RRT000 BattleTwin based on Buell’s V-Twin. Photo: Erik Shilling
Buell built more than 136,000 motorcycles during its existence, the vast majority of those built while Harley-Davidson owned or had a significant stake in the company. You can find some of these uncomfortable sitting at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, just over 10 years after Harley closed Buell without ceremonies and inexplicably.
(As 2019 completes and we approach the beginning of a new decade, Jalopnik imagines what it could bring next year … if the last decade had gone as we expected).
Today, Harley is not dead like Buell, but is suffering, thanks to many problems that Buell, if it still existed, could have helped them solve. Take the issue of “young people”, for example, who are not very interested in motorcycles these days (at least in the United States) and especially are not interested in Harleys, which are large, heavy and difficult of driving if you’re & # 39; Re a new rider.
Harley knows it and has tried to make some bicycles for the young, but the smaller one still has a 750cc engine between the legs, which is enough power to go very fast in a very short period of time. It is probably too much power for a new pilot. It is also too much power to train, something that Harley also knows, giving his students at Harley Riding Academy 500cc Harleys to ride, which is closer to the right amount of power for a new pilot.
But not everyone goes to Harley’s training courses; Most of the new riders go to the ones assembled by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, with almost half a million riders taking the basic course for MSF drivers every year. And when I took it earlier this year, they didn’t put me in a Harley either, it was 250cc Suzuki, which is the right amount of energy for a beginner.
This could be part of Harley’s problem: when new drivers in the United States find their first motorcycle, it is usually small and Japanese. All of which is a long way to say: Do you remember Buell’s explosion? Yes, the 500cc Buell Blast, one of the ugliest and most boring motorcycles ever made. Does it look like this:
I mention it because the Buell Blast, built between 2000 and 2009, was born from the same problem that Harley suffers today: the new cyclists were learning on small Japanese bicycles, not Harleys. Then, Harley commissioned Buell to create a bicycle for apprentices, hence the Blast, which told him absolutely nothing about Buell’s story in the creation of fast bicycles, but at least it was an entry to the Harley brand, a company that was owned by Harley. The Blast was used in Harley’s first efforts to train new cyclists, but he died along with Buell in October 2009, when Harley CEO Keith Wandell killed the brand six months after being appointed for the job.
And, in fact, I know that when most people think of Buell they think of performance bicycles and technological advances and charisma of Erik Buell, its founder. But when I think about it, sometimes I think of the Buell Blast, one of the biggest motorcycles ever sold, but that also represented the right idea for Harley, at a time when the 883cc Sportster was the smallest thing they sold.
Harley did not get the execution, but the general strokes were correct: do something small and accessible. It was a bicycle that a new pilot would not be terrified of, something probably even smaller than the Blast, something of 300cc or less. Call it Harley (or Buell). Sell it for less than $ 5,000. Sow them to MSF classes everywhere. Make people at least familiar with the idea, at the beginning of their driving life, that Harleys don’t have to be heavy and expensive. Worry very little about the damage this could do to the “brand.” Your brand will be fine. He is dying right now anyway.
. (tagsToTranslate) Buell (t) Harley-Davidson (t) Lanesplitter (t) Motorcycles (t) Jalopnik