Monday 3 August 2015

Bimota DB3 - Much Maligned Mantra

Sacha Lakic Bimota DB3 Mantra
Sacha Lakic Design
For any Italophilic sport rider, there are few marques than can equal the beauty and desirability offered by the motorcycles produced by Bimota. Starting with their fortuitous decision to start building bikes instead of HVAC equipment in 1972, Bimota has earned its reputation producing some of the most delectable two-wheeled exotica in the world by assembling world-class sport machines around proven, bought-in powertrains. They are one of the few companies that can consistently take top-shelf engines from already capable machines and then make those donor bikes look staid, slow and boring in comparison to what the folks in Rimini have been slapping together in their laughably tiny "factory" since the Nixon administration.

The DB3 Mantra is not one of those machines. Nor was it ever intended to be. The Mantra represents one of Bimota's bigger missteps, an attempt to crack into a wider market that failed to win over many fans. It was expensive and saddled with some of the most controversial styling ever put into production. It was also one of the most useable real-world street bikes ever produced by the company, a fact lost in the unending stream of negative commentary that has dogged the Mantra since it was unveiled in 1994.

Bimota in the mid-1990s was apparently on a roll and producing more units annually than anyone would have dreamed they would back in the dark ages of the 1970s and 80s, when they were selling more all-assembly-required chassis kits than complete motorcycles. This growth was product of circumstance as much as good luck and clever management - by the early 1990s the company had stretched their resources to the limit in the development of their flagship Tesi platform, which had been met with a resounding "meh" amongst buyers who were happier to puzzle over the workings of the hub-centre front suspension from afar than to actually put money down on what was a horrifyingly expensive engineer's wet dream. General Manager Walter Martini spearheaded a new strategy that sought to expand the model range with a series of conventional (at least compared to the Tesi) machines that would be easier and cheaper to build, allowing the company to broaden its share of the market and increase production to hitherto unfathomable levels - which, in Bimota's case, meant more than 1000 units annually.

Bimota DB3 Mantra

From 1993 onward Bimota appeared to be growing exponentially. New models powered by Ducati, Suzuki and Yamaha engines were proliferating and the company appeared poised to step up from boutique constructor to proper (albeit small-scale) mass production. But all these machines remained hard-core sportbikes with varying levels of superfluous performance on tap tempered with sometimes lackadaisical assembly quality and poor setup. This wasn't out of character, of course, considering that Bimota had founded its reputation on dedicated race machinery and uncompromised, barely-streetable sportsters that often required some significant fettling to perform properly. Bimota management decided that continuing to pursue what Bimota did best, with all the baggage it carried, just wasn't going to cut it and that a new bike with more relaxed dynamics was needed to round out the expanding model range. It would be Bimota's take on a sports roadster, a laid-back machine that would give their patrons a more comfortable ride while ostensibly retaining the traditional qualities that Bimota was known for (superb chassis, top-notch components, third-party engines, quirky designs, and questionable reliability). In other words, they needed to sell more bikes and some compromise was needed to appeal to a new group of buyers.

Styling for the new machine was entrusted to Sacha Lakic, a Yugoslavian-born designer who grew up in France. Lakic was no stranger to motorcycle design and had earned a favourable reputation designing avant-garde concept machines for several firms. He had started his career in the automotive realm, working for Peugot under the legendary Paul Bracq, designing his first two-wheeled project following his move to the Alain Carré design studio in 1986. It was there that he penned the Axis 749, a reworked Yamaha FZ750 that was built in cooperation with Toulouse-based Boxer Bikes, with whom he would collaborate on numerous future projects.

Sacha Lakic Yamaha Axis 749
Sacha Lakic Design
In 1988 Lakic became the head of design for MBK-Yamaha, a joint venture that had formed after a series of purchases and mergers that culminated in Yamaha purchasing a controlling stake in the French manufacturer MBK Industrie (neé Motobécane) in 1986. By the late 1980s MBK-Yamaha was dedicated to producing small displacement scooters and Lakic began to earn a reputation as a talented designer through a series of eye-catching, modern designs that culminated in the Black Crystal concept unveiled at the Paris Motorshow in 1993. A carbon-fibre monocoque sport scooter with sharp, organic styling, the Black Cristal would prove to be the genesis of the modern sport scooter, with aesthetics that would set the pattern for countless designs that would follow in the 1990s and 2000s.

