Harley-Davidson's Wildest Child

Buell makes sport bikes that cyclists love to ride and employees love to build

SAVERIO TRUGLIA FOR TIME

The energetic Buell, front, is not your average chairman

Erik Buell, Founder and Chairman of Buell Motorcycles, the Harley-Davidson subsidiary that makes high-performance sport bikes, is dressed in his signature mechanic's shirt and faded blue jeans when he greets me at the Buell plant in rural East Troy, Wis. He's bouncing around from subject to subject--from his beloved sport bikes to motocross to how he makes guitars--with a passion that's palpable. I quickly forget the plane ride that I spent fretting about how to get out of riding a motorcycle. Buell has turned it into an opportunity you wouldn't want to miss.

The 58-year-old former motorcycle racer from small-town Pennsylvania...