Bimota db4 – Cycle Torque Magazine

26 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Bimota db4 – Cycle Torque Magazine
Bimota DB 4

SuperLithe Italian

Test by Tim Sanford. Pics by Nigel Paterson.

Function and form are rarely combined with complete success. Too often, that which is effective is ugly and that which is beautiful is merely ornamental. In the 1999 DB4, powered by a Ducati 900SS donk, Bimota has crafted a mechanism which performs the functions of a sports motorcycle at the highest level while being an expression of the motorcycle as an art form.

In terms of motorcycle manufacture, the Italian Bimota factory is microscopic, yet its products have established themselves as innovative in both engineering and styling. Looking back, it is clear that Bimota has made a significant contribution to motorcycling, often by being brave enough to put into the market place machines which no volume manufacturer could afford to risk, (take the hub-centre steered but ill-fated Tesi for example) yet each one found a place in the garages of the enthusiasts who recognised the machines for what they were: a step apart from the mainstream, something different, something better. Such individuality has always come at a price, but that has never been a deterrent.

By their nature, sports bikes are not designed as all-rounders and there exists a general philosophy that owners will overlook the short-comings as long as the bike delivers the sporting goods. In the case of the DB4, the sporting credentials are very strong and the styling is absolutely state of the art, yet practical applications are wider than you would first think.

You can’t use it to carry home the weekly shopping (well, not unless you exist exclusively on a diet of freeze-dried bush walking tucker) but you will find it competent for many other tasks. Just be prepared to fight your way through the crowd of admirers whenever you park it. Life is full of choices

I was at Phillip Island for the Australian round of the World Superbikes and there were two ways of getting home: take another ride on the big silver budgie or ride back on the only Bimota DB4 in the country. Can you imagine the time I spent with the mental wrestling which attached itself to this choice?

Post-race traffic streaming out of the island is always full of motorheads on bikes and in cars, all trying to prove that their skills are far superior to those of the leather-clad heroes they’ve spent the day cheering on. Such transport mayhem can be dealt with either by sitting in one lane and silently stewing or pulling the pin and disappearing. I chose the pin – the Bimota made me do it, honest.

Only when I was safe for the night back in Melbourne did I realise just how easily this sporting machine had dealt with that tightly packed, high-speed snarl. Light and narrow, with instant response from all controls, it had adapted quickly to the drudgery of commuting but to be fair, you would have to see it as a guerrilla fighter rather than a plodding foot soldier in the cut and thrust of street warfare.

But Melbourne is a city and although cities offer few opportunities for a stallion to stretch its legs, they do provide ample scope to indulge the stylistic expression which is such a feature of this motorcycle. Look at it! ‘Unusual’ is the most pedestrian description, but ‘exotic’, ‘outstanding’, and even ‘outrageous’ more accurately describe the crisp picture you see before you.

The actual shape of the fairing components is more consistent with accepted practice than has been the case with previous Bimotas. What sets the bike apart is the choice and distribution of colour and the result is one that is worlds away from other bikes. Where other manufacturers are currently pursuing flowing air-brush graphics, complete with ‘signature’ embellishments to create almost a camouflage effect of mixed colours, Bimota has reverted to turn-of-the-century Futurism as the basis for their styling.

Founded in Milan (how appropriate) in 1909, the members of the then avant-garde Futurism movement sought to liberate Italy from the weight of its past and to glorify modernity. They were fascinated by machinery and transport, and their art sought to capture movement and speed through the use of angular forms and powerful lines which conveyed a sense of dynamism.

Bimota has embraced this artistic philosophy and expressed it in a bold mixture of stark, pure white, metallic green and metallic red which, coincidentally, just happen to be the colours of Italy. Very fitting. Beauty is subjective and although the styling will not have universal appeal, from an engineering viewpoint, this bike is superb from every angle.

The bikes are assembled by hand by individual technicians and the quality of build positively shouts at you. I found myself just sitting and looking at it – running my eye over each well-crafted component and enjoying the pure magic of the mechanism

Cafe cruising, combined with coffee-drinking, would become a favourite pastime with this Bimota. Passers-by quickly become onlookers who are turned into enthusiastic scrutineers as they examine every aspect of the bike. You will be forced to politely endure their inquisitive admiration while you sip coffee and answer questions.

If you happen to be the shy, retiring type, just park it across the road and watch from a safe distance.

On the road

One road out of the southern capital is the hypnotic Hume Highway. Any other road is preferable if you have no time constraints, so we headed north by way of just about every twist and turn that the good roads of Victoria could provide. In that sort of environment, the Bimota promised to be an absolute gem and I was really looking forward to carving through the curves.

Morning dawned, breakfast was eaten but joy turned to gloom as I tried in vain to wake the Bimota. Overnight – safe in the garage – it had become utterly brain dead. No sign of life anywhere.

Be not fearful, because as an owner, this would only happen to you once.

Instead of the usual sidestand-activated ignition switch, Bimota has incorporated a complete cut-out and if you leave the bike parked in gear, all electricals (except the parking lights) are disabled. Suspension was set at 12 clicks off full hard, front and rear, compression and rebound. This setting proved okay for smooth roads, but was far too stiff for anything bumpy.

The spring rates are on the stiff side, even for my weight of 85kg, and eventually I settled for suspension settings of fully soft for compression and rebound front and 20 clicks back for compression and rebound for the rear.

On the road the DB4 is very well balanced. The frame, suspension and brakes complement the engine but they are never overwhelmed by the available power. The engine’s quoted output of 80ps is enough to give the Bimota rider plenty of thrills without getting into the full-on fear zone.

