the race track. It was one of the greatest weekends in my life. Thank you Eric for providing the bike we rode.

  31. 31 Steve Johann Oct 16th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Wow what a shock for me. The only American Made Sport bike is no longer a reality and that is sad for everyone. My best to Eric and all those who worked at Buell. 26 years is a pretty great run for anyone. Good luck Eric and crew on the next 26 years.

  32. 32 MDK Oct 16th, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Erik Buell has always reminded me of John Britten and I feel that he will continue with his work even if it’s on his own dime as before.

  33. 33 1550tc Oct 16th, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Erick, always liked your bikes and i rode an 2002 Buell Thunderbolt S3T and will probably one day buy one……to me that 2002 Buell Thunderbolt S3T was a great alround bike!

  34. 34 Bonneville´s fastest naked man... Oct 17th, 2009 at 4:57 am

    I have owned three Buells until i found the El Dorado, a ´98 White Lightning, wich is my daily ride. Here in Spain the bike is almost unique, and it turns heads everywhere, despite being surrounded by Ducatis or close to perfection R1´s…
    I think it´s a very sad time for anyone to see a brand disappear, but not as a brand ( we have seen incredible resurrections like Von Dutch and so). It is sad that a man´s dream and visionary ideas are killed by a marketing decision or a financial dept order. Somebody has said that Erik has earned lots of money…Quite logical, isn´t it? this is for what he works and developes his own ideas. Having earned enough money does not relief the pain of having a man´s dream and life thrown away.When he sign the deal with HD time ago he was looking for the best way to develope and grow his Company, and i am pretty sure that it was not in anybody´s mind that the brand will suddenly desappear.
    Sad times. Buell is dead, long life to Buell.

  35. 35 Roger Oct 17th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    As hard as the Harley-Davidson Motor Company works on paint and styling, it never ceased to amaze me how homely the Buells always looked, especially the 1125R. Just one extra employee with an artistic sense may have gotten Buell through this. But belts on sport bikes? A giant disc instead of duals up front? The steadfast refusal to dress up that muffler? And when you looked at what was coming out of the KTM and Aprilia factories, it just didn’t make sense that America couldn’t make a good looking bike. Roland Sands and Jesse Rooke make cool, canyon racing roadsters all the time. The Roehr was built in a garage with a “giant, unusable” V-Rod motor and it was better looking. It also had something resembling a homegrown motor that was bulletproof to boot. Buell’s reliability was second rate. Racing an 1100 plus cc bike with the Japanese 600 cc bikes and taking great pride in winning? Come on, since when does America need such a handicap? Aprilia is running right at the top the first year out in World Superbike, we could have done it as well. A lot of strange decisions were made at the Buell factory and dealers often had to discount the hell out of the bikes at the end of the year after paying interest for ten months. It was killing the dealerships and wouldn’t have lasted 18 months on its own in separate buildings, there just wouldn’t have been enough profit to pay the bills. Everyone feels for the factory employees, but the whole company survived on the strength of the Harley-Davidson dealerships, their ability to carry a model that wasn’t profitable. When they weakened a little, Buell never had a chance; every family-owned dealership had to look at their business carefully and do what they needed to do to survive. Paying interest on bikes that had to sell at a discount wasn’t in the cards. Ignoring the beauty of the competitors: the MV, the Ducatis, the KTM’s, along with the Japanese bikes was inexcusable. I think it has been a hundred years since a company offered a product only in black (2008 1125R). Buell could have made a cool roadster given the materials they had, something like the Kenny Dreer Norton, but never a sport bike. Race replicas are bumping 185 horsepower now, you can’t play in the game at 146, and stepping down into the junior league was embarrassing as hell. While many customers were saddened, I don’t think you’ll find many dealers losing sleep, the bleeding has stopped for them. Harley-Davidson probably did this at the request of their dealers. The new CEO warned everyone that he would cut off an arm to save the body and he did.

