In 2019, Bimota was essentially revived from the dead when Kawasaki bought a minority stake (49.9%) in the company. The Italian manufacturer, iconic for its bespoke pieces of machinery up until the turn of the millennium, was forced to file for bankruptcy. Now, two decades on, the merger with Kawasaki paints a promising picture for Bimota’s second innings. The first product was the mental Tesi H2, and the next one is posted to be just as spectacular – the KB4.
This isn’t the first we have heard of the KB4, and the manufacturer shared images of the prototype last year. However, now, the specifications of the upcoming model have found their way online. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Bimota was renowned for taking the engines off Japanese production motorcycles and putting them into a much more competent chassis. It’s the same approach they’ve taken with the KB4. This time around, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX will act as the base.
Cycle World reports that Bimota has added its own tubular steel and carbon fiber chassis to replace the one on the Ninja. The engine, meanwhile, remains unchanged with the liter-class inline-four producing peak output figures of 140bhp at 10,000rpm and 82 lb-ft at 8,000rpm. Bimota has also added its own collector box and end-pipe, but the emission rating of the KB4 remains the same as its Kawasaki counterpart’s.
Where things change more dramatically is with the riding experience. The Ninja 1000SX is a sports-tourer, while the KB4 is an all-out sports bike. Weighing a substantial 41kg (90lbs) less than the Ninja, it has a curb weight of 194kg (428lb). It’s also a much more compact motorcycle, measuring 2,050mm long (from 2,100mm) and 774mm wide (from 825mm). It also has a notably shorter wheelbase of 1,390mm – the Ninja 1000’s is 1,440mm. This should translate to a very agile motorcycle and one that’s an absolute delight in the twisties.
How Bimota managed to shorten the wheelbase is rather interesting. Instead of using a shorter wheelbase, the firm has pushed the front wheel back, closer to the engine, so close that they’ve had to move the radiator out of the way to keep the wheel from making contact with it when the suspension compresses. The KB4 has large air intakes on either side of the fairing and a carbon-fiber tunnel that runs from the intakes to under the seat, implying that the KB4’s radiator is housed under the seat.
Bimota’s upcoming Tesi H2 and KB4 motorcycles are highly anticipated and wanted by many. That means you should have a blueprint for how you plan on acquiring one ready to go for when release rolls around. Bimota has buyers in UK covered, though. The UK importer is planning for a UK dealer rollout to make your life easier, and it will begin in Q1 2021.
As of right now, the KB4 and Tesi H2 will only be available for purchase through the Bimota UK distributor, but they have big plans to bring the bikes to potentially five separate dealers come 2021.
A major reasoning for transitioning to small dealer sales is the fact that Bimota wants owners to have a trusted location to bring their motorcycles in for repair and maintenance. With five official dealerships available, UK owners will have a place they can safely bring their £60,000 superbikes for routine maintenance to be shown on their ownership records.
“It’s a premium brand and bikes need to be serviced and a customer who’s going to purchase a Bimota should expect that.
“There’s never going to be a high number of dealers because it’s going to be a boutique brand,” James Horton, Bimota’s UK director told MCN.
The long-awaited Bimota KB4 has reached official testing status and is on track for its official release scheduled for April of 2021.
The Bimota KB4 is a small production superbike built around the Kawasaki 1043cc inline-four engine derived from the Ninja 1000. This motorcycle has had a lot of chatter surrounding it, and luckily – thanks to Bimota’s recent posts – we can see the motorcycle in all its testing glory; confirming that it is indeed on schedule for its big release.
In the last few months, Bimota has been posting tons of clips from testing their KB4 and Tesi H2. This recent video show’s the vintage-racer-styled KB4 coming to a complete stop using the front brake with arms containing accelerometer sensors protruding from the sides of the vehicle (to record data for further inspection). The rider puts the motorcycle into a full front-wheel stoppie on wet roads (dangerous), but the stopping power seems ample and the computer ABS system appears to be doing its job.
Although this is a short clip, we’re pleased to see the KB4 is motion, and more importantly, hear that Kawasaki engine scream. We get a quick glimpse to hear the Ninja 1000 engine rev up, and I can tell you right now this bike probably has a much more intricate exhaust system than what you would find on Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000.
