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R.I.P. Buell Motorcycles - We'll Miss You

Friday, October 16, 2009
2009 Buell 1125R
Once Buell engineers sorted the initial electronic gremlins, we fell in love with the 1125R sportbike.
October 15, 2009 will be remembered as a black day in the world of motorcycling. It’s almost unfathomable that after 26 years in business, American motorcycle manufacturer Buell is closing its doors. If it occurred, say, ten years ago I could maybe understand. But now, when Buell’s at the top of its game? It’s utterly ridiculous.
 
Historically Buell Motorcycles have always gotten a bad rap. Usually it’s for their quirky attributes which have gone against the motorcycling status quo, and typically require a bit of seat time to understand. Heck, I even use to be one of those naysayer riders.
 
My first experience aboard a Buell was with the 2008 Buell SuperTT. After my first ride, I literally hated it. It was so different from every other Japanese and European sport motorcycle I had ridden and I just couldn’t figure it out. Sure it handled really well, but it felt lethargic—plus I couldn’t wheelie or stoppie it. After giving mentor and Motorcycle-USA boss man, Ken Hutchison an earful of how I despised the bike, he stopped me mid-sentence to say that I simply wasn’t riding it right. “Buell’s are different,” I recall him saying. “But once you figure out how to ride them they’re actually pretty fun.”
 
And wouldn’t you know Hutchy’s assessment was right on the money. I wasn’t riding it right. I quickly came to terms with how to best utilize its unique performance attributes. From then on I was that guy wheeling down the 405 freeway and pulling stoppies at every stop light. Eventually, when it was time hand over the keys back to Buell, I was more than just a bit bummed.
 
But with the introduction of its liquid-cooled Helicon engine platform as used in the Buell 1125R sportbike and Buell 1125CR Streetfighter, things suddenly changed. Buell had finally built a motorcycle that retained its eccentric character, yet at the same time offered a level of performance that was on par and, in some ways even better than its competition. Just look at the results of our 2010 Streetfighter Comparison where the 1125CR actually bested both the Ducati Streetfighter and Aprilia Tuono 1000R. Now the folks from Ducati point their fingers and laugh everytime they see me. Also check out how the 1125R stacked up in our 2009 Daytona SportBike Comparison.
 
Earlier this summer, we were invited to Buell’s factory in East Troy, Wisconsin. Although we didn’t know it at the time, this was literally an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness how Erik Buell’s dream grew from busting his knuckles inside a Wisconsin shed to its innovative East Troy factory. We also saw how its unique engineering philosophies move from a designers sketch pad, through the computer screen, and on to the finished product. 
 
One of the things from that afternoon that really stands out in my mind is just how die-hard and passionate the entire Buell family was. From the guys hutched over their keyboards in the engineering department, to the crew in the testing department with their bullet proof safety glasses stress testing components, to the assembly line workers carefully fitting a box
2009 Buell 1125CR
Thanks Buell for making one of the best streetbikes we’ve ever ridden.
of kitted parts as this chunk of metal morphed into a motorcycle. They all shared one thing you could see it in their eyes: passion. 
 
That’s why it’s so crazy to me that its parent company, Harley-Davidson jettisoned the pod so easily. Sure times are tough, and Harley’ key objective is its own survival, but at the same time it just doesn’t make any sense pulling the plug on a fresh and innovative division, especially when its performing at an all-time high. Obviously the decision making folks at Harley never spent time aboard a Buell Motorcycle, and that’s a shame.
Post Tags: buell motorcycles out of business, buell motorcycles bankrupt, buell motorcycles
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Comments
Buell & Harley driver in Europe -buell closure December 19, 2009 03:49 PM
To close Buell is maybe economical a good decision, but for all the Buell fans and fans of good looking and driving motorcycles not understandable.
Its a sad decision from the management. Sport bike fans in Europe dont drive the V-rod. That never will be the sport bike like a Buell. Harley makes a big mistake here, the same big mistake to purgase the MV augusta factory.
Some clever management would be have been better, maybe Buell would be still alive . Thanks Harley!! Maybe I have to sell my 2 Harleys now
Candadian City X -Good Luck Erik - Get back in the game, you have fans. December 10, 2009 11:05 PM
I bought a 2007 City X new from the dealership. Love the bike. Hate the dealership. They didn't seem to want anything to do with the bikes and their techs don't seem to understand how to maintain them. It's too bad that HD owns the designs and won't sell them. Realy what technology are they trying to stop their competitors from getting......... an air cooled 45 degree twin? It just cements my reprehension for the HD brand. I can only hope that somehow a new Buell rises from the ashes and never again has anything to do with HD. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can show that their core brand will continue into the dust of history like Indian through poor decisions and a lack of innovation.
David "Holeshot" Larson -Buells can't do wheelies? December 8, 2009 11:19 AM
What is wrong with you? Every Buell I have ever ridden begs to do wheelies....were both plug wires on?
Flying Yankee -Buell November 16, 2009 11:24 AM
1997 Cyclone, 35000 miles, Thunderstormed, S1 Cammed and dynoing 115hp. The old girl eats new Xr1200s for breakfast, fears no V-rods, and the 110 HD CVO Barceloungers get laughed at.

