Whether the V-due was successful or not is quite controversial. The risk that Bimota took when they decided to put so much of their resources into developing a clean-burning direct-injection two-stroke engine was enormous – and it ultimately put them out of business (for a while.) The original concept of a powerful, very lightweight V-twin engine nestled into a dual swingarm, Tesi-style hub-steered chassis was brilliant, and the prototypes functioned very well. The power to weight ratio was extreme. The bet was paying off! But, as is so often the case with small companies, the financial pressure to rush products to market before they are really ready undermines their commercial success. Bimota produced 150 V-dues and had to recall them all – the loss of income forcing them into bankruptcy. The production V-due had some problems, but early versions of most new products have problems that engineers rectify during development. Had the team been given more time (as history has proven), I am sure that the V-due would have been running smoothly and reliably and the story would be different – it was very close – but they did not have more time.
What was the cause of V-due owner dissatisfaction? The motorcycles did not run smoothly. Why? There were two problems. Firstly, the prototype machines used fuel-injectors from Ferrari that had small orifices and precisely metered fuel – these were not available in production and Bimota could not find mass-produced injectors with the same characteristics. And secondly, the crankshaft seals (which are critical in a two-stroke engine) were too weak and often leaked. The combination of these two factors meant that the fuel (injectors) and air (seals) ratio was imprecise per stroke, and therefore, the engines sometimes ran erratically.
During the recall time period, Bimota tried to salvage the V-due by sponsoring a one-make racing series in Italy. They hoped that racing the motorcycles would demonstrate to the public that the V-dues were fixed; and Bimota could rebuild their market. The racing V-dues were called Trofeos. Initially, they replaced the fuel-injection systems with carburetors, but surprisingly this did not fully cure the erratic running! As they studied further, they found the crankshaft seal issue. The solution was not easy. They needed better seals but there was not enough material in the crankcases to house larger, stronger seals. They decided to use seals with the same outside diameters as the originals and smaller inside diameters – this required the crankshafts to be turned down on the ends that pass through the seals. Unfortunately, some of the modified crankshafts started to fail! As they worked through development and the racing series, financial circumstances forced Bimota to close its doors.
Once Bimota emerged from bankruptcy, one of the new owner's first actions was to sell the entire V-due project – all motorcycles, parts, patents, and documentation – to an entrepreneur in Milano – Piero Caronni. Piero’s mechanics analyzed the situation and together they proceeded to further develop the V-due. For expediency’s sake they decided to stay with the carburetor solution of the Trofeo – not a small undertaking as it required new ECUs (incorporated into a new electronic dashboards), new carbon fiber air boxes, new wiring harnesses, and many detail changes. They understood the crankshaft seal problem by analyzing the development from the first generation V-dues to the Trofeos, and because they were committed for the long term, decided to invest in returning to the foundry and casting new crankcases with enough material around the crankshafts to accept sufficiently strong seals. With carburetors and new seals – V-dues are now properly running modern two-stroke motorcycles with outstanding performance.
So back to the original question, was the V-due successful? It was clearly not commercially successful for Bimota, but the latest V-dues from Milano are very, very good motorcycles. Furthermore, as a testament to the strength of the original concept, there are many small shops around the world developing modified fuel-injection systems with very good success. V-dues are now highly sought after and are commanding increasing prices. Eventually, history may forget the early days of the V-due and, based on the final carbureted and home-built fuel-injected versions, conclude that the V-due was indeed, a very good motorcycle!
Photographs taken by Neale Bayly - facebook:neale