Vyrus 985 C3 4V Review Motorcycle Trader New Zealand

3 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Vyrus 985 C3 4V Review Motorcycle Trader New Zealand
Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V

Vyrus 985 C3 4V Review

Vyrus 985 C3 4V

Forty-three year-old Rodorigo started out working for Massimo Tamburini at Bimota back in 1983-84. Tamburini is responsible for the iconically beautiful Ducati 916 and MV Agusta F4, and if he is the Michelangelo of motorcycles, Ascanio Rodorigo is surely the Picasso. One look at his latest example of deconstructed cubist two-wheeled sculpture, the Vyrus 985 C3 4V, will confirm this.

Like the Richard Rogers-designed Pompidou Art Centre in Paris, which displays its pipes, drains, conduits and aircon ducts on the exterior of its walls for all to see, the surreal Vyrus hub-centre Superbike powered by a 999R Ducati Testastretta motor, same as the one Troy Bayliss is storming to his comeback World Superbike title on this season, seems to wear its technology on the outside, in plain view.

Look closely at the new Vyrus, and every ten seconds you spend admiring it will yield another trick part or artistic feature. Don’t believe me? Then look at the gold-anodized track rods operating the car-type steering, with the kingpin in the middle of the front hub on which the wheel rotates.

Or the skeletal CNC-machined aluminium frame spars, with the stress paths carefully plotted by finite element analysis. And the metal around them removed to save crucial grammes in allowing the Vyrus to weigh in at an amazing 157kg half dry, a massive 24kg lighter than the dry weight of the Ducati 999R, the source of the engine.

Look at the heavily revised Tesi-type steering linkage with the bell-crank positioned on the front of the right frame spar, and the gently curved alloy drag link operating the rod which activates it. This helps eliminate some of the copious changes in direction that the original Tesi design incorporated.

What about the rising-rate front suspension link driven off the smoothed-off swingarm and pivoting on the left frame spar, contrasting with the direct-action cantilever rear. Or the twin heat exchanger radiators aptly located in a vee beneath the desmo V-twin’s front cylinder, thus substantially reducing the width of the whole bike compared to a 999R, and especially the original Tesi. Or the airy looking PVM forged aluminium wheels.

Or the rear bracket shaped to carry a square Italian numberplate, so thin but sturdy, surmounted by a pair of tiny trafficators and a small rear light which are themselves worth admiring. Or the svelte-looking oil radiator positioned behind the abbreviated front mudguard, level with the front cylinder. Or the flat carbon silencer cans, shaped to conform to the contours of the seat they’re located beneath.

Or the exquisitely formed steering head pivot to which the aluminium handlebars are bolted. Or the diamond-shaped mirrors, whose form follows that of the 14.5-litre fuel tank, ditto the seat viwed from on top, and the hefty rear swingarm on its unbraced right side. Or the carbon catchtray beneath the Testastretta motor’s wedge-shaped coppa bassa sump.

Or – but you get the picture: did I exaggerate? This is an exquisitely conceived, finely detailed and brilliantly executed motorcycling masterpiece, a genuine abstract two-wheeled work of modern art. The fact that the Vyrus proved to work as well dynamically as it looked aesthetically was an added bonus.

So why come all the way here to America’s Deep South, south of the MasonDixon line, to ride a motorcycle lovingly created by hand an ocean away by Italian craftsmen in a small five-man oficina beside the Adriatic Sea? Well, the Barber Museum includes the actual works Tesi 1 D Superbike which I raced for the Bimota factory in 1991-2. My original bike, took me to a pair of Supertwins races at Daytona, as well as others in Europe, also claiming a fourth place in Japan against the best of the local twin-cylinder hotshots.

The chance to compare and contrast through the camera lens two such radical examples of alternative thought sharing the same avantgarde design philosophy but 15 years apart, as well as to give the Tesi’s modern-day Vyrus successor a stiff exam on the scenic, switchback Barber circuit, was too good a chance to miss. In any case the Testastretta-engined Vyrus streetbike was destined to find a home in the USA after the test. I couldn’t have chosen a better bike to use in coming to terms with the tricks of the Barber track.

Hopping aboard the Tesi at rest brought the memories flooding back, and swapping back and forth between the two underlined just how much smaller and definitely more purposeful the Vyrus is than the more boat-like Tesi. Its riding position is comfortable and comparatively normal, without your hands being too close together as on some other hub-centre bikes, thanks to the absence of a proper set of forks and the triple clamps they’re harnessed in. The absence of any bodywork other than the intricately designed headlamp fairing helps add to the sense of minimalism, but not at the expense of adequate wind protection.

Everything about the Vyrus seems refined, delicate even, in its design and function. Low-speed manoeuverability had seemed good when trickling the bike out of the Barber Museum’s basement workshop. There’s none of the ungainliness of most other hub-centre bikes that I’ve tried, including the Tesi which I remember was not at all at home in tight corners.

By contrast, the steering of the Vyrus seems light but deft, without being over-sensitive, just controllable, and indeed the whole bike seems less remote, more direct-steering and controllable than the Tesi did in the old days 15 years ago.

