The motorcycle business has never been easy, and even a famous name cannot ensure a future for a small factory.  Alexander and Felicitas Frei purchased Egli Motorradtechnik AG from Fritz Egli in 2015, with high hopes to carry on with his legacy of building amazing high-performance cafe racers.  This week, the Freis put out a press release stating they are shuttering the famous house of Egli:

Alexander Frei and Fritz W. Egli, from the website of Egli Motorcycles.

There’s a time for everything…

More than 9 years ago, Fritz W. Egli was looking for a successor for his Egli Motorradtechnik AG and finally found it in 2015. When we stepped in to continue the company at its location in Bettwil, our aim was not just to keep the workshop as it was at the time and to continue importing brands. We wanted to raise Egli to a higher level as a Swiss Motorcycle brand and also to build up a classic department which, in addition to the Egli range, would carefully restore vintage and classic motorcycles by hand.Our re-entry into the racing scene with our involvement in the IOM Classic TT was intended to be a further step towards revitalizing the brand. At the same time, we tried to bring the Egli-Vincent trademark back to its place of origin. Unfortunately in vain – the Vincent and Egli-Vincent brands were sold to a group in India [actually, the names were licensed by their owner many years ago – ed.].

After the presentation of the new Egli “Fritz W.” in 2017, the idea of an Egli Motorcycle developed and manufactured entirely in Switzerland – including its own engine with road approval – became more and more concrete, until the starting signal for the new project was given in 2018 with a team of young engineers and qualified employees. The new Egli with a 1400 cc V2 engine is running, has already passed the first noise and exhaust measurements and has covered a considerable distance on closed roads. We have come a long way, but we are still too far away from road homologation and it will take a lot of time and additional financial commitment to overcome the final hurdles in the „forest“ of standards and regulations.

The world has changed rapidly in recent years – economically, politically and environmentally – and the requirements on motorized traffic are changing at the same pace. We too have now reached retirement age and have therefore decided to step back from daily business.

Over the past 9 years, we have had many great moments with customers, employees, business partners and friends. We were able to celebrate successes and also had to deal with setbacks – everything that is part of an exciting motorcycle life. We would like to thank you all very much for this. Without your support, many things would not have been possible. But everything has its time and so we will cease business operations at the Bettwil on November 30, 2023 and put the company into an orderly liquidation.
We are pleased and grateful that all employees have already found a new job or have decided to become self-employed.
We wish you all the best for the future!
– Alexander & Felicitas Frei

For your additional interest: the following is an exclusive interview for The Vintagent with Alexander Frei, after his purchased the Egli name outright from Fritz W. Egli.  Paul has long known Alexander’s cousin, John Frei of San Francisco, via a long association with the Velocette Owners Club.  John Frei’s grandfather was brother to Alexander’s grandfather, and was watchmaker in Switzerland who emigrated to US.

The start of it all: Fritz W. Egli in 1960, with the Horex cafe racer he modified himself, after buying the remaining Horex spares from the factory. [Egli Archive]
Paul d’Orleans (PDO):  What’s your story with motorcycles?

Alexander Frei (AF): Motorcycles take over your life.

I started my professional career in the watchmaking industry; starting the traditional way with an apprenticeship as a micromechanic, then earned a microengineering diploma.  When I met my wife Felicitas, her father owned a medical implant company, so I joined the business.  When her father died his businesses were sold, with the last in 2000.  Then I started a career in car racing, as more or less a hobby.  At the beginning I raced Lamborghinis, then was a factory driver for Courage Competition, a French endurance racing team in the Le Mans series. I raced LeMans four times with the LMP1, and three times with and LMP2.  Kevin Schwantz was racing the same LeMans team as mine, and Mario Andretti too, but a few years before me.  Mario Andretti was old but still a good endurance driver – the cars were fast, but the materials were not always first class as they were short of money.  You’d be going fast them boom, you waste time in the pits.  I’m not as good a motorcyclist as car driver, but I’ve always had motorcycles, since I was 19 or 20.  In 1982 my family went to Laguna Seca with my cousins, and saw Randy Mamola in Battle of the Twins racing, against Norton, Triumph etc.  Kenny Roberts was still racing.

From 1970: several finished Egli-Hondas outside of the Egli workshop. [Egli Archive]
PDO: How did this lead you to buy Egli?

AF: One of my sons is 32 years old, he started as a car mechanic, then became a motorcycle mechanic.  He worked for Harley-Davidson, and one said he’d like to open his own workshop.  We discussed this, and he was looking for motorcycle brands to open his own dealership.  One of the names was Norton, the other Royal Enfield, and the Swiss distributor was Fritz Egli, and they had a meeting.  Of course I knew his name, I’d read about him, but didn’t go to this meeting.  My son told me he’s selling his company, I said ok let’s have a look!  I was fascinated about the whole thing. I realized of course for 25 or 30 years they hadn’t built any motorcycles: they built frames and parts, and strange things like Yamaha Vmax tuning, but not real Eglis anymore.  I started discussing with my son how he might start his dealership: I could buy Egli to restart some kind of motorcycle manufacturing, and also a restoration business.  This was the initial idea, in the summer of  2014.  I bought the Egli business on Jan 1 2015.  I never thought I’d start a business again, certainly not in motorcycles.  But when I saw the Egli company with such great history and bikes, I thought ‘let’s try it, it can only break’.  Otherwise the name is gone!  I’ve seen this in the Swiss watchmaking industry many times, smaller shops breaking down, then a revival with external investors, but it’s really difficult to do this.

