Moving Libretto

With its compelling array of successes and failures, there is enough dramatic fodder in the impassioned history of Bimota to inspire an opera. In place of the hopeless romantic pursuits and destructive desires of forlorn lovers as subtext, the libretto would consist of the modern manufacturing equivalent of brushes with bankruptcy and flirtations with dissolution, ultimately climaxing with the once proud and revered company falling into receivership. The story has all the necessary clichés to indulge the emotions and affirm the resilience of human existence, especially when you consider the recent plot twist of the protagonist’s unexpected return.

Even the creation of Bimota was steeped in high drama—a motorcycle crash, no less. Bimota co-founder, Massimo Tamburini, had a famous get-off at the Misano circuit in the early ’70s while manhandling an unruly Japanese four-cylinder machine around the Italian circuit at speed. While recovering from the accident he pondered the cause and effect of the event and deduced that the frame couldn’t handle the burden of power and torque being generated by the engine. The technology of power had surpassed the capabilities of chassis structure. Tamburini set out to build a frame that could tame the massive motor with stability and superior handling characteristics, and so a company was born. (Click image to enlarge)

Over the ensuing years Bimota garnered a reputation for pushing the boundaries of style and performance, building innovative motorcycles around other manufacturer’s engines. The handcrafted machines that emerged from the Bimota factory in storybook Rimini, Italy—the Adriatic Seaside hometown of Frederico Fellini—exuded an exclusivity born from the passion of their artisans. In fact, passion seemed to be the company’s business plan, which, although admirable, left precious little room for fiscal concerns and market strategy. Unfortunately, Bimota’s beautiful leaps of faith, when pitted against prodigious competition, landed the company in bankruptcy and halted production.

After years of rumor, Bimota—now resuscitated by several avid entrepreneurs—leaps back into the thick of things with its striking DB5 Mille. In prototype form, the bike won the prestigious Motorcycle Design Award in the supersport category at the 2004 Intermot Show in Munich. The new machine continues Bimota’s heritage of building an exemplary chassis around a proven powerplant, and enhancing it with the finest components and striking bodywork. (Click image to enlarge)

The DB5 Mille uses a unique perimetrical trellis frame married to machined aircraft alloy lateral plates that cradle an air-cooled, Ducati Desmodromic 992cc L-twin engine. The twin-spark, two-valve Ducati powerplant keeps the DNA of the DB5 purely Italian and maintains an alliance that began in 1984.

There is an inherent simplicity in the air-cooled platform that results in an uncluttered, compact motorcycle. Devoid of water hoses, radiators, fans and pumps, the DB5 is stripped down to the basic elements, rendering a sublimely narrow profile that is beautifully enhanced by the cut and shape of the minimalist bodywork. The fairing’s aerodynamics, while maintaining the continuity of the machine’s slender contours, keep the pilot surprisingly well protected at speed.

The two-valve Ducati powerplant, a proven workhorse imbued with a torquey disposition, delivers 95 hp at 8000 rpm to push the DB5’s feathery 364 pounds. Certainly, in the current climate of liter sportbikes, with manufacturers producing ever more awe-inspiring, frighteningly potent horsepower figures, the DB5’s comparably humble numbers may fail to impress the spec sheet chasers. Based on those particular numbers, they will dismiss the Bimota from their armchair arguments of why this bike will beat that bike; which one has more horsepower, and which one is fastest. Well, remember, a cannonball will beat them all—it just doesn’t have any class.The DB5 is suspended with 43mm öhlins forks and a single öhlins rear shock in a steep cantilever position. The swingarm is an industry first, combining a trellis design with lateral machined aircraft alloy plates designed to flex vertically, while retaining rigidity against lateral forces. As can be expected, Brembo brake units are employed with the radially-mounted front four-piston calipers. The massive twin 298mm discs easily pull the lithe DB5 down from speed with a controlled, progressive feel.

The combination of the Desmo’s low-end torque and fully usable peak power, delivered through its precise six-speed transmission, is brought to full appreciation in the Bimota carriage. The DB5 Mille is a study in precise handling, with effortless manners at speed on the track or on a sporting stroll through a winding canyon. The marriage between motor and chassis delivers exquisite performance in a jewel of Italian two-wheeled artistry, appropriately reborn in the old country. (Click image to enlarge)

A Bimota aficionado, whom we’ll forgive his blatantly sexist, politically incorrect summation by virtue of his Italian upbringing, said of the DB5, “The bike is like an Italian woman—she cooks, she cleans, she makes love.” After several false dawns in the re-emergence of one of Italy’s most charismatic motorcycles, Bimota has once again, at long last, arrived on our shores, ready to seduce.


992cc, air-cooled, 2-valves per cylinder, L-twin, Desmodromic by Ducati; EFI with 45mm throttle body
364 lbs.
95 @ 8,000 rpm
6-speed transmission, with hydraulic dry clutch
20/25mm tubular chromoly trellis with aircraft alloy lateral plates
43mm Öhlins inverted forks; fully adjustable
Öhlins with cantilever linkage; fully adjustable