It has been five months since I updated this News column and a lot has changed. Most notably, Bimota has announced a number of new models that seem to be selling well in the rest of the world, but we are not getting them in the USA. I have spoken many times to Bimota management in Italy and we have agreed upon a plan, but nothing is happening! The situation is a shame because reasonable worldwide sales of the DB8, DB9 and DB10 proves that they must be very good motorcycles—and these models could expand the categories in which enthusiasts could enjoy the well-known characteristics that make Bimota motorcycles unique—but not in America...yet!
To close the Bimota discussion, parts are still arriving—albeit much slower than I would like. The factory is very understaffed and managing all of the worldwide distributor/dealer parts sales is a part-time activity for one person. There is not much that we can do other than be persistent and patient—parts supplies for current parts (post 2004) are excellent, older parts seem to be slowly drying up!
So with Bimota activity slowing down, I am turning my energy to Vyrus. With a direct link to the Bimota Tesi lineage and modern designs pushing the technology forward—the Vyrus team is trying hard to prove the performance superiority of hub-steering for motorcycles. And they must be doing something right, because worldwide demand is far outweighing their ability to produce motorcycles.
In my last report I showed photos of my first 986M2 (Moto2) Replica kit that I took at the factory in Rimini. I received my first two kits in late spring and quickly sourced most of the OEM Honda parts that I needed to build the first complete motorcycle. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to dedicate sufficient time to build the first bike from start to finish, so I had to work on it in small chunks of time.
Let me first say that building these bikes is not work—it is pure pleasure—just handling the parts is more like being a jeweler than a mechanic—the surface finishes are extraordinary, the welding is fine art, many of the connections are doweled and then screwed, the hardware is tapered-headed stainless steel, the aluminum parts have inserts for screws—it is a high construction level that I have never seen used so extensively. I have a set of drawings that describes every fastener with a torque spec and special notes for either lubrication or Loctite!
Let's begin—the kits arrived fully assembled in crates. I removed the bodywork and sent it off to my painter. I broke down the chassis into three major assemblies—front and rear suspensions and "engine attachment." I built a fixture to support the Honda engine (from drawings supplied by Vyrus) and began assembling the omega frames, shocks, exhaust header pipes and cooling radiators. Next came the two suspension sub-assemblies and the bike was now on swingarm stands. I sourced high-end Brembo brakes and installed them. Wiring was the most complicated procedure in the assembly. First of all, when I built two of these bikes in Italy for training—we did not do the wiring so I lacked experience. And secondly, there are a number of design differences between the Honda wiring schemes for Europe and the USA—and I had to sleuth out these changes as I went along. The Vyrus team in Italy was great! I sent questions at the end of my day, maybe with a few photos, and while I slept they answered my questions, maybe with a few photos, for me to keep going the next day— all in all, it worked very well. Once that was done, I added the seat support and fuel tank and fired the bike up—before I covered everything with carbon fiber. I must say that I flipped the ignition switch, watched the dashboard do its dance, hit the starter button and it fired and idled immediately—you've got to love a Honda engine! I then put on the rest of the bodywork—and this is the only place that I "might" complain a bit—for the most part it went together perfectly, but there were a few fasteners that I had to pull and stretch the carbon panels to get the holes to line up—these are, after all, handmade parts and very early in the process (chassis numbers 010 and 013)—hopefully they will gradually improve in this area. But that said, once together the panels blend together perfectly and the resulting motorcycle is extraordinarily beautiful!
Here is a chronology of photos showing the assembly process:
"The proof of the pudding is in the tasting." So what does riding a Vyrus 986M2 feel like? For me the experience begins when I approach the bike and just look at what I am going to ride—I put a lot of value on what a motorcycle looks like— and this one is spectacular—aggressive, beautifully finished, high tech, unique— it passes all of the visual tests. Literally a touch of the starter button later, it fires right up and as I rev the engine it roars. I have been a "twin" man since I sold my Honda 750 for a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport in 1974, but I have to say that this engine with its high revving "scream" is scintillating! The aural connection to what my wrist is doing is direct! And the tonal quality of the exhaust note is purely Italian— it is one of the things that they do best!!! As you get on the bike, the ergonomics are fairly normal by modern sportbike standards—the seat height is on the taller end of normal, but it is very narrow at the front and I can place both feet flat on the ground. The reach to the bars is fairly normal too. The footpeg position is adjustable, but I was in a hurry to go riding so left it as it came, which was quite acceptable (I will play with this some in the future to optimize it for myself).
