Resurrected from the ashes, Erik Buell is back in the sportbike business with the EBR 1190RX. We give it a shakedown in the 2014 EBR 1190RX First Ride Video.
After a six-year hiatus, America is back in the Superbike arms race with the Erik Buell Racing 1190RX ($18,995). The 1190 is the evolution of the defunct Buell 1125R platform that was abruptly shut down by then parent company, Harley-Davidson. The RX is based off EBR’s limited-edition and carbon fiber-clad $46,495 RS, only with a host of re-engineered hardware, and most importantly, a more lucrative price tag.
The RX represents EBR’s first true mass-produced sportbike. It represents all that Erik Buell and company have learned through the trials and tribulations of the last four decades, putting America back on the map in the sportbike world. For more technical information on the motorcycle, please review the First Look article as this report will focus on the riding impression from a wet test at America’s most historic motorsports venue: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Paying attention to the position of the heaviest components of the machine has always been a primary design concept at Buell. As such, the 1190RX has a contemporary weight-centered design. Sitting at the controls the RX feels neat between the rider’s legs, on par with its claimed 447 pound fully-fueled curb weight. The seating position is slim and proportioned well from front-to-rear—though it may be just a smidge compact for taller folks. Despite its short-ish windscreen, the cockpit certainly isn’t cramped and it’s clear engineers spent considerable time honing the riding position with it feeling about as natural as the gold standard in the class: Honda’s CBR1000RR. Other clever touches include the ability to adjust the position of the wide knurled footpegs and the location of the shifter and back brake pedal.
(Top) The 1190RX is powered by an 1190cc liquid-cooled 72-degree V-Twin. While the engine was originally designed by Rotax, EBR has taken ownership of the design and now develops and manufactures it in-house. (Center) The rear suspension works in harmony with the engine and powerband allowing for superb drives off corners—even in the wet. (Bottom) The 1190RX gets EBR’s proprietary perimeter-style single front disc brake and caliper. The system works well, with a high amount of stopping force and tire/brake feel, however the set-up didn’t feel as bullet-proof as a conventional twin rotor and caliper set-up.
Perhaps the ultimate testament to how well EBR engineered its chassis is how quickly we got acclimated with it, on an unfamiliar, rain-soaked circuit, on standard OE-fitted Pirelli Diablo Corsa Rosso street tires. In these conditions, having a bike that is balanced and easy on the tires (in terms of loading and weight transfer) is key—and a quality the 1190RX has in spades. Steering is neutral but precise, and the suspension feels connected to the surface of the road. It’s an easy machine to climb around on, and responds naturally to rider input.
The RX is equipped with a simple, but effective traction control system (developed in-house) that also incorporates wheelie mitigation functionality. Twenty levels are offered (as well as ‘off’). We began in setting 15 (the higher the number the more electronic intervention when excessive wheel spin is detected). In this setting the bike restricts full-throttle application, doling out only as much power as the electronics deem safe for the conditions.
Although a bit restrictive at times—especially during acceleration on the center of the tire, the system responded well and allows the rider to more confidently get up to speed. The electronics are simple to manipulate too, however the bike must be stopped to make an adjustment. As the day progressed, and the racing line got drier, we moved to a lower setting. Once, at the ‘5’ threshold, the engine’s countermeasures were less intrusive during wide open acceleration and the EBR accelerated faster. Eventually, we disabled TC and even in ‘off’ the RX displayed favorable grip characteristics off the corner due in part to its well-calibrated throttle response, ultra-smooth powerband, and hard-charging friendly rear suspension.
Speaking of power, the 1190’s 72-degree V-Twin pumps out lots of useable bottom-end and mid-range muscle. Its smooth power, too—the kind that doesn’t overly abuse the 190-section rear tire, helping achieve favorable drives off turns. The Twin pulls especially hard in the first three or four gears. But shift into fifth and the engine runs out of juice slightly, demonstrating that it could use more ‘oomph up top. The color LCD instrument display is easy to read at a glance but it could use a shift light.
If there is one motorcycle that could benefit from an
Preload: 5 (Turns in)
Compression: 6 (Turns out)
TC: ‘1’ or Off
electronic quickshifter, it’s the EBR, and we’re surprised it doesn’t come standard with one. The rest of the drivetrain, including the six-speed gearbox, worked as advertised but it would be nice if EBR was able to fit a true mechanical slipper clutch rather than the vacuum-assisted set-up it currently runs. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but the faster you go, and the deeper you brake, you may experience some degree of rear wheel chatter if you’re not super smooth with the clutch release at corner entry.
(Top) The 1190RX’s traction control is easy to manipulate and functions well. Though the chassis is so well-balanced that it’s possible to ride the bike confidently with the TC disabled (in the dry). (Center) The 1190RX is both nimble and accurate, plus it responds naturally to rider input. (Bottom) The 1190RX pulls hard in the lower three gears but needs a top-end power boost to really run with the big players in the Superbike class.
In the braking department the EBR’s perimeter mounted front brake set-up got the job done, but it is subject to inconsistent performance as the pads wear. Our test bike had some mileage on it and as the pads near the end of their life, we encountered heavy fade at times. However, after a pad swap, consistent power and lever feel was restored. Still, we’re not completely sold on the system compared to a conventional twin rotor/caliper set-up, even though EBR claims it’s lighter and more effective.
After a few hours aboard the Wisconsin-built bike, it’s clear EBR is pointed in the right direction in the Superbike class. Although we’re not totally sold on its proprietary braking set-up, its chassis functions surprisingly well—especially on wet pavement. Its engine builds power fast and offers a strong, fat mid-range, plus it’s metered-well and easy to exploit. Sure it could benefit from a few more ponies up top, but the RX is the closest an American sportbike has ever been to running with the big dogs from Europe and Japan.
- CBR1000RR-level of chassis of balance
- Smooth powerband and throttle response
- Easy to maneuver behind the controls
- Could use more top-end power
- Inconsistent front brake performance as pads wear
- Needs a quickshifter