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Pre-Harley – 1990 Buell RS1200

In the wild west days before Harley-Davidson had taken a proprietary interest in Buell, the race engineer and developer designed an amazing string of sport-oriented machines.  Very rare these days, the RS1200 is a memorable low production special, almost handcrafted in appearance with interesting design elements in every system.


1990 Buell RS1200 for sale on eBay



With concepts originating from his Formula One and Battletwin designs, Erik Buell took aim at the supersport segment with the RS1200.  Using Harley's 1200cc pushrod engine, the bike had plenty of torque if not overwhelming horsepower numbers.  Buell's Uniplanar frame design attempted to channel the big v-twin's vibrations into the vertical element.  The RS1200 came with Marzocchi front end, an anti-dive system, and bespoke front brakes, complementing Buell's aluminum wheel design.  Using mass-centralization before it became cool, the muffler and rear monoshock are way forward.  The fairing sports Vitaloni mirrors and little shin pads, and the swoop of the seat ends in a peculiar though effective pillion seat and sissy bar.



Preserved by a former Harley dealer, this RS1200 has under 2,300 miles and looks ready to ride.  The billet-cut parts testify to the low production numbers, their raw lack of finish making a serious statement.  Earlier RS's had a four-speed transmission and it would be worth inquiring whether this machine has the 5-speed.  Though not much history is given, it's a one-owner bike with some engine work as they state in the eBay auction -

This engine alone has had over $10K in upgrades! Sputh Crank, Aluminum Jugs, Coated Pistons, Andrews V8 Cams, STD Race Heads, Roller Rockers, Shorty E Carb, MSD Ignition, Buell Racing Pegs. Only 2279 Miles! Was bought new from us when we were a Harley-Davidson Dealer. Meticulously Maintained! Needs nothing but a new home.



Tailoring expectations to reality, you wouldn't expect the RS1200 to stay with a comparable sportbike in anything but maybe a 3rd gear roll-on contest.  There's no denying the big twin or hiding from its big mass.  But if you were a fan of sportbike development engineering before computer aided design and additive prototyping, this domestic supersport might be a great way to show it...




  • The engine shows S&S. Does anyone can explain it it the engine should be Harley’s? Was it due to trade limitations about the use if HD name on Buell’s engines? Sorry my poor knowledge about that period…

    • S&S build high-performance parts and complete v-twin engines for Harley Davidson motorcycles, as well as their own, proprietary engine found in those funky Morgan three-wheeled cars.

  • Not to everyones taste, but as an unashamed Buell fanboy I’d love to have it. Cue the haters. 🙂

  • My initial thoughts were it’s ugly…..however it’s still a motorcycle and deserves some respect. However upon closer observation it has a folding cowl \ back rest too!

    A mates dad (RIP Ricky) once said to me “You’ve got to respect the dog for it’s owner” referring to his sons girlfriend at the time. This example of a motorcycle appears to be one of those cases.

  • That’s just an S&S air filter cover although it’s possible that they built the whole motor for Buell. Also, those wheels and brakes were made by Performance Machine.
    I visited Erik’s Mukwanago Wisconsin shop back in the 80’s when he was still working on the F1 bike with the Barton 500cc 2-stroke engine. The race team I was with had a TZ750 and they stopped in to have some special brake rotors put on the front end. The rotors had an aluminum core with a thin disc of stainless steel adhered to either side where the brake pads contacted the rotor. The rotors along with some judicious machining of the carriers saved 7 lbs off the front end of the TZ. Too bad they didn’t work when our rider tried them out at Road America as the stainless steel part distorted and developed high spots.
    Erik has certainly been a guy who is willing to take a different road and I like that.

    Good times!

    • Came to say this re: wheels and brakes. PM 4 piston calipers and Chicane wheels. Not a Buell design!


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