All this, and she still looks like NEW!

Ironically, I've never ridden with other Buellers, because there aren't any in my area. I ride with conventional HDers, but I have never been snubbed by them (except for the Sportster guys, because they know My bike will bitch-slap theirs).

I'll never sell my M2 Cyclops, but I have begun thinking about "preserving her".




tim perry -rip buell November 15, 2009 05:56 PM
Gone maybe for now,but I can't see for long. The bikes are only getting better and respect from alot of riders through knowledge,loyalty, passion... I like alot of owners should crusade to Eric not to give up, just change direction with a better group of financial backers and R.&D. and Professionals who know the bikes and there Extreme capabilities that they have. H.D. did'nt know or support what a great product they had through lack of entheusiasmn,demos,getting People on the bike ,all that is needed is a test ride to figure out how great the bike is and compare to all the cookie cutter bikes out there. And it's an American made machine, whats left with made in America? To Me thats the best thing to happen to Buell , get out from the shadow HD--Ho Hum bikes... thanks more later...Lightning XB9S, looking for new 1125cr and or 12XBSS Long tim perry
Old Fred -Buell comeback? October 31, 2009 09:11 AM
Couldn't agree with Fred 1125 more. When Buell came out with the 1125 series I thought 'Who needs 146 horsepower on a motorcycle. I can fall off a barstool and kill myself'. Went to the dealers to buy a part for my Blast and saw the 09 models on sale and the rest was history. Saw on the web where Walworth County Economic Development people have contacted H-D about putting Buell back in business. East Troy, where Buells are made, is in Walworth County. It might not be over yet!!!
fred -1125 October 25, 2009 05:55 PM
if you have ever ridden/ owned a 1125r/cr you wouldnt want any other bike. the bikes with the thunderbolt engine never really won me over but the 1125r is incredible and definitely the greatest sport bike ever put into production, import or domestic.
Old Fred -Buells demise October 21, 2009 05:42 PM
Went to the dealers today to pick up a tank bag for my 1125CR. The salesman that sold me my bike said he sold six Buells on Saturday after the news broke from H-D. There was only one 1125R left in the showroom. Hopefully for Collen and the others employed by Buell this is only temporary. If the 1125R was just a start I think we would all demand to see what is in the wings.
Colleen -Buell closing October 20, 2009 04:11 PM
I have had the privledge of working at Buell for 11 years. I will never work at a better place. The people at Buell truly are a family and Erik is just an outstanding man. I am having such a hard time understanding why at this point Harley-Davidson would choose to shut us down. Danny Eslick proved that the Buell was the best and if you think the 1125R was great you should have seen what was coming. I wish him all the success in the world and if he ever needs someone to work for him he can count on me and about 179 others!
Jesse -Buell October 20, 2009 03:59 PM
The only reason that Harley-Davidson bought into Buell in the first place was to get their hands on Erik's designs. The man is a genius.
Once they owned it all including his knowledge they dumped it, plan and simple. And the latest news is they want to get into another foreign country - Real American of them. Dump Buell just when they've proven it's the best damn American sport bike in the world and get involved selling Harleys out of the country!
I will never wear a Harley-Davidson t-shirt or anything else with their name on it.
Darren -buell October 20, 2009 02:31 PM
I ride a Harley and love them but I can`t believe they have done this to buell and I feel like selling my Harley now.This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
NATER -STICK IT H D October 20, 2009 02:13 PM
Ibought a 1125r in 08 and love the bike. I was looking fowad to my next buell purchase.Its a shame that H D pulled the plug, but now I hope Eric continues to build.The only reason I had to enter a H D store was to look at a bike that was tucked in the back, and no salesmen knew jack about it.One salesman bragged about going to Buell school and running them on a track, then having him brag about it being one big drunk for him. After i purchased the bike he refused to do a delivery on the bike, if I knew how much of a a-- he is i doubt I would have bought the bike, but I am glad I did. I found out later that the salesman who sold me the bike is now a manager, if thats the type of people H D wants to promote, than my money will go to a diff brand.THANK YOU ERIC FOR A GREAT BIKE! GOOD LUCK!!

