The 2022 Bimota Tesi H2 combines Kawasaki supercharged power with stunning Italian style
Let me bring you up to speed. Kawasaki now owns 49.9 percent of Bimota, which is brilliant news for the small Italian firm. Since its creation in the 1970s, Bimota has historically bought engines from Kawasaki or Yamaha or Suzuki or Ducati, and then produced a bespoke chassis to wrap around those power units. However, developing its own fueling and exhaust systems, and then getting the new bike to meet increasingly tough emissions regulations was extremely difficult and costly.
But now, thanks to Kawasaki, Bimota has a colossal amount of engine technology to borrow from its Japanese partners. And this, the Bimota Tesi H2, is the first bike to come out of this unique and intriguing relationship.
Essentially, Bimota has taken one of the world’s most powerful engines, the supercharged H2, plus its fueling and exhaust, instruments, switchgear, lights and electronic rider aids and added its own chassis and design. Without any fueling or electronic development costs, or emissions compliance to worry about, Bimota’s focus has been centered around what it does best: chassis and design.
The new billet aluminium rear swingarm and carbon/aluminium front arms bolt directly to the supercharged Kawasaki engine. Two Öhlins shocks at the rear control the front and rear wheels independently. The conventional trellis Kawasaki frame has been removed.
But it’s not just about the frame and suspension. The aerodynamic bodywork, with wings that create high-speed downforce (11kg), are all carbon-fibre. Oh, and this 170kW (228hp) motorcycle tips the scales at 207kg (dry).
A conventional telescopic fork, especially on powerful bikes like an H2, requires enormous strength to deal with the forces of braking, while also performing the more subtle tasks of steering and absorbing bumps. It attaches to a huge (and high) steering head that’s been braced and stiffened to cope with all those forces passing to the frame. And, of course, it alters the wheelbase and steering geometry as it extends and compresses.
The Tesi’s hub-centre-steering system, meanwhile, leaves the geometry unaffected by braking and acceleration. There isn’t any conventional dive, and the feeling at the handlebars is constant whether the bike is slowing or accelerating or turning. That’s because the functions of braking, suspension and steering are separated. The steering, for example, isn’t affected by the suspension, while the suspension is unaffected by braking forces.
The front suspension is more like a conventional rear swingarm with a single shock, which on the Bimota is located at the rear. Steering is via a series of links and joints, with the front wheel pivoting on a hub (and most of the HCS architecture hidden by dramatic carbon bodywork).
Yes, there is added weight with the additional mechanisms and linkages of HCS but that is offset by the absence of a conventional frame and no need for a massive headstock. Each arm is made from relatively light billet aluminium, with the centre bridge on the front arm manufactured in carbon-fibre.
Rolling out of pitlane, the initial feeling was a little odd. When I opened and closed the throttle the bike was dive-free. Below 15km/h it weaved very gently as I countersteered, trying to get used to the unusual sensation of hub steering. The initial feeling is vague.
The first session was a little damp as well as cold, so the first few laps were ridden with trepidation. Soon, though, I started to connect to the different feeling and learned to trust the front-end grip rather than feel for it as I would with a telescopic fork. Within a few laps, the Tesi started to feel natural and I started to feel at home, dragging my knee on the Ferrari test track with confidence.
The quoted kerb weight of the Tesi H2 is 219kg, while Kawasaki quotes a wet weight of 238kg for the standard H2, which means a significant saving of 15-20kg with a demonstrably lower centre of gravity too. Add to this the fact that the (theoretical) head angle is far steeper on the Tesi – 21.3° with 117mm of trail and 24.5° and 103mm on the Kawasaki. The Tesi system allows a much steeper head angle (Bimota claims if the Kawasaki was to run such a steep head angle it would almost buckle the fork) which quickens the steering and makes the Tesi more responsive to rider inputs. There’s a sense of lightness engineered into the bike.
In pictures it may look like a big bike, but it feels much lighter than its Kawasaki donor bike. Considering its brutal power output, the Tesi made relatively light work of Modena’s twistiest sections. After a 20-minute session, I didn’t feel like I’d been in a fight with a heavyweight. Fast direction changes were surprisingly easy, while it flowed accurately and calmly through the faster sections. While it’s true that we didn’t have a standard H2 on the test, I’m sure the difference between the two bikes would be significant.
Braking is very different from a conventional bike, despite the Tesi sharing the same Brembo Stylema calipers as the Kawasaki H2. No matter how hard and late you brake, the Tesi stays flat. The front does not dive, there’s no running out of fork travel, and the rear does not lift. I could brake exceptionally late yet absolute stability remained – in fact nothing appeared to upset the handling. Cornering ABS is standard, but its parameters have been changed to match the front-end as well as the bike’s relative lightness and reduced stopping distance compared to the H2.
Arguably there are disadvantages to this system. Without fork dive the rake stays constant, and under heavy braking it’s not as easy to turn as a conventional bike. I’d also argue the feeling isn’t as one-to-one. I didn’t have the confidence to brake deep into the apex, compressing the front tyre, feeling the sidewall squish and build grip. But this isn’t a racebike on race tyres, and I doubt very much that I’d brake deep to the apex on a standard Kawasaki H2 either.
The more laps I threw in, the more I got used to the feel of the front. I never had an issue with lack of grip or understeer; it worked perfectly and predictably. But I had to build up confidence, and in the last 10 percent I didn’t quite know how much to push. But I guess that will build as confidence increases and there’s more setup time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to play with the setup. Clever construction of the suspension support means ride height can be adjusted by 20mm without altering the bike’s geometry; it’s essentially moving the bike’s centre of gravity. But initial impressions are of a lighter, more flickable machine that can brake later with more stability.
