2014 EBR 1190SX | FIRST RIDE

Erik Buell Racing Builds a True Naked Superbike

They say: It’s not a detuned anything. We say: Damn straight!

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It’s one of the most despised phrases in the sportbike universe: retuned for torque. Frequently, when manufacturers repurpose an old superbike as a new naked sportbike, the engine is “retuned for torque.” This is often just code for “detuned to cut costs,” neutering the gnarly power output many customers clamor for. This whole idea makes Erik Buell angry.

“The streetfighter classification, which was so revolutionary when we first came to market [with the 1995 S1 Lightning], is now being used by marketing people for all sorts of motorcycles, including some thinly disguised standard bikes that have detuned or obsolete powertrains,” Buell says. “Perhaps a more appropriate name, then, for a bike like our 1190SX is ‘Superfighter.’”

It says everything about the evolution of the category that Erik has to coin a new term to describe a bike built the old-fashioned way. When it came time to create the SX, all the EBR team did was strip the fairing off its World Superbike-ready 1190RX, and then replace the low clip-ons with an upright handlebar. That’s it. The engine calibration wasn’t changed at all. The suspension settings weren’t softened or otherwise altered. The wheelbase wasn’t stretched out, the steering geometry wasn’t relaxed for “more stability,” and there certainly isn’t a softer saddle or a bigger passenger pad. This is a naked superbike in the truest, most honest sense of that phrase. (And, it’s fair to point out, this is exactly what Aprilia did with the very first Tuono.)

This means you get a full measure of performance from the 1,190cc V-twin, which EBR claims makes 185 hp and 101.6 pound-feet of torque (at the crankshaft), plus racetrack-taut suspension and more antisocial attitude than you can shake the smoldering remains of your driver’s license at. Just sitting on the SX fills you with evil glee.

This is no comfort cruiser. The flat, firm saddle hovers 32.5 inches above the pavement and the frame—which doubles as a 4.5-gallon fuel tank, to make room for a bigger airbox—feels wide and substantial between your knees. The riser bar is high and wide and right where you want it for yanking up wheelies or pushing the front end down into fast corners, and the forward view is delightfully uncluttered because the headlight—the same piece as the RX, wrapped in the equivalent of a tiny plastic G-string—is tucked high and tight between the fork legs.

Be careful what you wish for, however. Such a hardcore bike delivers—perhaps predictably—a hardcore riding experience. If you’re looking to the naked category for a more civilized version of superbike performance, this is not your bike. The very over-square (106.0 x 67.5mm) 1190 motor is brutally strong anywhere from 5,000 rpm right up to redline, with a fat midrange that makes it eager to wheelie in any lower gear and still with a ferocious top-end rush. But the hot-rod state of tune (the compression ratio is 13.4:1!), big valves, and a super-light flywheel make the bike downright cantankerous at city speeds, with pronounced driveline shudder under 2,500 rpm and a bit of vibration sneaking past the counterbalancer above 6,000 rpm. Let’s just say the SX has strong mechanical presence. The engine throws some heat, too, but what 185-hp engine doesn’t? On the plus side, the hydraulic clutch has been massaged to appreciably reduce clutch pull, a complaint on the RX, and the six-speed transmission is one of the best in the business.

The suspension, consisting of a Showa Big Piston Fork up front and a single, link-less rear shock, is every bit as committed as the engine is. The SX absolutely rails corners, with no squatting or packing up when putting down the considerable horsepower, and the front end always stays planted and online even in fast corners where other high-barred nakeds sometimes tend to wander. But the ride quality borders on harsh in urban environs, and the short, steep bike tends to pitch back and forth over very bumpy pavement.

Increasingly complex electronic rider aids are becoming standard equipment on most high-end naked bikes and again, the SX bucks that trend. There is just one power mode—full power, all the time—and there’s not even an ABS option, which we might have appreciated on our damp test ride around EBR’s East Troy, Wisconsin, home base. But the unique, single-sided, perimeter-mounted front brake was always easy to modulate and more than strong enough to slow the 414-pound (claimed, wet) SX from any street speed. The only e-concession is delightfully comprehensive traction control—21 levels, “including off,” as Erik likes to say—with integrated wheelie control too, though in the five least-intrusive levels it will still allow the front wheel to keep climbing as long as you stay in the gas, as it should. Good stuff.

Pricing on the American-made EBR 1190SX is unexpectedly low at $16,955, a full $2000 less than the 1190RX superbike. (Do an upper fairing and lower bars cost that much?) Eye-opening performance and uncompromising intent make it a welcome addition to the already crowded naked bike category. It’s ironic that, even as we continue to talk about naked streetfighters as savage hooligan machines, the latest generation is softer and gentler than ever. EBR’s 1190SX tips the balance back to the category’s original hardcore formula, for better or worse, depending on what side of the performance/practicality bench you sit on.

PRICE $16,995
ENGINE 1190cc, liquid-cooled 72° V-twin
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 185.0 hp @ 10,600 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 101.6 lb.-ft. @ 8200 rpm
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
FRONT BRAKE EBR eight-piston caliper, 386mm disc
REAR BRAKE Hayes two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
RAKE/TRAIL 22.4°/3.8 in.
WHEELBASE 55.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 414 lb. dry
CONTACT [ErikBuellRacing.com][]

### VERDICT 7/10 Stars

An undiluted naked superbike. Vicious, intense, and thrilling!