Design/ Engineering :
Pier Luigi Marconi.
Presentation : Milan Motor Show 1997.
Price then : 33,950,000 Lira, Special version 41,153,000 Lira.
Engine : The power plant was taken from the Suzuki TL1000R. A longitudinal twin cylinder V with a 90 degree configuration. The maximum output is 135 hp at 9500 rpm. The maximum torque is 10.8 kg at 7500 rpm. The effective engine displacement is 996 cc. The compression ratio is 11.3:1. It is liquid cooled, with double overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder, wet clutch and six-speed gearbox. The Suzuki engine came with fuel injection but Bimota modified the butterfly elements, which can range from 52 to 59 mm in diameter.
Frame : The frame consists of a pair of lateral beams made of aluminium alloy. These featured carbon fibre plates. This was to increase rigidity and reduce weight. Moreover welding was eliminated. The front suspension is an upside down Paioli. Fork leg diameter is 46 mm. The Ohlins rear shock absorber is adjustable for both pre load and damping. Brakes are two floating Brembo 320 mm up front and one 230 mm Brembo at the rear. The wheels are three spoked and are made by Antera in aluminium alloy.
Colouring : Single colouring. White and red with gold pinstripes. The special was all in black.
Performance : There was not a report on its performance at the time.
Production : The total production is unknown.
Speed Capsule - written by Alan Cathcart for Cycle News , reproduced with kind permission
"Is that bimota's new model
, the one they've been talking about in my local café" ? asked
the toll collector at the Rimini Nord autostrada exit as he leaned out of
his booth to get a closer look while I fumbled for some change . "It
looks pretty fast , and judging by how long this ticket tells me it's taken
you to get here from Pesaro , it obviously is - very ! That Ducati engine
inside has molto grinta (lots of poke) and it sounds like nothing else on
two wheels . The Japanese couldn't make a bike like this , could they - eh!"
Well , actually , amico , I'm sorry , but they already did , sort of . And sorry again , but isn't the new Ducati desmodue-powered bimota DB4 that your mates at your favourite watering hole have been telling you about , but the other new model from your friendly local bike manufacturer that just been bailed out of bankruptcy by former Laverda boss Francesco Tognon .
And this is a much higher profile , much faster bike that is even more important to the company's continued existence than the entry level (for bimota) DB4 .
For this here is the SB8R , and not only is it the first time anyone outside bimota has ever ridden it in real world conditions out on the street , it is also - how can I tell you this - an Italian bike with a Japanese heart . Because the SB8R is powered by not a Ducati desmoquattro but by Suzuki's TL1000R engine , the 90 degree V twin Superbike motor that the Japanese company launched alongside it's similarly fuel injected four cylinder GSX-R750 barely a year ago , but in which it now seems to have lost interest after just a single season .
That makes the SB8R a haichi balbu eight valver instead of an otto valvole . And as far as Tognon is concerned , Suzuki gave him the handsome present of a leading edge engine design that will allow him not only to bring bimota back to the World Superbike arena in 2000 but also to rebuild the company the same way it built its prestige the first time around , before the 500 Vdue two stroke troubles sent it off the rails over the last five years .
The SB8R is bimota's passport to the way back , which is also the company's way ahead - a return under Tognon's direction to its former pre-eminence as a chassis specialist supreme , bringing race track frame technology to the street by re equipping other firms engines with bimota's own avant-garde chassis design . However , this is also bimota's visit to the last chance saloon . The success of the SB8R in delivering an improved package in terms of handling , performance and , yes , looks compared to the Japanese bike from which it sources its engine is crucial to bimota's continued existence in terms of rebuilding the reputation of the troubled company .
They wont have another chance - and nobody knows this better than its new owner . That's why the customer SB8R's long awaited arrival in bimota dealership has taken so long , as Tognon's R & D team under new chief designer Francesco Medici has worked had and long to refine the new bike with an attention to detail that no other bimota model has ever had before . This one has to be right - and from day one at that . Fortunately , my 200 mile day trip from Rimini factory out into the hills of central Italy came up with the right answers . This is a very good motorcycle , and I defy anyone to test the SB8R back to back with a TL1000R and avoiding concluding that this is the V twin sports bike that Suzuki should have made but couldn't or just plain didn't .
Because what is on offer here with the SB8R , apart from being the first road bike to feature a carbon fibre composite chassis , is a $23,595 entry ticket to the same kind of no compromise race track technology for the street that Yamaha's even more costly R7 delivers .
In doing so , bimota has produced the kind of motorcycle that the heavy , lazy revving , bulky TL1000R promised to be on paper but turned out not to be in practice .
