This Is the First Modern Superbike

A wildly expensive commercial failure, and the template for a generation of motorcycles.

Bimota Bike
Bonhams

In 1977, Yamaha and Suzuki both introduced hairy four-stroke 750s to compete with Honda’s CB750 and Kawasaki’s big Z liter bike. These were all great, fast sporting motorcycles, and all had a traditional look a whole lot like bikes from 10 years earlier.

Bimota—which began in 1966 as an Italian HVAC business—had a history with Suzuki, with engineer Massimo Tamburini building race bike frames on the side. In 1976, Suzuki commissioned Bimota to build a 500cc racing motorcycle. The resulting Suzuki SB2, though, would be so close to a production bike that Bimota and Suzuki contracted to build 200. At £4,000-plus (about $7,000, a highly optioned Ford LTD), it was the most expensive, sophisticated and stylish motorcycle in the world.

Bonhams

After selling 140 SB2s, Bimota ran out of demand and built a further 30 SB2/80s, a slightly modified design with their own name on it. The ultralight bike was a work of art, with top-notch suspension and excellent steering geometry. Only the Kawasaki Z1000 would come close to its power-to-weight ratio, but the Bimota was a generation ahead in styling and sophistication.

If you want to pick one up—and by now I assume you do—Bonhams has one of the 30 at their Grand Palais auction in Paris on February 4. Unlike a revolutionary Italian car of the era—a Ferrari 512 BB, maybe—it’s in reach with a $23,000-$27,000 estimate. And it’s a lot cheaper to ship, insure and maintain.

Cycle called it “perfect” and 36 years after this bike was built, it still feels that way.

Bonhams