Al -Buell October 20, 2009 08:49 AM
Buell was the only US made bike that where reasonably priced. Compare that to an HD that is way overpriced. Its a shame to see them go. Oh well, life goes on. I still love my Duc.

Larry -Thank you Erik October 20, 2009 06:17 AM
I had to take my XB12S in to the local harley dealer for a little tlc on 10/14/2009, and they had a poster up on the wall saying how great Americans will get through these tough times by rolling up their sleeves, but yet they go and shut down the only true American Sportbike maker after spending millions last year buying MV. Those commie bastards will never get a dime of mine again. If Erik goes out on his own, I will buy one in a second. I hope that the founders of hd are rolling in their graves knowing that their company is ran by un-patriotic f*%ks.
Larry -Thank you Erik October 20, 2009 06:17 AM
I had to take my XB12S in to the local harley dealer for a little tlc on 10/14/2009, and they had a poster up on the wall saying how great Americans will get through these tough times by rolling up their sleeves, but yet they go and shut down the only true American Sportbike maker after spending millions last year buying MV. Those commie bastards will never get a dime of mine again. If Erik goes out on his own, I will buy one in a second. I hope that the founders of hd are rolling in their graves knowing that their company is ran by un-patriotic f*%ks.
John -Keep building Erik! October 20, 2009 05:59 AM
I agree with the article, Buell was finally getting competitive with their bikes and Harley lets them go. It's a shame because they represented new thinking, the polar opposite from those Harley's that haven't changed much since the 80s. Hopefully, Erik will keep building bikes!
me -Guess I'll get a Victory... October 19, 2009 08:16 PM
For 4 years I have been looking forward to getting out of school and starting a career with a new Buell as my first major purchase. Guess I'll save up longer for a Victory instead. I liked the xr1200, but there is no way that I'll consider the harley now!
Jon -Buells October 19, 2009 07:43 PM
Thanks for the article. As a soon to be 56 year old motorcyclist of over 48 years riding time (started as an off road rider) I can only describe my impressions of test riding an XB9R Firebolt, and an XB9 Lightning.I found both Buells to be an absolute riot to ride.Never had the pleasure of trying out a tube frame Buell, but always liked the M2 Cyclone.Its a tragedy that Buell (the company) will be making no more motorcycles.This has to be a mistake by Harley-Davidson.I've been recently laid off from an HD/Buell dealer (for six weeks).I still hope to own a Buell motorcycle.I wanted an XB9R Firebolt, but they dropped that model. Jon
Old Fred -H-D Buell October 19, 2009 05:35 PM
I'm not so sure I would count Erik Buell out of the running. Remember he was his bikes before Harley bought in on the operation. I bought a Buell Blast in 03 and have no intention of selling it. Great little bike for tooling around running errands. As a matter of fact I just bought an 09 Buell 1125CR. Never fails to get my blood pumping up to warp speed. No one would have every believed a production bike made in the USA with that kind of power. Glad to have gotten in on a collectors item at the ground floor. With eight motorcycles in the garage I can tell you I'm glad two of them are Buells.
XRGuy72 -Buell October 19, 2009 12:52 PM
I will never buy a harley either!! Never have never will!!
mississippi george -buell October 19, 2009 09:17 AM
here's hoping that some wealthy soul(s) out there has the good common sense to pick up the ball where harley dropped it. hate to see all the hard work and innovative thinking, resulting in true world class performance, go by the wayside. hope to see you again, erik, making me envy your next creation.
jody -buell ama/dmg what now? October 19, 2009 08:34 AM
buell 1125 cc raced in 599 cc won the 600 series and now quits after edmonson made them the official bike. that caused a big stink now nobody has a ride and the clock is ticking. what the crap !! dmg are u going to make things right or let the series end ?? alot of talent sitting around waiting on dmg to get there finger out of there a--. dont let pride ruin peoples lives do somthing now before its to late.
ed -buell October 19, 2009 06:33 AM
hardleyableson made of tin ride'em out push'em in,I ride A italin V twin, the only hardly that wasnt a road-block this year is the XR-1200 ,and hardly ableson wasnt going to sell it in the USA !! maby they will re-badge the buell add some MV and make a 21'st.centary motocycle.Im wrong for trashing H-D its just that riding since 1968 enduro,MX,ice race,short track,roadrace,touring,trials,I'v never ridden one,or had any reason to ,as nobody offered me a XR750 30 YEARS AGO.
John -Buell October 18, 2009 08:44 PM
HD should be acquired by General Motors, so that the Government can keep them from shutting down too.
GarrettR -Good Riddance October 18, 2009 08:21 PM
innovative? so what. It didn't make a difference. the Buells are slow in a straight line, slow around a bend and slow to stop. Not to mention hideous and unreliable.

