Buell Motorcycle History

February 20, 2008
By Motorcycle USA Staff

Buell Logo

Buell Motorcycle Company is an American motorcycle manufacturer named after founder and former roadracer, Erik Buell. Specializing in sportbikes and performance street motorcycles since its inception in 1983, the current crop of Buell’s are powered by V-Twin engines, most of them a modified air-cooled Harley-Davidson Sportster motor. The Motor Company took over majority ownership of Buell in 1998, although Erik Buell remains on board as the Chairman and Chief Technical Officer – ensuring his creative stamp remains on the motorcycles that bear his name.

The original Buell motorcycle was the 750cc two-stroke RW750, purpose-built to compete in the AMA Formula One racing class. But the project never took off after the Formula One series was discontinued. Turning his attention to road-going motorcycles, Buell developed street bikes sourcing the Harley-Davidson XR1000 and Evolution powerplants.

Erik Buell
Erik Buell

The evolution of Buell production has included innovative design developments, some of which being adopted across the industry. Examples include the use of inverted forks (a production first for a street bike on the RS1200) or underslung exhaust systems. Other Buell developments include the storage of fuel in the bike’s own frame and oil in the swingarm. Modern Buell motorcycles also use the ZTL (Zero Torsional Load) brake rotor.

The prevalent powerplant in the current Buell lineup is the air-cooled 1203cc Thunderstorm V-Twin. It powers the XB12R Firebolt, a partially faired street bike, as well as the XB12S Lightnings – naked street bike designs. The XB9SX Lightning CityX uses a 984cc version of the 45-degree Twin. The short-lived XBRR was Buell’s fully-faired sportbike racer based of the XB, but it found little success in the AMA Formula Xtreme series is competed in.

100 000th Buell Motorcycle.
100,000th Buell Motorcycle.

One final Buell platform making use of the 1203 Thunderstorm is the popular Ulysses series. An adventure-touring steed, the Ulysses comes in three versions: the original off-road capable adventure bike dubbed the XB12X, the more street-oriented tourer called the XB12XT and a special police version known as the XB12XP.

Exceptions in the current Buell lineup include the Blast beginner introduced in 2000 and the new-for-2008 1125R Superbike.

The Blast is a sporty entry-level street bike powered by a 492cc air-cooled Single. The Blast sports a low 25.5-inch seat height, making it ideal for beginners or shorter-statured riders and a popular learning mount in motorcycle safety classes.

2008 Buell Ulysses XB12XT
2008 Buell 1125R

Buell’s wide range of sport and street bikes has helped them become one of the most competitive american motorcycle brands.

The 1125R is Buell’s latest incarnation of its founder’s vision of the all-American sportbike. It is notably the first water-cooled Buell and also sources a non-H-D mill with its Rotax-designed 1125cc Helicon V-Twin. Buell followed up the entry of the faired 1125R with the stripped down 1125CR streetfighter as a 2009 model.

A company founded on racing, Buell will once again be competing on American racetracks, with its 1125R homologated for the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing season in the new Daytona SportBike Championship.

The Buell Motorcycle Company is an American motorcycle manufacturer specializing in sportbikes and performance street motorcycles utilizing a V-Twin engine configuration. Erik Buell founded the company in 1983 and always took a unique approach to motorcycle chassis and engine development. In 1998, Buell became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Most of the Buell motorcycles use modified Harley Sportster engines to power their bikes. Motorcycle USA reviews all the new Buell motorcycles in print and video.