I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

What is Erik Buell Thinking?

I‘ve spent some time going over the new 2010 Buell Motorcycles web site that was unveiled today. I can’t say as I like it much.  And I don’t think much of the marketing effort they put into one of the main features on the new site, the co-called “Book of Buell“.

Something about the tone of the thing just puts me off.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The Buell is a fine motorcycle, and Erik Buell really is a fine engineer and racer, who has contributed some fascinating ideas to motorcycle design.  Many of Buell’s design concepts seem spot on.  But the tone of the thing gets right up my nose.

SITTING IS NOT A SPORT

There is no World Champion of sitting.  No governing body to ensure that when two people try to out sit each other, they do it by the rules. Because sitting is not a sport.  Unfortunately, most people who buy sportbikes do just that.  They hit the starter button, raise the kickstand, and sit their asses off…

Actually, most people raise the kickstand, and then hit the starter button, because they have modern bikes with a safety interlock that won’t let you start the bike with the kickstand down.  If the bike isn’t in Neutral, at any rate.

…There’s nothing wrong with these people.  They just bought the wrong bike. A sport bike is not designed to be sat on.  it’s designed to be hung off.  Moved around on.  Constantly manipulated beneath the rider. A self-propelled platform upon which a sport takes place.  Before you buy a Buell, take a moment to think about what you really want to do on it.  If the answer involves sitting, you may want to consider something different.  A porch swing, maybe, or one of those floating pool chairs.

Well.  Aren’t we just a little too cool for the room?  But hey, while we’re on the subject of whether or not we should consider a sportbike, maybe we should also take a moment to consider if the sportbike we want has an air-cooled V-twin engine that was pulled off of a Harley Sportster, and puts out 103 horsepower like the XB12R, or has a water-cooled, I-4 Engine that spits out 178 horses, and is smooth as silk, like a GSX-R1000.  Even the 1125R is only putting out 145 horses.

So, let’s be honest.  If you’re looking at a Buell, your prime consideration is probably something other than the raw power of the motorcycle, and the ability to push it past 135 MPH.

The BoB continues:

ERIK BUELL DIDN’T BECOME AN ENGINEER SO HE COULD MEET OTHER ENGINEERS

The truth is, he’s made a career our of alienating them.  But this has never been his aim.  It’s just what happens when someone discards accepted principles in search of a better way.  Put gas in the frame, turn the swingarm into an oil tank, sling the exhaust under the engine, and develop a perimeter-mounted front brake…

…use an engine that was originally designed for a cruiser…

…and all of a sudden your invitation to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers annual golf tournament gets lost in the mail and that one guy from Poltech stops sending a Christmas card.

Because Erik is so extreme, maaaaaan! The Establishment shuns him!

Yes. Erik Buell’s ideas were so disfavored, and he was made such a figure of ridicule that all the other engineers felt  awkward in his presence because of his shunning.  And in his hideous shame, the country’s largest motorcycle manufacturer acquired his company, provided him with capital, manufacturing capability, and parts in order to build his crazy machines.

The next section is entitled, “A Buell Won’t Make You Any Friends”.

Many people buy sportbikes as a way to connect with other people who ride sportbikes.  Equipped with their new sportbike, they gain instant admission to a fun, freewheeling group of like-minded riders…This will not happen to you if you purchase a Buell. No one will understand why you’ve done what you’ve done.  In fact, they may even be disturbed by it…

And often, this includes the sales and service departments of  the local Harley Davidson dealer where you purchase it.

Because we don’t engineer motorcycles for acceptance.  We engineer them for performance. And we engineer them without mercy.

And frankly, because they have to engineer them without mercy, considering that they–the 1125 excepted–use an antiquated motor design that every other manufacturer discarded years ago in order to replace them with engines that deliver 60-70% more power.

Let’s be frank, here.  The Buell Thunderstorm-powered bikes are excellent motorcycles, considering what they are.  But all of the engineering in the world will never deliver the horsepower or anything like the top speed out of an air-cooled V-Twin based on the Harley Evolution motor that a modern I-4 engine of similar displacement will.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad motor, or that the Buell is a bad bike.  It isn’t.

But let’s not pretend it’s a CBR100RR with a top-gear roll-on from 60-80MPH that’s half a second faster than the XB12R, with a similar gap in quarter mile times, with the Honda moving 15MPH+ faster at the marker.

Anyway, it goes on that way for a bit more.  Then we get to the real kick in the teeth for some Buell customers:  The elimination of the Buell Blast.  You have to see the way they handle that to believe it.

They show a picture of a Blast crushed into a cube, and the text goes:

The Buell Blast was a cute little motorcycle.  It just never made much of a sportbike…Hey, there’s no denying the Blast’s aforementioned cuteness.  But there’s nothing cute about racing or riding a sportbike the way it was meant to be ridden.  And while racing and sportbikes have always been important at Buell, they are now officially the only thing that matters.  So the Blast will not be moving forward.

In other words, we never cared about this bike.  We thought it was dumb, and we are happy to dump it.  And if you are one of the stupid, poser suckers we sold one of these suck-machines to, then you got screwed.  Enjoy your cute little thumper, loser.  Because we’re all about being extreme now. And racing. And flipping off The Man.  The Blast didn’t give off that moody loner vibe we’re cultivating.  We not only don’t care what our competitors think, we don’t even care about what our former Blast customers think.

OK.  It’s a given that they don’t care what I think, then.  But I think, “Nice PR, Ass,” anyway.

Yes, Buell’s have been racing since the very beginning of the company.  They’ve been very successful in Thunderbike.  But when Buell really wanted to compete at the superbike level, they had to design a new bike from scratch, using an outsourced Rotax water-cooled motor.

The Firebolt is great in it’s available range, and in initial acceleration, and it will keep up with most sportbikes stoplight to stoplight.  But at the end of the day, it can’t put out the top speed of almost anyone else’s liter sportbike.  And we won’t even try to compare it to the ‘Busa or ZX-14.

Still, it’s a very good motorcycle, and personally, I like Buells a lot. Overall, I think Erik Buell outs out a very good product, with competitive street performance at anything less than “Go ahead and take my license and impound my bike, officer” speeds.  And I really think Buell’s whole design philosphy has a lot going for it. And Buell does, in fact, put out an XB-RR race bike with 150 ponies.  I bet if Harley gave him the green light to produce a bike with a modern I-4 powerplant, it’d be an absolute monster.

But the arrogant, too-cool-for-the-room, “I’m a rebel, man!” marketing really turns me off.  And the way they wrote off the Blast like it was some worthless POS just has a total lack of class.

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