The successor to the SB6 had one very significant change; a fuel injected GSXR750 Suzuki motor, delivering even more horsepower.
The SB7 was another step along the road for Bimota in refining their unique vision of what the ultimate sportsbike should be all about.
In every other way the SB7 was pretty much the same as its predecessor; a stunningly beautiful, hand-crafted, bespoke missile. Incredibly light, with superb suspension and brakes, the SB7 was built for riders who wanted to indulge themselves at high speed and damn the expense.
It was almost the perfect road, and the SB7 was just about the perfect bike on which to tackle it. The route back to Rimini from the hilltop principality of San Marino was a mixture of fast and medium speed bends, separated by short straights, with a racetrack-smooth surface and hardly a car in sight.
The Bimota gobbled it up in fine style, much happier to be back on the right kind of tarmac after the tighter, bumpier country roads on which it had been far less comfortable (in more than one sense) earlier in the day. On the straights the SB7 stonked up to its 14,000rpm redline through the lower gears, flicking crisply back down the close-ratio box before slicing effortlessly into a bend. Then it howled off again, fat Hi-Sports gripping hard and the tacho needle never dropping below eight or nine grand.
All too soon I was back at Bimota´s base, pulling off my helmet to enthuse about the ride and to discover that I´d just been hammering down factory test-rider Gianluca Galasso´s favourite local stretch of road. The SB7 had been developed partly here but mainly on the racetrack, they told me, which explained a lot about the most singleminded of this year´s new Bimotas.
Although the GSX-R1100 engined SB6 is a blindingly fast, no-compromise sportster, the SB7 – powered by a modified version of the watercooled motor from Suzuki´s GSX-R750 SP – is revvier and even more narrowly focused. It´s more of a racer on the road, designed as the basis for the machine that Bimota hopes will be a contender in next season´s World Superbike championship.
Paintwork apart, the SB6 and 7 are visually almost identical. The twin-spar alloy frame, linking the steering head and swing-arm pivot directly with what Bimota calls “Straight Connection Technology”, differs only in a minor mod to clear the smaller motor´s oil cap.
Cycle parts are also identical. That means a horizontal Ohlins rear shock on the right of the bike, multi-adjustable and working the swing-arm via a linkage. Up front sits a pair of 46mm front forks, made by Paioli to Bimota´s specification, which incorporate sliders constructed from a composite of aluminium and carbon-fibre.
One major difference is that instead of using carbs like the SB6, the Seven gets its gas via a TDD engine management system that monitors revs, ignition advance, ambient air pressure and the temperatures of both intake air and coolant. (Bimota blames the SB7´s late arrival on cold winter weather delaying the system´s final development.)
The motor itself is basically the lump from the SP or Sport Production version of the GSX-R, which isn´t officially imported to Britain. The 749cc SP unit is very similar to the standard watercooled 16-valver, the main difference being a close-ratio gearbox. Bimota adds its own camshafts, each giving more lift and duration, plus a set of colder plugs and a slinky exhaust system that ends up with twin alloy cans tucked away inside the self-supporting carbon-fibre seat unit.
Finish of this pre-production bike was not quite up to Bimota´s normal high standard but the bike still looked the business, and felt lean, light and low. It weighs 186kg dry, fractionally more than a Fireblade but 22kg down on the standard GSX-R. Its wheelbase is just 1390mm, 15mm shorter than the Honda´s and 45mm shorter than the Suzuki´s. There´s less of a reach forward to the bars than with most race-reps, and the seat height of just 755mm adds to the impression that this is one tiny motorcycle.
This bike had been set-up for high speeds and smooth surfaces and its Ohlins shock, in particular, was tough enough to transmit every road bump directly to my kidneys as I pobbled through the outskirts of Rimini. Once out of town and into its stride the SB7 felt much better, though the shock was still too stiff for the rougher bits of local backroad. With no C-spanner to hand, I backed off the shock compression damping (easily accessible on the remote reservoir, unlike the rebound knob alongside the hot exhaust), which made little difference.
