The Bimota's multiadjustable chassis geometry and suspension were configured for factory tester Danilo Marrancone, whose day job happens to be racing (and leading, at press time) the Italian 600 Supersport championship. As I discovered later in the day by riding his prototype DB7 Superstock racer, Marrancone is a typical Supersport star who likes his bikes set up to be ultra-fast-steering-verging on nervous-with lots of rear ride height and a distinct tendency to tip into the apex of a bend. Just think about turning in and the bike's already done that, hopefully with you still keeping up. The base settings Marrancone chose for the street DB7 were an echo of his racebike's, which, while delivering exceptional agility and an easy change of direction from side to side through Magione's tight chicane, translated to twitchy handling elsewhere.
The other immediately noticeable characteristic of the Bimota was the phenomenal braking delivered by its 320mm front brakes and radial-mount Brembo four-piston, four-pad monobloc calipers. These are unquestionably the fiercest and most effective brakes I've ever used on any streetbike, and they deliver stopping power worthy of a factory World Superbike racer-almost too powerful. Even when well aware of their aggressive response, I twice locked the front wheel running up behind a slower rider in Magione's tight sequence of turns. Both times I just managed to avoid ending up on the tarmac, but luck had a lot to do with it, and I wouldn't want to ride the DB7 on a damp surface with these brakes. Unlike the versions on Ducatis that employ just two pads, Bimota has fitted the four-pad option, and the result in my opinion is overkill. "We don't fit four-pad calipers unless they're the cheaper bolted-up kind; otherwise for sure you lock the front wheel," revealed Ducati R&D boss Andrea Forni at the 1098 launch. "The monobloc structure is so stiff you don't need the extra grip offered by four pads." Andrea Acquaviva has a response to this, though. "We've homologated the DB7 with both 310mm and 320mm front discs, not the 330mm ones Ducati uses on the 1098," he says. "The smaller discs are more controllable but improve the steering even more because of their reduced gyroscopic effect. Our customers can choose which they prefer at the time of order."
Although the superstrong brakes allowed me to begin slowing at the 150-meter mark at the end of the Magione main straight from an indicated 155 mph on the small but legible dash's digital speedo (also incorporating an analog tach, plus a 20-lap timer and three pages of digital data), I could feel the rear wheel lifting each time I did so. Using one gear lower to try to redress this with some engine braking to help stop the bike then revealed another drawback: The DB7 doesn't have a slipper clutch. So if you change down one gear too many by accident on the DB7, you better be quick on the draw with your clutch finger to avoid chattering the rear wheel. Ducati can get away with not fitting this to the base-level 1098 and S-model due to cost concerns, but its absence from the DB7 is unacceptable, especially at that high a price tag. And a large digital gear indicator on the dash would have been appreciated. Maybe it's no coincidence that when I came to try Marrancone's prototype Superstock DB7 at the end of the day, I found his bike had a slipper clutch fitted. And yes, it did complete the package very nicely.
Returning to the pits for a chat with Acquaviva after my first outing, we agreed that the hyperstrong brakes were the main cause of the handling woes. For my next session we cranked in more spring preload and dialed in five clicks more rebound damping (out of 32, with 13 clicks for compression damping) on the fork to prevent the front end from rising too quickly and unsettling the chassis when I let off the brakes. A single lap told me this had done the job; now the Bimota was much more controlled under heavy braking as well as considerably less nervous coming off the brakes, while still changing direction just as easily. We also removed the Extreme Tech steering damper, because you could feel there was stiction in the steering in slow turns, even with the damper backed off all the way. It's a sign of how well designed the DB7's chassis package is that it didn't misbehave in any way without the damper. That the Bimota reacted so immediately and positively to these suspension changes speaks volumes for the overall design of the new DB7. The result is a bike that has the same overall character as the Ducati 1098 S-difficult not to with the distinctive desmo V-twin motor-yet feels quite different in many ways. One example is the engine's shifting, which somehow feels slightly smoother and easier than stock Ducati. This was especially apparent upshifting under hard acceleration, where I only needed to close the throttle just a tiny amount to get a clean, crisp gear change. I presumed that was the result of the slicker action of the Bimota linkage, but Acquaviva insists that a key ingredient in this is the optimum mapping of the DB7's Walbro ECU by Bimota's electronics whiz Daniele Commandini.
The Bimota's dash layout features...
The Bimota's dash layout features an analog tach paired with an LCD digital panel that displays numerous functions. Ergos are much more hospitable than those of the stock Ducati 1098.
The same radial-mount monobloc...
The same radial-mount monobloc Brembo calipers found on the Ducati are used on the DB7, except that there are four pads instead of two. This results in very aggressive response and power, despite the use of smaller 320mm or 310mm (buyer can order either) brake discs.
Yet another sign of the DB7's...
Yet another sign of the DB7's hand-built origins is this beautifully machined aluminum sidestand.