  36. 36 Rock Star Oct 17th, 2009 at 5:11 pm
  37. 37 A1 cycles Oct 17th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    will never forget when he sold to harley I thought “cool for him” money to pursue his dreams, I was In Laconia when the let us test ride the “new” bikes, early 90’s they had a trailer truck and a roadcourse set up, I think it was called battletrax? My friends and I rode the little course all day becuase if you got quick time you got to ride parade laps with mr buell they took top ten guys, we both made the cut! They were supposed to be parade laps around the louden track but we kept sticking a wheel on eric and he kept going faster! He’s a true competitor on and off the track! An inovator and mad genius! Good luck sir one of my better bike memories is meeting you and making those “parade” laps around louden!

  38. 38 Kevin Ward Oct 17th, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    EB truly is a great man! I really hope he doesn’t give up. He’s given us the most progress among bikes in a while. I hope the innovations keep coming. i own a xb9r and im not giving it up. Buell will always be a living ledgend to me. Keep on trucking Buell!!! I really hope you make a comeback in a short time and love yah man. Best of luck. Dont give up. You have a backing. dont underestimate your influence.

    Kevin

  39. 39 Blue Oct 18th, 2009 at 7:38 am

    According to a Wisconsin newspaper:

    ‘Walworth County officials have formed a business retention team to try and keep Buell Motorcycles Co. production in East Troy.

    The Walworth County Economic Development Alliance has formed a team of officials from the Village of East Troy, Walworth County Board and East Troy Chamber of Commerce, according to an economic development alliance news release.

    The team hopes to meet with company founder Erik Buell to learn about the company’s options and evaluate what could be done. ‘

    It’s a nice idea, but a little naive. I suspect Harley has got both Erik and Buell firmly tied down. After all, despite putting MV Agusta up for sale, that option for Buell has not been mooted by the MoCo…

  40. 40 Newtonian Oct 19th, 2009 at 3:21 am

    If he’d been bright enough to abandon his name, HD might have had some hope of selling his bikes. He was never interested in HD-type engines, only in finding someone to pay for his ego and his – often clever -ideas. Good riddance, and anyone who is in the least bit surprised has been under a stone – the writing was on the wall 10 years ago once he started to “hide” the engine, and it the wall got flood-lights on it at Milan in 2008 when the Rotax was shown. End of story.

  41. 41 adam@customfighters Oct 19th, 2009 at 9:15 am

    i would absolutely love to see EB show up working for Honda! Best wishes in your future endeavors Mr.Buell. You brought innovation to a land of complacency. Do work brother!

  42. 42 Ross Tomas Oct 19th, 2009 at 10:50 am

    a buell XB9 was the first big motorcycle i rode. it was on a church ride in Mitchell South Dakota With Klock Werks. it is the best bike next to none. a true favorite to me because it is different than any other sport bike.

    Thanks Eric.
    hope for the best

    Ross

  43. 43 Mike Corbin Oct 19th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Erik, you are one of the best guys I have ever watched in our beloved industry..
    You employed your vision and incredible work ethic to bring us all something new..
    We need more guys like you,, we recieved your soul at work..
    You are an inspiration to us all..
    Keep eating bugs,,
    Mike Corbin

  44. 44 Kyle Armstonr Oct 20th, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Eric,
    Your work will be remembered. HD has made a mistake.
    Kyle

  45. 45 Mike Carter Oct 21st, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    I learned to ride on a Harley Z-90 back in 1977 moved up to an SX- 175 in 1979 . when I turned sixteen I got my bike license, ( didint have a car til I hit 18), and rode almost year around in northern NY. when I wanted a bigger bike I couldin’t afford a Harley ( about $3000. back then for a new, leaky, dinosaur of an AMF sportster), so I went through a few Yamahas, Hondas, etc. and I always hoped that Harley would start making a cool up to date good handling affordable bike, well Eric Buell did it for them, and after taking a ten year break from riding ( had a house to pay for) I bought one. Of all the aproximatly fiftty or so bikes I’ve owned and ridden including big Harleys and Japaneese rocket bikes the Buell (mine’s a custom painted Firebolt XB 12) is the best. It’s fast, fun, trouble free, unique and American. And now it seems the same Idiot corprate mentality that almost screwed Harley into the ground back in the day (during some other hard times) is still alive and well and has invaded my favorite motorcycle company a second time. I just unloaded all my shares of H-D stock. All the best to you Eric, and if Buell American Motorcycles rises from the ashes in some future incarnation, I’ll be investing, meanwhile maybe I’ll stock up on Buell parts.

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