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Thread: Will There Ever be a Viable American Non-Cruiser Motorcycle

  1. #1
    EBRforum Expert Scott's Avatar
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    Will There Ever be a Viable American Non-Cruiser Motorcycle

    Now that EBR is on the canvas (though perhaps not completely counted out yet), what's left as our best hope for a non-cruiser bike?

    I have owned just about every type of non-cruiser motorcycle there is over the years - parallel twins, v-twins and inline 4's all in simple, short wheelbase, standard or sport configurations - the kind of bike that you can get out on a windy road and just have fun.

    And since the mid-seventies, I've had the seemingly simple desire to see a US company make that kind of bike.

    At this point, Buell (under Harley) seems the high-water mark, but they clearly don't exist anymore. So will we ever see it, and if so, who will it be? I've assembled a list of potential candidates. Am I missing any? Will any of these pan out?

    Cleveland Cyclewerks:

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    With our old friend Bruce Belfer taking over production, this is a particularly interesting one for me. I like the simplicity, light-weight. It even has a kick-starter - which stirs something in me and reminds me of the early bikes I owned and had an emotional attachment to.

    The idea that it's not a true American bike, but cheap Chinese junk pretending to be American could hurt it, but I think Bruce B. may be able to fight that image.

    47 Moto:

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    I don't actually know much about this one, but I've seen some mention of it recently. It has unique modern styling that I like. I believe the price is a little high, but will it be within a range people will be willing to pay for something so unique. As with CCW, it may be a matter of image. Can they market it as a true American bike?

    Motus:

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    I've frankly never been fully on-board with Motus, because, for my tastes, it's too big, too expensive and sort of ugly. I would probably never buy one, but they survived up to this point, and might just be the one to do it. While it's not a cruiser, it may share some elements with cruisers and maybe that's the key to surviving.

    Indian:

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    Indian may not belong on this list, because unlike other brands I'm listing, they haven't expressed any real, official intention to build a non-cruiser bike, but I'm hoping their new 750 flat-tracker makes it to production in something very close to the track bike. That could very well be wishful thinking on my part.

    Zero:

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    In some ways, Zero may be using their unique formula to not only be the first real non-cruiser, but be a true bike of the future. At this moment, I think electrics are still overpriced, overweight and under-powered compared to their ICE counterparts. But are they unique enough that customers with disposable income are willing to pay the extra price until they can meet... and eventually exceed the performance of traditional bikes?

    I have to admit that I'm intrigued by the idea of a bike that has no oil to change, chain to lube, spark plugs to change or gasoline to drain for winter.

    Imagine having this bike in the garage when a warm day comes around in January. Just unplug it, hop on and go. No filling a gas tank that you drained (or worrying that ice or gunk from an undrained tank combined with a weak battery and high-viscosity cold oil will have you trying to crank it over and just getting sickly sounding "wa-wa-wa" sounds).

    When I was younger, working on the bike used to be half the fun, but honestly, at my age, the idea of a bike that's as low-maintenance as the Zero seems it should be is quite intriguing.


    So what do you think? Which of these American bikes are most interesting to you (and am I missing any)? Which of these are most likely to still be around 5-10 years from now?
    Last edited by Scott; 02-12-2017 at 11:04 AM.

  2. #2
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    Interesting subject for discussion. I've also been interested in all of these bikes to some degree.

    It turns out the new kid on the block, 47moto, has actual Buell DNA. Mike Samarzja, company principal, is one of the original "Elves" from Buell with his name at least 3-Buell-related patents. Then again, it's a pricey 250. It could be a very fun bike but I'm not sure many of us would be willing to buy one.

    I had hoped that Victory would move towards building sportier motorcycles after Polaris started Indian. The Octane was a huge disappointment in that regard, and now they're dead anyway.

    Harley has one model that fits the bill, the Sportster Roadster, but I have no idea how well it's selling and if it will stick around. I actually prefer its appearance over the XR1200 which I thought looked ungainly with that Superglide-like boat tail and huge mufflers. The XR had a better engine and suspension components, but the Roadster's not bad. OTOH it's got ~30 less HP and weighs 100 lbs more than a Buell XB12S that hasn't been built for 8 years.

    Indian seems like our best short-term hope for a decent standard. I read they're promising a new model release later this month and then another (maybe several) this summer), but those may just turn out to be more disappointments.

