V-Due literally translates to V-Twin, and the Bimota V-Due was a 500cc motorcycle that was supposed to save the two stroke engine but instead accidentally killed off the boutique Italian marque in 1999.
Although to be fair, the Bimota brand was revived again in 2003 so all is not lost and it wasn’t all that dramatic.
The Bimota 500 V-Due was the only motorcycle ever produced by the marque that was actually equipped with a Bimota manufactured engine.
The V-Due is a controversial machine that is now as rare as gold dust but has a following of hardcore fans that stand by the initial design as when it is working, it’s flipping brilliant.
Let’s take a deeper look into the Bimota V-Due
Bimota V-Due Review
Bimota 500 VDue Backstory
It is the mid-90’s and two-stroke motorcycles are dying a slow death thanks to their lack of fuel efficiency but mainly due to the fact that they are not very environmentally friendly.
Emission regulations everywhere are getting tighter and strangling the life out of manufacturers trying to produce two-stroke motorcycles within these restrictions.
Meanwhile Bimota have been producing motorcycles using other people’s engines at the heart of them and creating spectacular looking designs.
Aesthetically these motorcycles were very pleasing, which is no surprise given the three men that had formed the brand in 1973: Valerio Bianchi, Giuseppe Morri and Massimo Tamburini.
Tamburini was of course the genius behind the Ducati 916 and MV Agusta F4 750.
Bimota was a passion project for Tamburini and was an extension of his pursuit for the perfect motorcycle.
Bimota would struggle from the onset with power struggles, financial issues and disputes, management would change hands with each of the original founders of the company soon leaving the company in one fashion or another.
However, in the early 80’s they had several successful race wins with their motorcycles in World Superbike Championships and these heavily customised Italian machines had earned themselves a reputation.
Bimota V-Due Engine
By the time the 1990’s came around Bimota were focusing their attention on an actual Bimota branded engine for an all new 500cc two-stroke racing motorcycle.
It was intended to revolutionise sports bikes and change the way two-stroke machines performed.
Firmly set to put Bimota on the map as the pioneer of this ground-breaking technology, and get them back to the early glory days of winning races with beautiful motorcycles.
Sadly it was not to be, but let’s not skip ahead.
So, emission regulations have all but destroyed road-going two-strokes and they have largely been relegated to be used off-road and for track use only.
However, Bimota had put all their technical engineering knowledge to good use to effectively eliminate the emissions issue caused by a 2 stroke engine; they had done this by producing a fuel-injected two-stroke engine with electronic ignition.
This had never been done before and the level of anticipation among riders who had grown up on 2 stroke bikes such as the Yamaha RD250LC, the Honda NSR250 and Bimota fans in general was very high.
Without getting too technical, direct fuel injection delivers gas when needed to the cylinder and shuts off when it isn’t needed, which differs from the way a carb works. The fuel can be timed with precision and therefore doesn’t slip out into the exhaust.
The electronic ignition times the spark to ensure a full burn, forced lubrication for the bottom end using only minimal oil mixing for lubricating the pistons also minimised the nasty emissions created on a traditional two-stroke.
The whole concept was very clever and very technical. Doubts were raised from inception about the practicality and implementation of such a complex engine design.
You might ask why did Bimota even decide to produce a two-stroke instead of a more acceptable four-stroke engine?
Well, two-strokes notoriously have far more power per displacement than their bigger four-stroke siblings.
A 500cc two stroke is substantially lighter and mechanically simpler but can produce the equivalent power of a heavier, more complicated 1000cc four-stroke.
That is the two-stroke’s biggest advantage, moreover the public were not ready to give up on two-stroke road legal machines, and there was still an affinity and desire to keep these hooligan, hair-raising bikes going.
The V-Due was initially touted as a race bike, before being shifted into the road-going category and rumors swirled that it would have 110 horsepower in a 136kg package.
These numbers were insane and were enough to cause extreme excitement.
The lack of carburettor also resolved the issue that two-stroke bikes would have a short service life, a notorious flaw of racy road-bikes.
The whole process of the engine design had taken 8 years of Bimota’s time, energy, development and fundamentally financial investment. Franco Morini Motori was the in-house designer for the all new power plant.
Piero Caronni was the overall lead designer on the project, and would later be involved in re-modelling the V-Due but we shall get to that later.
So, a 110 horsepower engine with 90 Nm of torque and a top speed of over 160mph with a 12.5 second quarter mile. It was built to be quick, and give GP style performance.
