Published on 06 Dec 2010 by Alison
The 2011 Dakar rally has a list of the usual suspects for its motorcycle categories, but with a few changes in the number of participants. Making its presence felt is the new 450cc capacity rules, meaning that KTM has a lot less bikes in the rally this year than previously. There will be a reduction from 126 to 62 KTM bikes, but the flipside is that other manufacturers are increasing their competition, with Yamaha, Honda, Aprilia and BMW all entering extra bikes.
This is not to say that KTM won’t take home the prize in the 2011 Dakar anyway with its new 450 Rally bike; it’s been on a winning run since 2000 after all. Last year, though, it had to share the podium with the new Aprilia RXV 4.5. Meanwhile, news has broken that before Harley-Davidson killed off the Buell brand, there was an Erik Buell 450cc off-road model in the works.
According to an interview between Buell and motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart, that offroad project is back in the development books. The 450cc Buell offroader uses a single-cylinder Rotax motor and has an aluminium frame, although it may not be the lightest bike in this segment. While Erik Buell Racing is clearly born of track roots and will probably stay that way, it plans on investing specifically in the reliability of its offroad model.
We know that Erik Buell’s engineering talent knows no introduction and while the project will apparently cost much less than the purported millions that HD invested, the new company is still looking for significant financial partners for the future of Erik Buell Racing. Whoever they may be, they will have to allow Buell his head, as he says in the interview that he wants no limits on his creativity. Finally being able to produce bikes that he designed years ago, and taking the fortunes of the new company and its racing enterprise forward, there is room for this small offroad project as well.
Of its 450cc offroad model, Erik Buell says:
Among my projects there are also offroad bikes. I’ve been thinking about making one for a while even if it hasn’t happened yet; but now I’m close to doing that. It will have a special single-cylinder, 450cc Rotax engine. We’re not aiming on producing the lightest bike ever, but a very light one anyway, that is more reliable than competitors’, that needs little maintenance and that it easy to start. It will have an aluminium chassis that will also function as the tank….
Harley Davidson had spent years and many millions of dollars on this project, but then management decided that it wasn’t appropriate for the Buell brand. We knew that many dealers would have appreciated an offroad model in their range, though. The project was stopped between the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 and I think that was the start of the end for Buell.
So it was a simple dirt bike that was the beginning of the end for Buell…? We’ll be very interested to see whether this project gets off the ground, and if we could see a future Erik Buell Racing offroad model in a Dakar rally. That definitely could shake things up a bit.