    Zero is pretty interesting, and it also has some Buell DNA. Former Buell engineer (head of testing IIRC) Abe Askanazi moved to Zero when Buell shut down. I noticed that Zero switched to belt drives shortly after Abe's arrival. These bikes seem to be steadily improving year-by-year, but I'm not quite ready to move over from IC engines.

    I keep thinking that between EBR, Cleveland, and 47moto, you could have a great design team, a decent range of models, and a decent dealer network. That might be just enough to make a sustainable American non-cruiser motorcycle company.
    Last edited by Hughlysses; 02-12-2017 at 12:42 PM.

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    EBRforum Junkie 1190SX's Avatar
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    I think a lot of manufacturers also look at EBR and Buell as an example of what not to do in the US motorcycle industry. "Sports bikes are not marketable here" "That is Jap ****" We are fighting an uphill battle. Harley, and more broadly cruisers, have become synonymous with American culture whereas sports bikes are viewed as popular with younger people and thus seem to have a attained a hooligan reputation. Running from police, stunting on the freeways, not something you will see on a Harley because, well, despite what cruiser fans might believe it would be no easy feat to pull off. Sports bikes run circles around cruiser performance. Harley's on the other hand have the 'badass outlaw' image they have worked hard to cultivate. I hate to say it, but if worst comes to worst, I'll just get back on the Euro/Jap bike train. You wont sell me on any chromed out 700lbs cruiser any time soon.

    I think I understand part of the downturn for sports bike market, I have noticed a trend of younger people buying affordable cruiser's such as the Indian Scout or inexpensive Harley's. Up until recently you have to admit, Harley's and for the most part Indian's have out priced younger buyers with less income. And the thing young people desire most, respect, is supposed to come with "being a bad ass" on a cruiser.
    Last edited by 1190SX; 02-12-2017 at 01:10 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hughlysses View Post
    Interesting subject for discussion. I've also been interested in all of these bikes to some degree.

    It turns out the new kid on the block, 47moto, has actual Buell DNA. Mike Samarzja, company principal, is one of the original "Elves" from Buell with his name at least 3-Buell-related patents. Then again, it's a pricey 250. It could be a very fun bike but I'm not sure many of us would be willing to buy one.

    I had hoped that Victory would move towards building sportier motorcycles after Polaris started Indian. The Octane was a huge disappointment in that regard, and now they're dead anyway.

    Harley has one model that fits the bill, the Sportster Roadster, but I have no idea how well it's selling and if it will stick around. I actually prefer its appearance over the XR1200 which I thought looked ungainly with that Superglide-like boat tail and huge mufflers. The XR had a better engine and suspension components, but the Roadster's not bad. OTOH it's got ~30 less HP and weighs 100 lbs more than a Buell XB12S that hasn't been built for 8 years.

    Indian seems like our best short-term hope for a decent standard. I read they're promising a new model release later this month and then another (maybe several) this summer), but those may just turn out to be more disappointments.

    Zero is pretty interesting, and it also has some Buell DNA. Former Buell engineer (head of testing IIRC) Abe Askanazi moved to Zero when Buell shut down. I noticed that Zero switched to belt drives shortly after Abe's arrival. These bikes seem to be steadily improving year-by-year, but I'm not quite ready to move over from IC engines.

    I keep thinking that between EBR, Cleveland, and 47moto, you could have a great design team, a decent range of models, and a decent dealer network. That might be just enough to make a sustainable American non-cruiser motorcycle company.


    Does anybody know if there's a connection between the Magpul Ronin and 47 Moto? I ask because of the "47".

  5. #5
    EBRforum Expert Scott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1190SX View Post
    I think a lot of manufacturers also look at EBR and Buell as an example of what not to do in the US motorcycle industry. "Sports bikes are not marketable here" "That is Jap ****" We are fighting an uphill battle. Harley, and more broadly cruisers, have become synonymous with American culture whereas sports bikes are viewed as popular with younger people and thus seem to have a attained a hooligan reputation. Running from police, stunting on the freeways, not something you will see on a Harley because, well, despite what cruiser fans might believe it would be no easy feat to pull off. Sports bikes run circles around cruiser performance. Harley's on the other hand have the 'badass outlaw' image they have worked hard to cultivate. I hate to say it, but if worst comes to worst, I'll just get back on the Euro/Jap bike train. You wont sell me on any chromed out 700lbs cruiser any time soon.