Braking is controlled by twin 330mm discs, with four-piston Brembo Stylema calipers, which are located at the top of the disc, inside the billet aluminium front swingarm. These are taken directly from Kawasaki. Braking power is immense, the rear does not lift or come around, and the front does not pitch forward. Stability is total; the chassis feels solid.
Bimota claims the Tesi H2 stops in a shorter distance than the standard Kawasaki H2 – so much so the cornering ABS system and parameters had to be recalibrated. However, some of this might be down to the lightness of the Bimota.
Kawasaki’s ABS system is linked to the IMU for lean sensitivity and the Japanese firm’s engine brake control is also carried over to the Bimota. ABS intervention can be changed but cannot be fully deactivated. On track on standard rubber, the ABS intervention was evident but not intrusive.
Kawasaki spent a fortune developing the supercharged 998cc inline-four, perfecting the devilishly complicated fueling and making sure the technology would be reliable and rideable and making sure it passed tightening homologation regs for noise and emissions. Then Bimota stepped in and scampered off to Italy with all that knowledge and hard work.
But this does mean that Bimota can’t change any aspect of the engine, including the fueling and exhaust, because they would then have to start that whole costly process again, including further homologation tests.
Bimota traditionalists may hesitate, but this is obviously advantageous for Bimota as a huge cost and time-saving exercise, plus it has a proven supercharged engine to deploy as it wishes. The disadvantage is that the current H2 engine is only Euro 4 compliant, the gearbox ratios fixed, and the muffler is a little on the bulky side. I’m sure the stylish Italians would have given that a tweak if it were remotely possible.
I first rode the legendary H2 and H2 R on its world press launch in Qatar and was blown away by the supercharged performance. It was a revelation. Kawasaki has tweaked the engine since 2015 to comply with Euro 4 regulations and this is what powers the Bimota today – but it’s still as fierce and addictive as ever.
My first session at Modena, a fun but tight track in northern Italy, was a little damp, which meant opting for reduced power and increasing the lean-sensitive traction control. The Tesi ran on Bridgestone RS11 rubber and no tyre warmers, but within a few laps it was obvious the grip it was generating was far better than I expected. The Bimota runs the same Bosch six-axis IMU as the Kawasaki, and it was reassuring to hear the traction control working overtime, even with the power wound back.
After a quick pit stop to change to a dark visor, it was back to normal power and reduced rider aids – a something-in-the-middle setting. Now the H2 – sorry, the Bimota – came alive. The supercharged engine has several personalities. The midrange whoosh is phenomenal, and it requires a mental recalibration to get used to the supercharged delivery. The sheer avalanche of horsepower asks serious questions of the mechanical grip and makes the traction and anti-wheelie work overtime. So, while many bikes make Modena feel tight in places, the Bimota’s Kawasaki power made it feel like a carpark.
The only place to really let the Tesi H2 loose was down the main straight and, again, the power was almost too much – the acceleration is fierce. The kick it delivers is addictive, certainly like nothing else on the road, and acoustically backed up by the chirp of the supercharger.
The rider aids are the same as the H2’s but have been recalibrated to compensate for the Italian’s comparative lack of weight, which is apparent in everything the bike does.
The Tesi H2 is far better suited to big circuits like Silverstone or Mugello, but the Modena layout did highlight the Bimota’s downside – which is the same as the H2 – the fueling low down is sharp. Yes, you can play with this, changing the engine modes and increasing TC and anti-wheelie helps, but there’s no hiding the fact that it’s a little aggressive when you open the throttle at low rpm.
Between 20-40 percent throttle it’s just about acceptable, but from zero to 20 percent it’s snappy. The twisty track exacerbated this weakness, meaning those excellent rider aids are required as a safety net as it’s hard to dial in the power smoothly and slowly in a low gear. In fact, it’s sometimes easier to short shift on the standard quickshifter into a taller gear for a better ride.
I guess nothing is perfect. Perhaps it’s too much to expect a market-leading midrange drive, complete with the cheeky chirp of a supercharger, as well as easily manageable torque low down. But I have ridden the H2 and H2 R on fast and flowing tracks, and the experience was literally breathtaking. Now I can’t wait to try the Bimota at a faster track to really test its limits.
The Bimota is road legal, and the light handling I felt on track should transfer to the road. The seat height is higher than the H2’s but can be changed by altering the ride height, and the footpegs are also multi-adjustable.
The suspension is fully adjustable, with both remote preload adjusters located at the rear of the bike. The Tesi front-end should, in theory, be well-suited to the road, as braking does not compress the suspension, meaning braking over bumps should feel smoother and plusher. But sadly this was a track-only test. Speaking of track only, Bimota offers a full race exhaust, too, which not only looks stunning and shaves off 14kg, but is also claimed to add five more horsepower.
Bimota has taken one of the world’s best engines, Kawasaki’s supercharged H2, and housed it in a distinctive chassis, and I love the fact it looks like no other bike on the road. Yes, it’s pricey at €64,000 [$A98,500], but numbers are going to be limited to 250 and, like a lot of Bimotas before it, it is in line to become a future classic.
The Tesi H2 isn’t for everyone. Some won’t click with the hub-centred steering and the fueling is aggressive at low speeds, which on the road will be far from ideal. And if you have that sort of cash to outlay, there are far less expensive bikes that are faster around a racetrack.
But it’s wonderful that there are designers who are still out there pushing the boundaries and producing something that not only works, but looks fantastic. If you want massive power, a bold statement, and don’t care about fuel consumption or the fact there are bikes that are more capable on track – then the Tesi is for you. I can’t think of any other bike which shouts ‘look at me!’ any louder. It’s a daring, superb Kawasaki H2 smothered in Italian style and engineering brilliance.
TEST Adam child + Photography Ula Serra/Felix Romero