Mention Erik Buell’s name and it’s instant street cred. When Harley-Davidson shut down Buell’s line during the financial crisis, the entrepreneur found a backer in India’s Hero Motorcycles, and Erik Buell Racing (EBR) was born. But after declaring bankruptcy and restructuring, the company, now owned by Liquid Asset Partners, is expected to resume production. Manufactured in East Troy, WI, EBR’s motorcycle components come from all over the world. During a sunny spring day, I took its latest creation, the 1190SX, around Asheville, NC.
Powertrain and Performance
Areworked Rotax engine powers the 1190SX. This is notable, because under Harley-Davidson’s stewardship we only saw a Harley power plant, which was always at odds with the bike it propelled. This reincarnation is much more enjoyable to ride, as the shakes and rattles often felt in Buell’s original sporty motorcycles are gone. EBR’s proprietary 72-degree, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled V-twin engine is smooth and very powerful. The company claims 185 hp and 101.6 lb-ft of torque. In the midrange, the SX beats the Ducati Panigale on the dyno, and is the most spirited around 6,000 to 8,000 rpm.
During the test, I rode the open and super tight curves of the Appalachians with some short highway stretches. Even at 65 mph, third gear was plenty, and I found myself shifting a lot more than I needed to in the beginning. Only on the interstate did I finally shift up to fourth, fifth, and sixth. The slipper clutch has been improved after consumer feedback voiced that it takes too much effort, and while I found this to be true, it’s not enough to make your arm tired under normal riding conditions.
Fuel delivery occurs with two port injectors and two showerhead injectors located under the faux gas tank. The frame holds the bike’s high-octane fuel, which we’ve come to expect from Buell’s bikes. EBR still needs to iron out some of its electronic fuel injection mapping, as there was some arrhythmia around 5,000 rpm.
Chassis and Handling
The SX’s frame is made of aluminum, and the swingarm does not accommodate the oil like most of Buell’s motorcycles. Instead, EBR chose to put the oil back into the engine. The frame is lightweight and so are the wheels, which are mated to Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa hypersport tires. While riding, I experienced dry and wet roads, and during one slide in a downhill right-hander, the tires and chassis provided excellent feedback. Part of this can be attributed to EBR’s traction control system, which allows the rider to choose a setting between zero (off) and 20 (most) depending upon how much intervention is desired. ABS is not available on the SX, and we think it should be. However, EBR took its RX race bike, stripped the fairing, and tweaked a few things to create the SX. The RX doesn’t have ABS, and so the newer SX doesn’t get it either.
The first thing any rider will notice about the front is the massive single perimeter rotor with the inside-out caliper. For the nonconformist look, it provides the same stopping power for road riding compared to a more conventional setup. The rear features the more well-known and accepted 220mm disc with a two-piston caliper.
The Showa shock in the back and the inverted forks provide a comfortable ride. For a sporty machine, it has just the right amount of firmness, swallowing jolts from potholes decently without upsetting the motorcycle much.
Features and Ergonomics
The instrument panel really brings the 1190SX into this millennium. All the information is displayed on a full-color digital screen that’s easy to read even in bright daylight. Goodbye, analog gauges! Three buttons next to the screen provide access to the readouts and traction control setting, which can only be adjusted while stopped.
At 6 feet 2 inches with a 34-inch inseam, I’m probably on the upper limit for a pleasant ride. Legroom is tight but not unbearable. The high pegs allow for a greater lean angle, and with that some comfort is sacrificed. Riding position is slightly forward, giving the bike just enough aggressiveness without the neck and wrist pains. The thin and firm seat was tolerable all day, but some riders might want more padding.
This is a unique motorcycle with lots of character. You’ll either love it or hate it. I thoroughly enjoyed the EBR 1190SX for all that it does differently from other major OEMs. The handling is superb. The styling is futuristic. And it feels great riding an “American-made” sportbike. The company is still looking for additional investors, but dealers have EBR models stocked and for sale. To find a dealer, visit www.erikbuellracing.com.
+ unique, full of character,powerful, nimble
– fuel injection needs refinement
MSRP $ 16,995
Engine ET-V2 Rotax 72° V-twin, 4-stroke
Bore and Stroke 106x67.5mm (4.17x2.66in)
Fuel Delivery electronic fuel injection w/ 2 port injectors and 2 showerhead injectors
Power 185hp @10,600rpm /101.6lb-ft @8,200rpm
Transmission 6-speed w/ hydraulically actuated, vacuum-operated slipper clutch
Frame aluminum frame w/ integral fuel reservoir
Front Suspension Showa, inverted big piston front forks
Rear Suspension Showa, single shock w/ out linkage
Rake/Trail 22.4° / 3.8in (96.5mm)
Brakes Front/Rear 386mm single perimeter rotor, 8-piston inside-out caliper/ 220mm disc, 2-piston Hayes Performance brakes caliper
Tires Front/Rear 120/70ZR17 / 190/55ZR17
Curb Weight (no fuel) 414lbs (188kg)
Wheelbase 55.5in (1,410mm)
Seat Height 32.5in (825mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.5gal (17l) 38mpg (observed)
Fuel Grade premium
Colors Frostbite White, Race Red, Galactic Black, and Laguna Blue