Carbon fiber offers the ultimate combination of strength and light weight. Formula One cars and the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner are meaningful examples of the technological achievements granted by a competent use of the stuff. Theoretically, it would be the perfect material for ultra-light and rigid motorcycle frames, yet few in motorcycling have taken the challenge; even fewer have been successful.
Enter Bimota, one of just a handful of motorcycle manufacturers really entitled to market bikes with price tags exceeding $40,000. Bimota introduced its Oronero carbon-fiber edition of the superb DB7 at EICMA 2008, completed durability and reliability tests by mid-2009 and operators, as they say, are now standing by to take orders for the Oronero, which means “Black Gold.”
The Oronero duplicates the DB7 down to every geometrical and structural detail, with perfectly textured carbon fiber and a glossy black finish adding even more preciousness to the already beautifully designed machine. Retaining the original trellis-type frame was a daring technical challenge: The mechanical qualities of carbon fiber are best put to work in large, continuous structures like the hull of an America’s Cup sailboat or the fuselage and wings of a jet plane, not in structures composed of lots of small, interconnected elements like a tubular trellis frame. Today’s accepted frame design involving a pair of large-section spars would have been much easier to manufacture and, possibly, also lighter and stiffer. But then it would have deprived the Oronero of that uniquely traditional Italian flavor, no? Not to mention it would’ve been a completely different-looking bike than the highly successful DB7.
To get the best out of carbon fiber applied to such a complex structure, Bimota chief project engineer Andrea Acquaviva enlisted the expertise of BRBike, an Italian firm specializing in the construction of racing bicycle frames. In manufacturing its tubular structures, BRBike superimposes a number of carbon-fiber “socks,” duly impregnated with high-tech epoxy resins. The tubular elements that constitute the Bimota frame retain the same oval-section design and measurements (50 x 30mm) of the steel tubing they replace, with the gauge 0.5mm thicker at 2mm. The final result is a 30 percent more torsionally rigid work of art, and the same technology is applied to the construction of the swingarm.
Gas tank, seat, fairing and all the rest of the “bodywork” are beautifully made in carbon fiber while retaining the original DB7 design. Everything else on my test DB7 Oronero is a total carryover from the DB7 in terms of components: Tenneco-Marzocchi Corse RAC 43 DLC fork, ExtremeTech 2T4V shock, twin 320mm “daisy style” Braking rotors and Brembo four-piston Monobloc calipers. And the Oronero is powered by a Ducati 1098 unit, same as the DB7 I tested last year, so a direct comparison between the two can be easily drawn, though Bimota should soon be given access to the Ducati 1198 Testastretta Evo engine.
The Oronero is an exciting evolution of an absolute masterpiece featuring arguably the most intriguing, technically advanced chassis ever to harness a Ducati 90-degree V-Twin: correct steering geometry and anti-squat characteristics, and balanced weight bias within the same 56.5-inch wheelbase as on the Ducati 1098 1198—and all of it now down to a feathery 360 pounds, 14 pounds less than the steel DB7. Seat height is just 31.5 inches, an outstanding achievement on a sportbike so compact, and the saddle is pushed as far forward as possible for a short reach to the clip-ons. Much more importantly, that seating position allows very little alteration of the weight-distribution bias with a rider aboard, from 52/48 static to (still pretty correct) 49/51 dynamic, according to Bimota.
Lifting the bike from its sidestand is enough to appreciate how incredibly light the Oronero is. Riding it is even better. Shod with Pirelli Diablo Rossos, the DB7 Oronero proved very easy to learn and corner to knee-puck-scratching lean angles, where it then encourages you to push one or two notches farther. The extra rigidity of the Oronero frame and the lighter overall weight enhance the precise steering and responsiveness tenfold. Then there’s the bike’s greater power-to-weight ratio, which contributes even more to its very impressive acceleration and throttle response.
At a certain level of aggression, though, the price of the Oronero flashes a red warning light in the back of my mind. What the hell, this Bimota is so incredibly responsive and surefooted that daring beyond the rulebook becomes the rule. In real life, the qualities of the Oronero chassis translate into much earlier throttle openings out of corners along with supreme agility and stability, a sweet feeling of near invincibility. And a touch of exclusiveness that sets you apart in any crowd. At a price, of course. Only $40,000.