Bimota Tesi 2D - ROAD TEST

Full frontal ingenuity

Bimoto Tesi 2D on-road action

How much does that thing cost? Does it work? Is it worth it? These are the top three questions we get bombarded with every time the Tesi 2D is parked where knowledgeable motorcyclists lurk. This bike attracts attention like a Playmate in a prison yard. Never have we ridden anything that sucks people across parking lots–mouths agape–like the 2D.

Bimota is back, but the bourgeois among us needn't get too excited, because Club Bimota is still very exclusive territory. Be prepared to throw down a serious pile of greenbacks for the honor of owning one of these obscenely exclusive machines. In the case of the Tesi, that stack o'cash equates to sixty thousand big ones; yup, $60 grand. And you thought the Ducati 999R and MV Agusta Senna tested were over the top! Just to give you an idea of how boutique this bike is, Bimota will only import a handful of Tesis to its six U.S. dealers this year. Roll into the local bike night on one of these babies and everyone's attention will be centered on you–actually, your bike–because as Executive Editor Hoyer pointed out, "It trumps everything."

After Bimota’s financial resurrection in 2003, following the company’s bankruptcy and subsequent slamming of the historic Rimini factory’s shutters in ’01, bikes are once again rolling off the assembly line on Italy’s Adriatic coast thanks to new CEO Gigi Bonini and President Roberto Comini.

The crown jewel in Bimota’s line has always been the technically marvelous Tesi (pronounced “tay-zee”). Pier Luigi Marconi’s original Prototype 1 dates all the way back to 1983. Production of the 1D didn’t commence until the 1991 model year after four more prototypes had been further refined. The original Tesi was tested in the May, 1991, issue of Cycle World, impressing editors not only with its form but its function. That raised the question: Would center-hub steering be the wave of the future? Other than the Tesi and the short-lived 1993-94 Yamaha GTS1000, the concept never gained a foothold in the marketplace. The Bimota’s basic design hasn’t changed much in 15 years although it was recently refined by current chief engineer Alberto Strada.

Bimoto Tesi 2D static side view

The 2D is essentially a naked version of the original fully faired 1D, which was produced until ’94. Designer Sergio Robbiano chose to leave the bike uncloaked to allow a better view of the bike’s beautifully machined billet-aluminum pieces and intricate labyrinth of steering and braking rods. It’s like taking a peek into the internal workings of a fine Swiss watch.

If the front end on the bike looks complicated, that’s because it is. The core structure of the Tesi is the billet-aluminum “omega” frame, to which both the front and rear swingarms attach. The handlebars actuate a linkage rod on the right side of the dummy steering head that operates a bellcrank to which another rod is attached. This rod connects to the hub and steers the six-spoke forged-aluminum OZ Racing wheel.

This bike is all about the chassis. To answer the most important question: Yes, it works, and extremely well. A few unique qualities jump out at the rider once the road gets curvy. The bike’s light and agile steering manners are instantly apparent; the 2D snaps into corners with incredible quickness, reminding us of scalpels like the old Yamaha FZR400 and Aprilia RS250. The first time the brakes are applied is the first hint that there’s a swingarm up front and not a fork, due to the lack of dive. There are yet more rods (one per side) that attach to a pair of brake stays, key to the anti-dive characteristics.

Brake deep into a very bumpy corner and the Tesi’s front end demonstrates its advantage over a conventional telescopic fork. The design separates braking, steering and suspension forces, keeping them from interfering with each other. This allows the bike to use its full range of suspension motion while braking, unlike a tele-fork, which can only utilize what’s left of the travel not taken by front-end dive. The most obvious positive side effect is the reaction to trail-braking. Ride aggressively on a tight road and it becomes all too tempting to drag the front brake really deep into bends. The center-hub setup doesn’t react negatively at all, allowing the rider to get away with braking that would instantly tuck the front on almost any fork-equipped bike.

Bimoto Tesi 2D on-road cornering action

Our only complaint was somewhat distant feedback from the front contact patch at the limit in tight corners. Road Test Editor Don Canet wondered if the sensation was a by-product of the multiple steering rods, levers and heim joints.

Front suspension action is also a bit on the harsh side. A progressive link attaches to the swingarm and actuates the fully adjustable, externally mounted Italian-made FG shock. After playing with the compression and rebound clickers, we took out a bunch of spring preload, trying to make the ride more plush. Apparently, the suspension is valved for roads that are a lot smoother than anything we normally ride in Southern California.

