Bimota Tesi

With Phil Aynsley


Way, way back in 1990 I paid a visit to the Bimota factory in the company of the then Australian importer, Ian Gowanloch.

The Bimota Tesi went through several iterations to reach production
The Bimota Tesi went through several iterations to reach production, starting with a GPz550 originally

I vividly remember watching a machinist standing at large, hand-controlled milling machine, slowing turning a large alloy slab into one of the two intricate, crescent-shaped plates that cradle the Ducati 851 motor of the Tesi 1D, generating an almighty pile of aluminium swarf several inches deep.

The Bimota Tesi 1D
The Bimota Tesi 1D

The original Tesi design dates back to 1980 when Bimota’s Federico Martini and postgraduate student Pier Luigi Marconi built their first take on separating a bike’s suspension from its steering. It used a Kawasaki GPz 550 motor.

Before using the Ducati powerplant a VF400 engine was also used
Before using the Ducati powerplant a VF400 engine was also used

This was followed by the first running prototype (using a Honda VF400 motor) and also featured hydraulic steering and anti-dive. It was first displayed at the 1983 Milan Show (and subsequently at the Sydney Motorcycle Show in 1987).

The Bimota Tesi based around a Honda VF400 powerplant
The Bimota Tesi based around a Honda VF400 powerplant

Bimota Tesi VF400
Bimota Tesi VF400

It wasn’t until 1987 that the first road-going model was due to be released, however lack of finances saw this pushed back until 1990 when the 1D was introduced. The original 1D was powered by a Ducati 851 motor and 127 were produced during 1990-91.

Following the use of the Ducati 851 motor, Bimota increased the stroke to produce a 904cc version
Following the use of the Ducati 851 motor, Bimota increased the stroke to produce a 904cc version

This motor was soon replaced by a Bimota modified unit that displaced 904cc (via a lengthened stroke) and was built as the 1D 906 from 1991-92 (20 bikes) and then the 1D SR from 1992-93 (144 bikes).

A Edizione Speciale and Edizione Finale were also produced in limited numbers
A Edizione Speciale and Edizione Finale were also produced in limited numbers

A 1D ES (Edizione Speciale) followed in ’93 (50 bikes) then the 1D EF (Edizione Finale) in ’94 (25 bikes). A special version for Japan was also built using the Ducati 400SS motor, the 1D J. 51 were produced over 1991-92.

Hub-centre steering was also featured but required extensive maintenance
Hub-centre steering was also featured but required extensive maintenance

While the hub-centre steering worked very well it was reliant on careful setup and constant maintenance. As a result most 1Ds had somewhat problematic handling, most of the time.

Without the required maintenance steering could be problematic
Without the required maintenance steering could be problematic

The Tesi was even raced! Here is the 1991 factory bike at the Barber Museum (in 1993 ES guise). It competed in the Italian Superbike series prototype class.

The 1991 factory bike at the Barber Museum (in 1993 ES guise)
The 1991 factory bike at the Barber Museum (in 1993 ES guise)

The Bimota Tesi 1991 factory bike
The Bimota Tesi 1991 factory bike

The Bimota Tesi 1991 factory bike
The Bimota Tesi 1991 factory bike

This is a US spec 1D SR that was imported into Australia. Weight was 214kg, and power 113hp at 8500rpm, offering a top speed of 265km/h.

Bimota Tesi 1D
Bimota Tesi 1D – with 113hp on tap a top speed of 265km/h was possible

When maintained properly the hub-centre steering was an effective solution
When maintained properly the hub-centre steering was an effective solution

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