Erik Buell has bounced back in spectacular fashion after the disappointment of Harley’s sudden closure of the bike firm that carried his name. His emotional announcement video, back in 2009, was seen around the world and brought Erik plenty of sympathy. But he’s not the type to sit around moping and had already overcome plenty of setbacks during his career, most notably back in 1986 when the AMA dropped the Formula One racing class, killing the market for Erik’s new RW750.

Erik, now 64, considered retirement after Buell’s closure — but not for long. Harley still owned the Buell name but he was free to create a new firm, Erik Buell Racing. He re-employed some former Buell workers, and set about developing and racing a new bike, the 1190RS, as well as doing consultancy work for firms including Hero, the giant Indian bike firm whose long-standing tie with Honda ended in 2010, and which built almost six million bikes last year. “Pawan Munjal, the CEO of Hero MotoCorp, is an engineer, so he really understands the product,” Buell says. “I was introduced by a friend, we talked a number of times and he said, ‘I’ve split with Honda, you’ve split with Harley. Why don’t we share some ideas?’”

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Buell was commissioned by Hero to make a concept bike: a petrol/electric hybrid called the Leap, which was well received. Erik was looking for major investment in order to grow EBR, and his relationship with Hero led to the Indian firm buying a 49.2 per cent stake in EBR last year, for a reported US $25m. The investment has allowed Erik to speed development not only of the 1190RX but also a couple of follow-up models: a naked bike called the 1190SX, due in August, and a dual-purpose 1190AX, which will be unveiled at EICMA late this year for sale in 2015.

Work is also well under way on setting up a global network of importers and dealerships. And given former racer Erik’s background, it’s no surprise that EBR is competing in World Superbikes this season, with RXs ridden by American pilots Aaron Yates and Geoff May. With a new bike it’s a steep learning curve, and they won’t be winning races just yet, but you can be sure that EBR and Erik Buell will be up for the challenge.

Read the full review of Erik Buell Racing’s new bike at www.morebikes.co.uk/ebr-1190rx-eric-buell-racing-review/

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Tony Carter

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