The ride began with a typical Honda "click" into gear. The clutch was smooth, a touch heavy, and the fuel-injection was spot on. When I got onto the tarmac I grabbed a handful of throttle and got my first surprise—the bike accelerated as I expected it to—actually a bit stronger than I expected from a 600—but the surprise was when I sub-consciously grabbed the sides of the tank with my thighs and the thin carbon fiber offered no resistance—it was like squeezing air— I had nothing to grab on to! This felt very strange. I quickly got back to riding, short shifting at about 10 grand (red line is 15,000) to get used to the bike, but even this was extremely exhilarating—the rush of speed and the exhaust scream far exceeded my expectations!!! I found the Vyrus to feel both extremely light and well-planted. There was very little vibration and the exhaust note was outstanding—it sounded like a military fighter jet! I became a bit concerned as the bike was not yet legal and this exhaust scream was quite conspicuous! I headed for my twisty section of road anyway and the bike felt very natural—it just went where I wanted it to go—changed direction effortlessly and felt very stable. The braking from the high-end Brembos was overkill due to the lightness of the bike. I didn't push the brakes on my first trip, but stability and confidence under braking is where I hope that the hub-steered Vyrus will really shine. After one circuit, I returned to the shop and checked as many fasteners as I could get to—to be sure that nothing had loosened up and quickly headed out for another lap. The second one was even better than the first—just more comfortable due to familiarity.
So what are my impressions?—first of all—this is a racebike! It has an aggressive stance and ergonomics, and an engine and exhaust that want to be run hard. The bike is tight and the suspension is stiff (although I plan to work on dialing that in as I go forward—both ends are very adjustable.) The bike feels very light, that amplifies the ample power to provide strong, smooth acceleration. Yet the bike is docile and civilized—it starts at the touch of a button and idles perfectly—much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...in this case, the best of both worlds! Overall I am very pleased and impressed. Now I just need to personalize the ergonomics and suspension to fit me, deal with the DMV, and start racking up the miles. I'll start building the second Vyrus tomorrow.
Here are some photos of the finished product just before the first test run:
May 2012 - the best part of being in the Italian motorcycle business is that there is a "plausible need" to go to Italy regularly to conduct business with our suppliers. I just returned from a very nice trip to both the Vyrus and Bimota factories and have taken quite a few photos to share with you.
This time I will start with the Vyrus factory for a couple of reasons—firstly—I am so excited about getting our first two 986M2 kits—I saw them in Italy and they are being shipped as I write this! The photos of the motorcycle without the engine are of the first kit coming to America. This bike is going to be spectacular. The design is extraordinary and Vyrus has taken the exotic craftsmanship that Bimota is known for—and raised it a few notches—the physical pieces that make up these bikes are truly works of art—the quality is unbelievable. Secondly, I spent a full day at the factory disassembling and reassembling a complete bike so that when we start to build the bikes here the process will be familiar and therefore go smoothly. I can't wait to get started. I am currently building assembly fixtures, we have the two Honda CBR600RR engines ready, and we are just waiting for the kits to arrive. I will take some assembly photos of our process and post them next month. Then we plan to take the first bike to a local racetrack to get the feel of it—look for a report of our first impressions sometime in June.
Here are some photos—the first kit coming to America, the naked engine and chassis, a trackbike, and a complete streetbike heading to Japan. Enjoy!
I actually spent two full days at the Bimota factory—they were extremely hospitable as business is booming—yes, your read that correctly—and I was there to spend my time in the parts mezzanine searching for many "historic" parts as they call them (anything prior to 2003 is considered "historic") for all of the customer requests that pile up (when I send the part numbers to Italy, the folks there are not familiar with many of these parts and tell me that they don't have them)—I would say that I found about 50% of what I was looking for, and that is making many customers quite happy!