Braking performance from the front pair of four-piston Brembo calipers (mounted at 6 o’clock) with 320mm discs wasn’t as impressive as anticipated, especially compared to the latest-generation radial-mount Brembos on the Ducati 999R, MV Agusta Senna, etc. “I didn’t get a good sense for the threshold of traction when doing brake testing,” Canet noted. “Perhaps it would take some time for me to gain trust–or maybe a $6000 version that I wouldn’t mind crashing…”

The aluminum front swingarm spars are bowed significantly and yet only allow the wheel 30 degrees of swing, making for a large turning radius. This was painfully obvious while making U-turns on a mountain road for Brian Blades’ lens, only narrowly avoiding tipping over a few times.

Far less complicated and completely conventional is the rear suspension that consists of a box-section aluminum-alloy swingarm with a linkageless, fully adjustable FG piggyback shock (the original Tesi used a linkage). Like the front suspension, the rear is on the harsh side. On smooth roads, this wasn’t an issue but when the road becomes rough, your tailbone takes a beating, compounded by the thin seat pads. Most Tesi owners are not going to grind out hours in the saddle (hell, some may just display the bike in their living room), but we did and it wasn’t always comfortable. The aggressive seating position is fine for sport mode or track days, but in normal riding situations wrists, neck and butt get sore pretty quickly. Not to mention that the heat from the engine and the forward-ducted Leo Vince exhaust keep the cockpit pretty toasty. But the fact of the matter is that on a bike like the Tesi these complaints border on being irrelevant-–sport-touring wasn’t on the designer’s agenda.

Bimoto Tesi 2D up-close on-road action

Neither, apparently, were frilly cosmetics. “This is not a pretty motorcycle,” Hoyer said. “At the same time, your eyes cannot resist looking at it. There is no ‘styling’ here, just a lot of beautiful aluminum pieces holding up the funky headlight and carbon air intake. Even the aluminum fuel tank and carbon tailsection sort of fill the expected space and seem to essentially vanish in the face of the chassis’ industrial artistry.”

If ever there were a bike to sit and stare at, this is it. There is simply too much eye-candy to absorb in a single viewing. That’s why any ride on the Tesi is accompanied by coffee stops to kick back, gawk at the bike and take it all in.

It’s only then that you even notice the engine.

The fact that the 992cc, two-valve, dual-spark V-Twin Ducati engine is a fabulous unit can’t be disputed, but some may want more power for their $60K. With “just” 81 horsepower and 60 foot-pounds of torque on tap and a relatively lowly 131-mph top speed, the Tesi is definitely not going to overpower its chassis. Why wasn’t a 999cc Testastretta stuffed into the 2D, as former Bimota employee Ascanio Rodorigo has done (see Roundup) with his Tesi-based Vyrus 985 special? After all, the original 1D was shoved down the road by a liquid-cooled 851cc Desmo motor.

Bimota’s designers are likely to point out that the air/oil-cooled 1000DS is much easier to package without having to hide a large radiator, while at the same time providing lots of usable midrange torque.

And, granted, the engine provides plenty of performance. Leaving stoplights, powering out of tight corners and with impressive top-gear roll-on performance, it’s a satisfying lump. The lack of top-end acceleration is the only real strike against it.

Bimoto Tesi 2D studio overhead view

Other gripes? For all the beautiful touches, there are a few items that seem like afterthoughts. The tachometer, for example, looks like a mail-order unit intended for a primer-gray ’70 Nova SS, and the bicycle computer info screen used as a speedometer is virtually useless while actually riding the bike. The headlight reflector broke on our testbike, so now both beams point into the sky like a Hollywood searchlight, much to the displeasure of anyone in front of and/or coming toward the bike at night. Considering the already astronomical price, Canet rightly pointed out, “Perhaps another $1500 would’ve been well spent to make the bike feel more finished.”

Duly noted, but bikes like the Tesi are what keep motorcycling interesting, and we’re thankful for their existence. If success is measured only by mass-market acceptance, then the Tesi concept has been a failure. But Bimota should be applauded as a true pioneer, willing to take on the establishment and prove the Tesi’s viability. Those fortunate enough to afford the 2D will be thrilled. It is the conversation piece of all two-wheel conversation pieces, sure to draw attention whenever it is lucky enough to leave the confines of the garage.

But the experience goes far beyond that. The 2D is a blast to ride and immensely satisfying on a tight curvy road. Here is a concept bike made real, in the showroom wearing an (albeit lofty) price tag. There is nothing else in motorcycling quite like it.

Add it all up and it could be argued that the Tesi 2D is worth every last penny–and that, friends, is something we never thought we’d say.

