Hub-steered MotorcycleWho would have thought of adding a swingarm both at the rear and at the front of a motorcycle? Pier Luigi Marconi and Bimota is the answer. The Bimota Tesi 3D is the ultimate hub-steered motorcycle for the technologically and mechanically minded people out there. Marconi has since left the Rimini based Bimota to take the currently unfortunate position as CEO for Pesaro based Benelli.
The basic knowledge you need about the hub-steered Bimota Tesi 3D are that the system separates the suspension, braking and turning forces. I had the privilege of riding the Tesi 3D at Misano in 2008, then again in 2009 livery on half wet roads in the hills between Rimini and San Marino.Let me first tell you how weird it feels to turn on the road with the Bimota Tesi 3D. Your brain needs recalibration as the handlebars feels sluggish and unresponsive at first. This isn’t the case in real life when adjusted to the strange sensations. What happens on that front end is that the arms on bearings interact with each other and the pull-rod Extremetech mono shock at the front. That’s right, a mono shock at the front specially designed by Extremetech on Bimota’s specifications.So when I push the handlebars to steer left or right there’s a hydraulic or really tight steering damper feel to the movements. When braking the feel is similar to when doing the same on a BMW with a Telelever front end. These are the idiosyncrasies that characterises how the Bimota Tesi 3D feels different from any other motorcycle. At Misano the general feeling I had was that the faster I entered the corners the better the Bimota Tesi 3D felt to ride. The front end feel must not be mistaken for no feel at all as it just gets better and better the more laps you do. There is no dive at the front as there is no fork and the beautifully crafted headstock looks like one that would only support a 125cc motorcycle, but that’s all that’s needed. All the headstock is doing on the Bimota Tesi 3D is to support the rider’s weight and to provide a place to mount the controls on. This all creates a fantastic completely open space between the small fairing and the front wheel. What may put you off more than anything else on a circuit is that there’s a completely new set of sounds coming from the front end than you’re used to. It’s a more mechanical feel rather than the plush feel of a diving fork. Bimota’s own experiences when they have let racing riders out on the Tesi 3D for the first time are that it takes some adjustments, but as soon as a rider gets used to the new feel they generally prefer the Bimota Tesi 3D to let’s say a more conventional DB5. One of the main reasons to this is the consistency as you soon start getting some incredible feedback from that front end not possible on a conventional front end. Your feedback is delivered from a beautiful trellis frame similar to the swingarm at the back and this is progress people. Hard braking over bumps is no problem on the Tesi 3D as the suspension deals with them separately whilst maintaining plenty of wheel travel for braking too. Run out of wheel travel and you’re in trouble and this happens much sooner on a fork than on a hub-steered set-up.Connecting the front and the rear trellis swingarm is the famous Omega frame consisting of two machined aluminium plates. The heart of any Bimota these days are exclusively of Ducati stock. The DS1100 L-twin engine produces 95 Desmo air-cooled horsepower. But that’s all the external help this Bimota gets because all the electronics are of in-house specs and in general you can say that this improves any Ducati engine. There’s no serious thought of cutting any cost when building a Bimota Tesi 3D by hand. The best parts and materials possible will always be used. The reason for instance that the 16 litre fuel tank is made of plastic rather than carbon fibre is purely down to a problem getting carbon fibre fuel tanks homologated in the USA. So that’s an aftermarket accessory on the Bimota Tesi 3D.The sub frame holding the single seat is all carbon fibre as well as many other details. The dry weight of the motorcycle is a claimed 168 kilos which is ultra light.Despite some last minute shitty weather I manage to get enough miles on the road to state I’ve road tested the beauty from Rimini. The rear end feels like any other Bimota rear end and the Continental Attack tyres grip where they can. The Ducati DS1100 engine feels and sounds great as always and there’s no hiccups, just usable torque and power all the way.The ergonomics are not as bad as they look on the pictures. There is room even for me, but any fatter than I and you should reconsider. At least if you intend to ride the Tesi 3D. I could think of very few other motorcycles that rival the Bimota Tesi 3D as a modern technological sculpture and every technical museum in the world should order one! Bimota are currently only building Tesi 3D’s to order and there’s plans for a Tesi 4D to be launched within the next two-three years.ConclusionI firmly think that the Bimota Tesi 3D is a work of art and engineering master class. Hub-steered motorbikes has proven to be a very hard commercial venture so please join me in thanking the boys at Bimota for continuing to offer this fantastic machine. If you can afford a hand-built motorcycle that’s almost maintenance free, then the Tesi 3D should be high on your list of acquisitions to say it that way. For all others including myself, the Tesi 3D remains a dream bike to drool over and read about, but probably never own.Plus>> Engineering masterclass
>> Super front end with a beautiful trellis tubular swingarm
>> Chassis all over and finish second to noneMinus>> Takes time to get used to the hub-steering
>> Would like to see a modern superbike engine in this chassis soonPhotos by Anacleto Bernabei