Bimota is back in the superbike arena once again. The small Italian specialist manufacturer's latest journey along the comeback trail-courtesy of pharmaceutical and agricultural magnate Roberto Comini-has seen the Italian boutique brand acclaimed for the DB5 sportbike and its DB6 Delirio naked spinoff model. Using the Ducati desmodue motor, the DB5 and DB6 are the modern counterparts of the DB1, the bike that saved Bimota from the brink of bankruptcy back in 1983.
But now it's time to take Bimota to the next level in terms of performance and allure, with the introduction of the Ducati 1098 Testastretta Evoluzione-powered DB7 unveiled at the Milan Show last November. Already in production, the first of the 200 examples Bimota plans to manufacture in 2008 (with another 500 due in 2009) will soon become available, listed at 26,880 in Italy (approximately $41,673 U.S.). The DB7 will come in any color you like so long as it's the traditional Bimota red-and-white livery. The first production test bike off the factory line was brought to the Magione track near Perugia in central Italy for me to try out.
With its ultra-distinctive styling by Enrico Borghesan clothing the equally individual chassis architecture designed by 40-year-old Andrea Acquaviva, Bimota's chief engineer (and my former race technician back in the early '90s when I raced the Tesi Superbike for Bimota), there's no mistaking the DB7 for anything ever built by Ducati itself, even if the stacked projection headlamps in the bluff-fronted nose of the bike resemble the 999.
All Bimotas are still hand-assembled...
All Bimotas are still hand-assembled one by one at the factory in Rimini. This shot shows how the composite frame structure uses the engine as a complete load-bearing member, with the swingarm attached only to the engine case. A carbon-fiber rear subframe supports the seat and tailpiece.
"Our aim was to use the engine as an essential component of the chassis, much more than Ducati has done on the 1098," says Acquaviva of the DB7's composite frame. "So the front end is literally fixed to the motor via what amounts to a subframe while the swingarm pivots in the crankcases, so the rear end is completely unconnected to the front of the bike, except via the engine. Using a carbon-fiber subframe for the seat further assisted in delivering our key objectives, in reducing both weight and overall width to the minimum while creating as stiff a structure as possible. The oval-section tubing we've employed gives substantially greater rigidity than a round-tube format, even with the same 1.5mm wall thickness as a Ducati, and so an improved stiffness-to-weight ratio. This also allowed us to locate the engine 12mm higher in the wheelbase than on a 1098, as well as 8mm further forward. That in turn increased forward weight bias for added front grip, which is always a problem with an L-twin engine layout like a Ducati, while also improving the ease of changing direction-again, always an issue with such a format. We now have a static forward-weight distribution of 51/49 percent compared to a Ducati, which is the reverse; but with the rider in place the difference is even greater, because on the DB7 he's sitting further forward than on the 1098."
The composite design comprises a vestigial upper space frame fabricated from 50 x 30 x 1.5mm oval-section chromoly steel tubing. This is bolted to twin sideplates flanking the rear cylinder, which are machined from aircraft-grade Anticordal 100 aluminum. Weight savings are claimed to be 2.7 pounds compared with a Ducati 1098's trellis-type chassis, the DB7 scaling in at a claimed 375 pounds dry. Although that is just 6.6 pounds less than the officially claimed weight for the 1098, Acquaviva asserts that the difference between the two bikes on Bimota's scales is a rather more substantial 26 pounds. The fully adjustable, 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork with titanium nitride-coated tubes is set at a 25-degree rake offering 100mm of trail and 120mm of wheel travel. The swingarm is mounted in the crankcases but without any additional pivot support from the chassis as with the Ducati. Wheelbase is 56.5 inches. The very light, vertically mounted Extreme Tech 2v4 monoshock is operated via a progressive link with seven percent rising-rate ratio. It is not only fully adjustable for both high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping, but also for spring preload and-via a beautifully made eccentric upper shock mount-for ride height over a 20mm range, with 120mm of wheel travel.
Climbing aboard the Bimota reveals a very balanced, comfortable riding position that's relatively spacious. In spite of its more front-loaded weight bias compared with the 1098, there's little sense of the Ducati's tendency to put weight on your forearms and shoulders when riding the Bimota. You feel very much a part of the bike, which delivers intuitive, fluid handling-but only once you have it set up correctly for your own riding style.
The Bimota uses an Extreme...
The Bimota uses an Extreme Tech rear shock that sports both high- and low-speed compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload adjustments. The rear ride height is adjustable within a 20mm range using the eccentric insert in the top shock mount.
Utilizing the 1099cc engine...
Utilizing the 1099cc engine from the Ducati 1098, the Bimota goes in an entirely different chassis direction with its composite frame setup. The sideplates flanking the rear cylinder are machined from aircraft-grade Anticordal 100 aluminum.
The swingarm utilizes the...
The swingarm utilizes the same oval-tube construction as the headstock section, with the rear-axle adjuster section machined from the same Anticordal 100 aluminum material as the chassis sideplates and bolted to the end. The 10-spoke wheels are forged aluminum units (6.25-inch rear, 3.50-inch front) made in Russia by Magaltech to Bimota's specs.