First Ride: 2006 Vyrus 985 C3 4V Road Test & Review

Functioning Future bike

OK, so how did Rodorigo and company succeed in reinventing the Tesi? "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 Bimota in arriving at the best solution. We made a bike that is a very stiff structure, where nothing moves except the suspension and the tires. And we produced a steering linkage with fewer bearings, so as to give it more sensitivity. You must feel the front tire as if the front axle were in your hands."

They also changed the center of gravity, raising the engine 40mm (1.6 in.) higher than on a 999R and 50mm (2.0 in.) higher than on the original Tesi. Weight distribution was also an important factor. At rest, the Vyrus has a 53 percent/47 percent forward weight bias, but with a 150-pound rider aboard it's 50/50--perfectly balanced.

"All this influences handling and makes the bike steer much faster, especially with the short wheelbase," Rodorigo continues. "It's like a 250cc GP bike in terms of geometry, but it's also completely stable in a straight line. Even if you try to make it shake by moving the handlebars, you can't. And we have no steering damper fitted; that's a Band-Aid for a wrong design!"

The only real downside to my reacquaintance with the Tesi concept in Vyrus guise was the bike literally hadn't run before being shipped to the U.S. As a result, the 999R motor wasn't dialed-in, and needed a series of stops to remap and retest before we got it running somewhere close to OK. Rodorigo and his crew normally do this before delivering a bike--the Misano racetrack is just a stone's throw from their shop--but getting the bike crated for its overseas voyage prevented them from doing so this time. The problem is Ducati won't authorize Magneti Marelli to release the access codes for the stock 999R EFI, which would enable Vyrus to remap the engine-management system for the much larger airbox and asymmetric exhaust system. Hence the need to fit an all-new ECU, the work of a small electronic specialist in northern Italy called Microtec, which seems to have done a good job.

Once we got it dialed I could ride the meaty torque curve of the short-stroke desmo V-twin and use its appetite for revs to hold a gear, shifting just six times per lap. Nice. With a claimed dry weight of 345 pounds and a reputed 150 rear-wheel horsepower at 10,500 rpm, the Vyrus is pretty invigorating to ride, with zestful acceleration and no real vibration from the engine even at five-figure revs, in spite of its application as a totally integrated chassis component.

For many proponents of two-wheeled alternative thought, the issue of finding a better way to hang a bike's steering wheel has been a matter of debate ever since BMW gave us the first telescopic fork almost 70 years ago. Apart from the brave-but-ultimately unsuccessful 1993-'94 Yamaha GTS1000 with its James Parker-developed RADD front end, it's been a regrettable fact of commercial life that no major manufacturer--except, inevitably, BMW--has dared to be different. The perceived wisdom is that nothing works better than a conventional fork, and anyone trying to prove otherwise is foolish, deranged or stubborn.

The Vyrus 985 C3 4V is Ascanio Rodorigo's proof of the fallacy of this delusion. It not only looks good, it works.-MC

2006 Vyrus 985 C3 4V

MSRP: Approx. $68, 825

Type: 1-c, 90-degree V-twin
Valves: desmo DOHC, 8 valves
Displacement: 999cc
Transmission: 6-speed

Weight: 345 lb., claimed dry (157 kg)
Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal. (14.5L)Wheelbase: 54.1 in. (1375mm)
Seat height: 32.7 in. (830mm)

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