About a week ago, I shared a trailer for a documentary of Erik Buell called the Ragged Edge. I was lucky enough to get a screener copy of this film, and wanted to share my thoughts on what is basically a modern tragedy.
Ragged Edge is an appropriate name for this film. It applies in terms of how racers are throwing around Buell’s bikes in the film, whether it’s Danny Eslick winning the 2009 AMA Pro Daytona championship or Geoff May placing in the top 10 on a 1190RS in its racing debut. It also applies in how Erik Buell has run his namesake companies – not in an irresponsible way, but out of financial necessity.
Hindsight is 20/20, and knowing that EBR closed just a month ago makes it even more devastating when you see Buell’s employees so excited to be getting their jobs back to give motorcycle production another shot with Erik.
The story starts as Harley shuts down Buell despite the AMA championship – Buell employees thought they were poised for tremendous growth, only to be stunned by the news that they were now out of work. It then follows Erik as he gets right back up and creates Erik Buell Racing. The film is well paced and enjoyable, and full of quotes that make you sad.
Erik referring to the start of EBR: “If it doesn’t work, someone’s going to have to hire me.”
Erik referring to the first race of the EBR 1190RS: “It’s hugely important for us that we do well, cause it’s all I have.”
On getting investment 2 years into EBR: “It’s the money but it’s also the knowledge that you’ve got someone else who believes in you…which is a good feeling cause I’m into this with everything that I own and it gets a little lonely out there…on the frontier.”
I realize that I make this film sound depressing, but that’s just because it makes you want Erik to win – after all, the tagline is “An American Comeback Story”, and the filming stopped when things were looking up after a large cash infusion by Hero Motorcycles. As you’d expect, a short written epilogue notes that EBR is now dead – I’ve never seen 5 seconds of text so completely unravel the previous 55 minutes of footage before.
All in all, it’s a fascinating look at Buell and what drives him. I look forward to his next attempt at making America’s greatest production motorcycle – though Motus might have something to say about that! Take an hour to learn more about what could have been – you can rent the film here on Vimeo on Demand.