Buell (EBR) 1190RX - UK first test

Author: Roland Brown Posted: 04 Apr 2014

Not much of a screen for taller riders

The design of the 1190RX hints at the identity of the man behind it, even if the bright yellow sports bike’s EBR tank badge is unfamiliar. The letters stand for Erik Buell Racing. The bike’s typical Buell features include thick, fuel-holding aluminium frame beams and a single perimeter front brake disc. There’s a big V-twin engine behind the full fairing.

And the moment you open the throttle it’s clear that the RX is something very different. The 185bhp V-twin leaps forward with a violent, thrilling burst of acceleration that’s beyond any bike that the old Buell firm built before it was abruptly closed down by cash-strapped parent company Harley-Davidson in 2009.

EBR 1190RX's side profile

That sudden end was a nightmare for Erik Buell — you might recall the video of a distraught Erik announcing the firm’s closure — but the engineer and former racer is a fighter. He’s no longer able to use his own surname on his bikes, due to legal issues with Harley. But after setting up EBR he has raised backing from Hero, the giant Indian bike firm, and has created a cracking bike with the 1190RX.

Like the old Buell firm’s 1125R, the RX uses a liquid-cooled, 72-degree V-twin engine. But instead of being built by Rotax of Austria, it’s now assembled by EBR in Wisconsin, USA. And it has been dramatically uprated, with updates including Controlled Swirl Induction — by which one titanium inlet valve opens slightly before the other, to enhance combustion — resulting in that healthy max of 185bhp at 10,600rpm.

Careful on a wet track

Chassis design combines familiar Buell features including that fuel-holding frame with plenty of new touches. The swing-arm no longer holds oil, as in the old Firebolt, but pivots on the stressed-member engine. There are Showa Big Piston Forks up front, with a similarly multi-adjustable rear shock from the same firm, operating without a rising-rate linkage. The single perimeter front disc is now a huge 386mm in diameter, and gripped by an eight-piston Nissin caliper that is cooled by plastic air ducts.

The dyno chart shows the engine’s top-end power matched by an impressively strong midrange torque, so with a claimed wet weight of just 190.5kg it’s no surprise that the RX accelerated at a hugely entertaining rate, almost regardless of what the digital tacho was reading. Perhaps it didn’t quite feel as strong at the top end as an 1199 Panigale, but low rev response was certainly stronger.

And equally importantly, the throttle response was very good, for which I was grateful on the damp Varano circuit in Italy where the bike was launched. I was also glad of the traction control, which worked well though it can’t be adjusted on the move. The clutch had a heavy action but in other respects the RX felt respectably refined, so should make a good streetbike. It certainly has heaps of V-twin character.

The EBR's extensive colour range

Its chassis also worked well, though the track didn’t dry out enough to allow a full evaluation. Handling was very neutral and predictable, aided by a reasonably roomy riding position, firm seat, short wheelbase, racy steering geometry and forward-biased weight distribution. I’d have been glad of a good ABS system when braking on the slippery surface, but the single disc gave plenty of feedback through the front Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa.

The damp track meant the bike couldn’t show all of its pace and handling ability, but the 1190RX certainly did enough to suggest it’s not just the fastest and best American sports bike yet, but is capable of giving European bikes some genuine opposition. It looks respectably well finished and much more attractive than previous Buell sports bikes, too, in a choice of yellow, red or black.

And it’s due in the UK in May, for under £14,000 that seems very reasonable for a bike built in relatively small numbers. Buell’s European boss Edwin Belonje, formerly of Triumph, is awaiting delivery of the first batch of RXs and is set to announce his first handful of dealers. The initials on the tank are different, but Buell is definitely back.

+ Points: Engine performance, light weight, innovative engineering

- Points: Heavy clutch, traction control can’t be adjusted while riding, no ABS




 185bhp, 101.6 ft.lbs

 Wet weight


 Seat height



 Red, yellow, black

Up close to the EBR's intricate bitsComponents and details of the EBR 1190RX

For more informaiton: www.ebr.com

Photos by Stuart Collins