It looks like believers in the Great American Sportbike are going to be disappointed once again, as Eric Buell Racing is closing its doors.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal is reporting Erik Buell Racing has ceased operations and is seeking court protection from creditors. It comes as a surprise, as there weren’t any rumblings about the business being in trouble. Furthermore, Indian motorcycle manufacturing giant Hero had purchased a huge chunk of the company a couple years ago, in an arrangement that saw EBR sending technology east to India in exchange for funding. Apparently, their 49 per cent stake in the company wasn’t enough to keep it afloat.
The East Troy, Wisconsin-based company had its genesis in the aftermath of Harley-Davidson’s cancellation of their Buell subsidiary, also headed and designed by Erik Buell. That took place in 2009; in the years since then, Erik Buell rebounded and built a new company with the intention of manufacturing high-end sportbikes, without being shackled by the restrictions that came with working under Harley-Davidson. In the last few years, EBR launched two sport bikes and a naked bike, and even entered a team in World Superbike (that was fairly unsuccessful, likely due to budget restraints).
The big question now is, what next? Erik Buell has been bouncing around the motorcycle design scene since the 1980s. He told the Journal-Sentinal he was hoping for “a new and better beginning.” Does that mean he’s going to attempt to kickstart yet another motorcycle marque built around his name? Or will he follow the Pierre Terblanche route, and go work in India? Will the 1190 sportbike series die off, or will a new investor kick in cash to take over the company?
And what about Hero? Supposedly, Hero was going to enter the North American motorcycle market in the near future, closely tied to the Erik Buell Racing brand. Where does this announcement leave that plan? Will another Indian motorcycle manufacturer crack our market now, flooding us with beginner bikes, or will Royal Enfield remain the sole marque from that country (unless you count all those KTM 390s …)?
At this point, all we can say is – stay tuned.