Ducati Powered Model Bimota DB7

By: Tim Carrithers, Roland Brown, Photography by Courtesy Of Bimota, Milagro

The bike ahead was halfway down Misano's long back straight, but it didn't stay that way for long. As I crouched behind the DB7's windscreen and tap-tapped through the gearbox, the booming V-twin punched forward in a 160-horsepower charge that brought the following bend rushing into view at a scary rate. By the time I'd held my breath, backed off a touch and flicked the DB7 through the 100-mph-plus kink, the gap to the bike ahead had halved. I barely gained through the next two turns, but on the start/finish straight I quickly caught and blasted past a Bimota that turned out to be-as I'd guessed from the speed differential-not an identical liquid-cooled DB7 but its air-cooled predecessor, the DB5.

Overtaking a much slower bike proved little about the DB7, but illustrated why Bimota's latest Ducati-powered model is so important to the reborn Rimini firm. That DB5 was a light, sweet-handling sportbike with a good rider on board. But when you're giving away more than 50 bhp to the opposition, you've got a problem-whether you're riding round the racetrack or trying to sell expensive exotic motorcycles in a showroom.

Bimota boss Roberto Comini knows that all too well. The 92-horsepower DB5 and its naked derivative, the DB6, have done a good job of leading Bimota's revival since the petrochemical millionaire took control of the financially troubled firm four years ago. But the firm needed a flagship with the horsepower to compete on equal terms. The DB7, powered by the 160-bhp, eight-valve, DOHC V-twin from Ducati's latest 1098 Superbike, has been created to do just that.

In looks and layout, the DB7 is clearly related to the DB5. They have a similarly angular appearance, with sharp fairing nose, slender fuel tank and minimalist rear end-although designer Enrico Borghesan's new creation has a conventional exhaust in place of the DB5's underseat system. Both bikes' frames combine steel tubes and aluminum sections, as pioneered by Bimota's HB2 more than a quarter-century ago.

But the DB7 is on a different level than the DB5, due largely to the power advantage provided by the Testastretta Evoluzione engine visible through the gaps in the slinky carbon-fiber fairing. The 1099cc desmo unit is mechanically standard, complete with the elliptical throttle bodies as developed by Ducati in MotoGP, though Bimota has fitted a new injection system that combines Magneti-Marelli 12-hole injectors with a tuneable ECU from Bologna-based specialist Walbro.

Bimota also designed the new exhaust system. It's of similar length to the 1098's but features header pipes of slightly smaller diameter (52mm instead of 54mm), a larger chamber for the catalyzer below the engine and an oval-section titanium silencer mounted diagonally on the right. Peak power output is unchanged, but Bimota claims that its injection and exhaust add 4 to 9 bhp between 5000 and 7000 rpm.

Chassis design is unique and elegant, combining an upper portion of oval-section chromoly steel tubing with side plates machined from billet aluminum. There's no rear subframe, just a self-supporting carbon-fiber seat unit. As with the 1098, the engine is a stressed member. The swingarm uses a similar blend of oval steel tubes and aluminum forgings, and works the vertical shock via a rising-rate linkage.

Other chassis parts are suitably upmarket. Billet-aluminum triple clamps hold 43mm Marzocchi racing forks. The ExtremeTech shock is tuneable for high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping; ride height can be adjusted via an eccentric in the top shock mount. Bimota designed the aluminum mounts for the Brembo Monobloc radial calipers, and also the forged-aluminum wheels that are 2 pounds lighter than their 1098 equivalents. At a claimed 378 lbs. dry, the DB7 is lighter than the 1098 by the same amount-at least on paper.

All bodywork is carbon-fiber, as are various other parts including the chain guard and dry clutch cover. Along with neatly machined billet-aluminum pieces including the footpeg assemblies and control levers, they make for a beautifully detailed machine, though when examining it in the Misano pit lane I couldn't help thinking that the fairing's integrated windscreen, which incorporates round holes for the twin headlights, looked like a bit of an afterthought.

Not that I was complaining about that or the typically narrow mirrors as I threw a leg over the fairly low, thinly padded single seat, reached forward to the low clip-ons, fired up the DB7 and headed out onto the track. I hadn't ridden at Misano since the direction of travel was reversed to clockwise (improving safety for MotoGP), so was glad I'd just had a few familiarization laps on a DB5. Especially when I opened the new bike's throttle and found myself accelerating at a much more entertaining rate.

There was certainly no lack of top-end horsepower from this Bimota, which charged forward at every opportunity, accompanied by a deep V-twin bark from the muffler behind my right boot. Misano's new direction means that the fastest part of the circuit is now immediately before that bottle-testing kink, by which point the DB7 was into fifth gear and stampeding toward a likely top speed approaching 190 mph.

Not that I had time to check its speed, or even to notice the flashing over-rev light on the dashboard that combines digital speedo with analog tach (and incorporates a lap-timer and data recorder). Such was the desmo motor's midrange strength that I didn't need to cane it to the 10,500-rpm redline. There was always smooth grunt on tap; enough even from below 6000 rpm to send the DB7 barrelling forward.

Whether the DB7 gave a notable increase below 7000 rpm, as Bimota claims, was hard to tell, but it certainly punched hard through the midrange and also had impressively crisp throttle response. At least that was true in my first session. A couple of hours later, I was surprised to find the same bike hesitating momentarily. The glitch was serious enough to have me considering coming in early when I realized the problem had disappeared.

