Bimota DB 4

2009 Bimota DB7 vs. 2009 Ducati 1098R Bayliss – Comparison Test Battle of the Boutique Superbikes.

Dressed as if by Giorgio Armani himself and emitting sounds as booming as tenor Luciano Pavarotti, these two motorcycles could only have been crafted in one part of the world. They are the pinnacle of Italian flair packed with Superbike function. What’s not to love?!

There are very few motorcycles on the market today that ooze sex like Bimota’s DB7and Ducati’s limited-edition 1098R Bayliss. Apparently sex sells, too, judging by the attention these bikes received everywhere we went.

These two close cousins share the basic DNA of their DucatiTestastretta Evoluzioneengines, in addition to factories just 60 miles apart, making comparisons between them natural. Buyers shopping for ultra-exotic Italian motorcycles will surely consider one of these expensive thoroughbreds. In view of the close ties between Ducati and Bimota, we wanted to see if the extra $10K premium of the damn-near Superbike-spec 1098R Bayliss is worth the price of admission against the top-of-the-line $34,945 DB7 superbike.

We first sampled the DB7 in June, 2008, at the Misano Circuit near Bimota’s hometown of Rimini. But it wasn’t until spring of this year that Cycle Worldwas able to obtain a testbike on home turf. In the long-standing tradition of the small boutique-bike maker, Bimota constructs a fabulous, cutting-edge chassis and stuffs it with a tried-and-true powerplant from another maker.

Bimota currently uses Ducati engines exclusively.

Ducati’s 1098R shouldn’t need much in the way of introduction, as it is the motorcycle that Ducati hasto build for World Superbike homologation. In Ducati’s multi-tier 1198 model range, the Bayliss (yes, it’s actually 1198cc) is the top dog, featuring a seriously hot-rodded engine and racebike-worthy chassis components.

Comparing specifications of the two engines, you quickly realize that they are born into the same family, but one has received quite a bit more nurturing than the other. First things first: The Bimota uses the previous-gen 1099cc engine in stock form, while the Bayliss uses a steroid-injected version of the latest, larger-displacement mill.

The R’s additional capacity was achieved by increasing the 1098′s 104mm bore to 106, while stroke was increased from 64.7mm to 67.9. Sand-cast crankcases and cylinder heads, lighter and stronger titanium connecting rods, carbon-fiber cam-belt covers and magnesium cam covers reduce engine weight by almost 5 pounds compared to the 1098.

Four titanium valves per cylinder replace the 1098′s steel pieces, while diameters were increased from 42 to 44.3mm for the intakes and from 34 to 36.2mm for the exhausts. More radical camshaft profiles give the Bayliss 16-percent more lift.

Additional upgrades are seen in the R’s fuel-injection system, which utilizes six-percent-larger 63.9mm elliptical throttle bodies. For the first time on a road-going Ducati, two injectors per cylinder are used. Both nozzles reside in a showerhead position above the throttle body.

The primary injector has a four-hole nozzle, while the offset secondary unit has a 12-hole setup for improved fuel delivery and atomization at high-rpm operation.

There are additional differences in the gearboxes. The Bayliss has unique third-, fourth- and sixth-gear ratios, plus they are machined from higher-strength steel and then shotpeened for improved durability. A dry slipper clutch is fitted standard on the 1098R, while the DB7 gets a non-slipper unit, also dry.

Bimota developed its own fuel-injection mapping and beautiful 2-into-1 exhaust system with a right-side titanium canister. Our Bayliss Ducati was fitted with the supplied accessory full Termignoni racing exhaust featuring enormous 52-57mm- diameter header tubing feeding a 70mm collector and twin carbon-fiber underseat silencers.

After strapping our two Italian studs onto theCycle Worlddyno, it became apparent that the Bayliss bike’s internal engine mods—in addition to the displacement bump and accessory exhaust—paid big dividends. The R-model pumped out an incredible 169 horsepower and 92.2 foot-pounds of torque at the rear wheel, compared to the DB7′s (still stout) 137 hp/81 ft.-lb. Power and torque curves for both bikes are beautiful once they overcome minor hiccups in the 3000-rpm range.

If the focus of the Ducati was the engine, then it can be said that Bimota spent its resources on the chassis. The DB7′s hybrid aluminum/steel frame features a 2 x 1.2-inch oval-section chrome-moly trellis bolted to machined alloy sideplates. The swingarm is of similar construction and features a rising-rate linkage not unlike that of Honda’s Unit Pro-Link.

A trick Extreme Tech 2T4V shock has the full complement of adjustments: spring preload, ride height, high- and low-speed compression and high- and low-speed rebound damping. Beautifully machined chain adjusters and a bottom-mounted brake caliper make rear wheel swaps almost as easy as with quick-change gear. Up front, machined aluminum triple-clamps hold a fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi Corse RAC43 fork with red-anodized stanchions and titanium-nitride-coated sliders.

An Extreme Tech steering damper is mounted out of the way on the lower triple-clamp.

The R’s trellis-frame design is very similar to that used in the rest of the Ducati Superbike family, predominantly utilizing 1.4-inch-diameter steel tubing. What stands out are a few of the key components bolted to the bike, like the fully adjustable Öhlins TTXR shock—featuring independent ride-height adjustment—controlling the single-sided swingarm.