There are several things about the SB8R that , on paper , appears to allow it to provide the best of both worlds . There's the composite chassis designed frame by Pierluigi Marconi , his final creation for bimota , using technology borrowed from Cagiva's 500cc Grand Prix bike . This frame uses vacuum sealed carbon fibre lower frame spars keyed into the fabricated alloy uppers to increase front weight bias as well as a self supporting carbon sub frame for the seat (just like on Aprilia's World Champion GP racers) . Then there's the engine . bimota has improved performance from the 90 degree V twin engine via Magneti Marelli EFI , with a single high pressure injector per cylinder , that's part of a system that replaces the TL1000R's stock Japanese engine management system and is equipped with massive 59mm throttle bodies (up from 52mm on the TL1000R) made in house at bimota . It should be a potent challenger to it's Ducati and Aprilia rivals as the chequebook choice of the twin cylinder tifoso .
Mind you , initial impressions are less than promising , however , stylist Massimo Giovagnoli's multi sectioned body work (to improve access and reduce the cost of accident repair) was , in prototype form , all red with white flashes . Now in production form , it has the carbon fibre upper fairing left unpainted . The result is not just an after market kit part look at odds with the presumed objective of this costly , limited edition (350 bikes in the first '99 year batch) motorcycle , but the black muso (nose fairing) combines with the TL1000R headlamp and large , matched air ducts to create what appears to be a rather wide bike for a V twin . At first sight , it makes it seem a pity that bimota wasn't able to avoid falling into the same trap that Suzuki did in making a V twin that's as wide as a four . But throw a leg over the Esse Bi Otto , and those first impressions are shown to be false . The bimota does push a lot of frontal air , necessitated mainly by the KTM made radiators as well as the ram air ducting to those big throttle bodies , so that the view from the bridge is dominated by the big twin carbon fibre air ducts leading to the voluminous airbox between the cylinders .
Though large , the air ducts stop seeming intrusive after a few miles , by which time you've also gotten used to operating the switch gear by feel , since the ducts obscure them from your view . Nevertheless , the SB8R feels slim to sit on , with your knees tucked into the flanks of the sculptured fuel tank . It is also agile and responsive to steer , and as nimble as any Superbike when you chuck it through twisting mountain passes or winding cliff top roads . And that's with the adjustable steering geometry dialled in using the most conservative settings , with 24 degrees of head angle rather than 23 and 93mm of trail instead of 87mm . The more radical settings make the bike race track friendly . Yet there a relatively spacious riding position that will suit taller customers , in spite of it's short (for a V twin) 54.7 inch wheelbase , and suprisingly low footpegs that somehow do not compromise ground clearance .
Still the seat height is rather high at 31.9 inches because of the exhausts exiting beneath it , 916 style and combined with the low set but wide clip ons , this results in a lot of body weight on your shoulders that , while you do not notice when riding hard , does become tiring when you are stuck in traffic putting through town .
However the SB8R certainly does not feel nearly as much like a boat as the Suzuki , and in fact it lies somewhere between the Aprilia Mille and the more hard edged Ducati in terms of riding stance and general layout . Like the Aprilia , you sit in the bimota rather than perched on top of it , like on the Ducati .The SB8R is definitely more nimble than the Mille and it rivals the 916 in agility . It also has a more rational 52/48 percent static weight distribution than the 916 , doesn't roast your legs with blasts of hot air from the radiator ducts , and also has a proper sidestand of the non suicide variety (equipped with an ignition cut out) . Oh , and the minimalist designer esque seat pad is also more comfortable than it looks .
And my run down the Pesaro autostrada was to show , the biota is a practical road bike that's extremely aerodynamic (even if the mirrors are half useless at any speed) , with such good penetration and rider protection from the pointy screen fairing that I had to do a double take at the Suzuki speedo to be certain I really was travelling at 160 mph - in fifth gear ! It did not seem like it even when I hit the 11500 rpm rev. limiter , which was a good time to hit another gear and discover this is an effortless speed capsule with a top speed of what I'd guess is around 175 mph (there were too many Greek truckies racing each other to the Brindisi ferry to find out) . Yet which is happy to sit at 150 mph in top gear for as long as the traffic will let you , with the tacho needle parked on the nine grand mark . All this in spite of not having seen the inside of a wind tunnel .
Two things impress about the bimota , as it delivers this A grade (as in autobahn quality) performance , the muscular , meaty lilt of the off beat exhaust note issuing through the arrow silencers , which will not just have tollgate attendants confusing it with a Ducati , and it's superb stability at high speeds , coupled with fine ride quality and good suspension compliance from the fully adjustable 46mm Paioli upside down fork and ditto Ohlins rear shock . The shocks placement is novel , as it is set up high and forward , and operated by a long rod directly off the asymmetrical alloy swingarm .