MBK Black Cristal
Sacha Lakic Design

Following the success of his work for MBK-Yamaha, Lakic founded his own design studio in Paris and soon began offering his services to other companies. Executives at Bimota had taken note of Lakic's work for MBK and hired him to help with the forthcoming DB3 project. He was essentially given carte blanche by Bimota; he was told by the company's marketing manager to design something "spectacular" to make the DB3, which would be the first naked Bimota, a true head turner. The only constraint was that Lakic would be limited to the bodywork and styling, and was required to use a chassis designed by Pier Luigi Marconi, Bimota's gifted long-term engineer/designer and father of the Tesi.

This was a new move on Bimota's part, who had traditionally relied on in-house designers like Marconi to provide chassis and aesthetic design for their machines. While Marconi would once again provide the bones of the machine, Lakic was entrusted with developing the styling. It would be touted in the press as the first of several machines to be designed by Lakic for the boys in Rimini, but ultimately it would be the first and last machine he would design for Bimota.

Bimota Mantra Rear Suspension

While Bimota had made its name producing steel tubular spaceframes, later moving on to twin-spar alloy beams starting with the YB4, the DB3 would use a new frame design that shared its architecture with the BMW (Rotax) powered BB1 Supermono that would ultimately be introduced alongside it. Oval-section aluminum tubing would be welded into a trellis that cradled the engine in a semi-stressed arrangement, with the swingarm pivot supported only by the crankcases of the air-cooled Ducati engine. The resulting frame weighed a mere 11lbs, with enough rigidity to have never elicited any complaints from riders of the DB3 (or the later DB4 which shared the same underpinnings). That swingarm was a mixture of square and round alloy sections, triangulated up to a straight-rate rear monoshock that was offset to the right side to clear the rear cylinder head of the 90-degree twin.

Bimota Mantra Front Suspension

Front suspension was courtesy of the Bimota-signature 43mm Paoli conventional fork, matched to an adjustable-length Paoli shock out back. Chassis geometry was virtually the same as the steel trellis-framed DB2 despite being an entirely new design: 54 inch wheelbase, 24 degrees of rake, and 3.6 inches of trail. 17-inch Marchesini three spoke alloy rims were shared with the Ducati 900SS which contributed its engine to the design. Brakes all around were naturally the mid-1990s Italian staple of Brembo Goldlines, with four-piston axial-mount P4 calipers biting 320mm cast iron full floating Brembo discs up front and a twin-piston caliper with 230mm rotor at the rear.

The engine selected for the DB3 was an unmodified air-cooled 904cc SOHC Ducati twin that would have powered the contemporary 900SS, the same unit that had been put to widely-acclaimed use in the DB2. In Bimota guise the evergreen 92x68mm twin was fed by a pair of 38mm Mikuni carburettors with a proprietary airbox design. This configuration produced a claimed 86 hp and 66 lb/ft of torque at the crankshaft (typically in the 70 hp range measured at the wheel), which was as near as dammit the same numbers that Ducati claimed for the 900SS. Anyone who complained about the powertrain should have directed their ire towards Ducati, not Bimota. Or whoever was in charge of spec'ing the carburettor setup at the factory.

Bimota Mantra Rear

Lakic ultimately provided three sketches to Bimota: the first was a machine based on Tesi architecture, the second was a "radical" design based on Marconi's DB3 chassis, and the third was a DB3 with more conservative styling. Bimota selected the "radical" DB3 sketch as the basis of the Mantra. Lakic began shaping his creation at Bimota, earning the nickname "Michelangelo" at the factory for his use of modeling clay to sculpt the mockup.    

Revealed in December 1994 at the Cologne motorcycle salon, the DB3 Mantra (named after the Sanskrit term for "instrument of thought" or some such vague translation that would provide fodder for awkward analogies from moto journalists for years to come) sparked a lot of debate. It was, and still is, one of the most controversial motorcycle designs ever made. While there was nothing unusual about the chassis or engine, Lakic's styling was so far beyond what anyone expected that it tended to inspire either applause for its bold design, or complete revulsion towards the unusual forms - and not much in between. The Mantra became a prototypical "love it or hate it" design that would reveal the inherent conservatism prevalent in the motorcycle industry.  Regardless of the reactions it inspired, to Lakic and Bimota's credit the Mantra was not something that would go unnoticed.