A blacked-out top triple-clamp (with serial-numbered plaque to distinguish the bike’s place in the limited run of 500 units) mounted with an Öhlins steering damper holds the fully adjustable, 43mm Öhlins fork. Chassis dimensions are very similar, with the Bimota’s wheelbase measuring 56.3 inches to the Ducati’s 56.5, and rake set at 25 degrees and 24.5, respectively.

Identical Brembo radial-mount M4-34 calipers are used on each bike and are machined from a single chunk of alloy. One small difference is Ducati’s use of 330mm discs compared to the Bimota’s 320s. Ultra-lightweight wheels adorn each.

The Ducati runs forged aluminum Marchesinis and the Bimota is equipped with 10-spoke forged units manufactured exclusively for them by Russia’s Magaltech.

No expense was spared when it came to dressing these two beauties in fine duds. The DB7 features carbon-fiber bodywork, fuel tank and a completely structural c-f tailsection (as in no separate subframe). The Bayliss’ bodywork is a lightweight plastic material called Terblend adorned with limited-edition graphics designed by famous helmet painter/artist Aldo Drudi. The bellypan, seat assembly and front fender are c-f.

We suspected that both bikes were light on their feet due to those feathery materials, and they didn’t disappoint. The Ducati tipped our scales at 399 pounds dry, with the Bimota coming in at 403.

These bikes were bred for the track, so evaluating performance in that environment was mandatory. Go ahead, twist our arms! We signed up for a Take It To The Track ( trackday.

The San Diego company runs at a variety of circuits in the west, including The Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada. We then used Michelin’s new Power One website ( to select the appropriate tires for the track. Recommendation?

The Power One (A compound) in the standard 120/70ZR17 front and 190/55ZR17 sizes for both bikes. The site also suggested tire pressures of 31 psi at the front and 22 in the rear for our track day. Once at the beautiful Spring Mountain facility, we enlisted the help of Race Tech Suspension (, which offers a $30, all-day trackside suspension service at select trackdays and race meetings.

You don’t have to roll very far to feel the ergonomic differences between the two bikes. “The DB7′s ergos fit me nicely,” said Associate Editor Mark Cernicky. “I felt like I was down in it, nestled behind the bars. Although the windscreen is small, it provides good protection. A super-slender waist allows you to tuck your legs and knees tightly into the tank, which also helps support the upper body during hard braking, taking weight off the wrists.” In contrast, the Ducati gives the rider a more perched-on-top-and-out-in-the-open feeling, as well as putting the rider over the handlebars more.

The Bimota’s beautifully machined adjustable footpegs were a hit—perfectly placed and not distracting in any way. We wish we could say the same of the Ducati’s rearsets, which were awful in comparison. For some reason they slope downward, causing feet to slip off occasionally when riding over bumpy sections of track.

Spring Mountain offers a nice combination of corners with a few tight second-gear chicanes, third-gear sweepers and a fifth-gear backstraight. “There are a few places where the rider flicks from full-right lean to full-left,” said Cernicky. “During these transitions both bikes felt light, nimble and required minimal effort at the bars.”

While handling was comparable, the engines couldn’t be more different. The Ducati’s whopping 32-horsepower advantage made it amazing to launch out of corners, but also a bit of a handful! Thank goodness for the traction-control system, which we set at level 4 out of 8. But by the end of the day (and the poor rear tire’s life!) it was definitely working overtime to control wheelspin.

Even with DTC and all that power, we never felt like we got the most out of the R, primarily because its lively delivery caused the bike to wheelie so often out of corners.

The Bimota, on the other hand, was extremely smooth and linear during the crucial initial throttle opening at full-lean, allowing earlier throttle application and making the rear Michelin’s grip easier to read.

After familiarizing ourselves with the two bikes and getting the suspension settings dialed-in, we then gathered back-to-back lap times. When the dust settled, Cernicky recorded a 1.7-second-faster lap time on the Ducati but said that his quick lap wasexhilaratingto say the least. When Mark uses big words, we know things got hairy out there…

As for me, I actually went faster on the Bimota; I could never tiptoe as close to the edge on the Ducati as did Cernicky. The Bimota is easier to ride fast and ultimately a little more enjoyable, whereas the Bayliss demands precise, expert input, even with the traction-control system flickering its dash lights. The payoff on the Ducati is a lower lap time—if you have the skills to get it!

On the street, the Bimota provided good fuel-injection mapping, an easy-to-modulate clutch and a decent riding position on par with those of Japanese liter-class sportbikes. Complaints include limited steering lock—which makes U-turns and tight parking-lot maneuvers difficult—and useless mirrors. The Bayliss won’t win any comfort contests with its more aggressive riding position, and sports mirrors that are only marginally better than those of the Bimota.

We struggled during daily street riding with the 1098R’s grabby and sensitive clutch and also had the bike stall on multiple occasions if the engine wasn’t completely warmed up. And those accessory pipes arewaytoo loud for the street.

When talk turns to numbers and outright engine performance, the Ducati is clearly dominant, but perhaps the only person who can truly get the most out of the R already has his name and number emblazoned on the side of the bike! For the talented, experienced rider in search of ultimate lap times, the Bayliss is among the most amazing sportbikes you can buy. The Bimota, on the other hand, is a beautiful work of art, handles like a dream and has awesome real-world V-Twin power that makes it more accessible to more riders.

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