Best bet was simply to get on the power and put some force through the shock, which worked better the harder the SB7 was ridden. Barrelling out of bends with the motor screaming at five-figure speeds, the Bimota cranked well over and its hot 180-section rear Hi-Sport keeping it all in line, the bike felt brilliantly taut.
Up front the hefty Paiolis were also set up firm (compression and rebound damping are tuneable, but you have to pay extra for a preload adjuster…), though not excessively so. Steering was light and very neutral, too, as you might expect of such a tiny bike with rake and trail figures of 23.5 degrees and 94mm. Fork angle is adjustable by half a degree either way, and on the standard set-up the Bim was superb.
Some of that was due to this bike´s 120/70-section front Michelin, which gave a much more reassuring feel than the 120/60 tyre of the SB6 I´d ridden previously, particularly when entering tight and unfamiliar bends. The lower profile Hi-Sport is more rigid, better suited to a track, but tends to flop into slow bends. With the taller tyre the Bim simply went where it was pointed, except when one thick mid-bend tarmac seam provoked a momentary wobble.
High-speed stability was otherwise flawless, with no Fireblade style twitchiness despite the bikes´ obvious similarities in size and performance. And high speed was definitely what the SB7 liked best. Provided the revs were kept up, its fuel-injection gave a superbly crisp response that had the Bimota screaming towards a top speed somewhere in excess of the GSX-R´s 160mph.
Its big horses live at the top end of the rev range, with the claimed max output of 132bhp arriving, like the standard GSX-R´s claimed 118bhp, at 11,500rpm. The close-ratio box made it easy to keep the motor on the boil, and on the right road the Seven felt fast enough to live with just about anything.
The Bim certainly had to be ridden with a fair degree of aggression, because it refused to pull from below 5000rpm once out of its tall (but not RC45 tall) first gear, merely stuttering and croaking until it reached that figure. Bimota´s excuse is that the fuel-injection butterfly and exhaust pipe diameters are very large, to work best at high revs.
Midrange response above five grand felt pretty good by 750cc sportster standards, even if the strong acceleration didn´t arrive until 8000rpm. The SB7 was also reasonably smooth, transmitting some typical four-cylinder tingles but being noticeably less buzzy than the GSX-R11-engined SB6. Less impressive was the occasional fuel starvation when accelerating hard with a half-full tank of gas. This prototype´s fuel pump was fitted at the front of the tank, but production models will have the pump at the rear.
Braking power from the big 320mm Brembos and four-pot calipers was predictably fierce, though after a series of hard stops the system developed enough lever travel to worry riders who brake with just one or two fingers. Excessive lever travel has afflicted several recent Brembo-shod sportsters (916 included), so there´s room for improvement.
As for the SB7 itself, the easiest way for Bimota to improve its appeal would be to trim the price which, at £17,000 on the road, makes this bike £1000 more expensive than the SB6 and almost as dear as Honda´s RC45. But if the SB7 is hardly good value as a roadster, its high price is inevitable given that only 15 will be imported this year, out of a total production run of 200 necessary to homologate the fuel-injected 750 for next year´s Superbike championship.
For make no mistake, this bike has been built for a purpose – to recapture the road-race glory that Bimota last enjoyed with Virginio Ferrari´s Formula One title win back in 1987.
Get Bimota motorcycle insurance for the SB7.
|Engine||Liquid-cooled transverse four|
|Claimed power (bhp)||156bhp at 10,000rpm|
|Front suspension||46mm telescopic Paioli, 120mm (4.7in) travel, adjustments for compression and rebound damping|
|Rear suspension||One Ohlins damper, 125mm (4.9in) wheel travel, adjustments for preload compression and rebound damping|
|Front brake||2, four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs|
|Rear brake||Double-action Brembo caliper, 230mm disc|
|Front wheel||3.50 x 17in; cast aluminum|
|Rear wheel||5.50 x 17in; cast aluminum|
|Front tyre||120/70 x 17in Michelin Hi-Sport radial|
|Rear tyre||180/55 x 17in Michelin Hi-Sport radial|
|Rake/trail||23.5 degrees/944mm (3.7in)|
|Seat height||755mm (30in)|
|Dry weight||186kg (409lb)|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|