Zaeta 530 DT Dirt Tracker Photos
My brother and I were riding in circle in a nice large field with a cherry tree in the middle, and I just realize now that, even at that time, we were naturally turning left in circles, doing laps counterclockwise,” observes Paolo Chiaia. “Sliding is like wheeling — a primordial action that instinctively everybody who rides tries immediately to do.”
Chiaia has taken the natural obsession with sliding and combined it with extensive business and motorcycle experience— he is CEO of the Calipso SA Group (a software company), Chairman of Ouroboros, the European importer of Confederate motorcycles), and has past careers in finance — to build the ultimate street-legal dirt tracker — the Zaeta 530 DT.
And, before you dismiss this as unobtainable European exotica, keep in mind that Zaeta motorcycles will soon be imported by Newport Italian in Southern California.
“I am also a shareholder and on the board of directors of Confederate Motorcycles,” Chiaia explains. “That experience, started in 2006, and the love for that project, founded and managed by Matt Chambers, plus falling in love for dirt track bikes, started in Daytona in 2007. Last, but not least, an afternoon spent with Graziano Rossi (yes, Valentino’s father—ed.), talking about the bike that does not exist in Europe, brought me to the idea of making the first 100-percent Italian dirt track bike.
“I thought that what counts is the weight/power ratio, rather than pure power, and in 2009 it was still a world of making more and more powerful bikes. I, too, loved to practice on tracks with superbikes — I owned a Yamaha R1 and a Ducati Desmosedici.
“Graziano liked the idea of dirt track bikes, as he knew that all great US and Australian Champions in speed bikes were com- ing from dirt track and he wanted a bike to be used for training session of MotoGP riders. We can say he had a good idea before many others, as we now see that a lot of MotoGP riders are using dirt track as a training tool.”
Bringing the Zaeta to fruition may have been Chiaia’s obsession, but it was not a solo project, as he explains: “The major step forward for Zaeta to become what it is now is due to the contribution of two other chaps. Matteo Uliassi, who is my business partner and a great lover of bikes—with a very nice collection — and a very brilliant entrepreneur who gives his contribution in managerial skills and vision on bikes.
“The other chap is Giulio Bernardelle, an engineer with long experience in MotoGP, as he was the Technical Director of Konica Minolta Honda Team, with previous experience in Aprilia Racing. Giulio founded the In-Motion group and developed his patented tubeless wheels with Kineo Brand which are now also on MV Agusta Dragster. Giulio designed the new Zaeta with CNC aluminum frame, helped in industrializing the project, and now produces all the billet aluminum parts and assembles the bikes in his structure.
“Massimo Rizzo is a very skilled mechanic who helped me to put the base for this project. Marco Belli is a very good rider— one of the most experienced dirt track riders in Italy—who helped to develop the bike.”
With precious little adornment, each part of the Zaeta 530 DT draws our attention. “The frame, tank, tail seat, and fenders are made out of our own design and outsourced for production. The CNC aluminum frame is what gives Zaeta its most distinguishing characteristic, lightness and rigidity and influence the handling,” says Chiaia.
Along with a compulsively minimalistic chassis approach — “I love deconstructing things and people, i.e. taking off whatever is not strictly needed” — the Zaeta 530 DT has a powerplant made by TM Racing, a motorcycle company known by few Americans outside of aficionados of MXGP, World Enduro, and World Supermoto.
“I wanted a 100-percent Italian dirt track bike,” Chiaia declares. “Therefore, I needed an Italian engine. TM is not the only one producing, but they have the major advantage of being not too big and this has helped a lot in building up a direct business relationship and a dialogue with them. With a larger company, it would have been difficult to establish this.”
With a racing-based motor and a threadbare chassis, the 530 DT weighs in at a claimed 255 pounds, with the DOHC 528cc single hitting 55 horses at just 8000 rpm. When it comes to how much fun that sounds like on a tight road, you do the math.
“The Zaeta 530 DT is short, low, very light and powerful,” Chiaia says, describing the uncompromising ride. “It vibrates and it is a bit brutal. It is primitive, in other words, and I think it is able to give you the very primitive feeling of motorcycling, but with the state of the art in technology.
“We wanted to move away from vintage style, as I am too old to desire to be also vintage. I wanted a bike that had its own character and represented, somehow, a step forward in dirt track.
“I am ambitious, I know, but don’t want to sound arrogant. It’s just that I think that if somebody wants to produce some- thing, it is mandatory that he tries to give a contribution of creativity and originality. Otherwise, things stay the same. This is what I am trying to do with the help of my partners. All by myself I could not do anything.”
The spirit of Zaeta comes from deep within Chiaia and, while he is a businessman, this venture is quite poetically personal to him.
“I am nobody, and nobody knew a brand like Zaeta. Zaeta name comes from a yellow biscuit produced here in Veneto, my region. It comes from close to Venice, and it was the kind of biscuit a girlfriend from Padua used to give me after mak- ing love. To me, it’s therefore a name linked to my origins—my favorite color and love.
“But, I had to gain credibility. Racing and winning is important not only to prove the racing spirit of Zaeta, but also to develop the bike, test materials and prove that the bike is fast and reliable.
“A new brand has a great advantage. It’s much easier to transfer what is my view of motorcycling without being confined by the history of an existing brand. I don’t have to be consistent with the image of an existing brand and I am therefore much more free.
“Starting from the name for me Zaeta is sense of humor, sense of self-irony, but also performance, technology, and simplicity. I love to laugh at things in general and at myself a lot.
“It’s amazing when you start with something, which for a while is only in your mind, and after a while and a lot of efforts and passion, becomes real and people start to like it. Dirt track was nowhere in Italy when we started in 2009, and I like to think that maybe a little contribution to dirt track development in our country comes also from Zaeta.”
As a bespoke motorcycle, the Zaeta 530 DT can be adorned to each owner’s taste. The standard version is white, with treatments available as radical as the Sideburn, a spectacularly creative interpretation by English artist Maxwell Paternoster.
We sit patiently and await American homologation.
Zaeta 530 DT Specs:
- Engine: DOHC liquid-cooled 528cc single by TM Racing
- Peak Power: 55 horsepower @ 8000 rpm; 38 ft/lbs of torque @ 6600 rpm
- Frame: Billet aluminum open cradle
- Suspension: Forks: Inverted Marzocchi Shock: Öhlins
- Brakes: Front: 320mm floating disc w/ Brembo caliper Rear: 220mm floating disc w/ Brembo caliper
- Tires: Goldentyre; 19″ Front, 17″ Rear
- Weight: 255 pounds
- Fuel capacity: 2.9 gallons
- Seat height: 31.5 inches
- Wheelbase: 52.75 inches
Photos by Paolo Monello and Paolo Carlini
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine.