Erik Buell Racing Eyes 450cc Off-Road Machine

11/29/2010 @ 7:41 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing Eyes 450cc Off Road Machine dirt bike tire marks1 635x423

In an interview with Alan Cathcart, Erik Buell talks to the famed motorcycle journalist about his departure from Harley-Davidson, and what the future holds for Erik Buell and Erik Buell Racing. Perhaps one of the most interesting things to come out of the pair’s conversation (read a translated version at Motonline) is the fact that in late-2006/early-2007 Harley-Davidson killed off a project to build a 450cc Buell off-road machine. Still believing that there is a market for a Buell-branded dirt bike, Buell confessed to Cathcart that EBR is taking up the 450cc project again, which uses a special single-cylinder Rotax motor as its power plant.

While Harley-Davidson reportedly used millions of dollars to develop the 450cc dirt bike idea, EBR is developing the motorcycle for obviously significantly less money. Centered around a gas and oil in-frame design, Buell says the bike will be very light with its aluminum frame, although maybe not the lightest bike on the market. With a focus on reliability and ease-of-start, it’ll be interesting to see how EBR takes its track oriented brand, and applies it to the off-road world.

We imagine funding is the biggest issue right now in getting the EBR off-roader off the ground and into the dirt, as our sources tell us Buell has actively been looking for financial backing since his departure from Harley-Davidson. We have yet to hear of a major investor stepping in to help the innovative company, but rumors of a Bombardier acquisition have been heating up (who knows if this has anything to do with that).

Source: Motonline

Comment:

  1. Interesting — and who wouldn’t want to see the great old Can-Am brand resurrected for motorcycles? Bombardier is a very creative company; sales-wise, that ‘Spyder’ is almost the only bright spot in the whole world of motorsports. Maybe Erik’s bikes could piggyback into distribution through the Spyder’s dealer network. My two-cents’ worth: an off-road 450 is great, but there should also be dual-sport and ultra-lighweight sport bike variants.

  2. BikePilot says:

    I’m a huge fan of off road riding and would love to see more options, but it is a curious move. The Japanese are incredibly good at making 4-stroke MX bikes and it would be very difficult to be competitive, much less successful in that market. The Japanese only pay secondary attention to off road machines and almost no attention to making street legal off road machines. This is where KTM dominates, with Husqvarna also making a very competitive showing. Then there are the attempts by BMW and niche bikes like the Beta, Husaberg etc. This is probably where EBR could make a dent in the market if it is able to produce and support a competitive machine.

    Oil in the frame is very common in this market. Gas in-the-frame hasn’t been done by an oem to my knowledge, though it isn’t uncommon to fill the frame rails with fuel as a diy thing to get more capacity.

    I’m dubious that an off-road suitable frame could be built with sufficient volume to replace the fuel tank. Such a large frame would tend to be very thin-walled (too fragile for off road) or very heavy.

    A better approach would likely be to use both the frame and a small tank for fuel or perhaps an optional accessory external fuel cell.

    A final consideration is that in this market a user absolutely must be able to select from a range of tank sizes, else the bike will be largely useless. Some of my off road rides require ~200 mile range while others only need a 35 mile range and many can be done with a 100 mile range.

    IMHO EBR should go win some SCORE, BITD and GNCC races on a prototype before trying to bring something to market. Off road is very different from street and I worry that EBR may lack the in-house experience necessary to make a competitive machine right off the bat. A couple of years of racing would probably be the quickest means of getting the necessary experience and perspective, not to mention a great way of establishing some credibility.

    EBR should also consider a >450cc machine as the Japanese have abandoned this market with the death of the XR650R. A competition-oriented, high performance >600cc bike would enjoy a unique market position. In fact, a 2-model range with 350cc and 650cc motors could be quite profitable. A 450 is too much for most people in tight, technical off road and can be a bit tiring and high strung for high speed desert stuff. A long-stroke, fast 650 for the desert and a light, manageable 350 for everywhere else could be highly effective and without much competition (so far – KTM has a 350 in the works, husqvarna just came out with its revised 310 and husaberg has the 390 – though the latter is based of the 570 motor and is a bit heavy for its displacement).

  3. MikeD says:

    I hope the guy gets those very needed funds to get him off the ground and running again.

  4. mark says:

    Buell would be smart to develop a dual-sport version of this bike as well — it’s a market that’s heating up, and the Japanese aren’t offering many interesting options while the Europeans are all rather pricey.

  5. dantheautomator says:

    That’s great news !

    100% ok with BikePilot :
    “EBR should also consider a >450cc machine as the Japanese have abandoned this market with the death of the XR650R. A competition-oriented, high performance >600cc bike would enjoy a unique market position. In fact, a 2-model range with 350cc and 650cc motors could be quite profitable. A 450 is too much for most people in tight, technical off road and can be a bit tiring and high strung for high speed desert stuff. A long-stroke, fast 650 for the desert and a light, manageable 350 for everywhere else could be highly effective and without much competition (so far – KTM has a 350 in the works, husqvarna just came out with its revised 310 and husaberg has the 390 – though the latter is based of the 570 motor and is a bit heavy for its displacement).”

    my only concern is… Alan is a journo ?
    ahahaha

  6. Eric teaming with that Canadian company would be nice, as long as HD keeps its trap shut. I thought of Eric going with a Chinese company (they seem to have a lot of cash) but I hope not. Buells should be built in America by Americans just like they’ve always been. The future seems hopefull anyway.

  7. dantheautomator says:

    no but, seriously, “famed motorcycle journalist” ?
    you must be kidding me… right ?

  8. dantheautomator says:

    ok… well name one bike he “tested” in his “career” that he disliked ?
    Look closer to his relations with any company he reviewed… always sunny !
    Although I recognize his racing abilities, he’s a PR, not a journalist.
    big difference…

  9. If you want to argue over semantics, let’s grab a drink on Friday or something. Zeitgeist?

  10. Dantheautomator says:

    PM ?

  11. Rich says:

    “Gas in the frame”?, for off road that’s a bad idea. Even if it lowers the CG, you’ll never have enough capacity for everyone. Granted, if it held a couple gallons in the frame and a seondary tank could be used to supplement it, like the new BMW/Husky 450 then that may work. Oil in the frame is a 50/50 deal at best. Dirt bikes could use the extra cooling but the riders also come in physical contact with the frame and getting burned because you just hugged the 250 degree frame rails with your legs doesn’t sound like a design highlight.

    But in all honesty, if it was reliable and fun, and it carried a recognizable name like Buell or Can-Am, I believe that they would have buyers signng upbefore they even release their first model.