After a handful of laps gradually picking up speed, it suddenly clicked. As my mental computer was rebooted and remapped, I remembered the mindset you must adopt to get the best out of a hub-centre motorcycle. Which is, hold the ‘bars lightly and don’t be afraid to stay off the brakes until what seems suicidally late for a bike that’s been trapped at over 280kph.

Then, when you do decide to stop, don’t be concerned about grabbing a big handful of front brake and squeezing the adjustable lever hard back as you lean into the apex of the turn, while still scrubbing off speed. The separation of steering from suspension functions on a bike like this is the biggest asset of hub-centre front ends.

One thing I’m surprised not to see on the Vyrus is a set of Braking margherita petal discs, which work well, look good, and make the bike easier to turn, but though the four-pot Brembo calipers gripping the pair of 320mm front discs aren’t radially-mounted (no space, says Ascanio), they give great bite in slowing down what is a pretty light bike for its engine performance. Once you come to terms with the fact there’s essentially no front end dive, you realise that the suspension keeps on working even though you’re braking so hard, because the Vyrus is almost oblivious to the weight transfer this delivers. Once you get dialled in to revised braking distances, your increased confidence will let the Vyrus start to carry massive amounts of turn speed, while still eating up any bumps encountered.

This bike is so confidence inspiring and well balanced, with seemingly no sensitivity to any kind of weight transfer, either under braking into the turn or on the gas out of it, that there seems no limit how hard you can push it in corners. One downside is extensive punishment for grippy tyres. After around 50 laps the excellent Pirelli Dragon Supercorsas front road tyre was quite worn, and the rear not much better.

I remember this was a serious problem when I raced the Tesi.

I watched you riding and couldn’t believe how early you could give full acceleration on the angle, compared to the racebikes I was watching here yesterday at the AMA National, said Ascanio after. You saw it is very stable under power, and has good grip. Yes, that it does.

So how did Ascanio and his team come to reinvent the Tesi, and do so with such success? In fact, we started again with a clean sheet of paper, he replies, and decided we must completely forget all our experience of standard motorcycles, and think only of the suggestions offered by the Bimota in arriving at the best solution. We made a bike which is a very stiff structure, where nothing moves except the suspension and the tyres.

Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V

We produced a steering linkage with fewer bearings in it, so as to give it more sensitivity. You must feel the front tyre as if you have the front axle in your hands. Then we changed completely the centre of gravity of the bike.

Compared to a normal Ducati, we have the engine mounted 40mm higher off the ground, and against the Tesi it is 50mm higher. Weight distribution is also important. Standing at rest the Vyrus 985 has 53/47 percent forwards weight bias, but with a 75kg rider it is 50/50 percent, so, completely balanced.

We have a radically different footrest position, seat position, and handlebar location compared to normal bikes. All this influences very much the handling, and makes the bike steer much faster, especially with the very short 1375mm wheelbase we installed. It’s like a 250cc GP bike in terms of geometry, but it’s also completely stable in a straight line.

We have no steering damper fitted. This is a band-aid for a wrong design!

For many proponents of two-wheeled alternative thought, the issue of finding a better way of hanging the front wheel a motorcycle steers with, has been a matter of debate and experimentation ever since BMW first gave us the telescopic forks used today. Telescopic forks can be found on 99.9 percent of the world’s motorcycles (not scooters, mind), almost seventy years after BMW introduced them. But, apart from the brave but ultimately unsuccessful Yamaha GTS, it’s been a regrettable fact of commercial life that, in the modern era, no volume production major manufacturer except, inevitably, BMW once again, has dared to be different sufficiently hard to forge a genuine alternative to tele forks.

The fact that Europe’s largest and most technology-driven motorcycle manufacturer offers such an array of non tele-forked bikes might just convey a hint of what could/should be, if only. The perceived wisdom is that nothing works better than tele forks, and anyone trying to prove the opposite is either foolish, deranged or just plain stubborn. The Vyrus 985 C3 4V is Ascanio Rodorigo’s living proof of the fallacy of this delusion.

It not only looks good, it works too, and the way it performed on such a demanding track as Barber convinced me that here at last is the Tesi done right. Better late than never.

OK, so what now? Where does the two-wheeled Vyrus that gets under your skin and attacks your preconceptions, go from here? The motorcycle industry has been running up and down in the same place for a long time. Although they continue to develop ordinary telescopic forks, from 32mm fifty years ago up to 50mm today, the fact is you can’t go faster unless you put on better tyres or develop a more powerful engine.

The actual design of a motorcycle has stood still. What we would like is for a big company to copy our solution. It’s not patented, so it’s open for them to adopt free of charge. But we know that if they do this, there will be less time taken for going into the corner, less time to make the corner, and less time for going out of the corner.

This is the way ahead, and I’m glad we could demonstrate that to you here today. said Ascanio.

Words Alan Cathcart

Photos: Riles and Nelson

For more Ducati bike tests visit www.motorcycletrader.co.nz

Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V
Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V
Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V
Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V
Bimota Vyrus 985 C3 4V

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