Born-again Bimota launches hub-steered Tesi based on the Kawasaki H2
The rumors are true: Kawasaki has taken a 49.9 percent stake in fancy-pants Italian brand Bimota, and is resurrecting it with a monster motorcycle. The Tesi H2 adds Bimota's famous center-hub steering and chassis to the wild Kawasaki H2 supercharged motor.
The deal has been in progress for nearly three years, and the bike has just been unveiled at EICMA in Milan. Kawasaki Heavy Industries' Motorcycle Planning Division Manager Hiroshi Ito spoke like a breathless fanboy at the launch:
"A small investment bank approached us inquiring if we were interested in an Italian motorcycle manufacturer. The company name was veiled, but when I checked the documents I instantly noticed. Oh it’s BIMOTA!!!. Yes, that BIMOTA. For motorcycle enthusiast at my age, BIMOTA was legendary motorcycles that we used to dream of with its incredible chassis, jewel-like parts and an unaffordable price tag."
Thus, Kawasaki decided to invest, leaving Bimota based in Italy but providing it with engines and support.
"BIMOTA is a jewel of Italy," continued Ito. "So It must be based in Rimini, Italy. It must be designed by Italian designers. And it must be built by Italian craftsmen otherwise it will lose it value. So, our mission is clear, we will support Sig. Marconi and his team will make new legendary history of BIMOTA with Kawasaki’s legendary engines! We’d like declare now BIMOTA is here as most premium motorcycle in the world."
Most premium motorcycle in the world, eh? Let's take a look at it, then.
The Kawasaki part will be familiar to anyone who's followed our motorcycle coverage over the years. The H2's supercharged motor is one of the motorcycle world's most iconic and crazed creations. Producing somewhere between 200 and 300 horsepower depending on its state of tune, it's beautifully smooth down low, but opens up into a top-end rush of furious acceleration that has to be felt to be believed. It left me foaming.
It is not, however, a particularly attractive thing to have at the center of your premium coach-built Bimota – either the engine itself, or the colossal bulk of the big ol' exhaust it swings behind it. Kawasaki solved this problem with a gorgeous green trellis frame and jaw-dropping mirror-finish bodywork that stole the eye away. Bimota ... didn't solve it at all.
The proportions of the Tesi H2 are a bit of a disaster. Where the old Tesi 3D had an interesting inverted cradle frame to act as the central design feature, and open trellis-tube swingarms at either end to reduce the bulky appearance of Bimota's famous center-hub steering system, the new Tesi H2 has neither. In our opinion its middle is an industrial-looking mess of engineering, and the front end looks massive and ungainly. From the side, it looks like a sexy Italian sportsbike that has begun to sprout strange, fungal growths at either end.
Move in closer, though, and the Tesi H2 begins revealing its continental charms. The bodywork is all very nice, with carbon accents aplenty and a simple, sexy cockpit. Every component is either pulled off the top shelf or lovingly machined.
The two fully-adjustable shocks in front of the rear wheel will raise eyebrows, and they should. Each mounted on its own eccentric adjuster, they can be used to adjust the ride height of the front and rear of the bike independently, and while one shock takes care of suspension action at the rear wheel, the other appears to handle the front swingarm via a long linkage down the lower left hand side of the bike.
As for the steering system, well, we do love a funny front end here at New Atlas. The Tesi H2 appears to run a fairly standard hub-center steering arrangement, with the handlebars connected back deep into the bike to rods that push and pull a lever connected to the front swingarm. This lever steers the front wheel around a static axle.
The advantages of such a system are you get yourself a braking system that pushes braking force very efficiently back into the frame of the bike rather than putting a bending force on a pair of forks; you gain the ability to tune brake dive in or out, or even set it up such that the front end rises under braking; and braking, suspension and steering forces are nicely separated, giving riders the ability to brake later and deeper into corners without upsetting the bike's ability to deal with bumps.
The disadvantages are equally well known; a center-hub steered bike doesn't offer much steering lock, so u-turns are a pain; the steering systems are complex, operating through a series of linkages that can remove feel from the steering, occasionally resulting in some slop at the bars when components start to wear; and from the looks of the Tesi H2, the front suspension has to go through a fair few complex linkages itself, which might cause suspension action to suffer similarly.
Still, we're delighted to see Bimota back in the game, with one of the world's great engines to play with. This is a weird bike, and for our money there aren't enough weird bikes on the road these days. Say what you will about the Tesi H2, it'll be the center of attention at any bike night, and every rider that sees one, myself included, will be utterly fascinated to know what it's like to ride. Few will find out, because the price will be astronomical, and that's probably the way it should be.
We look forward to meeting many more fruits of this partnership.