Bimota Mantra Logo

The shape was unusually organic with a low profile, narrowing into a square headlight enclosed in a bezel that was inspired by the nose of a Ferrari Daytona. The bodywork seemed to flow from the headlight straight back into the seat, enclosing the steering head and creating a straight line that gave the Mantra its unusual proportions.

The 16 litre fuel tank was split into wings that flanked the frame, ostensibly to lower the centre of gravity and provide more room for the long-runner downdraught intakes lifted from the 900SS while retaining a low silhouette. The electrical system ran off a pair of 12 volt batteries wired in parallel, mounted above the front cylinder behind the oil cooler with the intake runner passing between them, as Bimota felt that a single battery was inadequate for the application and two smaller units would be easier to package into the design. On historical models it was a curious Bimota signature to run two 6 volt batteries in series to power a 12 volt system, so the Mantra seemed to update the odd practice. A tiny glovebox was incorporated into the rear portion of the tank ahead of the seat. Clip-ons were mounted above the top triple on four inch risers to give the requisite upright seating position. Topping off the cockpit was an ostentatious burlwood dash panel set with an analogue speedometer and tachometer shrouded in carbon fibre binnacles. Despite the presence of a mere two cylinders, Lakic saw fit to install four exhaust canisters. A swoopy bellypan and body-coloured rear hugger completed the abbreviated bodywork, which was neither entirely bare nor fully enclosed, offering a glimpse at the mechanical workings of the machine while still maintaining some limited wind protection.

Bimota DB3 Mantra Dash
Note the carbon fibre panel, which replaces the typical faux wood dash.
 As a concept, the Mantra was a show stopper that got a lot of tongues wagging. Curiosity was piqued among onlookers, but most didn't realize this was no mere styling exercise - it was, more or less, the bike Bimota intended to put into production. Lakic notes:

"I think that Bimota based their decision of this style on the potential media impact more than for commercial reasons. Bimota never planned to manufacture a large quantity of this machine, their production capacity was quite faint at that time. But as usual, whether a big production or not, there are compromises required in order to optimise the price of the bike. Overall, the Mantra was very well accomplished and gave honour to the brand, however some of the technical choices weighed down the exterior style in my opinion, whilst I perfectly understand this technical approach.   

Bimota DB3 Mantra Front

My first deception came with the installation of a Yamaha FZR600 headlight (for the production version and for certification in the US), two times bigger than the light of the prototype exhibited in Cologne. The light of the prototype allowed for a much more swooping and dynamic upper line. The other disappointment came from Marconi's decision to manufacture the body by rotomoulding, thus allowing for lateral fuel tanks on both sides (there was a small trunk in the middle). It was a great idea in itself because this lowered the centre of gravity considerably (the bike was extraordinary to ride, so agile and dynamic) but the problem is that the body had to be inflated on both sides in order to attain a sufficient volume of petrol. This resulted in a much wider bike than I had envisaged. Some other finishing touches were very disappointing too, such as the handlebar mount, and the dashboard in walnut - quite a bad choice for this machine. I believe I was too young and not experienced enough to assert my authority."

In addition to Marconi's adjustments, a few minor details were altered in the transition to production. The glovebox in the tank was enlarged to make it large enough to contain something bigger than a passport. The racy full-floating cast-iron Brembo discs up front were replaced with more forgiving semi-floating stainless steel items (shared with contemporary Ducati models). The walnut dash was switched out for cheesy burlwood-patterned plastic straight out of a mid-1990s Japanese sedan that would presumably hold up to the elements a bit better than genuine wood. Aside from these modifications Lakic's wild styling was more or less intact and production began in earnest in September 1995.

