1986 Buell RR1000

The 1986 Buell RR1000 Battle Twin, which was originally built as a one-off show bike, ended up launching a new era in American sport bikes
By Alan Cathcart
March/April 2010
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Whatever the angle, the RR1000 is an impressive machine. Yet when it was released in 1986, opinions on the bodywork were polarized; it was viewed as either bizarre or revolutionary, with little in between.
Photo by Phil Masters


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1986 Buell RR1000 Battle Twin

Years produced: 1986-1988
Claimed power: 77hp @ 5,600rpm
Top speed: 140mph (est.)
Engine type: 998cc pushrod air-cooled OHV V-twin
Weight: 374lb (170kg) (claimed)
MPG: N/A
Price then: $12,495
Price now: $25,000-$50,000

After 26 years as America’s only volume production sport bike manufacturer, Buell Motorcycle Co. has reached the end of the line. The shocking announcement last October that Harley-Davidson would discontinue Buell production came as a bolt from the blue, closing an amazing chapter in U.S. motorcycle history.

Harley-Davidson’s announcement brought an end to 59-year-old Erik Buell’s dream of breaking the 2-wheeled template of American motorcycle products. Not many people who devote their lives to making their hobby their livelihood ever become so successful, but Buell has swum against the tide his whole life. Not only did Buell have a 40,000-square-foot factory in East Troy, Wis., where 180 employees produced 13,119 Buell motorcycles for the 2009 model year, but the product that rolled out of the door was practically a contradiction in terms. Alongside the liquid-cooled DOHC, Rotax-powered 8-valve 1125R, Buell built a range of air-cooled pushrod V-twin sports bikes featuring a leading-edge chassis sporting European hardware and a level of handling and performance out of kilter with the American Way of motorcycling. Think of it as Harley-Davidson meets Bimota.

In the beginning

The first bike to incorporate Buell’s radical ideas on chassis design was the RR1000, launched in 1986 and powered by the iron-barreled, Sportster-based Harley engine from the XR1000. The RR1000 set the direction for future Buells, incorporating Buell’s patented Uniplanar rubber engine mounts, which permitted the vibratory Harley engine to be mounted as a fully stressed component of the light but sturdy tubular steel space frame. This had a monoshock rear end — another first for a Harley-engined motorcycle — but with the suspension unit slung horizontally beneath the dry sump engine, and operating in extension rather than in compression as on most other motorcycles. MC

Order the March/April 2010 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1986 Buell RR1000 Battle Twin, including a road test by Alan Cathcart. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.


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