For all the imagination in motorcycle design, the basic fundamentals in the vast majority of road bikes are the same. And in the front suspension department, the telescopic fork rules the roost.
In the early 1980s an Italian engineering student proposed an alternative thesis for the ideal front motorcycle suspension. Pier Luigi Marconi’s idea took shape in the form of the Bimota Tesi 1D (tesi being Italian for thesis) in 1991—a motorcycle that looked like something out of a science-fiction film.
While Raymond Roche won the 1990 Superbike World Championship on Ducati’s rather chunky 851 – the basis for the Tesi’s donor engine – the concept of inverted forks was only just being tested. Roche’s bike featured the new-fangled upside-down forks, while Honda stuck with the conventional items for its jewel-like RC30 and won the championship in the process. And while Elf racing had experimented with hub-center-steering motorbikes in Grand Prix racing for the previous decade, road bikes with inverted forks were virtually unknown, so it’s easy to understand the impact of the Tesi at the time.
Remarkably, that impact had translated into sales. Bimota sold more than 400 Tesi 1Ds in various guises. Exceptional, considering that a Tesi cost around US$40,000 in a time when the race-proven Honda RC30 sold for what was considered an expensive sticker price of US$14,998, largely because it was made by hand by Honda Racing Corporation. The excellent VFR750F sport-tourer was half the price of the RC30. Production of the Tesi 1D ceased in 1993.
Between developing other bikes and bankruptcy it was another 12 years before the Tesi concept would take shape again, in the form of the Tesi 2D. Vyrus founder Ascanio Rodorigo helped develop the Tesi 2D for Bimota, and in many ways the Vyrus we see today is an evolution of that design, though Bimota has its own Tesi 3D on offer too.
The theory with the hub center steering front end is that it separates braking and steering forces from suspension action, so the front end doesn’t dive under heavy braking, allowing riders to use the brakes later and harder when entering corners. Plus the steering geometry and wheelbase remains the same under heavy braking, so theoretically what you get is more predictable handling.
On the minus side, because of the linkages involved, hub-centre-steer motorcycles tend to have less direct steering feel – though Vryus claims to have been working to improve this aspect – which limits their success on racetracks, where riders are pushing to the limits of grip, and feel can makes the difference between success and disaster.
But to focus on racetrack success is to miss the benefits of a hub-centre-steer motorcycle entirely. On real roads, where you’re likely to encounter unexpected mid-corner bumps, having suspension travel available is a godsend. And for the majority of road riders, the only time they test the limits of front-end grip is the moment before a crash.
Oddly enough, the front swing-arm arrangement on the Vyrus, along with exotic materials, equals weight savings. The Ducati donor engine is the meat in a sandwich of CNC-machined alloy plates – the double-omega chassis in Vyrus-speak – to which the front and rear suspension is attached. The lighter-weight bits to accommodate the rider, fuel and steering parts are essentially bolted on top.
At the entry level, the 984 C3 2V features a two-valve, 1,098cc, air-cooled Ducati V-twin with 100hp, and weighs-in at a svelte 158kg dry.
Above that sits the 987 C3 4V with a liquid-cooled, 1,198cc, four-valve V-twin with 167hp on tap and only an extra kilogram of bulk for a better than 1:1 power to weight ratio. There’s also a 600cc Moto2-spec racer, for those who fancy a track machine.
Vyrus motorcycles are essentially hand-built to order by the small four-man team at the Emilia-Romagna workshop between San Marino and Rimini on the Italian Adriatic coast. There are 19 external engineers and consultants involved too.
Because of the small production, you can expect to pay for the privilege of ownership. The 984 C3 2V starts at €27,000 before taxes, and that’s sans options such as titanium-piston GP-spec brake calipers, magnesium wheels or data-logging systems.
But the Vyrus is a unique machine – only 10 to 15 units roll out of the workshop in a year. It’s highly unlikely your neighbour owns one, and even if he does, the amount of customization on offer means no two are the same. Vyrus encourages buyers to visit the workshop to select options and materials in person, in consultation with the people who will build the machine. Being Italian they also suggest spending a couple of days, so you can go for a ride in the nearby mountains, and enjoy the food and scenery while you’re at it.
Vyrus 984 C3 2V/4V
Engine: 90-degree, 2-valve, air-cooled, 1,098cc V-twin/90-degree, 4-valve, liquid-cooled, 1,198cc V-twin
Top speed: 261km/h/295km/h
Chassis: Double omega design CNC-machined alloy, fully adjustable suspension front and rear, adjustable rake and trail.
Dry Weight: 158kg/159kg
Starting price (excluding taxes): €27,000 /€48,150