Chassis, Handling, Suspension, Brakes
The V-Due chassis was also designed in such a way that it would provide that GP feel but adapt to road use.
It was simply brilliant.
Carbon fibre was used with as much freedom as any other manufacturer would use plastics along with an aluminium frame and swingarm keeping everything super lightweight.
No expense was spared. The front suspension was from Paoli, the rear by Ohlins and brakes were none other than Brembo Goldlines, the spec sheet was impressive.
There is no denying that handling was precise, excellent and would treat every bend on the road as if it was flying around a track.
On the ride quality and brakes MCN stated:
“Big respect here, a superb chassis, probably over-engineered for the 500cc motor, but super-lightweight and possessed of outstanding suspension and brake. It made the Bimota V-Due a sweet thing to razz around corners, when in the right gear/rpm combo…”
Brembo providing the stopping power also raised no questions about the V-Due’s performance abilities.
Cycle Word in 1997 wrote “Despite the too-soft shock spring, the Vdue offers handling precision that isn’t available on any current production motorcycle in the U.S. Little effort is needed at the clip-ons to change direction, which isn’t too surprising considering the bike’s claimed 374-pound wet weight, but few of us have ever experienced the real-world attributes of a bike this light.”
Bimota V-Due Styling
Styling wise, the V-Due screamed class, excellence, premium and quite rightly could happily stand in a line of the worlds most beautiful and exquisite motorcycles.
While the iconic Tamburini did not have a hand in the V-Due, it is very evident that styling cues were taken from his extensive knowledge and style and pursuit of beautiful motorcycles.
The curved fairings, angular tank, carbon bodywork and general structural details are all moments that are instantly recognisable of only belonging to the V Due, but do nod to the MV Agusta F4 with its large tail end and structured tank. The curvatures instill a sense of the Ducati 916.
It was a modern pleasing to the eye package with specs on paper that would destroy most four-stroke competition let alone any remaining two-strokes knocking around.
Cycle World test rode an early model and this statement summarised the excitement of the moment.
“Bimota again leads the charge into the production-bike future, as it did with perimeter frames and swingarm front suspensions. It’s a whole new book, and Bimota is writing a terrific first chapter.”
They also noted that no middleweight four-stroke could possibly get them as excited about the future of motorcycles as the V-Due had done.
However, the V-Due wasn’t up to the cut when it came to its release and no sooner had it gone on sale with a hefty price tag to match, units were being returned with what seemed like an endless list of issues revolving around the engine.
Let’s take a little look at what happened upon the highly anticipated V-Due’s release.
500 units of the V-Due were proposed. In the end it is said only 340 of them ever made it out of the factory before Bimota went bust.
The problem was with all the clever design gone into the new engine, the fuel-injection system wasn’t exactly refined.
Crankcase sealing wasn’t done properly, the whole system was sketchy, throttle response was awful, and power delivery was unpredictable and violent at high revs.
In short the new model was unrideable. Electrical faults plagued the bikes, pistons seized, crank cases split.
Customers very quickly started demanding that Bimota take the bikes back and refund them their money.
Bimota began accepting returns in 1998 and made an attempt to save the V-Due by disregarding the fuel-injection system and fitting Dellorto carbs but it was too little too late and the company went under in 1999.
The company had only built 21 of the carb-fitted V-Due’s which were dubbed the Evoluzione. None of which sold before the company folded.
All was not lost for the V-Due however, as the main man behind the project Piero Caronni, decided to start buying up the units, parts, spares etc once Bimota went bankrupt and started to fix the issues and modify the bikes accordingly.
The models that followed were the Evoluzione 03, 04 and Edizione Finale models.
The owners of these later bikes are very quick to come to the V-Due’s defence and dismiss the reputation that they are plagued with issues.
That may very well be the case, but the fact is the fuel-injection engine that was the key selling point of the model at the time was the issue, the carburettor later models are not quite the same thing.
Although, by the 04 and Finale version max power was up to 130 horsepower which is pretty impressive especially given the weight of the bikes, certainly not to be scoffed at.
Some impressive results have been seen with owners opting to keep the direct-injection system and changing out the other engine internals, this method of modification is of course more in keeping with the original concept of Bimota’s early vision.
To understand why Bimota went bankrupt you have to appreciate that 8 years of work and investment went into the V-Due.
Not only was the engine design an expensive process, but the components used on the bikes such as carbon fibre, aluminium frames and swingarms and branded suspension and brakes were all costly.