The best part about this motorcycle in my opinion is the fact that Bimota set out to cram a 1000cc+ engine into what they describe as a “600cc frame/formfactor”; meaning small bike, big power. The combination of power and agility in this bike will make it a track monster, and the vintage racer styling shows that in just its visual presence.
The motorcycle will be limited to 20 units for the UK market when the official scheduled release for April rolls around. Originally the bike was scheduled for a March release, but something seems to have changed up their plans and now sources are stating that we’re looking at a release at some point in April.
Not many Americans have heard of Bimota motorcycles, and few were sold here, the price of this Italian exotica having something to do with it. The company would buy reputable engines and then build a new chassis around them. SB6-R means that this model was the 6th Bimota to be powered by a Suzuki engine, in this case the GSX-R1100. And the R apparently stood for Race, while in truth this model was only a minor upgrade on the previous SB6. What Bimota did was to make a much better handling machine, as well as diminish the weight. That stock GSX-R weighed in at 509 pounds dry, while the Bimota version weighed 418 pounds dry — quite a difference.
When and where did all this begin? In 1973 in the seaside town of Rimini. After a fellow named Massimo Tamburini crashed his Honda CB750 on the nearby Misano racetrack and broke a few bones. While he was recuperating he thought a lot about the crash and attributed it to a poorly designed chassis. This was the 1970s when the Japanese were building increasingly powerful bikes that went well in a straight line, but their handling was not terribly good when trying to get a knee down in a curve.
Tamburini and a couple of friends, Valerio Bianchi and Giuseppe Morri, had a shop that built commercial air-conditioning ducts, so they had good knowledge of how metal worked. As a sideline they decided to build better frames and suspension for existing motorcycle engines and in 1973 incorporated as Bimota, a mash-up of the first two letters of their three names. In 1975 the CB750-powered HB1 appeared, as well as the SB1, powered by the Suzuki TR500 racing-only two-stroke based on the Titan engine. The company soon realized that the money was in the street-legal bikes.
Tamburini, the son of a farmer, was both a self-taught engineer and an artist, and the designs of his machines quickly drew the attention of other manufacturers. In 1985 the company ran into financial trouble, and he took a job with Ducati. But Bimota continued on, hiring a designer by the name of Pierluigi Marconi, who was responsible for the 1994 SB6, called in later years “the ultimate café racer.”
So what does one do with a big 1,074cc engine with an oversquare 75.5mm bore and 60mm stroke? Initially it was to leave it alone! The 16-valve DOHC engine, with a compression ratio of 11.2:1, put out a decent 138 horses at the rear wheel. There would be a little fiddling with the jetting of the four 40mm Mikuni BST carburetors due to a new exhaust, but that would be about it.
In the road test of a 1996 model in an American magazine, the editors weren’t very happy with the bike, as it made only 128 horsepower on the dyno and the price was $23,000. As a slightly amusing coincidence, Tamburini was developing the famous Ducati 916 model as Marconi was putting together this SB6. While the ’96 Bimota was around $23 large, the Ducati was a more tolerable $16 grand, and the stock Suzuki an even more reasonable $10,000. If you wanted exotica, you paid a price.
The Suzuki’s Japanese frame was a double cradle, but Marconi designed a twin-spar version of aluminum alloy, the spars joining at the steering head. Bimota called this the Straight Line Connection. A pair of rectangular swingarms, made of stout alloy aluminum, pivoted off the back of the SLC frame.
Up front was a 46mm Paioli upside-down, fully adjustable telehydraulic fork, with a rake of 23.5 degrees, trail of 3.6 inches. Low and behold the wheelbase had been shortened; the axle to axle on the Suzuki GSX-R was 58.5 inches, while on the SB6 it was 53.2. Great for diving into those countryside corners, not so good for ambling with heavy traffic in town.
Rear suspension was done by a single Öhlins shock absorber, with a rising-rate rocker arm on the right side of the swingarm, not the center, because the shortened wheelbase did not allow it. The spring preload, rebound and compression damping could all be fiddled with, though the adjusters were a bit difficult to access.
The magnesium Marchesini wheels were both 17-inchers, with a 120/60 tire on the front, a 180/55 on the back. The front wheel had a pair of 320mm Brembo Gold Line discs, squeezed by four-piston calipers, the rear a single 230mm disc and a two-piston caliper.
