Icon: Bimota Tesi 1D
#39 Bimota Tesi 1D
Where did it come from?
The fertile mind of Pier Luigi Marconi, who came up with his take on the hubcentre-steering principle while studying for his engineering degree at Bologna University, and working part-time at Bimota in Rimini during his holidays. The design formed the basis of his final year project — Tesi is Italian for Thesis — and when he joined Bimota full time in 1986 he persuaded the firm to develop the idea. In 1988 legendary Italian nutjob Giancarlo Falappa put an Fz750-engined version on pole for the F1 race at Bimota’s home track of Misano. By the time the production version arrived, though, it was all-italian, with power from Ducati’s ever-improving watercooled 851 engine.
Why no forks?
Because if you wanted to invent the idea of high-performance motorbikes from scratch, you probably wouldn’t stick telescopic forks on them — hub steered alternatives have various theoretical advantages including less stiction in sliding parts, reduced or zero dive under braking, improved control over lateral movement, etc. The trouble is, flawed or not, forks have evolved to get round their inherent disadvantages, and we as riders like the way thay behave because we’re used to it. Few people actually got to ride a Tesi at the time, but those who did said it felt a lot like a normal bike, except for the lack of dive under braking. That was because Bimota had set the steering to feel as forklike as possible - a bit pointless really.
Why do people like it?
It was interesting and exotic, even bang in the middle of the explosion of bespoke homologation specials. With its clothes off, it looked like no other bike — all milled aluminium, rose-jointed connecting links and top-notch componentry.
Cult rating 3/5
If you’re an engineer and a biker, maybe it’ll be higher up the scale — one of the few largely uncompromised alternative front ends to make it into production.
The problem is...
Apart from spares supply (always a problem even when Bimota was still a going concern), the big problem is finding one. They were hugely expensive new — £25,000 for the 904cc version in 1991 was two-and-a-half times the price of an 851. In fact you could have bought an 851, a Honda VFR750, a Suzuki GSX-R750M AND a Kawasaki ZXR750J1 for around the same price... These days, when they come up, they go for anything from £15,000, though we saw a zero miles example offered at US $150,000.
Without the Tesi 1D...
We might all still be riding around on bikes with unnecessarily heavy, flexy, conventional forks. Oh, hang on...
“Clothes off, it looked like no other bike”
An interesting engineering solution to a non-existent problem