Yes they are quirky and weird and disconguent with the status quo. Don't despair, trust me there are still bikes with "character" for you weirdos that simply need something bizarre to set you apart. Try a Husqvarna, or a Guzzi. Just don't count on any Manufacturer Support, oh, well you are probably already used to that.


Dave -byebye buell October 18, 2009 06:59 PM
how is Danny Eslick supposed to defend an American crown that has been snatched from him by the "all American" bike manufacturer.
American racing R.I.P........and I'm an Englishman!!!!!

jjk -Thank you, Adam October 18, 2009 06:50 PM
For writing this nice commentary! It's a shame that Buell has closed down and it's not worth belaboring the point, but I am very glad to have proudly owned 2 Buells ('05 XB9SX and now an '09 1125CR). Wonderful bikes, tons of character, incredible handling.

Hey Adam, how 'bout a "Buell retrospective" article where you test an 1125 alongside some of the old ones (Tubers, XBs)?

Thank you again and keep up the good work.
Dan the Canadian....... -F#$k&gn H.D. October 18, 2009 08:04 AM
Well I've ridden HD/Buell before, and they where crap bike...
But the new generation of Buell are great....
Ulisse and 1125r are just great machine, would of love to see a Ulisse using a 1125 engine, WE WILL NEVER SEE It.

HD owner are one minded people..... For them HD or nothing....

My all time favorite bike owned : SV650, Ducati 749, and my Triumph Daytona 675....


Kurt -HD support of Buell October 18, 2009 06:30 AM
First off, great editorial, you hit the nail on the head. I am a proud Buell owner and love the thing. The majority of HD dealerships did little to support the brand. Sales staff pushed them to the rear or a back room, and the service staff was substandard. HD never publicly showed support for the Buell products, but spent millions promoting HD MC products. Despite all of this Buell still made a great product, and I will continue to proudly ride mine. As for my thoughts of purchasing a HD down the road, I dont think so. Great job Eric and the Elves, rise like the Phoenix!
Greg Gillson -Buell October 18, 2009 02:05 AM
I am selling everything I own Harley Davidson for closing Buell. I have been riding motorcycle since I was 14 yrs old. I have ridden and owned every bike that has been made from Japan.In 2005 I bought my Buell Firebolt its the only motorcycle that I have ever kept for 6yrs. Its my favorite motorcycle of all time. Ii have even owned 2 Yamaha R1 and sold them both after I bought my Buell. Its a sport bike that you can ride everyday and also handles like a dream.
Once again Harley Davidson has shown there best side. Lets keep a push rod over priced motorcycle that breaks down ( I have owned over 14 since 1999) and everyone has something gone wrong with it.To get rid of Buell. I am very upset to see another great AMERICAN company going out of business beacuse of big business and boar4d rooms.
Erick Buell and his employees did a awesome job making a great AMERICAN sport bike I will never forget them or ever sell my Buell.
Anyone wnat a 2009 Harley Rocker and all my Harley clothes CHEAP
Harley Davidson are a sell out and I hopoe they go out of BUSINESS
Hopscotch -What were they thinking? October 17, 2009 10:23 PM
Groman you made some excellent points and I could not have summed it up better. Also, what Harley has done has sealed their fate when it comes to future acquisitions of other motor companies. Let’s say in the future Harley wants to buy Moto Guzzi like they did with MV Agusta; nobody will have trust in the brand knowing Harley will just kick it to the curb just moments after things get tough economically. Or what if Harley wanted to partner with another American sport bike maker like Ficher, they make the Fischer MRX 650cc v-twin sport bike, no one would trust this brand because of the relationship with Harley. Dumb, just plain dumb on Harley’s part.
What did HD gain from killing off Buell? Buell only had 180 employees and one production plant and even with Harley making over $26,000,000 in PROFIT just in the third quarter alone they killed the brand. Who is making the decisions at HD…probably the same bone heads that got them into trouble with the sub-prime mortgage backed securities. Stupid is what stupid does.

