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Common Tread

Buell to show two new prototypes, including a 175-horsepower dirt bike

Feb 28, 2022

Buell Motorcycles plans to unveil two new prototypes at Daytona Bike Week in a matter of days, and one of them is not just a new model, but arguably a new category of motorcycle. Would you buy a 175-horsepower dirt bike?

Buell CEO Bill Melvin is confidently predicting people will.

A year ago, I interviewed Melvin as he was preparing to display new Buell models at Daytona Bike Week. Those bikes were the 1190RX Hammerhead sport bike and the 1190SX, a more upright street bike. Both were built on the intellectual property Melvin's company, Liquid Asset Partners, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, acquired when the previous iteration, Erik Buell Racing, went out of business: features such as aluminum frames that carry fuel inside them, a perimeter front brake rotor and a liquid-cooled, 72-degree V-twin engine. (Erik Buell has turned his attention to his electric-vehicle company, Fuell, and is not involved in the current iteration of Buell Motorcycles.)

Last year, the Buell display at Daytona was small. This year, the company has begun producing motorcycles and several of them will be on display at a bigger site just north of the J&P Cycles Superstore in Ormond Beach. After Bike Week, those 1190RXs and 1190SXs will be delivered to the customers who preordered them, Melvin said.

Two new models will also be on display, and that's where it gets really interesting.

The Baja DR, a 175-horsepower dirt bike

To me, the more interesting and maybe even a little bizarre of the two models to be unveiled at Daytona is the Baja DR (DR stands for "dune racer"). Using the same liquid-cooled V-twin, tuned to put out 175 horsepower and 101 foot-pounds of torque, the Baja DR is not an adventure-touring motorcycle. It's a pure dirt bike, not street-legal.

"It's a beast," said Melvin. "We're excited about it. There's plans to have future models that will be dual-sports, but first, this bike is such an animal with such speed, we're starting it as a Baja Dune Racer."

The Baja DR borrows from the 1190HCR race bike ridden by Logan and Luke Cipala in the AMA Pro Hillclimb series. Logan won the championship in 2020 on the Buell, shown in the Instagram post below.

The Baja DR carries over HCR features such as the trellis frame, a swingarm that can be adjusted to stretch the wheelbase from 66 inches to 70 inches, a 37-inch seat height, and 26.75 degrees of rake in the front end. There's no mention yet of the weight, which is always a major factor for an off-road bike. The estimated starting price is $19,995 and Buell expects to begin production of the Baja DR in 2023.

I admit I was very skeptical when I talked to Melvin. Who's going to load a heavy, $20,000 motorcycle into a truck or a trailer to go riding in the dirt? Buell likes to point out the performance Cipala got out of the HCR, only using first gear, but unless you go to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where would you ever be able to use all six gears on this dirt bike anyway? Sure, it will be powerful and fast, but how fast can you go in the dirt?

Melvin shrugged off my doubts and pointed out that people are already hauling expensive, fast, off-road vehicles out to the sand dunes, but they're four-wheelers. "We view this as going into the real high-performance side-by-side category for two wheels," he said.

I still have my doubts, but on the other hand, even if the market niche for the Baja DR is small, it has no competition. I can't think of another off-road-only motorcycle that matches up with it directly. I think it may be a new category of one.

Buell SuperTouring 1190

The other new bike Buell will show at Daytona is the SuperTouring 1190, which was teased last year in the photo shown at the top. While that teaser photo led us to believe the SuperTouring would be an adventure-tourer, because of its aluminum boxes for luggage and semi-knobby tires, the prototype to be unveiled this weekend will be fully street-focused, Melvin said.

"It's built for paved roads, going fast, and as far as you want," Melvin said.

The SuperTouring 1190 is expected to start at $21,995 and production is slated to begin this fall. The company will begin accepting reservations Saturday and prospective buyers only have to put $25 down to get on the list for either of the two new models.

Melvin paints a rosy picture of the new Buell's future, with a new management team in place, "a great order book," motorcycles now being produced, and the first ones about to be delivered to paying customers.

But with motorcycles about to be released into the wild, how they perform will be the more telling next chapter in the long Buell story.