Bimota DB3 Mantra

Reviews were remarkably favourable towards the new machine, aside from the expected jabs at the weird styling - in spite of numerous short-sighted critiques of the styling, no one denied that it wasn't a head turner and that the Mantra often attracted the attention of curious onlookers on every ride. Marconi's chassis offered excellent manners, with good composure from the Paoli components for most testers even if the front forks lacked adjustability and damping was on the firm side (an optional fork kit was available that offered titanium-nitride sliders as well as preload and compression adjustment). While the design of the low-hanging exhausts and footrests precluded supersport lean angles, the impressive 400-ish pound wet weight and DB2-esque geometry allowed the Mantra to be far more capable on a twisty road than its fashionista-baiting looks would have suggested. It was also comfortable, with a sensible seat and high clip-ons that allowed riders to adopt a neutral seating position with a slight forward lean that was neither streetfighter nor roadster, but something in between. An optional windscreen mounted over the instrument binnacles offered enough protection from the elements to satisfy most riders, but disturbed the clean sweep of the front fairing and made the front end appear awkward. Comparisons to the Ducati Monster were inevitable, and most agreed that the DB3 offered superior handling and comfort if you were willing to overlook the massive gulf between their suggested retail prices.

Bimota Mantra Rear Fender

Aside from the usual Bimota quirks (electrical faults, beautiful components let down by occasional lapses in build quality, and a complete indifference to ease of repair or access to the inner workings of the machine) the Mantra appeared to be the best all-rounder had Bimota ever put into metal. In regards to the aim of building a Bimota you could conceivably ride ever day, the mission was accomplished - if you could ignore the exorbitant price tag, anyway. In 1996 you'd part with $19,000 USD to get your mitts on a Mantra, with the price coming down to a mere $17,000 the following year. This was about 15% less than the flagship SB6 and YB11 models that it shared showroom space with, making the DB3 a veritable "entry level" machine for the brand. But it was still nearly double the price of the 900SS it borrowed its engine from. You did get a three year warranty in exchange for your hefty outlay, back in the days when most Japanese brands would give you a year before they'd tell you to pound sand. Not that you'd ever want to deal with Bimota's parts and service network, especially the mid-1990s Bimota's parts and service network.

Bimota Mantra Triple Clamp

The well-proven Ducati powerplant offered its usual likable character, a smooth and midrange-focussed powerband and pleasant six-speed gearbox marred only by the notoriously grabby, noisy and fragile dry clutch. The DB3 exhibited the same breathless feel at higher revs that would be familiar to anyone who has ridden a carburetted air-cooled Ducati, the result of retaining the extra-long intake runners supplied on the SS and Monster that boosted torque but starved the two-valve heads at higher engine speeds. Regardless of any deficiencies in outright horsepower, the 904cc mill served the Mantra well and offered the sort of relaxed real-world performance that was suitable for a sporting roadster, offering a top speed in the neighbourhood of 125 mph.

Lakic himself has a succinct summary of the Mantra and its dynamic qualities:

"For me the Mantra was a Naked Sport Tourer. And it really was like that - an extreme efficiency both on small mountain roads and through long curves in very high speed. None of my friends that all rode the Monster (same engine) could follow me in either of these two terrains. 

1952 Moto Rumi 125 Gobbetto "Hunchback"
Image Source
Regarding the style, I got my inspiration from the Italian history of motorbikes. I was particularly attracted by a bike called Rumi. This bike influenced my work on the Mantra, but there are very few bikers or journalists who have been able to guess my source of inspiration. 

1952 Moto Rumi 125 Gobbetto "Hunchback"
Image Source
The driving position was very particular. According to the type of road or the type of driving (cruising together or aggressive) it allowed the driver to be very close to the handlebar (almost like a supermotard) and perfect in  'speed' position, the very short wheelbase and light weight allowed for all sorts of acrobatics."

1998 Bimota DB3 Mantra
Image Source
Production of the first generation Mantra ran from 1995 through to 1997, with a slightly revised second-generation machine unveiled at the Milan show in late 1997. While mechanically identical to the previous machines, the 1998 Mantra featured some cosmetic changes: a restyled and more streamlined windshield was standard, a reshaped headlight bezel softened the snouty effect of the front end, the tail section was altered to lengthen the mudguard and shorten the rear hugger, tubular handlebars on risers replaced the high clip-ons, and three-spoke Antera wheels replaced the Marchesini items. Optional red paintwork was offered as well - all Mantras had hitherto been yellow, save for some red examples produced for the Japanese market. A mere 50 of these final Mantras were built before production ceased in 1998, with two kits available from the factory to update the earlier bikes to the new look.