The asking price for a V-Due at the time sat at around $30,000, which wasn’t affordable for most motorcyclists and therefore narrowed Bimota’s audience significantly.
Yes, of course it was premium, Italian luxury. The limited numbers etc. all ensured that the world was captivated by the Bimota V-Due and those who had the money never questioned whether it was worth it.
However, the problem comes when Bimota is set to recoup their investment with up to 500 sales and they only managed to produce 340. It soon became apparent that not only had they not managed to produce the number of bikes to break even, the bikes that had been made and sold were not rideable, safe, or worth the $30,000 price tag.
Customers wanted refunds. Worst case 340 units returned and refunded is a $10,200,000 hole that Bimota had found themselves in.
Bankruptcy was unavoidable as a result.
2003 Revival of Bimota
Bimota was purchased in 2003 and under new management began to produce motorcycles again using engines from other sources.
In 2019 Kawasaki Industries purchased a 49% share of the company with the preface that they would be producing motorcycles with Bimota using parts out of the Kawasaki spare parts bins.
The Tesi H2 is one such motorcycle produced using Kawasaki’s most powerful power plant and the 1980’s Tesi design from Bimota, creating a stunning machine that is only within reach for the elite and dreamers.
Bimota V-Due Specifications
Engine and Transmission
- Two Stroke 90 degree, 499cc, V-Twin
- Bore x Stroke – 72 x 61.25mm
- Compression Ratio – 12:1
- Liquid Cooled
- Induction – Twin Injectors
- Max Power – 105 horsepower at 9,000rpm
- Max Torque – 90 Nm at 8,000rpm
- Transmission – 6 Speed
- Final Drive – Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
- Frame – Tubular Oval Section, Light Aluminium Alloy
- Front Suspension – 46mm Paioli Telescopic Forks – Fully Adjustable
- Rear Suspension – Monoshock – Fully Adjustable
- Front Brakes – 2 x 320mm Discs
- Rear Brakes – Single 230mm Disc
- Wheelbase – 1340mm
- Seat Height – 820mm
- Dry Weight – 176kg
- Fuel Capacity – 20 Litres
How fast was the Bimota V-Due?
The Bimota V-Due is claimed to have had a top speed of 165mph.
How much is a Bimota V-Due worth?
The short answer is a lot of money.
It is likely you will also continue to spend a lot of money on the bike when you own it too as maintenance is neither hassle free nor cheap.
One zero mileage 500 V-Due went for $34,500 when it came up for auction. No fluids had ever been put into the bike so it was as it left the factory just waiting for someone to tinker with it. Although sold you can still check the ad out on RareSportsBikes.
The bikes do not come up often and so you may find it a struggle to find the right one. In both the UK and US looking towards Europe in particular Italy may be your best bet to find an unmolested model.
Only around 15 of the Bimota V-Due 500 original models were sold in the UK and 13 of those were returned for refunds.
In the UK you could expect to pay around £25,000 for a V-Due.
MotorcycleForSale.Biz has a V-Due Final Edizione for sale for around £18,000 in the UK but you must remember this is a carb model and not the original fuel-injection design.
In excess of $30,000 seems to be the going rate in the US for a V-Due as is the case with this example that was re-listed from eBay to Craigslist with an asking price of $35,000.
eBay is a good resource and you will find rare motorcycles listed on the auction site, if you keep an eye out you may come across a V-Due such as this one priced at £23,999 with less than 1,500 miles on the clock.
The Bimota V-Due 500 is tricky. Would I want one? Maybe, kind of. Would I want the hassle of the original model? Probably not.
There is no denying the effort of solving the two-stroke emissions situation was impeccable and maybe with today’s technology Bimota engineers could have created the revolutionary GP style two-stroke that the world fantasised about.
This wasn’t a rush job, it took 8 years for them to get the V-Due into production, it was just unfortunate that it couldn’t fulfil the expectations set out for it.
No denying the beauty of a V-Due though, truly it was an exotic Italian masterpiece, so maybe for that reason I would like one. I’d pop it in my living room and charge an entrance fee for people to come check it out.
Tuesday 21st of June 2022
Hi. What a great and unbiased article on the vdue.. I own 1 of the two uk bimota vdues that werent returned r500 due...im the 2nd owner having purchased it 4yrs ago for £12k..
Tuesday 21st of June 2022
Thanks for reading and for commenting.
I love that you have a V Due, quite jealous actually.
I like the underdogs the most!