    I think I understand part of the downturn for sports bike market, I have noticed a trend of younger people buying affordable cruiser's such as the Indian Scout or inexpensive Harley's. Up until recently you have to admit, Harley's and for the most part Indian's have out priced younger buyers with less income. And the thing young people desire most, respect, is supposed to come with "being a bad ass" on a cruiser.
    Yeah, there seems to be something of a Catch 22. Because there's no history or heritage of US based standard or sport-bikes, they're viewed as un-American. But how can we ever build a history or heritage if nobody can ever get started?

  6. #6
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    I've also found myself wondering if EBR could continue as a "custom manufacturer". I remember seeing something back when Orange County Choppers had their TV show that there were special rules for custom manufacturers and they could make something like 250 motorcycles per year that didn't have to meet all the DOT EPA etc. requirements.

    What if EBR started making low-volume, "custom" bikes that were performance oriented (rather than being ridiculous stretched out beasts)? What if EBR made a low-volume fire-breathing turbo-charged 1190RX with exotic components and sold it for $60,000 - $70,000? I can imagine them finding a market for low-volume unique bikes that would be their own thing and not compete directly with mass-produced bikes.

    That could at least be a possible option that could keep them in business until they're ready and able to grow back into more of a standard manufacturer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1190SX View Post
    I think a lot of manufacturers also look at EBR and Buell as an example of what not to do in the US motorcycle industry. "Sports bikes are not marketable here" "That is Jap ****" We are fighting an uphill battle. Harley, and more broadly cruisers, have become synonymous with American culture whereas sports bikes are viewed as popular with younger people and thus seem to have a attained a hooligan reputation. Running from police, stunting on the freeways, not something you will see on a Harley because, well, despite what cruiser fans might believe it would be no easy feat to pull off. Sports bikes run circles around cruiser performance. Harley's on the other hand have the 'badass outlaw' image they have worked hard to cultivate. I hate to say it, but if worst comes to worst, I'll just get back on the Euro/Jap bike train. You wont sell me on any chromed out 700lbs cruiser any time soon.

    I think I understand part of the downturn for sports bike market, I have noticed a trend of younger people buying affordable cruiser's such as the Indian Scout or inexpensive Harley's. Up until recently you have to admit, Harley's and for the most part Indian's have out priced younger buyers with less income. And the thing young people desire most, respect, is supposed to come with "being a bad ass" on a cruiser.
    That attitude amongst American manufacturers is a combination of fear and laziness. It's the first words you hear fall out of their mouths when asked. Polaris made those same excuses when they shut down Victory. Complained that they couldn't market a sport bike...even though they NEVER tried. After the P156 Pikes Peak bike, people were SCREAMING for Polaris to build it. There's not a motorcycle person alive, marketing or not, that didn't hear everybody asking for them to build the P156. They would've sold them as fast as they could put them together. They hyped and hyped and hyped...and then built the Octane. Fear and Laziness.

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    I wouldnt buy any of those bikes.Anyone trying to make a competitive sportbike will need butt loads of money.Heck its hard for the big names to stay relevant

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    Led Boots,
    How could they ever have Nessified the 156? It wouldn't have followed the polished turd styling they had since the beginning. Maybe Indian will step up. They appear to be making Harley change a little in the flat track area. Imagine if they both, in the spirit of the old racing rivalry, build a performance bike and both support with contingencies, amateur racing. It would be far cheaper than supporting a factory race team in the big leagues and it could generate a bond with their riders that would see more long term sales and profits as they age.

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    Since having the EBR on the road for a few weeks now I can put my finger on it, the EBR gets an amplified version of the response that Buell gets from the American bike community, they don't like it because they aren't supposed to. I rode my EBR to a few club's events and while about 1/4 scoff or look askew at it on their own because it isn't a big cruiser there were allot of subtle phones in hands doing some quick searches on what the hell is this thing and about an equal number of raised eyebrows and open eyes but those folks are quickly brought to heal when they are spotted as being interested. I saw it play out over and over, a guy would check out the EBR and get "caught" by someone else who starts ribbing them about seeing them go down the road on a sport bike etc. etc. and then they retreat from admitting they like it. For a bunch of rebels who thrive on non conformity stepping outside the cookie cutter cruiser world is a socially ostracizing thing.

    It is crazy too that a Polaris Indian which is connected in name only to it's legacy is given immediate admittance while Buells and EBRs are not really considered American bikes because they aren't cruisers.

    The same scenario must have played out over and over considering buying a Buell or even an EBR and thinking that while it is what "I" want I'm going to listen to a bunch of **** for buying it.

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