1998 Bimota DB3 Mantra
Image Source

In hindsight many have remembered the Mantra as a flop that was universally reviled, but the reality is that they sold quite well - by Bimota standards, anyway. 454 examples would roll off the line, which sounds insignificant until you realize that the company only built 665 DB2s, which was a far more revered machine in popular conception. Their most prolific model of the 1990s was the SB6, which was churned out to the tune of 1744 machines, which was exceptional - most of their machines could scarcely have been expected to clear 500 units in total. Lakic notes that there was never any intention to build thousands of Mantras given that Bimota's production capacity was miniscule at the time. A radical, attention grabbing design that gave traditionalists aneurisms wasn't such a hindrance when you consider that Bimota never expected to build more than a handful of them. Such is the beauty of small-scale production: you can build whatever the hell you please without worrying about appealing to the lowest common denominator of the focus groups.

Bimota SB6

By 1996 priorities at Bimota were beginning to shift. The Tesi was viewed as an albatross that sold in too limited numbers to justify continued production, and it was discontinued in 1997 by Walter Martini to focus the company's meagre resources on the forthcoming "BB 500" project, which would ultimately become the disastrous V-Due 500. The Mantra was discontinued in 1998 but its legacy lived on in the well-received DB4, which clothed the DB3 chassis and powertrain in more conventional bodywork as a replacement for the discontinued DB2.

Bimota DB4

In most respects, the Mantra achieved the aims set out for it, and unlike some of Bimota's more obscure models from the same period, it has been well remembered - if not well respected. Lakic's quirky styling was mostly viewed with curiosity at the time, rather than the revulsion that seems to have become the common reaction since then. Lakic sought to design a machine that was a sort of "naked sport tourer" that would be comfortable and capable of pulling away from most machines on a tight backroad, and given the (mostly) positive tone of period reviews it seemed that he achieved this aim with the aid of Pier Luigi Marconi's excellent chassis. Unfortunately, Bimota and Lakic learned a hard lesson in the unrelenting conservatism of the motorcycle market. The fine qualities of the Mantra and the shift it represented in the company's priorities remain forgotten amid the sneers of smartassed riders and reviewers who preferred to shit on the styling rather than evaluate the qualities of the machine.

Sacha Lakic Bimota Mantra
Sacha Lakic Design
Lakic's perspective on the whole experience and the reception of the Mantra has largely been ignored. If he was mentioned at all in reviews or retrospectives, his input was usually summarized in an unfair manner with a few smarmy statements that painted him as a high-minded, artsy designer who was out-of-touch with the whims of the market. The Mantra would be his only contribution to Bimota prior to the company's near-annihilation at the beginning of the 21st century following the V-Due debacle. He would go on to develop a series of well-received designs for French company Voxan, including the Roadster, the Black Magic, the Charade, and most recently the Wattman electric concept - which could have been the world's most powerful electric motorcycle if the whole project hadn't recently been dumped by parent company Venturi.

"Many people have criticised the Mantra. It is not a cool experience, obviously, but it made me realise a few things: 

A: One has to carefully experiment with the style of the motorcycle. 
B: Bikers are generally very conservative. 
C: The majority of the bikers have a very short memory in terms of bike culture.

Regardless, it all made me smile when BMW a few years later released the F650 Scarver, on which the front part clearly had been inspired by the Mantra…   

It's all a good experience and Bimota remains a brand that deserves a much greater reputation."

Interesting Links

Bimota Mantra Logo


  1. Except for the lengthy bits of misdirection and references to te company instead of the model, the entire article could have been summed thusly...the Mantra was a hideously appearing motorcycle that only had visual merit when viewed from the singular perspective directly sideways. From every other angles, it is a hodgepodge of un-blended angles and components looking very much like the miscarriage carnage of a 1950's version of future car concepts and retro scooter clones.

    And the dismissive attitude of designers and pundits alike when a design falls flat, that the conservatives lack the appreciative skills to understand the designers faux-pax, is simply lame self-absorption.


  2. When I approached the subject, I had it in my mind I was going to write a glib, witty takedown of an ugly bike.

    Then I started doing the research. I read the reviews. I read the reactions that the Mantra generated. I saw the happy perspectives of owners. I spoke to Lakic and heard his side of the story, one NO ONE had ever bothered to look into.

