Friday, January 28, 2011

Folgore Bianca: An even more exotic Bimota Tesi 1D

Created by Japanese motorcycle specialists WhiteHouse and based on the Bimota Tesi 1D, the 1990s Folgore Bianca is one of the rarest, most exotic sportsbikes in the world...

Think exotic Italian motorcycles of the 1990s and the first machine that comes to mind could well be the Bimota Tesi 1D. With an engine from the Ducati 851, hub-centre steering setup and styling from another planet, the early-1990s Tesi 1D was as pretty much as ‘out there’ as it gets. And yet, for one Japanese motorcycle specialist shop – WhiteHouse – even the Tesi wasn’t nearly exotic enough. So, of course, they built their own take on it and called it the Folgore Bianca (‘White Lightning’), which has to be one of the rarest motorcycles in the world.

We suppose the Bianca’s styling may not be to everyone’s taste, but we find this bike quite fascinating. So we tracked down one Yoshi Ishiguro, who used to own a Folgore Bianca. A hardware engineer who’s now based in California, in the US, Yoshi tells us that the Bianca was announced in 1990 and released in the Japanese marked in 1991. He ordered his bike in 1996 and took delivery in 1997, paying the princely sum of 4.15 million Yen (US$50,000) for the privilege.

‘You could choose the body material (standard FRP or carbonfibre), colour and finish, and also opt for some other upgrades like an aftermarket exhaust, front and rear Ohlins shocks and FCR flatslide carburettors (to replace the standard electronic fuel injection!). I was told that some earlier models were made with factory OEM digital speedo/tacho combination meter, but these were later changed to analog units for reasons of reliability. Mine had analog ones,’ says Yoshi, speaking about his Bianca.

‘No specific tuneups and modifications were done by WhiteHouse unless specified by the owner, so the Bianca’s specs are no different from the regular Bimota Tesi 1D,’ says Yoshi. ‘During a casual conversation with WhiteHouse’s president, he told me that the Folgore Bianca’s total production figure was in two digits only. Since only 366 (plus fifty 400cc units) Tesis were ever made and sold worldwide, I'm assuming that a mere 15-20 were converted and sold as Bianca,’ he adds.

So, why would you buy one? What is it that makes the Folgore Bianca so special? Again, we’ll let Yoshi do the talking. ‘What makes Folgore Bianca so special is its fairing design. It was specifically made to reveal the bike’s state-of-the-art framework and front suspension system. The original Tesi design is very conservative and lacks impact. In my opinion, you have to have a ‘stronger’ appearance to justify spending more than $40K on one motorcycle, and WhiteHouse filled the gap perfectly,’ he says.

Moving on from its other-worldly styling, how exactly was the Bianca to ride? ‘The riding characteristics are not that unique as people often say. You can ride it as just like regular bike. But because of its rock solid frame and super-stiff suspension, it is not at all comfortable to ride on bumpy roads,’ says Yoshi. ‘I heard that some people could not get along with its hub-centre steering system, but I wouldn't take this as a negative point. It's a different system and has its pros and cons,’ he adds.

Well, we’d say the Folgore Bianca was beyond its mere pros and cons – it was (and is…) a work of art. We’ll freely admit we love 1980s and 1990s motorcycle exotica and in that context, the Bianca would be somewhere near the top on our list of ‘if only we could get our hands on this one’ bikes...

Picture copyright: Bikers Station / Yufusya, Co Ltd. / Yoshi Ishiguro / chang67

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Valentino Rossi: ‘The Ducati 1198 is beautiful and fast, I like it!’

Valentino Rossi Ducati 1198 Valentino Rossi Ducati 1198
Valentino Rossi, thrashing the Ducati 1198 at the Misano circuit...
Valentino Rossi Ducati 1198 Valentino Rossi Ducati 1198 Valentino Rossi Ducati 1198

Valentino Rossi riding a Ducati 1198 at the Misano circuit is just about as Italian as it gets – bust out the green, white and red colours already. Yesterday, with only a few days to go before he tests the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 in Malaysia, The Doctor put in two dozen laps around the Misano circuit, aboard a 1198. This was to check if he injured shoulder would be up to the task of handling Ducati’s MotoGP machine in a few days from now.

‘The shoulder is painful, especially under braking, when the front area hurts. Movement is stable enough and we’re also doing not so bad with endurance, but apart from that, it hurts a lot and isn’t very strong. Let’s hope it gets a little better in these next few days before the test in Malaysia. Once we’re there, we’ll work with the riding position in an effort to make the most of the situation and collect important information with the Desmosedici, even though I’m not in top form,’ said Rossi. ‘Today I did a total of 25 laps on the 1198 superbike, which is sort of a historic motorcycle for Ducati. It’s beautiful and fast. I liked it!’ he added.

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No wonder Rossi likes the Ducati 1198...!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kawasaki Z1000 EST. 1977: Tribute to the 1970s
The 240-section rear tyre is a bit much, but the graphics and the paintjob look good...

Based in Aalen, Germany, Warm Up have built this special edition Z1000 EST. 1977 as a ‘tribute’ to Kawasaki Z bikes of the 1970s. While the bike remains largely unchanged mechanically, it’s been given a 240-section rear tyre, Akrapovic exhaust system, new handlebars that are broader and flatter than stock, and a green/black/silver paintjob that looks rather good. The list of mods is very long (see the full list here) but you can also buy individual bits from Warm Up if you want to spruce up your Zed on a limited budget...