Bimota DB1 – The Stunner That Rescued The Company
Bimota is one of the most interesting motorcycle manufacturers of all time. Founded by Massimo Tamburini, Giuseppe Morri and Valerio Bianchi the company has produced some of the most incredible motorcycles the world has seen but the journey has not been without its turbulence for the Italian company.
The Bimota DB1 however, is a positive story, it is often credited as being the bike that saved Bimota – how many motorcycles are that important?
Commissioned originally by Cagiva and intended to be a Ducati branded motorcycle, Federico Martini forged the DB1, and it became the first all-Italian Bimota.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Bimota DB1 History
Up until 1985 Bimota had predominantly been using Japanese engines to power their bikes, for example turning the Kawasaki Z1 into the Bimota KB1.
Production runs were small due to limited funding and resources; the KB1 had estimated production figures of just over 300 units. The fact of the matter is Bimota simply could not compete with the Japanese manufacturers, in terms of scale.
In 1983 co-founder Massimo Tamburini left Bimota to go and work for Ducati, it is said he was forced out by Giuseppe Morri and the exit was an uneasy one. Morri teamed up with ex-Ducati engineer and the newly appointed Technical Director Dr. Frederico Martini for their next project.
Cagiva co-founder Gianfranco Castiglioni (and co-owner of Ducati) reached out to Morri with an external contract. The job was to create a new bike for Ducati.
Which is how the DB1 became the first Bimota powered by a Ducati engine, the motor used was the Pantah 750 twin. The twin-cylinder machine reached the prototype stage but due to Morri not getting along with Claudio Castiglioni (Gianfranco’s brother) the project was pulled.
Morri was invested deeply in the project and so appealed to Gianfranco, returned the deposit that had been paid for it to be a Ducati project and Gianfranco agreed Bimota could carry on with the DB1 under their own steam.
Bimota owned the rights to the new machine and so powered through to finish the worlds first all-Italian Bimota and it would roll off the production line in 1985 and run until 1990.
As a side note Ducati still needed a new model and so the Castiglioni brothers commissioned Massimo Tamburini to produce them one, he used the same Pantah engine and the final result was the Ducati Paso.
The DB1 (Ducati Bimota 1) is arguably one of the most successful Bimota motorcycles ever produced.
The model was celebrated by the press and public. It was a hit from the onset from Europe to the US and even the Japanese market which received a special 400cc edition.
During this time Frederico Martini was credited with increasing production figures significantly generating much needed income, and as a result saving the company financially. Debts to various companies had increased in the previous years and as a result of the DB1’s success, some of these could now be paid back and Bimota could climb out of hot water.
It was on the back of the Bimota DB1 success that the YB4 was released, a new Bimota powered by the same engine as the Yamaha TZ250. The YB4 was also a success for Bimota. It could be said that these years were the glory years for Bimota.
Bimota DB1 Review
The Bimota DB1 was equipped with the 750cc Pantah engine, a Ducati motor that had proved itself on the track to be a race winner, with more power than the original 500cc engine in the Pantah 500. The engine was paired with a 5 speed gearbox.
To complement the 63 horsepower, Bimota ensured that the bike was kept lightweight, taking the time to produce components that would reduce weight wherever possible which made the most out of the engine.
Where possible the Bimota DB1 uses aluminum parts such as with the clip-ons and rear-set pegs, the chrome-molybdenum frame was also extremely lightweight.
The engine was used as a stressed member of the chassis with the design meaning that the swingarm pivots in the engine’s crankcase, this again saved weight while retaining solid construction for competent handling.
In terms of styling the DB1 had all enclosing bodywork, with voluptuous curves, it was meant to be a head turner and the peak of extrovert design, which is what manufacturers out of Italy were getting a reputation for.
The fairing wraps around the front of the bike and the wind is thrown away over the rider thanks to it pulling back at a sharp curve over the huge tank. The seat is deliberately low-down into the bike overshadowed by the bodywork and the rear cowl acts as a backrest to hold the rider in place.
If you were to put the Bimota DB1 and Ducati Paso side by side, there are very few people that would argue that the Paso is the better option in terms of style. In hindsight, this is a very rare occurrence as Massimo Tamburini is credited as being the Michelangelo of motorcycle design, but even he couldn’t beat the Bimota DB1 with his Paso creation.
Marzocchi suspension designed for Bimota directly, graced the front and rear of the bike, Brembo brakes provided stopping power.
When it comes to riding the Bimota DB1, the steering is precise, while the handling is easy and mild-mannered, this can be attributed to the nature of the V-twin engine with it being well-balanced and centered down low. This combined with the super low weight, the Db1 could easily be compared to 250cc two-stroke racers of the same era.
The bike is fast, although again the V-twin means it can be deceptively so, getting you up to speed with ease and masses of torque to draw from in the higher gears. It has the ability to sustain high speeds without faltering over a period of time.