benroe -buell October 17, 2009 07:32 PM
h/d has no forward thought processes whatsoever. after the baby boomer market gets too old to ride the younger crowd that rides sportbikes are just going to move on to other models of the make they currently ride. there will be no conquest sales from the younger market for harley to get with a buell and later move on to the antiquated h/d model line. and I am another one of the guys that will never buy an h/d product if they don't do some badge engineering, and quick. I am sure I am not the only one that feels so adament about this.
Brian -Smart thinking. NOT! October 17, 2009 06:36 PM
Good move HD! Cut off the only "forward thinking" division you have. That way when all the "hanger's-on" are too old to ride, or you can no longer SQUEEZE your dinosaur engines to squeek past emissions (barely)...then you'll have NOTHING. Smart. Keep on keepin' on with that 1950's, "non progressive", mentality. Lot's of future there! LoL!
groman -buell October 17, 2009 02:21 PM
Finally after years of hard work, trial and error Buell produces a world class sport bike, achieves success on the racetrack and now HD decides to pull the plug. Nothing like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. In the long run, I think HD will regret the decision. Yes the economy is bad and it's being driven further into the red by our government, but seriously, how many aging baby boomers are left who want one of Harley's 800lb. cruisers. Look in the classifieds. Low mileage Harleys abound and the prices are not what they once were. I understand it's standard business school dictum to focus on your core product but I think now is the time to look outside the box. Young people are not shopping what HD is selling. Buell was starting to attract new buyers. If my local Harley dealer is indicative of others, I frankly think that many wanted no part of Buell from the start and their attitude influenced shoppers. The Buells were usually stuck over in a corner somewhere and ignored. For so long it was easy to sell a Harley, demand and get top dollar and the money flowed in. Selling Buells involved work. Times have changed and I think many of the dealers who have recently expanded will be paying a price as the supply of customers for Harley dwindles.
Joe -Buell October 17, 2009 11:56 AM
Any of the critics above actually own a Buell? If so please quiet me. If not shut up and put your money where your mouth is. Ever talk to and Harley dealer that carries the Buell line? They don't sell and they regret carrying the line. Fact is, they weren't selling. Times are tough, I am no H-D worshiper but business is business.
krod -Loss of Buell October 16, 2009 10:32 PM
HD did not sell Buell yet,they just shut them down. lets see what happens.
robert -buell October 16, 2009 05:37 PM
i have never ridden a buell motorcycle but the recent reviews i have read makes me want to. i guess i better pull the trigger pretty soon.
tjm73 -HD....penny wise...pound foolish October 16, 2009 04:26 PM
HD has just cut there own throat. HD doesn't make a product that the average young rider really sees as an option. Legacy buyers, or lack of them, will be there downfall. Most buyers stick with what every they start with.
rob585 -Buell October 16, 2009 02:50 PM
A sad day for the motorcycle world. A bad move for Harley Davidson.
irksome -Die Harley, die! October 16, 2009 02:10 PM
Buell was never a good fit with Harley; once they dumped the Harley motor, they took away any logical association. Compare any and all of Buell's innovation with a company that gave up push-rods 30 years after the rest of the industry and that still relies on air-cooling.. I have to agree with another poster; Harley's market share (profits fell 82% in 3rd quarter) is rapidly moving from the wannabe stage to the retired-and-driving-an-RV stage. Too bad they can't just do what they do best; market their under-powered, anachronistic products. Pity they insist on still making the damn things. Not that I'd ever consider owning one (well, MAYBE a '77 XLCR...) but now I never will.
William -Thank you Erik October 16, 2009 01:12 PM
As a long time Honda owner (Superhawk, RC51, CBR954) I want to thank Erik and the entire Buell family for producing such as great streetbike. One test ride is all it took to realize Buell built the bike I had been looking for. I voted with my hard earned dollar and bought a 2008 1125R and I will cherish your hard work and dedication for many rides to come.

HD, what are you thinking? Your customer base is ageing quickly and Buell was your only leverage into a more youthful market. How long can you sell the same cruisers to the same customers?
Russ -Buell October 16, 2009 12:11 PM
I will honestly never buy a HD because of this decision.