2015 EBR 1190SX Test

2015 EBR 1190SX Review | Enter the Dragon
2015 EBR 1190SX

Erik Buell Racing has the perfect prescription to lead motorcyclists out of the winter doldrums and into spring—the EBR 1190SX. Riders need only take a big handful of front brake to make the SX shed speed easily, and then drop into a fast corner with perfect grace, agility, excellent feedback and a very firm ride.

Pick up the throttle gently as the transition can be slightly abrupt with the massive 102 ft/lbs of torque (claimed) this V-twin produces. No worries here, as the 20-level traction control keeps the wheels in line unless you choose to let it slide a bit, and then it’s quite predictable.

Finish with a twist of the wrist and the 185-horsepower 1190SX rockets out of the turn with a fierce wail as revs climb quickly to the 11,500 redline. Repeat as needed.

EBR, which unfortunately ceased operations in April, calls this a “superfighter”, a portmanteau of “superbike” and “streetfighter”. I agree. To say I am quite impressed with this machine is an understatement.

All it took was tipping it into some of my favorite roads to win my heart. I found myself smiling and occasionally laughing in my helmet as I pushed it harder, and it responded like few bikes in the world can. The 1190SX delivered no negative surprises near the edge of the envelope and, like every world-class bike designed to go very fast, always offered more.

I ran the 1190SX hard through many of the famous roads dotting our SoCal home. The weather was cool and clear and the roads were clean, warm and fast. Together, we experienced every imaginable type of scenario, and there were no disappointments. I tried everything in my power to overwhelm the bike and all it did was treat me like a doting, protective parent who understands that the kid has a lot to learn. Such are the ways of the finest machines.

I rode the EBR 1190RX race replica last year and came away with a neutral opinion. In retrospect, I believe the short time I spent on the RX was not enough to get properly acquainted, especially with the certain unique personality that runs through all the EBR bikes. It was with this trepidation that I approached the 2015 EBR 1190SX, and the grinning started when I took the time to get to know it.

2015 EBR 1190SX TestThis is not a bike for the faint of heart or the inexperienced, but with judicious application of the throttle, the SX can be as docile and as friendly to ride as its classmates. Any slight lack of perceived refinement—and only due to the nature of a powerful V-twin—is overshadowed by its raw character and the pure exhilaration it imparts on its pilot.

For those that eschew electronic rider aids, this EBR gives the rider just what is needed and no more. ABS is not offered and there is only one fueling map—prestissimo. The throttle action was linear and proportional, with no flat spots.

The rider sits atop the 1190SX and sees nothing past the dashboard, except pavement. Its actual and observed size seems more akin to a supersport and this is also reflected in the handling characteristics — sharp with lightning fast transitions, yet stable.

Its 55.5-inch wheelbase—almost three inches short than a KTM 1290 Super Duke R—helps give the 1190SX razor-edged handling, as does the steep rake of 22.4 degrees (more than two degrees tighter than the KTM). Yet, the SX is rock steady in a straight line at all speeds. A non-adjustable steering damper is standard, and certainly helps.

Even with its diminutive size, my six-foot frame fit quite comfortably, with an almost full upright torso position, extended arms and plenty of legroom for all-day riding, even with the lightly padded plank-like saddle. There is no wind protection, but that is obvious and not a detriment. Given the 170 mph theoretical top speed, this naked version of the RX was not de-tuned in any way.

The chassis geometry and size allow very fast corner entries, and yields stable transitions to full lean. The trademark Buell 386mm single perimeter disc combined with an eight-piston Nissin caliper, and 220mm rear disc with a two-piston Hayes caliper, is just as effective as anything available from Brembo for aggressive street riding.

The smooth and linear engagement, excellent initial bite and fade-free operation through repeated hard usage allow this pilot to keep his mind on fast- approaching apexes. We did not get ABS this year, but look for it in 2016.

Stability and handling are primary directives with the SX and EBR’s choice of Showa’s 43mm Big Piston Fork and linkless single-shock — both fully adjustable, naturally — are extremely effective in conjunction with the aluminum alloy twin-spar chassis that doubles as fuel and oil tanks.

I have ridden a number of bikes with the BPF, and have found they exhibit a high degree of stability combined with an adjustment range that has always been able to satisfy. With the addition of premium Pirelli Rosso Corsa rubber mounted on cast aluminum wheels, grip is nothing short of massive.

Power is applied through an effective, hydraulically actuated slipper clutch to a close-ratio six-speed transmission. Lever action and feel are excellent; even with the high gearing in first, it is easy to get the SX off the line. Shifts are butter smooth and as positive as any Japanese bike.

2015 EBR 1190SXThe 1190SX weighs a claimed 441 pounds, with the 4.5-gallon tank filled. You will be looking for gas at about 120 miles, as I averaged around 32 mpg under hard use.

Fit and finish are better than last year’s RX, though the thin plastic and decals feel cheap—improvement is still needed. The color dash is readable in any light, and comprehensive including lap timers, maintenance interval timer, clock, traction control setting, and more. Included are nice, adjustable rearsets with knurled aluminum pegs.

My only reservation relates to the sound. When on the road, above 6000 rpm, I have no complaint. At lower speeds and around town, the big V-twin sounds like a chainsaw gone berserk. The problem, if considering a change, is that only the lower pipe is exhaust, while the upper pipe balances back pressure. Adding a slip-on would lose power in this carefully engineered system so we will have to wait for an aftermarket company to devise a solution.

The SX is the complete package, offers no excuses, and slots into the segment on equal terms with the finest from Europe. I’m calling the 1190SX The Dragon. It’s a bit rough, tractable, easily angered, and raw, yet it is fully capable. Turn after turn, the 2015 EBR 1190SX delivers everything asked of it, and more.

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Joe Rocket Speedmaster Carbon
  • Jacket: Joe Rocket Speedmaster
  • Gloves: Joe Rocket GPX 2.0
  • Pants; Joe Rocket Speedmaster 5.0
  • Boots: Joe Rocket Ballistic Touring

Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.

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