News from the EICMA Motorcycle Show 2022 in Milan is coming in hot, and the motorcycles are absolutely fascinating. We have another new unveiling, and this one has a design so far out that it’s hard to gauge how big it even is. The Bimota KB4-RC is a café racer for the future, with massive ducts that look like they belong on a fighter jet. And it’s actually a production machine!
Bimota has always been a quirky name in the motorcycle industry. It was founded in Italy in 1966 by Giuseppe Morri, Massimo Tamburini, and Valerio Bianchi. As Fast Bikes Magazines writes, the three were all friends partnered up in their HVAC business and avid motorcycle riders. Tamurini even had experience in building a motorcycle. The name Bimota comes from the first two letters of each of their last names combined together.
As the story goes, Tamburini crashed his Honda CB750 Four at a race in 1972, notes Bennetts BikeSocial. Coming home with broken ribs, he came to the conclusion that Honda’s frame wasn’t good enough for the power. Thus, he decided to build a new frame set for the CB750. Tamburini’s new frame cut the CB750’s weight by a whole 110 pounds. This motorcycle, called the HB1, planted the seeds for Bimota’s future, and in 1973, Bimota opened its first motorcycle factory.
At first, Bimota was an aftermarket frame supplier. You’d buy the motorcycle of your choosing then buy the Bimota kit to convert your bike into a Bimota. The company’s machines were so good that in 1975, Bimota expanded into a factory ten times larger to satisfy demand. A couple of years later, Bimota launched the KB1.
This motorcycle starts as a Kawasaki Z900 or Z1000, then gets converted into a Bimota. The end result KB1 weighed 88 fewer pounds than the base Kawasaki, which is said to increase top speed by 10 mph.
During this era, Bennetts BikeSocial writes, Bimota provided frames and accessories for the Honda CB750 Four, Kawasaki Z1, Suzuki GSX750, and Suzuki GSX1100. In 1983, Tamburini left Bimota, getting replaced by former Ducati engineer Federico Martini. Martini reportedly designed two successful motorcycles and doubled production from 600 to 1,200 units, but there were headwinds ahead.
At the time, Bimota was working on another project. In the early 1980s, Pier Luigi Marconi and Roberto Ugolini had an idea for a new kind of a motorcycle front wheel. The front wheel in this concept is mounted to a swingarm with a shock and an internal pivot point. The idea of a hub-center steering is to split steering, braking, and suspension functions, rather than have them all together like in a typical motorcycle fork.
Bimota’s end result was the Tesi, the motorcycle that Bimota is perhaps most famous for. The prototype made its debut in Milan in 1983, but as Fast Bikes Magazines notes, it took Bimota until 1990 to get it on the road.
Unfortunately, the motorcycle was innovative, but expensive. Bimota eventually went bankrupt in 2001 after the company burned cash on new ideas like the aforementioned Tesi and the V Due. Bimota was saved a couple of years later, and has experienced a rollercoaster of events since.
It’s still around in part thanks to 49 percent ownership from Kawasaki. It’s still making crazy motorcycles, and there’s even a single distributor here in America. That brings us to the present day, when in 2021, Bimota unveiled the KB4.
This motorcycle doesn’t have any wild ideas going on like the Tesi. Instead, it’s a modern machine with classic, yet striking styling. The KB4 is a blend of modern and vintage touches from tip to tail. As Ultimate Motorcycling reports, it’s supposed to look like something from the 1970s while retaining the performance Bimotas are known for.
When that motorcycle was released at EICMA 2021, the company also showed off a prototype a café racer version. Now, the production version is here. The KB4-RC, which Bimota says means “Race Café” and calls a café racer, arrived at EICMA 2022 in the flesh, and it looks like nothing else.
Right out of the gate, you’ll probably notice the block that flanks the chassis and bisects the upper and lower portion of the motorcycle. This alone is something pretty far out that you won’t really see on other bikes. That’s actually a pair of massive air ducts.
Look at it from the front and these ducts somewhat resemble the intakes of a Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet. The ducts feed air to the radiator, which is located between the seat and the rear wheel. Those ducts go all of the way through, too, with exits at the motorcycle’s tail.
This design seems to be breaking my brain, because I can’t quite grasp its proportions. Without another motorcycle for scale, it’s hard to make out just how big or small it is. It’s sort of all over the place, and I actually love it for that.
Having the radiator back there is neat, too, as it makes the motorcycle look like it’s air-cooled. But there is modern power housed in its trellis frame. Power comes from a 1,043cc inline-four derived from the Kawasaki Ninja. It’s making 142 HP and 81.8 lb-ft torque in this guise. Performance data hasn’t been published, but given its 412-pound dry weight, I’d expect it to be properly fast.
There’s more good stuff, too. Front and rear suspension consists of an Öhlins 43mm FG R&T NIX 30 fork up front and an Öhlins TTX 36 monoshock in back. These parts are mounted to a billet swingarm, and the KB4-RC rides on forged-aluminum wheels. Braking is taken care of with twin 320 mm Brembo discs up front featuring Brembo Stylema four-piston calipers. A single 220 mm disc with a two-piston caliper brings up the rear. Braking is assisted with ABS.
Perhaps the most fascinating part is that Bimota does distribute its motorcycles in the United States through Bimota Spirit in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bimotas are highly exclusive motorcycles, so I wouldn’t expect getting one to be easy, or cheap. Pricing hasn’t been released, and since Bimota builds motorcycles for each client, will likely vary. To illustrate how these machines are more boutique than mainstream: the regular KB4 is known to cost about $40,000 in Japan. So, if you can get your hands on one, it’ll for sure be one of the most distinctive motorcycles in the entire country.