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Bimoto Tesi 2D studio.Brian Blades
SPECIFICATIONS
GENERAL
LIST PRICE $59,800
WARRANTY 24 mo./unlimited mi.
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
ENGINE air/oil-cooled, four-stroke V-Twin
BORE x STROKE 94.0 x 71.5mm
DISPLACEMENT 992cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.5:1
VALVE TRAIN sohc, two valves per cylinder, shim adjusters
VALVE ADJUST INTERVALS 6000 mi.
CARBURETION fuel-injection
OIL CAPACITY 3.5 qt.
ELECTRIC POWER 520w
BATTERY 12v, 16ah
CHASSIS
WEIGHT: TANK EMPTY 365 lb.
WEIGHT: TANK FULL 388 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.4 gal.
WHEELBASE 54.0 in.
RAKE / TRAIL 16.2–20°/3.7–4.6 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.0 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 4.5 in.
GVWR 618 lb.
LOAD CAPACITY (TANK FULL) 309 lb.
FRONT SUSPENSION
MANUFACTURER FG Suspension
TUBE DIAMETER N/A
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.7 in.
ADJUSTMENTS compression and rebound damping, spring preload
REAR SUSPENSION
MANUFACTURER FG Suspension
TYPE single shock
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.7 in.
ADJUSTMENTS compression and rebound damping, spring preload
TIRES
FRONT Dunlop D208ZR 120/70ZR17
REAR Dunlop D208ZR 180/55ZR17
PERFORMANCE
1/4 MILE 11.22 sec. @ 120.01 mph
0-30 MPH 1.2 sec.
0-60 MPH 3.1 sec.
0-90 MPH 6.1 sec.
0-100 MPH 7.6 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED
40-60 MPH 3.8 sec.
60-80 MPH 3.5 sec.
MEASURED TOP SPEED 131 mph
ENGINE SPEED @ 60 MPH 4493 rpm
FUEL MILEAGE
HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE 47/40/44 mpg
AVG. RANGE INC. RESERVE 150 mi.
BRAKING DISTANCE
FROM 30 MPH 34 ft
FROM 60 MPH 136 ft.
SPEEDOMETER ERROR
30 MPH INDICATED 30 mph
60 MPH INDICATED 60 mph

EDITOR'S NOTES

BLAKE CONNER, Associate Editor
I'm an Italophile, I confess. I've even been diagnosed with Alfa Romeoitis in the past. Call me a snob, but I have a passion for all things Italian. I've had the privilege of testing exotics from Ducati, MV Agusta and Aprilia. But Bimota remained my Holy Grail. Six months ago if you asked me to pick my fantasy ride, I would've picked the Tesi. So when Commander Edwards gave me my dream assignment I was shocked. I didn't even have to bribe him with the promise of polishing chrome on his fleet of leaking steeds. What luck! I'm happy to say that the experience didn't disappoint. This chunk of engineering complexity has beauty that only a gearhead could love. But the fact that the Tesi front end works so well impressed me to no end. Stuff an engine in it that would keep the jerk in the Saleen Mustang in my mirrors and it would be the ultimate bike. In the meantime, I'll just try to get a ride on that Desmosedici streetbike. Guess I better get out the polish and rags.

DON CANET, Road Test Editor
Maybe I'm a tad cranky considering the Tesi's price tag is beyond my means. Having ridden the billet beauty, I'm convinced that were I to win one in a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, I'd be inclined to let it go at low blue book–to clear my conscience of any pain and suffering I might have passed along. For me, the intrigue vanished after 20 minutes in the Tesi's uncompromising saddle. A bruised left knee, compliments of repeated contact with the front shock mount, cast a lasting impression of this Bimota's raw performance. I'd gladly roll the proceeds into a liter-class Japanese sportbike and an Aprilia Tuono R, spending the balance remodeling my garage into a state worthy of housing such refined steeds.

Just one poor man’s Tesi testimony. I’m sure the more fortunate enthusiast who can rationalize dropping a king’s ransom on such an impractical motorcycle already has a palace in which to park his prize.

MARK HOYER, Executive Editor
It's been a mad parade of Italian exotics here at CW HQ. More MVs than in Ago's garage and double Ducatis at every corner.

Then comes the Bimota Tesi. It is the weirdest, coolest, most wonderful contraption I have ever seen. As our local Bimota dealer, Beverly Hills Ducati, showed us when they went to unload it, you can’t even tie it down normally because of the swingarm front end. But the strangest surprise of all was how much it felt like a conventional motorcycle. I think we all expected a stimulating and an interesting riding experience, and even very good performance from this Italian lunar-lander, but it was really remarkable how well it worked in almost every regard. The front end has some genuine advantages over a fork and the bike turns effortlessly.

But for (am I saying this?) practical concerns, I would probably save my lire and go with a 999R at half the price. And then probably regret it.

Photo #1

Bimoto Tesi 2D action.Brian Blades

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Bimoto Tesi 2D action.Brian Blades

Photo #3

Bimoto Tesi 2D action.Brian Blades

Photo #4

Bimoto Tesi 2D static.Brian Blades

Photo #5

Bimoto Tesi 2D studio.Brian Blades

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Bimoto Tesi 2D overhead.Brian Blades