The Bimota DB1 has a sporty personality, but a classy one, it wants you to push your riding limits, but it doesn’t want you to be a hooligan, the bodywork deserves more than to be dropped in a corner because you went too far.
Admittedly the bike looks bigger than it actually is. It isn’t naturally built for tall big riders, you can mold your body to the bike’s curves in this case and make it work, but comfort won’t be up there when you come to make a pros and cons list.
Ergonomically you are in a racer position hunched over the tank and tucked in, held by the rear cowl, you would be pretty hardcore to think you could strap some luggage and go off for the weekend on a Bimota DB1.
The DB1 was received well by both the press and public with Bimotas typical production numbers increasing from 50-300 units to 1200 units.
Magazines at the time such as La Moto, Moto Journal and Motosprint applauded the Bimota DB1 as refined, splendid and celebrated the quality of construction.
Motorcycle magazine tested the DB1 directly up against the Ducati 750F1 and the Bimota came out on top with its main downfall being the fact it had perhaps too much excess, it played on the emotions whereas the Ducati was a more suitable all-round motorcycle.
This is no real surprise as while both companies are known for their extroverted designs, the whole foundation of Bimota is built on taking other manufacturers’ bikes and making them better.
Engine and Transmission
Engine – Four-stroke, 90 degree, L-twin, SOHC, Desmodromic, 2 valves per cylinder
Capacity – 748cc
Bore x Stroke – 88 x 61.5mm
Compression Ratio – 9.3:1
Cooling System – Air-cooled
Starting – Electric
Induction – 2 x 36mm Dell’Orto PHF36 carbs
Transmission – 5 Speed
Final Drive – Chain
Max Power – 62.5 horsepower at 7,500rpm
Max Torque – 61 Nm at 6,500rpm
Top Speed – 139 mph
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame – Chrome-molybdenum ‘Birdcage’ design
Front Suspension – 41.7mm, Marzocchi telescopic forks
Rear Suspension – Marzocchi shocks
Front Brakes – 2 x 280mm discs, 1 piston calipers
Rear Brakes – Single 260mm disc
Dry Weight – 352.7 lbs
Fuel Capacity – 20 liters
Bimota went on to produce several versions of the DB1, let’s take a look and spot the main differences.
The DB1J was a version built for the Japanese market using a 400cc version of the engine, it was produced between 1986-87.
The standard DB1 was made between 1985-86, it had 36mm carbs, a quiet 2-into-1 exhaust. It was a well-refined motorcycle.
THE DB1S was the higher performance version, making the most out of the 750cc engine, the bike had bigger 40mm carbs, a 2-into-2 exhaust and a more breathable air box it was produced from 86-87.
This was the next level up in performance. The SR features 4 piston calipers, bigger carbs, a new exhaust and cam shaft and some styling features.
There was a Series Finale version produced in 1990, only 7 of these units were made at the request of the Bimota Club USA President.
This is the Factory Race version. It was built for just one season between 85-86. Several components were upgraded and some built from magnesium. Engine internals were upgraded for maximum power output along with some chassis refinements.
Buying an original DB1
There are very few original DB1’s for sale, they are coveted and considered to be high value for collectors.
In the UK you will be looking at around £30,000 on average and most likely would have to import from other countries in Europe. In the US prices average $31,000 and again you will be looking at importing from Europe as very few original models made it to the US market.
Bimota Spirit is a great place to look if you are in the US, they have a small collection of Bimota’s in stock including the DB1 below currently listed at $29,500.
Bimota DB1 Parts
When it comes to finding parts for a DB1 it is no easy task. If you happen to find one on the market for a far below average price then of course you would be mad not to snap it up even if you know it needs some work.
The problem is parts are even harder to get hold of, original bodywork panels are like gold dust in an out-of-commission goldmine.
There are plenty of Bimota clubs that may be useful resources for those looking to restore a DB1. There are also some specialist companies like Bimota Parts in Germany that may have or be able to source what you need but a lot of money and patience is going to be needed to do the job right.
Is the Bimota DB1 a good investment?
The DB1 is part of motorcycle history, and a legend in the legacy of Bimota. If you are a fan of the Italian manufacturer then the Bimota DB1 is the bike you want for your collection.
It is likely to keep appreciating in value over time as they are getting harder and harder to find. The DB1 is a classic bike and a much loved one at that.
The Bimota DB1 is a motorcycle that everyone should have some knowledge of, it was far more than an upgraded version of something else. It was an Italian motorcycle through and through with many parts specifically sourced or produced for the bike itself.
It arguably saved Bimota in a time of need, it was if nothing else, more visually spectacular than the Ducati counterpart and it laid the path for other great bikes to follow.
The Ducati 916 is often crowned ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle’, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and while I love the 916, I would argue the DB1 is very very close to that title.