After three years on the market, Marconi thought a small upgrade was in order, hence the R on the model seen in the photos. Little internal work was done, other than new camshafts. The steering damper had been in an awkward hard-to-adjust place, and now was on the outside of the left spar. Under the saddle two changes were made, one being the enlarging of the airbox for better breathing. The second was finding placement for one large battery, rather than the original’s two small batteries. And the front of the fairing and instrument panel were new. Both price and horsepower went up slightly.
The last year that Suzuki made the GSX-R1100 was 1999, and other Bimota models were not selling well, causing Bimota to go into tremulous economic viability at the turn of the century. However, it has been revived several times since then, the latest after Kawasaki bought 49.9% of the company in 2019 and Bimota showed off the new Tesi H2, with hub steering and powered by Kawasaki’s four-cylinder 998cc supercharged engine. With a price on the far side of $50,000. No word on how Bimota is dealing with the pandemic.
Kawasaki used to supply engines for esoteric Italian motorcycle manufacturer Bimota and now they are collaborating to share engineering ideas such as hub-centre steering.
The first result of their collaboration is the upcoming Tesi H2 powered by a Kawasaki H2 supercharged 998cc inline four.
Not only is it propelled by the stonking supercharged H2 engine, but there is a fair bit of H2 in the “origami” design.
It now appears that the bike is near production with this image on the Bimota social media.
Bimota Tesi H2
In a reciprocal arrangement it seems Bimota’s predilection for hub-centre steering may make its way into a future Kawasaki.
The Japanese company has recently applied for a patent for a strikingly similar front suspension setup.
Don’t you think it looks very much like the Tesi H2?
Bimota Tesi H2
Hub-centre steering has been around since 1910, so it’s interesting that Kawasaki would ask for a patent.
Perhaps their design is slightly differennt.
It typically has the steering pivot points inside the hub of the wheel, rather than above the wheel in the headstock as in the traditional layout.
Australian film animator and self-taught engineer Ray Van Steenwyk has also invented a variation of the hub-centre arrangement.
It’s called the Motoinno TS3 and is based on an air-cooled Ducati 900 SS.
They claim the advantages are no dive under brakes, adjustable rake, a tighter turning circle and improve corner handling.
we’ve also seen huib-cetre steering making a bit of a comeback in some electric motorcycle designs such as this Japanese Zec00.
Meanwhile, there is no word yet on price for the limited-edition Tesi H2, but there is a rumour it will be near $A100,000.However, you can bet it will be eye-wateringly expensive being fettled with Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes, plenty of carbon fibre and CNC machined bits and pieces.
As a guide, the current Ducati-powered Tesi 3D EVO is $A50,890 and the Tesi 3D Naked is $55,990.
Bimota Tesi 3D
That’s a lot more than the current Kawasaki H2 at $29,290, H2 SX SE at $34,999 or the Carbon version at $40,400.
Most significantly, the power figure has now been released and it’s the same as the H2 at 170kW (228hp), not like the track-only H2R at 240kW.
The current Tesi 3D models are powered by a 1078cc Ducati air-cooled engine from the old Monster 1100 which only outputs 78kW.
Tesi H2 will also be 24kg lighter than the H2 at 214kg, despite the seemingly heavy hub-centre steering.
Bimota has worked with Kawasaki before, using their engines and we expect the new ownership arrangement to result in more collaborative models.
The Italian boutique manufacturer was founded in 1973 in Rimini, Italy by Valerio Bianchi, Giuseppe Morri, and Massimo Tamburini who designed the beautiful Ducati 916 and equally elegant MV Agusta F4.
They have also had relationships other motorcycles manufacturers such as Ducati and the other Japanese manufacturers.
The BB1 Supermono was Bimota’s only single cylinder motorcycle. First displayed at the Cologne Show in 1994, production began the following year with 524 made, including 140 of the Biposto version (with pillion seat and painted dark blue in production from 1996).
The BB1 used the same Rotax 650cc four-stroke motor that was used by BMW for their F650. The twin carburettor motor made 48 hp at 6500 rpm and gave the 145 kg machine a top speed of 177 km/h.
A single front disc was standard but a second was an option. One interesting design feature was the placement of the fuel tank under the motor for a lower centre of gravity.
A €10,000 race kit was offered that included magnesium wheels, upgraded suspension, fuel-injection and other go-fast bits.
Bimota campaigned a modified BB1 in the Italian Super Mono series which used a 725cc motor that made 75hp.