Bimota's injection specialist Davide Comandini reckoned the problem could have been caused by the ignition having been turned off and then immediately on again, which can confuse the ECU. The problem didn't return after he'd reset the system via his PC, so hopefully he's right. Bimota has a history of modifying injection systems, sometimes with unfortunate results. A reliable ECU is preferable to one that adds power but gives trouble.

There were no problems with the DB7's chassis, though the bike was initially set up too soft for my 185 pounds. Adding shock spring preload and compression damping cured its tendency to squat in the rear, while reducing fork spring preload improved feel from the front end. Suddenly the Bimota was transformed into a light and responsive bike that could be thrown onto its side with a flick of the clip-ons, and which steered with confidence-inspiring precision.

It stayed impressively stable under hard acceleration, too, despite sharing its short, 56.3-inch wheelbase with Ducati's 1098, and would give a 1098S a good fight on road or track. Tire choice might be crucial in such a clash. Continental's Race Attacks aren't the grippiest supersport rubber but gave me no nasty moments, despite the bike's near-infinite cornering clearance.

The only chassis-related problem I had, once the suspension was dialed-in, concerned the fierce Brembo Monobloc brakes. Being tall, I had a hard time preventing myself from being pitched forward by the combination of braking force and the low clip-ons. The tendency to arrive at corners sitting on the gas tank considerably reduced my ability to make full use of the Bimota's stopping potential!

Some shorter riders had the same problem, and a wider fuel tank would help the rider use leg pressure to steady himself when hard on the anchors. But it's hardly fair to criticize the DB7 for a problem that also afflicts the 1098, and which I've previously noted when testing MotoGP bikes.

Inevitably, the DB7's other main drawback is its high price. Performance comparisons with the 1098S are academic given that the Bimota will retail for around $40,000-closer to that of Ducati's lighter, even more powerful and traction-control-equipped 1098R.

Still, unless you're going racing, the DB7 has an appeal that is subtly different to the 1098R's, and arguably just as strong. This bike might not match the sheer performance of Ducati's homologation special, but it's hardly lacking in horsepower. Bimota badly needed a model with the speed to match its style and handling ability. The DB7 provides just that-on Misano's back straight or anywhere else.

Hard Parts

Engine
The eight-valve, 1099cc desmo twin is cut from Ducati's 1098 and pasted into Bimota's typically atypical steel-tube skeleton. Salient particulars for the 138-pound lump are the same as you'd find in a 1098S. The 104.0 x 64.7mm cylinders use 12.5: 1 compression to deliver an alleged 160 bhp at 9750 rpm, just under the 10,700-rpm rev ceiling. Elliptical bores in the Marelli throttle bodies flow 30 percent more than an equivalent round inlet shape, which accounts for five of those horses.

Frame
The Testastretta Evoluzione twin works harder as a stressed chassis member than it does in Ducati's 1098. Oval-section 50 x 30mm chromoly tubes form a more rigid lattice than round stock using the same 1.5mm wall thickness. The stiffer skeleton let Bimota shift the engine 12mm higher and 8mm farther vs. its location in a Ducati, shifting weight forward to enhance front tire grip. Side plates are milled from aircraft-spec, Italian Aticorodal 100 aluminum. The net result is 2.6 pounds lighter than Ducati's 1098 frame.

Suspension
Bimota uses a 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork, complete with low-friction nitride-coated sliders. Rake is set at 25 degrees, buffered by 3.9 inches of trail. Stout billet triple-clamps keep everything in line. Constructed from the same oval-section tubing as the rest of the chassis, the DB7's swingarm cues a fully adjustable ExtremeTech 2v4 shock via a 7 percent rising-rate linkage. There's 3/4-inch worth of ride-height adjustment in there as well.

Wheels & Brakes
Russian Magaltech 10-spoke forged-aluminum wheels wear Continental Race Attack radials: 120/70-17 front and 190/55-17 rear. MotoGP-spec Brembo braking hardware can slow things down in a big hurry. Billet-aluminum Monobloc four-piston, four-pad front calipers grab 320mm floating rotors via hydraulic input from an adjustable billet lever and radial master-cylinder. A two-piston Grimeca caliper pairs with a 220mm floating rear rotor.

Tech Spec

Evolution
The seventh Ducati-powered, all-Italian Bimota is the best yet-and one of the sexiest motorcycles ever.

Rivals
Money-no-object Italian exotics such as the Benelli Tornado Tre, Ducati 1098R, Mondial Piega and MV Agusta F4 R 312.

TECH
Price approx. $40,000
Engine type l-c 90-deg. V-twin
Valve train DOHC, desmo, 8v
Displacement 1099cc
Bore x stroke 104.0 x 64.7mm
Compression 12.5:1
Fuel system Marelli/Walbro EFI
Clutch Dry, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 160 bhp @ 9750 rpm
Claimed torque 91 lb.-ft. @ 8000 rpm
Frame Composite steel/aluminum trellis
Front suspension 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Single Extreme Tech shock with adjustable spring preload, high- and low-speed compression, high- and low-speed rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston callipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Single Bimota two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Continental Race Attack
Rear tire 190/55ZR-17 Continental Race Attack
Rake/trail 25°/3.9 in.
Seat height 31.5 in.
Wheelbase 56.3 in.
Fuel capacity 4.7 gal.
Claimed dry weight 378 lbs.
Colors Red/white/black
Available Now
Warranty 2 yrs./unlimited mi.

Contact
Bimota USA
160 Riverside Blvd
New York, NY 10069
212.580.2800
www.bimotausa.com

Verdict 4.5 stars out of 5
A breathtakingly beautiful motorcycle, but we'll hold out for the 1098R-powered version.

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