The suspension settings are excellent and when you hit a bump or a series of ripples once committed to your line in a fast turn , the bimota just shrugs it off and resumes normal service - yet this does not have a payoff in slow steering or heavy handling .
The steering is really light and precise at all speeds , without ever being twitchy and attacking switchback mountain roads is a real buzz - not only because the torquey engine spins up so easily and helps you motor from one turn to the next so fast , but also because the new generation low profile 120/65-17 Michelin TX15 (which further helps increase front weight bias) mounted to the handsome Antera front wheel feel planted in turns and the fat Paioli forks - whose gold stanchions denote the low friction titanium nitarte coating applied to them to improve low speed response - ride bumps so well on the angle that you can maintain unlikely corner speeds quite safely on what is after all a big twin .
Yet it is also a very light one by the standards of the class , with the bimota's claimed dry weight of 387 pounds a whopping 46 pounds lighter than the TL1000R in spite of sharing the same 130 pound engine . You feel the benefits of this in the way the SB8R can be chucked around almost on autopilot . And for an extra 3 million lira you can have the SB8R special , available only in black , that saves another couple of pounds that s to the use of assorted extra carbon fibre and aircraft alloy hardware .
Bimota has avoided going overboard on the rear tyre size fitting the 180/55-17 Michelin TX25 fitted to a 6.00 inch rim to help the bike change direction easily while still putting the power to the ground , which it especially does well out of slower turns . Be prepared , however , to have the handlebars flapping in your hands as the wheel lifts when you gas it hard .
And on fast corners , well , you just pick a line and know the bimota will hold it . There's absolutely no power understeer , no deflection from bumps and loads of ground clearance - nothing drags . This bike is a lot of fun to ride hard .
It stops well too . The big
brakes are brembo's best , with loads of bite giving a huge amount of stopping
power , coupled with a high degree of sensitivity . And when you trail brake
into a turn , the bimota holds it's line , even if you overdo the entry speed
and have to grab a bigger handful , it does not sit up and understeer away
, in spite of the fairly radical geometry . Totally sorted .
Though the 996cc (98 x 66mm) V twin Suzuki engine is otherwise completely unmodified , save for bimota's very trick Siamesed stainless steel exhaust system , this and the Marelli EFI have resulted In a remarkable 10 percent power increase compare to the TL-R . There is a claimed 137 bhp at the rear wheel in standard form , at just 10000 rpm , with hardly any fall off in power over the remaining 1500 revs . And that's without fitting any of the trick race parts obtainable directly from Suzuki or bimota's own promised aftermarket kits ,which should raise output to 160 bhp or more .
But back in the real world , this extra top end performance has not compromised the SB8R's effectiveness as a street bike . The only thing that needs more attention is the low rpm EFI mapping on this 5000 mile old development hack , to eliminate a reluctance to settle down to the 1200 rpm idle when starting up .
Otherwise the engine is as tractable and forgiving as you would expect a V twin to be , even on the bottom end , in spite of those massive throttle bodies . The throttle action is stiffer than on the Suzuki , probably through using a stiffer spring to counter the suction . But once you have survived the slightly jerky pick up from the closed throttle , you are rewarded with smooth instant response from an engine that spins up notably quicker than it does in Suzuki guise . This is thanks to the single injector positioned close to the butterfly and fed with a high 6 bar fuel pump pressure . This is the same basic set-up Ducati uses on it's '99 factory Superbike engines .
And once motoring , the bimota's TL engine has an extra kick at 7000 rpm , when the rasp from the exhaust - slightly higher pitched than a Ducati - hardens , and the engine heads determinly towards the rev. limiter . The only glitch is a slight hesitation if you roll it on hard below 5000 rpm
above that and it is instant response , but lower down each big air funnel takes a moment to clear it's throat .
The solution is to use the gearbox a little more enthusiastically , which is no problem , because it is made in Japan and therefore has a clean , precise change is a carbon fibre rod linkage . But if you want to just lope along in traffic , the engine's quite happy ticking over at 2500 rpm in fourth gear , ready to come on strong when a gap appears - pickup is strong after the initial stutter .
When you settle aboard the bimota for the first time and thumb the starter , and that trademark engine note rumbles into life with the sound of thunder , you have to pinch yourself to be sure you are not about to head for the hills on a Ducati , But you are not and instead , what the new bimota has finally delivered to the marketplace is another kind of yes Italian twin that unquestionably sets a new benchmark for V twin handling , while arguably also moving the goal posts in terms of engine performance for the street .
As it starts it's second quarter century of existence , bimota's not out of the woods yet on it's comeback trail - but the SB8R is such a good bike that the company must now be deemed to have a serious shot at survival . At least , along the way , it's bought Francesco Tognon and his men another round of drinks at the last chance saloon !