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in his personal collection.

In 1993, Harley-Davidson purchased

49% of Buell, investing $500,000 and

taking Erik Buell’s house as

security.[10][11] Erik Buell took the deal,

against strong advice from his

attorney.[10] Harley-Davidson CEO

Jeffrey Bleustein had

bought it as a



In 1998, Harley-

Davidson bought a

majority stake and

took control of Buell

Motorcycle Company,

and the company

became a subsidiary.

Since then, Buell has

used modified Harley-

Davidson engines,

primarily from the

Sportster, to power its


Buell Facility

Most Buell motorcycles use four-stroke

air-cooled V-twin engines, originally built

for XR1000 Sportster. After these were

depleted, a basic 1200 Sportster engine

was used. In 1995, the engines were

upgraded with Buell engineered high-

performance parts and further upgraded

in 1998.

The liquid-cooled Harley V-Rod motor,

developed by Harley-Davidson then

made street legal according to the EPA

by Porsche, was originally an Erik Buell

project, designed for a fully faired AMA

Superbike Buell by 1998. Harley

decided the engine should also be used

in a sport-cruiser, then took over

development, making it “too big, too

heavy, too expensive and too late” for


Harley-Davidson forced Buell to follow

the rigid product planning and

distribution process beginning in the

1990s, with the philosophy that Buell

was the starter brand, and customers

would eventually trade up to a Harley.

By 2008, Harley’s credit arm, Harley-

Davidson Financial Services (HDFS),

was struggling, and the lower resale

value of Buell motorcycles meant that

new bike sales were significantly

affected. When Harley CEO Keith

Wandell was hired, he immediately

questioned why Harley even owned

Buell. Wandell, who had never been on

a Harley before being hired, was heard

talking about “Erik’s racing hobby”, and

questioned “why anyone would even

want to ride a sportbike”. He organized a

team to analyze “the adrenaline market”,

and concluded that sportbikes would

encounter high competition and low

profits, while cruisers had high returns.

On October 15, 2009, Harley Davidson

Inc. announced the end of production of

Buell Motorcycles to focus more on the

Harley Davidson brand. Selling Buell

was not legitimately considered, as

Harley didn’t want their Harley

dealerships to sell an outside brand, and

Harley didn’t feel Buell had much value

without the dealer network. Closing the

Buell brand was estimated to cost

Harley approximately the same as their

total investment in Buell over the past 25

years. Erik Buell immediately began

looking for outside buyers, finding BRP

(who owns the Austrian Rotax engine

manufacturer BRP-Powertrain) a good

choice, especially since Harley would

have to pay Rotax “an eight-figure sum”

for the 1,125 cc engine contract.

Erik Buell later founded Erik Buell

Racing to provide support for 1125 and

XB privateer race efforts.


Buell ZTL front


Buell XB models

also incorporated

the industry’s first

Zero Torsional

Load (ZTL)

perimeter floating

front disc brake

system, a

patented “inside-

out” wheel/brake

design that puts

the brake disc on

the outer edge of

the wheel,[12]

rather than at the hub. This lets the

suspension function better, improving

control and traction, through reducing

unsprung weight on the front wheel,

because only a single disc and caliper—

with a corresponding reduction in bolts

and brake fluid—is needed compared

with the conventional dual-disc brake

setup on most modern sport bikes. In an

exchange in the pages of Motorcyclist

magazine between Suzuki engineer

James Parker, creator of the GSX-

RADD hub-center steering system,[13]

and Buell’s Director of Analysis, Test &

Engineering Process, Abraham

Askenazi, Parker conceded the ZTL

system’s advantage in unsprung weight.

But he pointed out the remaining weight

is located further out on the rim where it

is most detrimental to acceleration and

braking, and that there were potential

heat transfer issues, and the need for

one fork leg to be stronger than the

other. Responding, Askenazi disputed all

of Parker’s criticisms, saying the ZTL

system was 30% lighter than the brakes

on the Suzuki GSX-R1000, and that the