    I realized this wasn't just some "stupid ugly bike" that was ripe for shitting on, like EVERYONE else has done ad nauseum. The Mantra achieved what it aimed for. It was well developed and quite well thought out. It generated buzz and despite what all the hating in hindsight would suggest, it was in fairly well received. Not everyone liked the looks but quite a few did.

    We've just developed this attitude of it being a complete failure after the fact, rewriting the history to suit our opinions.

    So I wrote this piece to buck the usual narrow opinion that it's an ugly art project that nobody likes. At the end of the day, OddBike is about presenting the alternative ideas and the alternative perspectives nobody else bothers writing about.

    Just because you don't like it doesn't give it any less right to exist, and it certainly doesn't make our industry any worse if it does.

    1. No question that it has a right to exist, as much as an Edsel. Whether it truly met the task of making the intended mark is questionable. Did it handle or perform any better than contemporary machines? Not addressed, and not likely. Did it evoke a new direction in styling or mechanics? A definite no and no. Was it different. Dismally, yes.

      Above all else, it definitely qualifies as fodder for OddBike!

      You did a far above average job in research, and the outside reference links are noted. But there were a lot more negative internal mis-steps going on at Bimota that can't be as quickly dismissed per Mr. L's perceptions. Whether a monster in the market or a boutique player, knowing your niche is key. Despite your assessment of an independent being able to do whateverthehell they want. The Mantra was more than a queer looking duck, it was damn the end of a breed.

    2. "Did it handle or perform any better than contemporary machines?"

      Yes, the article says as much. The frame weighed 11 lbs!

      "Did it evoke a new direction in styling or mechanics?"

      Yes and yes. See every BMW R-engined sport bike since the Mantra.

      Honestly if you can't appreciate this bike for what Bimota intended, you're ignoring all the context that Jason spelled out for you. We should be encouraging this type of behavior in manufacturers.

  3. A) Thank you for actually talking to the designer and publishing his insights.

    B) The Axis 749 always intrigued me. It has a pop-up windshield that is retracted in almost all of the pictures I've seen - the design makes more sense when it is popped up.

  4. Over the years I've been given a lot of grief as I'm sure I will here as well over the fact that I am a major fan/ advocate of the Bimota Mantra . But to all the detractors of the Mantra I say with a loud and clear voice ; Ride one before you go shooting off your mouth spewing forth your unfounded criticisms based solely on the Mantra's appearance that for the majority of you has been gleaned from magazines and photographs rather than any real first hand experience

    Full discloser . Back when the Mantra was introduced in the US I came within a hairs breadth [ or a hares breath as I jokingly like to say it ] of buying one . Fact is if I ran across an unmolested ' rider ' today I'd buy it in a heartbeat . Suffice it to say in the metal the Mantra from nose to tail makes perfect sense . The logic of the whole design coming to the forefront once you start riding one . Simply stated the bike works . As a city commuter - part time canyon basher - occasional scare the ___ out of the Rice Rockets urban warrior - make the so called power cruisers of today look like asthma patients on wheels [ the Mantra proceeding power cruisers by over a decade ] - bar hopper - as stock a wonderful and comfortable mid distance traveler - add a couple of bags carefully packed and its a long distance tourer - the funky ' glovebox' begging the question ' why hasn't anyone else done this ? Not to mention you'll garner more looks and positive responses aboard a Mantra than you will on almost anything you can imagine be it stock or custom . The bike just Works . Period ! From the mechanicals right on down to the most finite detail of its aesthetics ... it works .

    And how many other bikes with this much performance - style - innovation and heritage can you say that about ? If you're honest and have experienced the Mantra first hand .. not many .

    In my opinion two of the biggest mistakes Bimota ever made in its storied history [ mostly due to lack of finances ] was not evolving both the Mantra as well as the Tesi . Had they done so both [again] in my opinion would of become their greatest successes . Doubt my words ? Look at the overwhelming success of the Ducati Diavel which owes much if not most of its looks/design to the Mantra as well as the limited yet financially profitable success story Vyrus has had with what in reality is an evolved Tesi .

