New owner Francesco Tognon had pinned his hopes on the Bimota SB8R saving the Rimini company.
It used the Suzuki TL1000R V-twin engine and it was hoped it would challenge the Ducati’s in the World Super Bike series.
Let’s take a look at the Bimota SB8R.
Bimota SB8R Review
The way that Francesco Tognon viewed matters was that Suzuki had handed Bimota Motorcycles a present in the form of the TL1000 engine; it was big, fast, powerful and prepped for the World Superbike arena that Tognon had in his sights.
Before anything else it is important that you know the SB8R is a racer made street legal, as opposed to a street bike made into a racer.
Everything about the Bimota SB8R is intended to make it a track weapon, one that was intended to swipe awards across the US and Europe in the various racing circuits.
Suzuki had developed the TL1000R V-twin engine so that they received the same concessions as Ducati in the WSB series.
The irony being that Suzuki shortly after releasing the TL1000R and S decided to pull the plug on the TL racing development programme and focus on their GSX-R750 to pull in their race wins.
Let’s focus on the engine to start with. The TL1000R was better than the TL1000S but not as quick as a Yamaha R1; in theory though Bimota had the potential to exploit the power plant by the use of the premium components and exquisite attention to detail design focus.
It was a 90 degree V-twin, which for some at the time was a bit of a shock to the system as DB4 riders had become accustomed to Ducati Italian twin engines that had plenty of poke and a very distinct sound.
The fact was however, the TL1000R V twin power house was bigger and faster and that was something that Tognon particularly knew Bimota needed in order to resuscitate a fledgling business.
Tognon had put in charge of the Research and Development team chief designer Francesco Medici, and the pressure was on to get the new model right from the very beginning.
To start with Medici played with the engine to extort as much out of it as possible.
It was fitted with a Magneti Marelli electronic fuel injection system which had a single high pressure injector per cylinder; this replaced Suzuki’s stock management system along with in-house made 59mm throttle bodies (up from 52mm).
What they ended up with was a bike that will pull you through the gears all the way up to when you are travelling along at 150mph and you can’t believe how smooth and effortless it feels.
After that there is still a 6th gear to give you some room for overtaking which I guess is only really applicable on a really long straight track or on Germany’s Autobahns; however it is nice to know.
In terms of torque the bike was full of it, happy to throw you in and out of bends until your heart’s content; at no point are you going to be coming out of a bend and worry that you have no oomph to get you up and going again.
So, the engine is good, solid and even the most hardcore Ducati fans could potentially bring themselves to accept it, what about the rest of the ‘Bimota’ goodness?
Well, to start with what you have is the first road bike to feature a complete carbon fiber composite chassis.
Pierluigi Marconi designed the frame which would be his parting gift for Bimota and his inspiration was derived from Cagiva’s 500cc GP bike.
The vacuum sealed carbon frame is connected to the alloy uppers which increased the front weight bias, and then like the Aprilia GP racers there was a self supporting carbon rear subframe where the seat was fitted.
On the front Paioli upside down forks were fitted and an Ohlins rear shock both of which could be adjusted for the rider and environment.
The exhaust system was fitted under the seat with the pipes exiting out from under the rear cowl.
Massimo Giovagnoli was the SB8R’s stylist and as much care was put into the bodywork as the development of everything else.
Being a track focused road bike, the bodywork consisted of multiple sections of fairing as the idea was it would improve access and decrease the cost of accident repairs.
The nose fairing is huge and swept back over the original TL1000R headlight and large air ducts.
The result is a bike that looks wider than it is, especially for a V twin.
There is no doubt the air ducts are wide but they are necessary to push frontal air down to the KTM made radiators and ram air ducts for the big throttle bodies.
However, once you are seated, after a few miles the front size is no longer an issue; the switch gear is obscured from view, but you soon pick up operating by feel.
In actual fact when seated the motorcycle begins to feel nice and slim.
The tank is sculpted and makes for the perfect place to grip with your knees. The seat is big enough but not too big so you benefit on your lower back from the little pad on the rear cowl holding you in place when throwing yourself around.
For a change this Bimota motorcycle would actually accommodate taller riders as opposed to being most suited to those of smaller European stature.
This is down to the fairly high seat height, low ish footpegs (no compromise on ground clearance) and low set but wide clip ons.
The front nose fairing was actually left unpainted on the Special edition to highlight the carbon fibre used.
Giovagnoli’s work proved to make the SB8R an aerodynamic ride that keeps most of the air off the rider, allowing for smooth sailing all the way up to top speed.
It is this feature that makes the bike a practical bike, even if it was a result of styling as opposed to purposeful design.
Not to be controversial, there are some riders that would argue the SB8R handles better than the Ducati 916, in that it is more agile, has a better weight distribution and more comfortable seat pad.
