First there was the Bimota Tesi 1D, in the early-1990s. With its complex ‘alternative’ front suspension, the first Bimota Tesi was a magnificent display of Bimota’s prowess with advanced motorcycle technology. The hub-centre steering and front swingarm separated steering and braking forces, eliminated dive under hard braking, and offered enhanced stability in fast corners. Riders complained that the system did not offer enough feel. And the front suspension assembly was hugely complex, expensive to manufacture and tough to maintain. So yes, Bimota only sold a very few of these bikes, and that was the end of it.
Now it seems the Tesi 1D is reborn – as the Vyrus. A Rimini, Italy-based company, VDM, which is owned by former Bimota mechanic Rodorigo Ascanio, continued development on the original Tesi, and the result is the Vyrus 985 C3 4V. Says Rodorigo, ‘It’s our objective to try to persuade people to take a fresh look at two-wheeled chassis design. This is my challenge!’ Ahem.
The bike uses the Ducati 999R’s powerful, 150bhp V-twin engine, but the two are very different in terms of handling characteristics. Rodorigo says, ‘We made a bike that is a very stiff structure, where nothing moves except the suspension and the tires. And we produced a steering linkage with fewer bearings, so as to give it more sensitivity. You must feel the front tire as if the front axle were in your hands. All this influences handling and makes the bike steer much faster, especially with the short wheelbase. It’s like a 250cc GP bike in terms of geometry, but it’s also completely stable in a straight line. Even if you try to make it shake by moving the handlebars, you can’t. And we have no steering damper fitted; that’s a band-aid for a wrong design!’
For those who must have the Vyrus’ alien styling and cool front suspension, but are on a tighter budget, there’s also the Vyrus 984 2V, which is powered by the Ducati 1000DS v-twin and costs about US$40,000. And if you're all set to buy the US$75,000 985 C3 4V, you may want to read Motorcyclist magazine's road test here
Front End Funnies
Some other bikes that went the alternative front suspension route...
Back in 1981, inventor Norman Hossack presented his vision of the alternative front suspension – the Hossack Wishbone. A development of this is used on the BMW K1200S and K1200R bikes.
Elf Honda GP bike
Raced by Ron Haslam in 1985, the Elf Honda got hub-centre steering and a front swingarm instead of the usual front forks.
Bimota Tesi 1D
Launched in 1991, the Tesi 1D got Bimota’s complex and expensive hub-centre steering and front swingarm. It was beautiful to look at, but ahead of its time. Excessive steering linkage play made it scary to ride, and there were incessant issues with reliability and longevity of various components. Not that Bimota would give up though…
The most notable thing about the Gilera CX125 (launched in 1992) was not its eccentric styling, but its single-side front fork.
Back in the 1990s, Britten V1000s used to thunder past Ducati 851s in BoTT races in Europe. And yes, they used a Hossack-design front end.
Yamaha launched the GTS1000 in 1993. The bike was fitted with a 1000cc inline-four from the FZR1000, and had hub-centre steering via a single-side front swingarm. The bike was even raced at the Isle of Man TT, though it was a bit heavy and clumsy.
The first modern-day BMW to eschew the conventional front fork, the 1993 R1100RS sported BMW’s ‘Telelever’ front suspension. This used fork sliders (which look quite conventional to unsuspecting bystanders) connected to a rocker arm and a front shock absorber. People who’ve ridden the bike say it works well, but lacks the feedback of a conventional fork.
Italjet Dragster 180
One of the coolest, fastest and most radical scooters to come out of Italy, the Italjet Dragster 180 packed a 180cc two-stroke engine and boasted of hub-centre steering via single-sided swingarm.
BMW K1200S / K1200R
Launched in 2004, both, the K1200S and the K1200R use an iteration of the Hossack Wishbone front suspension.
The ‘Flex 6X’ front suspension used on the 2006 Motoczysz MotoGP bike employs linear bearing in stanchions, connected to an Ohlins shock in the headstock.
Bimota Tesi 3D
Ducati engine, hub-centre steering, trellis frame chassis, 168kg kerb weight and a price tag of US$38,400. Only 29 of these avant-garde Tesi 3D bikes will be built, so exclusivity is guaranteed.