I also got to see the new models—the pre-production DB10 (BiMoTard)—production is just about to start, and the DB9 Brivido—who many call the best looking Diavel on the market. Production of the DB9 Brivido is in full swing and there were many in the assembly area—completed and being shipped. As a matter of fact—the whole floor was full! I got to sit on both bikes and they are extremely comfortable—especially for Italian sportbikes!
But how many are coming to America you might ask? As you all probably know, we do not have an official Bimota importer in the USA at the moment, and therefore there is no official company to work with the factory on homologation, forecasting, scheduling, etc. My friend, Joe Tortora (from SuperMoto International in NY) and I convinced the factory that we could certainly commit to enough bikes to justify homologation of the DB8, DB9 and DB10, and they agreed to proceed. So it seems that in the next month we should have the bureaucracy taken care of and then we can begin to get motorcycles. As many of you also know, Bimota dealers have suffered in the recent past by having too many bikes imported and sold at steeply discounted prices to get them out into the market. This is not sustainable—nobody is making any money (the factory nor the dealers) and many dealers have given up on Bimota—it is impossible to stay in business losing money no matter how passionate you may be about the product. So my plan is to order a couple of bikes to demo and show to customers, and then order motorcycles from the factory as they are sold—this will match supply and demand, and with air shipment, delivery time should be less than four weeks—we'll see how this goes! If anyone reading this is seriously interested in one of the new models, please contact me at: email@example.com and we can get started—I have brochures and specifications as well as more photos than I am posting here. This is your chance to have one of a very limited number of examples in the USA.
So here are some photos of the factory from last week—as you can see, even though we don't see it here in the USA, Bimota is staying very busy shipping motorcycles to the rest of the world!
November 2011 - summertime is always busy—so the News Updates often get delayed—to catch up, this month I have a double espresso—two news items—reports from my visits to both the Bimota and Vyrus factories last week.
First stop was Bimota. As many of you know, the importation management of Bimota products into the USA has been inconsistent since the emergence of the new Bimota company in 2003. We have had two official importers and both are now gone. I have been dealing directly with the factory for a year now, with mixed results—but after this recent trip—I am optimistic that things will run more smoothly. There is one thing for sure—if they are not improved, it will not be for the lack of trying—the current staff in Italy is really trying to satisfy demand for motorcycles, parts and information from around the world, but are considerably understaffed—so they do the best that they can, as they can—clearly an unfortunate result of the tough global economic situation.
I wanted to have a meeting with the staff before the EICMA Milan Motorcycle show (November 8-13)—because during the show everyone is so busy that it is difficult to find enough time to have meaningful discussions and resolve particular matters. The downside, of course, is that I didn't get to see the show. I do have some very good news though—Bimota will introduce some new models at the show next week! I can't say more, but I was lucky, Ralf Franzen, the Sales Director for Europe, showed me renderings of the new models—so be sure to watch the Internet November 8th for the unveiling!
Many people want to know what is going on within the company. I can tell you that they seem to be alive and well! I saw motorcycles being built, I saw motorcycles being grouped for shipment to many countries around the world, and in general, the company seemed to be functioning normally, albeit with volumes down from their peaks due to the general economic malaise. Here are some photos from last week.
One final note—when I returned to the USA this week, I found a large box of Bimota parts waiting for me! I know that some of you have been waiting patiently, so hopefully I will be contacting you soon to tell you of your shipment!
The second stop was to the Vyrus factory, just down the road from Bimota. In the spring I mentioned that I would be importing the Vyrus 986 M2—Moto 2 Replica Kits into the USA. This visit was to see the bikes with my own eyes—and I can tell you that they look fantastic. The factory has been developing the bikes continuously on racetracks for about 9 months and has gotten the design to the point where they are getting excellent results, and as such, they are firming up the design and ordering parts in quantities. I saw volumes of many parts and two complete motorcycles getting prepared to be shipped to their owners—I also saw photos of bikes already in their owners' possession—this was exciting for me to see the real hardware! We are now negotiating how quickly we can get the first bike into the USA. Stay tuned, as I hope to know in the next couple of weeks. As with Bimota, I took some photos of the bikes in the shop and also got them to give me some images of previously delivered customer bikes—so please enjoy seeing the first production Vyrus 986M2s!