Buell Motorcycles might be one of the most maligned and misunderstood companies that offered products for sale to Americans. It would end up creating over 130,000 bikes for competition and street use.
The design of the Buell is quirky, to say the least, but the company was also building a product that could compete with anything at the time Harley Davidson shut them down.
Erik Buell was the founder of the company, although his full-time job was at Harley Davidson designing chassis and suspension components. He started building his own bikes because of his love for competition. The first motorcycles came out in 1985.
Harley Davidson Bought Minority Shares Twice
By the time Buell sold 20,000 motorcycles with his approach in 1998, Harley Davidson had acquired minority shares in the company twice. They would own 49% of the organization at the end of the 1990s, with their first purchase happening as early as 1993.
Although Buell Motorcycles was always working against the odds, the company could consistently earn a profit. Their bikes were lower in power than comparable sportbikes at the time, but buyers got a lot of value – and engine parts were globally available.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the company until 2009. Buell had been building slowly as a brand, earning a reputation for having a solid bike at every level. The entry-level Blast looked more like a scooter, enabling anyone who wanted a bike to have one because it could essentially drive itself.
A Management Change Devastated Buell Motorcycles
Harley Davidson decided to hire a new CEO from an air conditioner manufacturer as a way to change up things in a slumping market. The decision he made when joining the company included abandoning the Buell line of motorcycles.
Over 90,000 units of the XB series were selling per year. Although the 1125 series had started slowly, it was picking up speed like all of its other models. When Harley Davidson left, it put Buell in such bad shape because the company was forced into bankruptcy. They weren’t allowed to sell minority shares to a competitor.
You can still find Buell bikes getting made today. His specialty company is featuring two unique products. The first is an electric bicycle that gets built through a startup called Fuell. The second is the specialty motorcycles that he still makes, including the RX, SX, and Black Lightning models.
The race-ready premium motorcycles currently retail for just under $50,000 through Buell’s website.
What makes Buell Motorcycles a memorable part of the industry is the work that happened on the brake rotor. The company pioneered the outboard mounted brake rotor, helping to reduce the weight profile of the equipment while ensuring a better stop when needed. This technology went on the street bikes first, and then went to racing motorcycles using carbon pads and rotors.
If you want to ride an older model of the Buell motorcycles, you can find used models offered for sale in the $3,000 to $5,000 range at dealerships across the United States.