On the straights you have a powerful bike that can cruise all day long (or as long as your wrists can handle it) and in the corners you have the agility of a much smaller machine.
This is solely down to the bike being so lightweight, the carbon composite frame, light wheels, carbon bodywork etc. all made weight reductions that impacted the power to weight ratio.
The finished SB8R was eventually 46lbs lighter than Suzuki’s TL1000R.
If you are brave enough (or rich enough) then throwing the SB8R over on its side as low as you dare should be no problem, and the torque is there for it to right itself again.
I must reiterate here again that the SB8R was intended as a track bike, made road legal.
The bike barely scraped by as a true street bike and so it handles like a true track weapon should and one that was setting out to not just compete but win races.
The frame combined with the suspension made for a very stable ride at speed, should you hit a bump while pushing on, the suspension set up just shrugs it off and carries on about its business as if nothing happened.
This is a very comforting and confidence boosting feature.
On the flip side, be prepared for the front wheel to rise when you grab the throttle.
The SB8R is not for novices, but it is a bike to be thoroughly enjoyed.
There were only ever around 250 SB8R models produced and a further 150 of SB8RS models allocated to be built on a ‘demand only’ basis so they are ultra rare.
On The WSBK Track
The V-twin TL1000R was meant to be Suzuki’s answer to the Ducati dominance in the WSBK but as already said, they had a change of heart and it never raced leaving the way for Bimota to step up to the plate and take on the Ducati L-twins.
It was considered a shock when the SB8R won the rain effected opening race of round 2 in the 2000 season with legendary rider Anthony Gobert onboard.
Unfortunately the Bimota’s engine blew up in the very next round and their race sponsor disappeared mid season owing the company a lot of money. This, together with poor sales of the Tesi 3D and the disastrous 2 stroke fuel injected V Due, Bimota Motorcycles were declared bankrupt by the end of the year.
Bimota SB8R Specifications
Engine and Transmission
- Engine – Four-stroke, 90 degree, v-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
- Capacity – 996cc
- Bore x Stroke – 98 x 66mm
- Compression Ratio – 11.3:1
- Cooling System – Liquid cooled
- Starting – Electric
- Transmission – 6 speed
- Final Drive – Chain
- Max Power – 135 horsepower at 9,500rpm
- Max Torque – 104 Nm at 8,500rpm
Chassis and Dimensions
- Frame – Carbon fiber composite chassis, and self-supporting carbon subframe
- Front Suspension – Paioli tele hydraulic upside down fork with compression, rebound and preload adjustments
- Rear Suspension – Ohlins fully adjustable rear shock
- Front Brakes – 2 x 320mm discs, Brembo 4 piston calipers
- Rear Brakes – Single 230mm disc, Brembo 4 piston caliper
- Rake – 24 degrees
- Trail – 93mm
- Seat Height – 810mm
- Dry Weight – 179kg
- Wheelbase – 1390mm
- Fuel Capacity – 20L
The SB8RS was the Special edition of the SB8R and was an even more limited run than the base model. It was produced on a ‘made to order’ basis (150 maximum) and therefore they are very hard to come across in the wild today.
The Special was only available in black and had extra helpings of carbon fiber used and aircraft alloy hardware.
Aftermarket packages for the Special included matching Carbon fiber helmet, adjustable foot pegs and a carbon gear shifter rod. The wheels were also switched to Marchesini magnesium wheels.
Bimota SB8R Top Speed
The top speed of an SB8R is said to be around 170mph.
How much is the SB8R worth today?
The Bimota SB8R and SB8RS are incredibly rare machines to come across and as such they hold their value well, like most Bimota motorcycles.
The UK prices seem to vary a bit more than in the US with prices in recent years being as low as £6,000 and going up to around £15,000.
In the US prices start at around $13,000 and go up to around $25,000.
MCN is currently sharing a listing for a bike with only 321 miles stacked up, it has an asking price of £13,999.
Car and Classic currently have two listings with one SB8R being sold in Missouri, US for $13,500
The second is a SB8R Special where the seller states that they believe it is only 1 of 2 ever made; this has an asking price of £10,495. While the SB8R Special was certainly a more limited run, I am not sure that there were only 2 produced.
Ride Apart has one SB8R advertised which has an asking price of $23,000.
It is one of only 69 models that were imported to the US.
The bike is in pristine condition with just over 5,000 miles on the clock, 2 previous owners, one of which was an aerospace engineer who used it very sparingly; furthermore all parts are original and intact.
With the SB8R Bimota took a Suzuki motorcycle which was intended to compete in the World Superbike Championships and made it their own ticket into the racing world again.
To do this they improved upon the premise of the original Suzuki race bike and produced a pretty monster that left its Japanese cousin in its shadow.
The Bimota SB8R is a mean, visually pleasing, aggressively smooth superbike that largely due its price then and now will see very few race tracks, but will be preserved, pristine and coveted by collectors for years to come.