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Buell posted by

Strange Pursuit – 1991 Buell RS1200


This post is in our archives. Links in this post have been updated to point to similar bikes available to bid on eBay.

Early on at Buell, Erik was transitioning to road machines, lining up dealers, arranging drive-trains with Harley, and a couple of hundred was a successful model.  A break in the weather ( or maybe the no-reserve auction ) has generated some interest in this low-mile RS1200.

1991 Buell RS1200 for sale on eBay

The RS1200 is based on the Battletwin and used the big Sporty V-twin.  Early Buell concepts like the uniplanar engine mounts, underslung pull-shock and mass-centralizing Supertrapp exhaust are on display, but later fuel and oil tank ideas and ZTL brakes were still a gleam in the founder’s eye.  The bike also has anti-dive Marzocchi forks, house-designed alloy wheels, and a racy but peculiar pillion seat, which contained the passenger in response to the torque of the 4-speed Screamin’ Eagle 1200.

With under 12,000 miles, this Buell is in between regular riders, but the Kansas owner has had it tuned up and save a spring for the rear brake ( pedal return ? ) gives it a clean bill of health.  Corbin could do a quick re-cover on the seat and a day at the spa would do the pearl white body a world of good.

From the eBay auction:

Selling my RS1200 Buell. 1991 model. Early Buell. About only 200 of these RS models were ever made. Clear and open Kansas title In hand. 

Just under 12k miles on it. Runs and rides excellent. Brand new tune up, battery etc. 
I have a video of it running if you wish. Send me your email address and I can email it to you. 
All the lights and horns and dash lights work as needed. Only thing I see it needs it spring is loose on rear brake and never took time to fix it up so it’s not working. Front brake works perfect. Tires are good.
The paint and fiberglass work is in pretty good shape. This is a fairly rare and desired Buell.

Pre-dating H-D’s financial interest in the company, the RS1200 was substantially hand-built and the short chassis got high marks for sharp handling.  Also the fairing, expansive enough to protect a full-size rider in the RS’s relaxed riding position.  The MSRP was $15K, quite a number in 1991, and bidding is surprisingly active for an auction with six days to run, but a no-reserve auction can excite.  As can a January thaw’s promise of spring, and thoughts of a flat Kansas two-lane and a bargain on a big loud 1200…



  • These early Buells used PM (Performance Machine) wheels, pretty trick at the time. But these bikes very much have a “kit bike” feel to them. Cobbled together, the fit/finish isn’t nearly on the same level as even contemporary euro bikes. Plenty if torque but just when you get the motor revved enough to start having fun the Rev limiter kills the party. I owned one and wouldn’t buy another.

  • Love the pre HD Buells.

  • There is a nice low mile blue 1992 RS1200 on E-bay as well, and that guy at least cleaned the bug guts off of the fairing.
    These are really neat bikes with a great look.

  • Almost wrote that blue one, but the bidding on the white got my attention…

  • Interesting, I fully expected 10 plus posts of hate. While I’d ride an 1190RX in a heartbeat, this is one of those bastard children I’d be embarrassed about if I were Erik Buell. Why the hell did/would anyone want to ruin a sporty frame/chassis by putting an anemic engine into it? And holy hell it’s FUGLY! And don’t provide an excuse about the year, just look to your right and you’ll see innumerable photos of gorgeous bikes that aged quite well from both during and before this bike’s time. Seriously… and I’ll even admit that there many great looking Harley’s though I’d never spend my own money on one. I’ve seen some of the blacked out dyna glides that look amazing (yes, lower case on purpose, lol).

    I don’t know why I’m so excited about this; this makes me think of putting a 90’s era GS500 engine and putting it into a GSX-R750 frame. No, wait, that’s insulting to BOTH of those bikes. SMH.

    • Eh, I’m not sure it’s ruined the sportbike frame to put a torquey, fun engine in it. Yeah, it could have been made faster with less of a boat-anchor between the rails, but then what would you suggest someone who was building an “All American Sportbike” do? I think it’s a pretty cool engineering challenge: “Take the most unlikely engine you can think of and make a sportbike around it.” And I’ve never heard anyone complain about Harley’s lack of torque, something that works great for a roadbike. Styling for the RS1200 is pretty odd, but I’ve personally always been a fan of stuff that goes it’s own way just to be different. And as far as performance goes: at the end of the day very, very few people are actually riding sportbikes at their limit, especially on the road, where most bikes live. I’ve never ridden one of these, but I did get to ride my buddy’s later White Lightning and it was a scream. I’m quite sure a good rider could use it to keep up with just about any sportbike you could name on a canyon road. By the way, I think a better example would be “put a 90s era Yamaha TDM engine into a GSX-R frame.” Which would be awesome I bet. Anyway, just my $.02 but everyone knows by now that I like weird…

      Also, since he managed to actually design his own motorcycles and start his own motorcycle company, I doubt Erik is anything but proud of this machine. If I could claim to have designed and produced any motorcycle, I’d be proud as hell.

  • I think the only thing Erik Buell has any shame about was the blast. ( was a bit of a turd )

    • Yeah he hated the Blast so badly they sold them as coffee tables rather than riders (really).

      I’m with David on the Fuglies with regard to most all Buells. The XBs looked fine, but otherwise, all the early ones and the later Rotax-powered Buells are just so damn ugly I can’t get past it. I rode the Rotax bikes at a Buell-sponsored track day (they did this a fair amount actually) and I loved the bike: the motor, chassis, all were good (except the rim-mounted brakes faded badly when pushed hard on a track). I’ve seriously considered buying a CR 1125, but the side scoops are horrific and its not an easy delete to just lop them off. As nice as that 1125 is to ride (and sorry, but I can’t say the same for the Harley-powered Buells – a sportbike should rev at least a little, and this is from a guy who LOVES my Guzzi Lemans – yes the Lemans is a top end screamer compared to a Harley Buell), I can’t bring myself to have one sitting around uglifying the rest of the garage…

      Yes a Harley Buell can be ridden as fast as most anything on the street, but I don’t like having to upshift at 6000rpm.

    • I get the feeling the Blast wasn’t really his idea… But damn, they were rough to look at and, apparently, to ride. Although BikeEXIF did feature a really neat one a guy had built in his apartment a while back… Worth looking up. He basically stripped it down and it looks nothing like the original bike: http://www.bikeexif.com/buell-blast-custom Not pretty, but neat for a build in your apartment. I’ve ridden the later EBR SX and RX and they seemed to be great bikes, but there wasn’t much to recommend them over any other sporty v-twin. Really good to ride, but I didn’t find them inspiring personally. The only Buell I really find myself interested in the XB12S or XB9S which are currently very cheap and pretty cool.

      Funny you mention the LeMans being “a top-end screamer”: I read a comparison between it and the same era Ducati 900SS and apparently it really does rev much more freely than the Ducati!

    • Good point about the Blast. But at least the engine looks pretty good naked… See my other comment to BillyB for a link to a really bizarre custom build.

  • I’ve owned a Buell Ulysses for a few years and love almost everything about it. There are (many) quirks, but I see these as providing the character that conventional bikes lack. I imagine these older ones have even more! I bet they are fun bikes. Cheers to RSBFS for presenting these machines.

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