It would seem that Motorcyclist magazine has identified a huge Harley brain-fart. It's one of those stinkers that doesn't show it's "Na Na, told-ya-so" smell until years later. In their article, Born Again Buell, MC Mag shows us just how innovative, tenacious, creative and crafty Eric Buell is. And it's time for some indirect nose-thumbing.
Harley dumped Buell back in 2009 and herein lies the ground-zero in the fart timeline. Buell seemingly has always been an out-of-the-box thinker. Of the models Harley produced under the Buell badging, the Ulysses was pretty cool. So was the Buell Blast. How many folks learned to ride (and continue to do so, perhaps) on a Blast during their MSF Basic Rider Course? There could have been a lot more cooler models as well, had Harley unleashed the magic of Mr. Buell. Instead, it seems they suppressed what could have been by too much oversight; sort of like an overprotective parent not letting a kid do fun stuff.
The details of the split with Harley notwithstanding, what Buell is doing today is what likely has some ancient Harley higher-up types grumbling.
As highlighted in Motorcyclists mag's article, Buell is cranking out his 1190RS sportbike at a state-of-the-art facility in Wisconsin and from accounts so far, it's a contender. It's what Eric Buell said, however, that we can assume get's Harley's attention: EBR (Eric Buell Racing) is preparing to throw together a couple more bikes, and ADV variant of the 1190 and some others, not specified.
Now granted, EB himself said in the article, he's appreciative of his years at Harley and talks very upbeat about the company. And that's indeed classy, considering the situation in '09. Harley does indeed make some sweet bikes, firmly entrenched in the cruiser/touring bike markets.
But let's take some "what-if's" for a spin. What if, EBR decides to crank out a sport-touring bike? What if they start working on a full-fledged bagger? What if his 1190RS or perhaps another sportbike model starts winning big-time races? Back in the days of Harley vs Indian, what happened on the racetrack directly equated to showrooms sales. And Harley isn't cranking out any sportbike anytime soon, right?
Ok, right now at least, it's apples and oranges. EBR does their thing with light, fast and fun sportbikes. Harley doesn't. We get that. But Harley could have been looking at their own sportbike built by Buell, right? Heck, why not get back into racing something other than flat-track?
It's indeed arguable that it's starting to smell like a brain-fart at the Harley HQ. Time will tell whether or not they'll be punching drywall in the board room due to a lack of foresight. Certainly, Harley had their reason to dump Buell, perhaps recessionary in origin, perhaps not. Maybe, Harley just stopped liking Eric Buell. Or, maybe their ego's got in the way. Or, was it the fact that they couldn't stomach any type of bike sitting in a Harley showroom that even looked like an Asian marque? There's some evidence to this latter hypothesis, just ride up to a HD dealer on a Kawasaki or Suzuki. They'll hardly give you the time of day unless they see a check book and a trade-in.
Harley is likely going to end up eating some crow for dumping Buell. And even if EBR's namesake remains overtly appreciative and all smiles when discussing his tenure at HD, it's fun to think that behind closed doors there's some payback smack-talk going on.