    Also one of the greatest tragedies for the motorcycling in general was the disappearance of Sacha Lakic from active motorcycle design due in part to the Mantra's poor reception . The second tragedy being that the majority of the Mantras built have been scrapped for parts or the foundations of one kind of custom or another with very few original bikes remaining

    But what the real tragedy is and what truly disturbed me back when the Mantra [ as well as the Tesi ] was introduced and still disturbs /, confounds and confuses me to this day whenever the Mantra [ Tesi ] or any other revolutionary design [ e,g, JT's bikes , Vyrus etc ] are brought up in conversation be it online or face to face is the blatant hypocrisy of much of the Motorcycling community . Oh sure ... most of you talk the talk of individuality and freedom but the minute anyone dares step outside the design box of motorcycle homogenization and conformity .. even when it works ... almost to a number every one of you starts claiming foul .. criticizing this .. condemning that .. bashing everything you either don't understand or refuse to comprehend like a bunch of lemming xenophobes afraid of your own shadow .

    So in closing please allow me to be so bold as to say ; Next time you're asking yourself the question ; Why is there nothing new happening with motorcycles or motorcycle design ? Have a good long look at yourself in the mirror . Because its those of you unwilling to at least test ride something different never mind buy one that is at the very root of the problem .

    1. Brilliant words. You shouldn't be reluctant about showing your name, cause you deserve my respect, whoever you are.

    2. True words Guilherme. I would like to meet you and our anonymous friend over a coffee and if you hadn't ridden a Mantra before I'd happily rectify the situation. All the best ,5 years later

    3. Great article. Thank you. I'm in the midst of tuning up my 1998 Yellow Mantra. She has low miles, looks great, just need to work out some electrical or fuel hiccups: randomly sputters at speed. Looking forward to Tutto Italiano at Larz Anderson Auto Museum this spring!

  5. One of my dream bikes, the first series Mantra. One day I will own one. To the knockers and the ultra conservative bikers out there, (mygodharlydavidsonstillsellsbikeshowisthispossible). Grow up. It's always been a vision of the future not some backward looking retro joke. Moto Guzzi I'm looking at you and your parody of a once great bike in the "racer". It always blows my mind when some tool strips a Mantra and tells the world how they've "improved" it, I cry a little every time.

  6. Always been one of my favorite bikes, I will have one. I've been lucky enough to value bikes for Pickles in the 80's and had my arse over many rare and beautiful bikes but this is the one that got away from me. In a world where Harleys still sell the Mantra was always going to blow minds.

  7. I own a blue/silver (factory colour sprayed) mantra and would consider a sale for the right offer....any interest please post a reply here with some form of contact information... DBC in the IOM

  8. Hi Jeff,
    I don't know where you're from, but I have a DB3 vin 300 1997, about 30.000 km and only want to sell it to a loving owner. The bike is located in Belgium. I am still driving it in nice weather, as no other bike gave me so much pleasure as this one. Handling, suspension, seating position all perfect. Prices will only go up on time, maybe i will be to old to see this.

  9. I own a first serie Mantra. It was love at first sight when I saw it in one of the first stories about it in a magazine. When people thougt that it would stay a prototype. I was driving oldtimer scooters and this would be my motorbike. Years later I found one on the internet and bought it from someone who had 2 Mantra's. And I still own it. And later bought the bodywork of the second one because the former owner made a naked bike of the second one. What a shame

  10. I did own a Mantra 12 Years ago. It nearly broke my will to ride. I had several problems from the Ducati electrical system coupled with the two tiny batteries. It boiled the batteries, blew fuses, bulbs and rectifiers or failed to charge at all. The front suspension suffered from stiction under moderate braking that caused the front tyre to skip across the road. Finally the frame broke at a time when the factory was in liquidation. I managed to contact the liquidator and get a new one. All up the bike spent more time immobilised than running.
    But when it was running it was one of the best bikes I had ever ridden. It was light, the handling was fantastic, the motor was brilliant, braking was strong and the sound turned heads and set off car alarms. I rode it across Australia and back
    If it wasn't made by someone who had had two bottles of vino for lunch on a Friday afternoon I’d still have it today.

