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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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The author, Erik Buell and motorcycle journalist Aaron Frank.
The author, Erik Buell and motorcycle journalist Aaron Frank.

Buell carves new roads in Wisconsin motorsports landscape

With AMA Pro motorcycle racing coming to Road America in Elkhart Lake this weekend, it seems like perfect timing to write about Wisconsin motorsports legend Erik Buell and his latest ventures both on and off the racetrack.

Buell and his passion for motorcycles and racing have been part of Wisconsin’s business landscape for more than 30 years. Feel free to use Google for a link to Buell’s past, but we’re talking about his present and future here, which is a company called EBR Racing based in East Troy.

From a racing standpoint, the current EBR Racing / Hero / Amsoil team is led by ProSuperbike rider Cory West, who rode to a 10th place finish at Daytona Bike Week in March.

West rides the EBR 1190RS, which packs 175 horsepower and can push 200 mph on the track. West and Larry Pegram are slated to ride with EBR factory support in the AMA Pro Superbike race at Road America.

The old motorsports saying of "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" has been a challenge for Buell motorcycles at times over the years, but the current EBR street bikes clearly reflect Buell’s mantra of being "fiercely independent."

First off, these EBR street bikes are designed for riders who like to enjoy serious fun, and that oxymoron makes total sense on the new 1190RX, which hits 185 horsepower, but weighs only about 400 pounds. For an extreme comparison, a typical Harley cruising bike weighs about 700 pounds and might reach 65 horsepower.

Recently, EBR held a promotional event at Hal’s Harley-Davidson in New Berlin, where some of Wisconsin’s fast and fearless motorcycle enthusiasts and experts came together to celebrate racing and see the new EBR bikes.

While walking around the 1190RX street bike with the EBR experts, it’s obvious that Buell’s technological innovation continues on a fast track. Known for their unique weight distribution, smooth handling on fast, curvy roads, aka "twisties," and accessible maintenance, Buell bikes have evolved with their riders’ expectations.

The 1190RX features LED lights, 21 traction control settings, and a multi-function digital instrument gauge that is easy to read and operate with functions for track performance, service intervals and diagnostics. The 1190RX sells for $18,995.

Erik Buell possesses characteristics shared by many Wisconsinites. He is passionate about his profession, hardworking and creative and definitely an underdog.

"This is a different kind of business," Buell said during the event. "Motorcyclists are generally optimists and a really good kind of people. It’s been a long, hard road back, but it’s worth it in every way."

EBR is also partially owned by Hero MotoCorp, an Indian-based motorsports company that paid $25 million for a 49 percent stake in the Wisconsin company. Buell’s previous company was owned in a similar fashion by Harley-Davidson from 1993 until it shut down in 2009. Harley projects like the V-Rod benefited from Buell engineering, and Hero is now using some of Buell’s engineering in its own bikes.

"We have a great team working in East Troy and are getting a lot of sales overseas with our American bikes," Buell says. "It’s great to be able to pursue the dream of making an American sport bike that competes with the best in the world. Being in southeastern Wisconsin, I knew how much talent we had in the old company, and we’re really building on that."

Just to provide background and disclosure, I worked on many Buell marketing and media projects during my years at Harley-Davidson. I’ve also ridden the bikes and attended enough events to really appreciate the Buell brand and its supporters.

While I could write a lot more about Buell’s past, let’s just say that Buell enthusiasts are some of the most passionate, dedicated and smart motorcycle and sport bike riders you will see anywhere, anytime. EBR riders and fans should enjoy exciting racing at Road America this weekend and great riding for years to come.

Bikers remember the fallen

Motorcycles riders have strong ties and respect for the U.S. military dating back to World War I, so it’s not surprising that they had a strong presence at recent Memorial Day events in Wisconsin and around the country.

Wisconsin Harley-Davidson in Oconomowoc honored military veterans and service families last Saturday with several rides and ceremonies, bands (including the University of Wisconsin marching band), and a special screening of the "Honor Flight: One Last Mission" film under the stars.

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