ShareThis Page
News Columnists

Gibsonia native gets a gearhead's pulse racing

| Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

Erik Buell grew up in Gibsonia and attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he proved to be a whiz at engineering.

Buell, now of Wisconsin, also had a penchant for riding motorcycles fast through Oakland. He used those skills to create his own bespoke motorcycle race team in the 1980s. Years later, Buell transferred that experience and created a line of street bikes that rode on his cleverly engineered chassis using time-proven Harley-Davidson power plants.

The formula has been so successful that the Steel City native invited dozens of media representatives from around the world to a launch of his newest model -- a funky, futuristic little rocket known as the 1125 Cafe Racer -- in Berlin over the weekend.

Few motorcyclists, let alone motorcycling writers, would pass up a chance to eat schnitzel and ride fast motorcycles in Europe for a weekend, so I jumped a plane for Germany.

Buell, who still exudes a Pittsburgher's down-to-Earth charm, arranged for us to test his latest contraption at a racetrack and mapped out a 200-mile trek through the former East Germany.

Like a David Hasselhoff music video, this was strange, Teutonic territory, with our motorcycles speeding through deserted villages that looked like sets from Brughel paintings and skirting the border with Poland.

The crowning stint of our journey involved a high-speed run along the vaunted autobahn, which to us gearheads is something akin to playing quarterback for the Steelers -- on Super Bowl Sunday.

The autobahn is one of the few roads where speed limits are self imposed, which is Christmas and the Fourth of July combined for serious speed freaks.

Buell's crew pointed our motorcycles to this pristine slab of asphalt and let us loose. To be sure, it was a mind-altering experience, whizzing between 18-wheelers at 140 mph, but I have to admit, for all its legend and lore, the autobahn was a bit of a letdown. The road was no better or wider than the Parkway East.

The only real difference was that drivers used their turn signals and stayed off their cell phones. And they actually acknowledged driving etiquette and merged with care.

Erik Buell likely will sell a ton of his motorcycles to his native Pittsburghers, and good on him. If we'd only learn to drive like the Germans, he'd likely sell even more.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me