  11. I saw the axis 749 in Cathcart's 'Dream Bikes' and couldn't believe it. I loved the smoked plexiglass cover you mention. Stunning. He's a great designer. I'm considering buying a mantra as it is certainly an individual motorcycle.

  12. I am the man who, at the beginning of the 90s, had the position of Marketing and Commercial Director at Bimota and the Furano, YB9, DB2, Tesi ES, SB6 and Mantra models are those due to my management. Bimota bikes have never been produced and designed for customers of Japanese mass motorbikes and it makes me smile when I read of alleged failures on the market of the models in question. In those years the company went from a turnover of less than 10 billion Italian liras up to 45, and these numbers should be enough to clarify any possible doubt. In those years the two most expensive motorcycle models in the world were the Bimota Tesi and the Honda NR 750 with oval pistons. Despite its huge commercial network, Honda had to stop production of the NR after having produced just over 350 units, the Tesi sold about 800.
    The Mantra fully fulfilled its task: to talk about itself and to show that the company could also design different motorcycles than the usual hypersports. In addition to this, he sold more than was reasonable to expect, obviously within the limits of a company that could produce, at most, just over 1500 bikes a year.

  13. Thoughts on the Mantra. Huge effort making it light and then compromised by cheap overweight swingarm and arguably overdone exhaust. Could of weighed in at very low 160's. However still signifantly lighter than 900ss ,csr, monster and even superlight. Also fuel and auxiliaries are kept low making it feel even lighter.
    On lightness
    the Mantra was one of the first production motorcycles to incorporate carbon fibre into the build.
    The red Mantra weighs a couple of Kilos more than the yellow due to all Mantras started yellow and the red ones were simply over painted yellow ones hence the extra weight.
    Annoying aspects of the bike are the ducati 900 motor. The first two runs ,about 150 motors were made between 1993,94. These engines suffered from frequent catastrophic head failure due to poor quality head / cylinder studs material. Ducati was forced to recall and replaced faulty items with even worse items leading to guaranteed failure.Yipee. Many Mantras slipped through recalls as some were sold up to 4 years after production and some motors were over a year old before assembly. Final run didnt have this potential pitfall.
    The batteries are hard to keep for long as they charge and discharge differently. A weak battery will soon ruin the good one and or one will charge first leading the other running compromised. Two years out of a pair has been my record. Finally the concept of getting the fuel as low as possible to keep the weight low makes the bike seem lighter than it really is, a good thing but this necessitates a fuel pump as the carbs are higher. This leads to more complication mechanically, pump diaphragm failing for example. Also the wiring is of questionable quality to start with and the pump is just a further chance for electrical dissapointment.
    The educated and open minded motorcyclist will nod approvingly at a design trying to incorporate low fuel weight resulting in a less than slim tank mass. See monocoque Norton f1 tank positioning or ktm's 790 adventurers .
    The same motorcyclist will smile indulgently at some of the design excesses that go beyond form and function as part of the process of pushing the envelope aesthetically as well as functionally.
    An opinion. In its day the Mantra was one of the sweetest handling, comfortable motorcycles available. It forgave us less than average riders our gaps in ability and allowed us to ride faster and more skillfully than deserved. If you ever get the chance to ride one . Take it, it will impress.
    An observation.
    Usually when I turn up somewhere a crowd collects around the Mantra, especially motor shows. Women ,children smile and a new generation of enthusiasts take photos and ask questions or if they can sit on the thing. The gate keepers of M/C taste sneer and get surprisingly angry usually from a distance as they shuffle back to their two wheeled example of engineering innovation and outside- the - square courageous design, possibly a Harley or even a ubiquitous Japanese sportsbike wondering why nobody crowds around their bike. For the record I own a number of bikes including a harley springer and a ubiquitous Japanese motorcycle which I love for completely different reasons. However a ride on my Mantra is almost always a delight....
    Bloody batteries.. and dont get me started on the swingarm again.
    Did I mention the spare parts availability? Ha! Never ever crash this bike.

  14. It took Ducati 'til 2004, and a South African, to come up with something similar - the Multistrada. For me, still one of the most versatile bikes made by the company. Wish I could lay my hands on a Mantra to be able to make further comparisons. (Still, I think Yamaha was first out with their TDM, or maybe even the TDR250 should be counted as the 'original' design in this department).