Exclusive Interview: Erik Buell is Back in Business

This time, Erik Buell is doing it his way

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Tom Riles

Q: What would a future Erik Buell streetbike look like? Should we expect to see the B2 under a different name?
A: I can't produce that exact motorcycle, because it's the property of Harley-Davidson. But just like Ducati has made 90-degree V-twins, and Honda has made 90-degree V-twins, I can make a bike similar to that but with my own flavor and my own new ideas. We're moving ahead with new designs that won't violate the Buell/Harley intellectual property. That is definitely one of the first bikes that we'll do. It's what we're working on right now, while looking for the financing to make it all happen.

Q: What do you need to make that vision a reality?
A: The key issue is finance. We're working on a financial plan. A private stock offering is probably what it'll end up being, with a small group of initial investors to get us through the first phase. We already have the space and skills to build the bike. I'm currently renting a 12,000 square-foot portion of the old factory-about 25 percent of it. We also have a skilled workforce in the area, and many haven't been re-employed. We have people available who know how to build sportbikes. Existing Buell distributors around the world are desperate for more products, as are dealers who were doing a wonderful job selling our products.

Q: If another manufacturer came to you and asked you to go work for them in the meantime, would you do that?
A: Possibly. If I found another company already in the business, and I thought the fit was really good, I'd certainly talk to them. I'd really want to make sure it was somewhere that I could do the innovative things I want to do.

Q: It's one year since Buell was shut down. How do you feel now?
A: I'm not bitter at all toward 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 Buell's customers, the people who bought our bikes and are now maybe saying, "Did I make a mistake? Am I going to be able to keep riding this thing?" I want them to be supported. It's also very hard to get over the loss of jobs, which was a loss of hope for a lot of people. Many of our people have been re-employed doing different things, thank heavens, but they've still lost a job they really loved. I get calls all the time saying they'd love to come back.

Q: And you intend to give them that opportunity?
A: That's the plan. I've got more to do than just play guitar! There's a constant flow of ideas rushing through me. 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. Now I just have to make it happen-this time, on my own terms.

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