With the level of handling and road holding provided by the chassis, the power is good enough to keep the Bimota up with sports bikes of considerably higher power output and as long as the road contains plenty of bendy bits and a few surprises, the ease with which the bike can be hustled along more than compensates for the moderate power. After all, power is not an absolute quantity – what you do with it is rather more important than how much you’ve got.

Over secondary roads, the suspension was best left soft but it was never really happy if asked to cope with much more than small bumps. Anything in the bomb crater department was to be avoided at all costs – the bike is low and the belly pan will scrape. Medium-sized bumps had the bike skipping merrily across the road with no loss of directional stability, just airborne side-stepping.

Rising in the saddle – motocross style – was required to maintain painless progress.

The roads up over the Snowy Mountains provided plenty of opportunities to enjoy the bike’s good qualities and endure its failings. Fast, smooth sweepers could be taken at ridiculous speeds, with the very precise, sensitive and neutral steering combining with the fat Michelins to ensure complete confidence. Bumpy corners required careful selection of a line which would allow for the occasional sidestepping.

The lesson is to keep your eyes peeled to read the road ahead. Any time the bike needed to wash off speed, either a little or a lot, the brakes were brilliant, no question. Power, feel, lever position, all of it. Brilliant. There was only one fly in the sporting ointment but it’s a serious one: for a motorcycle with such serious sporting credentials, the twist grip ratio is absurdly low and to get things moving needed a big double take with the right hand.

Around town it was not a problem, but out in open country, the slow and therefore insensitive throttle action quickly becam e a chore. The solution is simple of course: install a quick action twist grip. But you shouldn’t have to, it should be standard equipment.

The machine is strictly a sporting solo.

There is no provision for a pillion passenger, no ocky strap tie-down points and the plastic tank cover will not hold a magnetic tank bag. If you need it, it must be carried in a back-pack or bum bag. Now here comes the silly bit: sports motorcycles are focussed, right? You don’t tour on a sports bike, right?

Well, I put in 17 hours straight on this motorcycle, over some of Australia’s best touring country and I never got a sore bum. For some reason – not explained by close inspection – the thinly padded seat was very comfortable. Yes, I did lift my weight off it frequently playing high-speed motocross over the more poorly maintained (read ‘bumpy’) back roads but my bum never complained.

To be honest, it rates as one of the most comfortable bikes I have ridden in a long time and it fitted me perfectly. And no, I’m not getting counselling. Well, not for that, anyway. The Bimota DB4 is a bike to fall in love with. It is finely engineered and represents the very epitome of what the Italians do so well: produce a machine with soul.

It is a motorcycle that sets you apart. I could say that it sets you far from the madding crowd but that’s not quite true because every time you park it, the admirers flock around.

The Engine Room

Driving the DB4 is the proven twin-cylinder, two-valve Ducati 904cc V-twin. With bore and stroke of 92 x 68mm and compression ratio of 9.2:1, the engine is very similar to that found in the current 900SS, but unlike the Ducati, which uses Marelli fuel injection, the Bimota uses two 38mm carburettors. Power output is a modest 80ps at 7000 rpm and the delivery is smooth and linear.

On the test bike, the engine was a very sweet unit indeed, with no annoying periods of vibration. It needed around 4000revs to wake up and get operational and strong power was delivered from six onwards. Although it had but few kilometres on the clock, it was very free-revving and a close eye was needed on the tacho or it would easily run up to high revs, which would have been very unkind to such a new motor.

Gearing is 2.0:1 for the gear-driven primary, with first at 2.47:1, second 1.76, third 1.35, fourth 1.09, fifth 0.96 and sixth 0.86:1. Final drive ratio is 2.53:1, with 15 teeth on the gearbox sprocket and 38 on the back wheel. The overall gearing felt a little too low but that also meant that maintaining the highway speed limit in fifth or sixth was not too tedious.

Fuel consumption for the test averaged 13.4km/L, with a thirst of 12.6 while playing desperates over the Snowy and 14.2 avoiding the unwelcome attentions of the nasty electronic traffic velocity management tools. For a light (165kg dry) bike, these figures are not economical but I was wearing weather protection and a bulky back pack, rather than slick leathers, which would have contributed very significantly to the drag factor.

The tank holds 20 litres, but I found it blinking the reserve light at around 170km, with the light staying on at around 180. Based on the fuel consumption, this would indicate a reserve of about five litres, which seems unusually generous. The Structure The chassis, meaning the frame, the brakes, the suspension, the steering etc are all made in very high quality components and are superb.

The frame is in oval-section aluminium tube with welds to drool over.

The brakes are Brembo: twin discs up front with four-pot opposed piston calipers and single rear disc, twin opposed pistons. The suspension is fully adjustable with wheel travel of 120mm front and 102mm rear, but the spring rates are on the stiff side. Lighter riders particularly may need to change springs to soften the ride.

Steering angle is 23 degrees, trail is 91mm and fork diameter is 43mm. Wheels are 3.50 x 17 front and 5.50 x 17 rear carrying Michelin rubber of 120/70ZR17 and 180/55ZR17 respectively. The Clothing The finish of the bike is outstanding and there were no external examples of poor finish.

All of the body panels fit well and all edges are protected.

The only place found wanting was the area inside the fuel filler. The plastic fuel tank is hidden beneath the one piece seat/tank unit and access is gained through the filler cap recess. The aluminium surround is sharp and a moment’s attention with a file smoothed away an edge with the potential to cut the fingers as they unscrewed the filler cap.

The Tape Measure Maximum length is 2000mm, maximum width is 805mm, maximum height is 1155mm, the seat height is 800mm, the dry weight is 165kg which puts the bike at around 180kg with oil and some fuel.

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