About The History And Status Quo Of Bimota

Prototype KB1
Last June my good friend Dr. Pierluigi Marconi called to say he’d left Bimota (where he’d been General Manager and Chief Project Engineer) due disagreement with owners Daniele Longoni and Marco Chiancianesi.

That boded ill for the small but highly respected make, founded more than 40 years ago by the late and distinguished Massimo Tamburini and by his partners Giuseppe Morri and Valerio Bianchi.

Bimota was Tamburini’s passionate search for perfection in motorcycling. Bimota could remain unique today had Tamburini not been forced out by his partner (the bookkeeper) Giuseppe Morri (Valerio Bianchi had left already). Bimota has always struggled to survive its sequence of inadequate managers and their policies.

Tamburini fabricated his first frames in the old plumbing shop where it all started. It was small but he was able to have there all he needed to bend, cut, weld and jig the chrome-moly steel tubing of which his beautiful frames were made. There was room also for a bike assembly bench.
Massimo Tamburini in the old shop welding a frame segment
Mary Mazzoni dePrato/Bruno dePrato Collection, Massimo Tamburini in the old shop welding a frame segment

I was there, and was fascinated by Tamburini’s rational arrangement of all that he needed to work efficiently. He focused on R&D and on the quest for supreme quality of execution of each bike he completed. At the time the product was specialty chassis and body kits for racing bikes, mainly Yamaha TA 250-350 two stroke twins and Suzuki 500 Titan, plus a few Honda 750 Four powered HB1s, the first street legal Bimota model.

There was opportunity for Bimota in the many powerful Japanese four cylinder engines that were musclebound by the poor chassis of that time. Sadly, no Japanese make was willing to sell bare engines to Bimota, forcing the small firm to undertake the extra expense of complete bikes.

 

Bimota KB1 prototype static side view
Mary Mazzoni dePrato/Bruno dePrato Collection, The KB1 prototype, Bimota’s most successful street-legal bike

Exploiting that opportunity required more space. Looking back, Bimota should have remained small and efficient, offering only racing bikes and, at the most, frame kits for the latest Japanese fours, not complete and street legal bikes. That would have avoided the jungle of homologation.

Tamburini went to Japan to propose Bimota as a chassis-technology and styling house to the Big Four (focusing on Suzuki), but that did not happen. This gave his partner a way to ease him out. In just a few years, Morri was himself squeezed out as Bimota floundered into swampy water.

At one point CEO Walter Martini (of Piaggio experience) signed a Taiwanese manufacturer to offer a line of cheap Bimota branded scooters. This was pure brand-burning – a total betrayal of Bimota’s original mission. More CEOs followed. One, Dr. Roberto Comini, put in a huge financial effort to put Bimota back on the rails.

 

Bimota frames on the old shop floor
Mary Mazzoni dePrato/Bruno dePrato Collection, Finished frames lined-up on the floor of the old shop (the HB1 frame is in the center)

From time to time in the years since then, Bimota again enjoyed the great image that Massimo Tamburini had built in the early, glory years. Now it seems that things are really going down the drain. After talking with Pierluigi Marconi, I sought an interview with Daniele Longoni, but he put me off. News and rumor from reliable Rimini sources suggested Mr. Longoni only wanted to gain time. In fact, production at Bimota was completely shut down and all remaining stock was put on sale.

Longoni and Chiancianesi even asked the previously ousted Dr. Marconi to help them sell the leavings of the unfortunate BB3 project, the BMW S1000RR-powered superbike that was hoped to put Bimota back on the racing scene. September brought no signs from the owners, only delay, while more news from Rimini confirmed that Bimota production was totally stopped – even the production manager had gone.

 

Bruno dePrato testing the KB1 prototype
Mary Mazzoni dePrato/Bruno dePrato Collection, Bruno dePrato testing the KB1 prototype

I contacted former Bimota owner Dr. Roberto Comini, who still owns the buildings where the factory is located. This means all that Longoni and Chiancianesi own is the Bimota brand, and to be in that building they pay a rent. Dr. Comini is an old gentleman who still loves Bimota and defines his experience there as rather fascinating, but when asked if he would consider taking over the make again, he confirmed that he would not, being sober and tight lipped regarding the new owners. When there were problems collecting the rent last year, the Court of Rimini seized the factory and released it only after Longoni and Chiancianesi paid their debt.

Bimota remains closed and most of its key people have gone, including Chief Project Engineer Dr. Andrea Acquaviva. Latest rumors indicate the Italo-Swiss partners might be ready to sell, but the price is high for what now might be just an empty box. More recent rumors hint a new partner is possible, maybe from the USA.

For the good of Bimota we must hope for new ownership with genuine dedication and love for great bikes, engineering and refined execution – as in the beginning. Knowledge of the market and its ever-changing regulations would also help. The name Bimota is worth being kept alive.

 

Yamaha Bimota YB3 prototype
Mary Mazzoni dePrato/Bruno dePrato Collection, Yamaha Bimota YB3 prototype

 

Massimo Tamburini in the old shop setting the segment for welding
Mary Mazzoni dePrato/Bruno dePrato Collection, Massimo Tamburini in the old shop setting the segment for welding

 


Report by Bruno dePrato for Cycle World

Tags from the story