After the long buildup following the introduction of EBR's 1190RX at the AIMExpo this past fall, it's finally time to see if Erik Buell and his hard-charging crew delivered on all those promises. We booked a last-minute flight to Florida to ride the RX around Jennings GP, a busy but smooth road course situated along the northern edge of the Sunshine State. Ironically, low clouds and rain greeted us the morning of the track test, with no rain tires in sight. Perfect conditions, then, to evaluate EBR's proprietary traction control system and see how well it worked to transmit a claimed 101.6 pound-feet of torque to a wet racetrack. Professional roadracer and EBR test rider Cory West helpfully suggested a TC setting somewhere between 10 and 15, with 1 delivering the least intervention and 20 the most. We queued up lucky number 13 and ventured out.
Before even twisting the throttle you'll notice the slim midsection, a benefit enjoyed by many V-twin sportbikes, though the massive, fuel-carrying frame spars make the RX wide at the shoulders. A sleek nose and windscreen are raked back in a very Italian manner, complementing the European look of the sharp, upswept tail—this bike looks nothing like that other company's bulbous 1125R. The riding position feels similar to comparable sportbikes, aggressive but not unpleasant, and the seat is surprisingly comfortable. Footpegs are round and knurled like a proper racebike's, a departure from the slippery cast pieces from most Euro brands.
The slightly heavy hydraulic slipper clutch engaged smoothly, overcoming tall gearing to send the RX grumbling through the drizzle and down a glistening Jennings GP pit lane. With the TC cranked up so high, the motor sometimes struggled against its electronic sanctions, making the power curve feel a little lumpy and unrefined. Slowly turning the TC down throughout the day eventually delivered smoother power but still offered a comprehensive safety net.
An extended break allowed time for the track to nearly dry by early afternoon, which finally allowed us to light the fuse on the 72-degree, 185-hp (claimed) V-twin. Inspired by the excellent TC system, it readily overpowered the rear Pirelli's grip on the pavement, resulting in exciting power slides leaving corners—TC level 3 was the eventual favorite. The motor has a broad spread of torque, but the real fun starts around 7,000 rpm with a rush of power that lasts until about 11,000 rpm; EBR says the peak is at 10,600 rpm. This engine is immensely entertaining but still tractable and manageable in tight corners or even putting around the paddock. It should prove to be a well-mannered powerplant on the street.
At low or no speed, the RX feels a little top heavy and very much a 450-pound machine, but once on track the 1190RX carries itself well. A Showa Big Piston Fork and linkage-less shock let the RX transition calmly with minimal effort through the wide, flat clip-ons. EBR's "hubless" wheels probably help here, too, with less rotating (and unsprung) mass to flick from side to side.
Dry pavement let us test the enormous front brake, which is less different in practice than it looks. It felt slightly unusual but delivered plenty of power and quality feedback without any ABS plumbing to potentially numb feel at the lever. And like all good superbikes, much of the machine remained transparent. Moving around on the bike felt perfectly natural, and you never even consider the transmission. A slipper clutch more willing to slip would be welcome, as rushed downshifts on corner entry created some rear-wheel hop, but the gearbox never missed a beat.
The 1190RX isn't quite perfect: The TFT gauge looks beautiful, but getting your fingers under the tight fairing to operate the buttons is a pain. Simple, handlebar-mounted controls would be a better solution. There's no shift light, either, but fortunately for EBR the high-tech display means that's only a software update away. Fit and finish is decidedly up-market but not quite on par with similarly priced competition—there are exposed wires behind the dash, for example, which either look cool or unfinished. You decide. Lastly, for almost $20,000, the market should expect a quickshifter and an ABS option (the latter of which is under development).
So, EBR might have some minor wrinkles to iron out with the electronics interface and general refinement, but you can start spreading the word: America has an affordable, sophisticated, legitimate superbike. EBR has officially arrived.
EVOLUTION This production version of the 1190RS uses a similar engine and aluminum chassis, both rife with innovative technology
RIVALS Aprilia RSV4, BMW S1000RR, Ducati 1199 Panigale, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, KTM RC8 R, Yamaha YZF-R1.
Absolutely the bike EBR promised, and a legitimate contender in the superbike pack
||l-c 72-deg. V-twin
|Bore x stroke
||106 x 67.5mm
||Wet, multi-plate slipper
||185.0 hp @ 10,600 rpm
||Showa 43mm Big Piston Fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Eight-piston EBR caliper, 386mm disc
||Two-piston Hayes caliper, 220mm disc
||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
||190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
|Claimed curb weight
||Strike Yellow, Racing Red, Galactic Black
||24 mo., unlimited mi.