Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goodbye Buell, my dear friend

It's really no surprise that one of the world's finest and most under-appreciated motorcycle builders, Erik Buell, today announced that Harley Davidson has made the decision to discontinue the Buell brand of motorcycles. In an emotional announcement posted on You Tube and the Buell website, Erik held back where he should have growled in absolute frustration at the global lack of recognition for the genius he crafted on two wheels.

Erik Buell has never been appropriately recognized for his courage to break away from the copy-my-neighbor engineering mentality of Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to create machines that were not only revolutionary in their design, but outstanding in their performance.

But it's really no surprise. I about fell over the first time that I saw the XB series of bikes. With gasoline in the frame, massive disc brakes bolted to the rims, an exhaust hung underneath the bike and a wheelbase inches shorter than the next largest bike, the bike introduced so many new concepts at once that it resembled and handled like nothing else on the market. And nobody knew what to do with it.

I had to have one. And in short order I did, bringing home a brand new leftover 2004 XB12S in January of 2005. I stole that bike and hustled it out the door for $2,000 less than the asking price. It was 2005 and Lancaster Harley still had three 2004 XB12S machines in stock. I named my price and rode mine home in the snow.

By global production standards, the Buell motorcycle line is a small-batch custom motorcycle. There should have been waiting lists to get one of these gems. And yet the Buell sat, year after year, in Harley dealerships where it was always second to the chromed out behemoths that make Harley the cult that it is. I can't blame Erik for signing the documents that gave his small company a chance of going big with HD. But those documents were also the beginning of the end for Buell.

The salesman at Lancaster HD who sold my Buell knew absolutely nothing about the machine. And I mean nothing. I am sure that he had never seen the Buell videos that were distributed with the marketing materials in his showroom. Videos that I poured over repeatedly. I had to go in there and sell him on the idea of selling a Buell to me. I showed him where the ignition was and told him that the gas was in the frame. It was as if the brand was invisible in its own showroom. The salesman was there to sell Harley Davidson and these racing bikes meant nothing to him. Apparently, they meant nothing to Harley.

Thank you, Erik, for introducing me to mass centralization of weight, the under-slung muffler and a frame full of gasoline. You created the passionate machine that still makes me smile every time I go for a ride. I've owned my XB12S longer than any other bike and, unlike Harley, I have no plans of dropping the Buell brand from my collection of two-wheeled glory.
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2 comments:

  1. this was pure motorcycle genius. your writing i mean. the sad fact of buell being dropped from harley seems indicative of a whole slew of things. the forced homogenization of product and centralization of wants and needs. the true engineering mind has been lost to what flashes quickly on a billboard and is cheap to make. i appreciated the hell outta yer bike and left stains and sighs to prove it. a thrill and a cohesive machine that stunned me.
    anyway. i hope and believe that excellence and purity in design and function will continue and, public willing, continue to captivate and astound and remain a revolutionary foothold in our collective attempts to make this silly world better and sexier.
    cause, after all, strapping on a 140hp thing of beauty can only make you be thankful for the complexities of scientific breakthroughs. and then, a split second later, start wondering, "what if...?"

    thanks a lot for this post, ted. and good on you for your work with ninja fast. i follow your exploits and discussions often. all locales need folks working to harvest the greatest fruits of our collective minds.

    doug

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  2. Without Harley there would be no Buell XB12S. Without Harley there will be no Buell XB12S. I suspect that Erik is tired of fighting after 25+ years.

    Ad alta per aspera.

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