David Lancaster road testing a Godet-Egli-Vincent. [David Lancaster]
There were many people interested in the Egli name only, to produce parts or bikes elsewhere, but I thought we could do it in Switzerland, right there in his old workshop.  I was able to hire his best welder, from when they did all the Kawasaki and Honda frames, and the racing frames.  He’d gone over to the aero industry and learned a lot there, so we started the business with him, and built up everything.  We don’t have CNC, we don’t have computer engineering, that’s why we sought a suitable engine to build a bike around, just like 30 years ago.  We are really a workshop and not computer simulators.  Egli is really handmade.  For a contemporary road motorcycle, we had to pass the homologation for road use; they put our frame in a hydro-pulser for frequency testing, between 120-220 cycles under load, simulating 100,000km on the road – there must be no cracks etc.  We passed this test with no calculating, just know-how.  No computers.

One of the most remarkable Egli projects: the MRD1 land speed racer, with bodywork designed by Luigi Colani. [Private Collection]
Our bikes are road registered.  Because of Euro3 testing, this was short timing, the hurdle between Euro4 was short, so we had to decide to use an existing engine, or start fresh, but there was no time.  The authorities agreed we could build 6 bikes under Euro3.  They didn’t look at the engine, just the chassis, which we certified.  We had to hurry with the inline 4 engine, as we thought it was the last chance with an inline 4 for homologation – it’s getting too difficult to pass testing with an air-cooled engine.  Only the Honda CB1100 is left, Yamaha has already stopped. We looked at V-twins but it would have to be a modern Vtwin, which means watercooling etc, so we’ll build another project, and some manufacturers are interested in talking with us.  Those 6 approved bikes are  being finished in the next 2-3 weeks (2017), then we’ll focus on a new project.

The magnificent Egli-Honda EH10-C, built around a CBX motor. Note new Brough Superiors in the background. [Egli Archive]
PDO: Can you explain to our readers the differences between Euro3 and Euro4?

AF: Euro3 vs Euro4 means much less noise, and pollution is much stricter, these are the two main factors, plus ABS and OBD now.  The petrol tank must breathe through an active carbon filter, etc, which makes construction much more complicated.  I’m a afraid instead of two wheels and an engine, there will be a lot more gimmicks to hide, which is no longer simple.  In Switzerland we are still allowed to sell Euro3 bikes, but I think the rest of Europe cannot.  For example in Germany, lots of bikes had a fire sale as they couldn’t pass Euro4.  In Europe we can still sell Euro3 bikes now, all that were imported or built before 2016. So Egli is more or less in the last minutes… but we are so limited in production.  They inspected the bikes before the end of the last year, and we were not allowed to build more than 6, but for me it’s ok.  Everything we do in the future must pass Euro4, and in 2020 will be Euro5, and it’s not clear what will change – definitely more regulation; less noise, less pollution, and so on.

An Egli-Ducati 900SS from 1976. [Private Collection]
PDO: What are your plans when Euro5 comes in?

AF:  I don’t know, maybe we have to look at electric bikes.

It’s not possible to use older engines for manufacturing.  For example, the Godet-Egli-Vincents have to match Euro3 too, so he can’t use a newly manufactured Vincent engine, it’s only possible for an old bike restoration: you cannot start new production with an old engine.  You’d have to design a new Vincent motor, and even Fritz tried – I saw the plans, he looked for financing, the approached bankers, but couldn’t raise the money.  It must have been in the 1980s, a Vtwin. We will have to tackle the Euro4 regulations, from the structural side the bike is not a problem, but the ABS is not so easy to get.  I was in discussion with motorcycle companies who were willing to sell us an engine, but the problem is with Bosch who has the patents for ABS, but they don’t sell a full package with all the electronics.  And that’s very costly to develop; we would have to pay them to develop the software for our bikes, and with only 6 or 12 bikes its not workable.  Thierry Henriette had the same experience with the new Brough Superior; ABS makes everything more complicated and expensive.  Fritz Egli was in the workshop many times saying how difficult it is now, and how easy it was then!

From the Egli Motorcycles web page: a tasty selection of frames and full builds. [Egli Archive]
There is only one possibility for small manufacturing: if you have a niche market, you can be much more expensive.  We’ve sold all 6 of our bikes already, but kept one for us as a demo.  It’s pretty good!  We also have in our workshop quite a lot of restorations; people are starting to restore Eglis, two years ago it was only Vincents, but now MV, Honda, Kawasaki are being restored. We either restore them, or source them and restore them for customers.  For the Egli company and its history this is very nice, I’d like to keep this activity.  It helps with the mechanics as they can make a restoration, and also build new bikes.  In the winter you have time for restoration.

The 2018 Egli-Honda EVH 750, as seen at the Concorso Villa d’Este. [Egli Archive]
PDO: Are you involved with any racing?

AF:  If one of our customers wants to race our 6 new bikes, we have tuning kits, exhausts etc, but of course that’s not street legal. We’re a bit into classic racing, we race a Godet 500 Vincent at the Classic TT, with Horst Zeigel riding for us, and we’ll go back this year.  I think we’ll do another bike like Egli did in the past, in Switzerland we have one or two classic races, and there are 500 Honda motors available.  For now that’s enough to put in a foot, but not jump wholly into classic racing.   Plus, we’ve decided to show a 750 Honda Egli at the 2018 Concorso Villa d’Este, so see you there!

[All of us at The Vintagent lament the closure of Egli Motorcycles, and wish all parties the very best in future projects.  The Egli name will surely live as long as motorcycles are remembered.]
Paul d’Orléans is the founder of He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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