2009 Bimota Tesi 3D Review
A technological beauty
The Bimota Tesi is a motorcycle everyone involved in industry should admire. Tesi is Italian for Thesis, which is fitting as it was Engineer Pierluigi Marconi’s thesis at university that directly led to the Bimota Tesi 1D motorcycle in 1990.
One, two and three D stands for the various Ducati engines used in the models. 3D has got a nice second meaning to it too as you really need to look at this fantastic piece of engineering in 3D to fully appreciate it.
Who would have thought of adding a swingarm both at the rear and at the front of a motorcycle? The Bimota Tesi 3D is the ultimate hub-steered motorcycle for the technologically and mechanically minded people out there. As a side note, Marconi has since left Bimota to take the currently unfortunate position of CEO for Benelli.
The hub-steered Tesi 3D is unique in that the system separates the suspension, braking and turning forces. I had the privilege of riding the Tesi 3D at Misano in 2008, then again in 2009 on half wet roads in the hills between Rimini and San Marino in northwestern Italy.
Initially it feels very weird to turn on the road with the Bimota Tesi 3D. Your brain needs a little recalibration as the handlebars feel sluggish and unresponsive at first, but it’s really not the case. What happens on that front end is that the arms on bearings interact with each other and the pull-rod Extremetech mono shock at the front. That’s right, a mono shock at the front specially designed by Extremetech to Bimota’s specifications.
So when I push the handlebars to steer left or right there’s a hydraulic or really tight steering damper feel to the movements. When braking, the feel is similar to a BMW with a Telelever front end. These are the idiosyncrasies that characterize how the Tesi 3D feels different from any other motorcycle. At Misano the general feeling I had was that the faster I entered the corners the better the Tesi 3D felt to ride. The front end feel must not be mistaken for no feel at all as it just gets better and better the more laps you do. There is no dive at the front as there is no fork and the beautifully crafted headstock looks like one that would only support a 125cc motorcycle, but that’s all that’s needed. All the headstock is doing on the Tesi 3D is supporting the rider’s weight and providing a place to mount the controls. This all creates a completely open space between the small fairing and the front wheel.
What may put you off more than anything else on a circuit is that there’s a completely new set of sounds coming from the front end than you’re used to. It’s a more mechanical feel rather than the plush feel of a diving fork. Bimota’s own experience when they have let racing riders out on the Tesi 3D for the first time is that it takes some adjustments, but as soon as a rider gets used to the new feel they generally prefer the Tesi 3D to a more conventional Bimota DB5. One of the main reasons for this is the consistency, as you soon start getting some incredible feedback from that front end not possible on a conventional front end. Your feedback is delivered from a beautiful trellis frame similar to the swingarm at the back. Hard braking over bumps is no problem on the Tesi 3D as the suspension deals with bumps separately while maintaining plenty of wheel travel for braking. Run out of wheel travel and you’re in trouble, but this happens much sooner on a fork than on a hub-steered set-up.
Connecting the front and the rear trellis swingarm is the famous Omega frame consisting of two machined aluminum plates.
The heart of any Bimota these days is all Ducati. The DS1100 L-Twin engine produces 95 Desmo air-cooled horsepower. But that’s all the external help this Bimota gets because all the electronics are of in-house specs and in general you can say that this improves any Ducati engine. There’s no serious thought of cutting any cost when building a Bimota Tesi 3D by hand. The best parts and materials possible will always be used. The only reason for that the 4.1-gallon fuel tank is made of plastic rather than carbon fiber is purely down to a problem getting carbon fiber fuel tanks homologated in the US. So that’s an aftermarket accessory on the Tesi 3D.
The sub frame holding the single seat is all carbon fiber as well as many other details. According to Bimota, the dry weight is an ultra-light 370 pounds.
As for the Tesi 3D’s road manners, the rear end feels like any other Bimota rear end and the Continental Attack tires grip where they should. The DS1100 engine feels and sounds great as always and there are no hiccups, just usable torque and power all the way.
The ergonomics are not as bad as they look on the pictures. There is room even for me, but if you’re any fatter than I you should look elsewhere. I could think of very few other motorcycles that rival the Tesi 3D as a modern technological sculpture. Every technical museum in the world should order one!
Bimota is currently only building Tesi 3Ds to order and there are plans for a Tesi 4D to be launched within the next two-three years.
I firmly believe that the Bimota Tesi 3D is a work of art and engineering marvel. Hub-steered motorcycles have proven to be a very difficult commercial venture so please join me in thanking the boys at Bimota and Vyrus for continuing to offer this fantastic machine. If you can afford a hand-built motorcycle that’s almost maintenance free, then the Tesi 3D should be high on your list of acquisitions. For all others, including myself, the Tesi 3D remains a dream bike to drool over and read about, but probably never own.
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