The Italian Bimota is a brand of motorcycles that are out of reach for most of us. This, of course, makes them highly desirable for most of us. Getting a first look at the all-new ’08 Tesi 3D at the Barber Museum on Friday was definitely the highlight of my week. Every now and then I happen to be there at the right time, and get a glimpse of something spectacular. Two months ago I saw Barber’s technicians tear apart the #7 Britten V1000. Sorry, forgot my camera that day.
The latest addition to the collection, the new Tesi 3D arrived Friday and was uncrated just a few hours before I saw it. It will immediately go on display, probably next to Barber’s original Tesi1D prototype. Its new permanent home will make a nice homage to Pierluigi Marconi’s “thesis” project, and it will never be run. Incidentally, if you ask an Italian, “Tesi” is pronounced “tay-z”. I stand corrected!
Since the floor plan is so open at the Barber, I spotted the machine even before I could get near it. And as I got closer and closer, it was almost certainly glowing. I swear I heard a few angels echoing in the background. With floors so clean you could lick them, the bike looked right at home.
This Tesi, apparently number 15 out of only 29 numbered bikes to be built, weighs in at 370lbs. It’s powered by the Ducati 1100DS motor used in the Multistrada and Hypermotard. And, although it feels tiny between your legs, I mean really tiny, it fits like a glove. Most bikes are far too wide in that area. Even with its 31.5” seat height, the skinny waist let my feet stay flat on the ground. And that’s with the bike still on the rear stand!
I must have gawked at it for over an hour. I thought to myself, this may be the closest I’ll ever be so I better make the most of it. I was truly impressed with how “finished” the bike looked, complete with charcoal canisters, California emissions stickers, and safety reflectors. This is a well engineered production bike. Even with the controversial front end, I still want one.
This brings me to that controversial front end: the hub-center steered swing arm front suspension which Bimota has been perfecting since the late 80’s. And, like the 1920’s Ner-a-Car, hub-center steering on a bike is nothing new. It works. This version looks amazingly simple up close. It even looks like they’ve added a few degrees to the rake since the Tesi 2D. The 3-piece billet alloy, hub/caliper mount has a large diameter to allow maximum wheel pivot on the center king pin. The carbon fiber linkage rods were a nice touch, too.
The front end is suspended by a nicely integrated, pull-rod, air/hydraulic monoshock. This should give the forged aluminum wheel over 4in of travel, with tie-rods keeping the king pin at a constant angle through its travel. You won’t feel any dive during braking on this setup. Anti-dive is inherent to swing arm front suspensions because the brake force transfers in a more direct line to the chassis Center of Gravity.
Probably one of the nicest design features of the new Tesi 3D, is the way it combines tubular steel with billet aluminum. In particular, I like how the converging lines of the rear swing arm terminate at the beautifully machined alloy axle stays. First shown on Bimota’s DB5, this style of assembly is truly innovative and beautiful at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds, in my mind: simple welded steel trellis mated to high-precision, light weight alloy drop-outs.
I can only imagine what it would feel like to ride this remarkable design. Within view of a pristine asphalt track only 100 yards from where I’m standing, this was starting to feel like some sort of torture. All I could do was close my eyes, make some annoying revving sounds with my mouth, and imagine flicking the thing around the track. At around $36k, it seems like a bargain for the level of engineering and craftsmanship you get. I think the Bimota name alone could warrant a higher price. I mean, do you know anyone who owns one? I’ll leave you with a few more pictures:
All photos: Brian Case