1997 Bimota 500 Vdue - Stupid Money - MC Garage

Motorcycles are so damn good these days, it's almost depressing. What's a poison-penned writer to rag on? We celebrate the best of the best pre-owned bikes each month in Smart Money, but because this is the April issue we thought we'd take a break from being brainy and bring you ... Stupid Money!

When it comes to big-ticket streetbikes, nobody beats the Italians. And, sometimes, buyers get what they pay for. Witness the $30,000 Ducati 999R. Once in a while, however, the Romans get it horribly wrong-and still charge a premium.

Examples are many, but after careful consideration by our expert staff of world-class cynics, none struck as painful a chord as the $20,275 Bimota 500 Vdue. After two decades of wrapping beautiful, high-quality chassis around other manufacturers' engines, Bimota designed the Vdue's clean-burning, direct-injected, 500cc V-twin two-stroke itself. With 98 rear-wheel horsepower propelling a 377-pound package that spanned just 52.4 inches between axles, the 500 promised to be the nearest thing to a street-legal Grand Prix bike.

Instead, it dealt the company a death blow.

Italian for V-two, the Vdue (say vee-doo-ay) stole the 1996 Cologne Motor Show when it was first unveiled. And the buzz continued after moto-journalists Alan Cathcart and Nick Ienatsch raved about the pre-production machines they rode in Italy. Cathcart even went so far as to state that Bimota had "reinvented the sport motorcycle."

When a production testbike arrived stateside, however, the reviews couldn't have been more contradictory. "The bike stumbled and coughed between fits of explosive acceleration," read Motorcyclist's report in the March 1998 issue. "Never has riding such a small, nimble and slick-handling machine been so much work."

The problem was reportedly traced to poor production tolerances at the Morini engine factory, and Bimota was forced to recall each and every unit. Things only got stranger from there, as the company equipped the recalled Vdues with 39mm Dell'Orto carburetors, tacked on an Evoluzione suffix and announced a spec race series. It was too little, too late, however, as by then the Rimini-based factory was in a financial tailspin that proved irrecoverable. Bimota filed for bankruptcy in March 2001, and the marque only resurfaced in 2003 under new ownership.

Ascertaining the worth of small-volume exotics such as the Vdue is difficult because they're not often listed in blue books, and when they are, the values don't take into account their collectible status. They're simply worth whatever a collector is willing to pay-and given the current popularity of online auctions such as eBay, it's most definitely a seller's market.

If you've got to have a Vdue in your collection, so be it-they're out there. But if you'd like an Italian exotic you can ride, choose any one but this.

A fuel-injected two-stroke that passed emissions standards a decade after we thought we'd seen the last of them

It only runs right with carburetors

Watch For
* Shady gray-market importers
* Foreign VINs, out-of-state registrations
* Incorrect cylinder port heights
* Fouled spark plugs due to weak ignition

An exotic two-stroke that doesn't smoke-literally or figuratively

1997: $20,000