EBR UPDATE: Erik Buell Racing Ceases Operations | UP TO SPEED

We talk to Erik Buell as the American manufacturer shuts doors for the second time in six years.

Despite the successful introduction of the EBR 1190RX and 1190SX sportbikes, a promising technical—and financial—partnership with India's largest motorcycle manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp, which paid $25 million in July 2013 to purchase a 49-percent stake in Erik Buell Racing, and wildfire growth that saw the firm expand from just 5 to more than 120 employees in less than 3 years, the East Troy, Wisconsin-based company couldn't keep up with financial pressures and, faced with a reported $20 million in outstanding liabilities, entered a receivership to seek protection from creditors on April 15 (see Erik Buell Racing Closes Doors here).

“At this time I’m not able to say much at all,” Erik Buell said in a phone interview shortly after the announcement. “What I can say is this—we had what we thought was rock-solid funding in place, and when that deal didn’t come through, we were left with no other option.” Buell would not comment on the status of EBR’s relationship with Hero, financial or otherwise. “It’s just not worth talking about what’s in the past,” he said.

EBR has filed for something called Chapter 128 protection, a Wisconsin alternative to bankruptcy intended to help a debt-burdened company restructure with the intent to resume operations. Bids will now be solicited for the company, with the winning bid to be selected by the court.

Erik Buell in 2011 with the EBR 1190RS, winner of the 2011 MOTY award for Best Dreambike .

“I believe it’s in good hands right now, the best possible,” Buell said. “(The receivers have) said all the right things. It’s their first job to get as much as they can for the company, to protect the interests of the creditors, to support our vendors, dealers, and customers. I expect they are going to work as hard as they can to keep the company together, that’s obviously the way it has the most value.”

This is obviously a major setback, but the almost-pathologically optimistic Buell remains positive about the future of the company. “I will say this; it’s a much better situation right now than we were post-Harley-Davidson, when we didn’t even have a name to move forward with. The work we did as EBR has moved the ball much further down the field.”

The fate of EBR remains to be seen, but no one knows better how to make a comeback than Erik Buell. We likely haven't seen the last of him yet.

  • 1983: Erik Buell builds his first eponymous motorcycle, the race-only RW750.
  • 1987: Buell Motorcycle Company releases its first Harley-Davidson-powered bike, the RR1000 Battletwin.
  • 1993: Harley-Davidson acquires 49 percent of Buell Motorcycles
  • 2002: Erik Buell is inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
  • 2003: Buell Motorcycles becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson.
  • 2006: Buell Motorcycles produces its 100,000 bike, a Ulysses XB12X.
  • 2007: Buell releases the liquid-cooled, Rotax powered 1125R—the first non-Harley-powered Buell since 1983.
  • 2009: Harley-Davidson "discontinues" Buell Motorcycles. Erik Buell Racing is formed within weeks.
  • 2011: The $43,000 EBR 1190RS, Buell's first post-Harley-Davidson product, is revealed ( see EBR 1190RS First Ride here )
  • 2012: Erik Buell Racing partners with Hero MotoCorp, India's largest motorcycle manufacturer. Hero purchases 49 percent of EBR the next year.
  • 2015: EBR ceases operations and enters receivership, citing financial stress.