After 2010, we won't be able to sell any complete Buell motorcycles, but I can supply parts, because I got all the tooling needed to make the race parts, so someone can bring me an 1125R and I can build an RR from it. I know a lot of guys bought 1125R streetbikes when they were sold off at such low prices after the shutdown was announced, and now they tell me, "I want to keep riding this thing!" They've fallen in love with them, because the bikes really work.
AC: You mentioned electric bikes. Is this something that you're interested in exploring?
The Erik Buell Racing shop...
The Erik Buell Racing shop handles converting former 1125Rs into track-day and full AMA American Superbike-spec machines until December 21, 2010, when Buell's agreement with Harley-Davidson to build bikes and use the Buell brand name expires.
Absolutely, yes. It's not right around the corner, but I've been thinking about it for years, although it was not something we were doing at all at Harley-Davidson, and it wasn't something that I was allowed to have Buell working on. But it's something that's been huge in my mind for 15 years, because for that long the writing has been on the wall that it's going to come, and when it's ready, it's going to work. The things about it I like are that I hate noise - well, on the racetrack I love noise, that's one thing I go there for - but riding on the street or out in the woods, I hate noise. I don't want to bother anybody; I can't stand riding a noisy bike, and I hate riding behind one. I just want to go fast, and the more I bother people, the less likely it is for me to be able to do that.
I'm a huge believer in personal transportation. On the other hand, fuels are getting expensive and unavailable, and I want to make sure that there's a valid way to have transportation, whether it's sporty or not. Light and nimble is a wonderful thing. I wish we did more of it, and what they should be doing now here in the USA is legislating away big heavy vehicles, and making it easier and more rational for companies to make small, lean, fuel-efficient vehicles. They don't jam up the motorways, they don't jam up the parking garages - all the things that people know in Europe just seem to be unconsidered over here. You know, "motorcycles must be very big and loud and chromed, and must bark and smoke, and you only ride them on Sundays" - dear God, that's not what a motorcycle is! A motorcycle is a wonderful way to go somewhere, to enjoy doing so, without wasting a whole lot of energy.
AC: It's one year since Buell got shut down, so how do you feel now? Any better than this time a year ago?
I'm not bitter at all at Harley-Davidson, I'm not devastated that my name can no longer be placed on bikes that I build; that's the way it goes. Look forward, not back. But I am very concerned about the customers we had at Buell, the people who bought our bikes and now go, "oh man, did I make a mistake, how am I going to be able to keep riding this thing?" I want them to be supported. A lot of that stuff is still up in the air, but hopefully we can sort that out. But the part that's very hard to get over is the loss of jobs, which was a loss of hope for a lot of people. Many of our people have got re-employed doing different things, thank heavens, but they've lost a job that they really loved, that they were really excited about doing. I have people who have gotten new jobs calling me up and saying, "If you ever get going again, I'd really love to come back."
I know what motorcycles I want to build, I know they'll offer something nobody else has, and I know I have people out there who want to buy them. The challenge is making all this happen - and that's what I'm working on all the time. Tell your readers they haven't heard the last of me. I've got more to do than just play guitar!