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Styling Exercise: 1998 Bimota DB3 Mantra for Sale

Bimota’s stock-in-trade has always been aggressive, lightweight racebikes for the road but, every once in a while, they throw us a curveball. Or even the occasional knuckleball like this DB3 Mantra. An unapologetically road-biased machine, Bimota’s third Ducati-powered special featured upright ergonomics, an oval-section trellis frame shared with the later DB4, a roto-molded fuel tank that included a storage cubby at the back in an ill-advised nod to practicality, and styling could be called “wild” if you were feeling gracious.

It was polarizing then and now, but if you like the looks, you shouldn’t let anything discourage you from buying one: the hard parts are all easy to service, reliable, and pretty entertaining. Ducati’s air and oil-cooled two-valve v-twin has been around forever, and is relatively simple to service and parts are readily available to maintain them. Yeah, the regular belt-changes are kind of annoying, but easy to do if you know your way around an engine, and the valves generally aren’t too much of a problem either. And if the bike’s 85 claimed horses from the 904cc twin don’t adequately blow your hair back, you can build yourself a high-compression, 944cc monster that should do a pretty good job of stretching your arms.

The styling was slightly insane, but the bike handled very well, with a 43mm Paioli fork out front and an adjustable Paioli shock out back. The oval-section trellis frame was stiff and very light: just 11 pounds. Basically, it was a lighter, weirder, much more expensive Monster with better suspension. Like all Bimotas, it makes no sense from a financial perspective, as performance advantages over a Monster that cost half as much were minimal. But 454 Mantras found buyers, which makes the bike pretty much volume production for Bimota.

This example is a second-generation Mantra, with updated styling at the front, tubular handlebars instead of raised clip-ons, and Antera wheels to replace the earlier Marchesini hoops. I have a soft spot for these, as it was one of the first bikes that, as a non-rider, really caught my eye when it was new. Weird as they are, I still kind of dig the DB3 and would have one in a collection if I could afford to:

A: Have that plastic, burl-wood dash replaced with something stupid, like genuine wood or some nice carbon fiber.
B: Replace the horrible four exhaust pipes and the ludicrously-styled hangars with something much simpler.

Remove the taller screen, fit some simple bar-end mirrors and have fun.

From the original eBay listing: 1993 Bimota DB3 Mantra for Sale

This is an excellent example of a DB3. 400+ made, 23 in red. Very few in the US. Very low mileage at under 9200. Ducati 900 engine just has been serviced with new belts, oil and plugs. New AGM battery. New Conti tires. Previous owner removed the complicated fuel pump system and now it is just gravity fed.

Here are the 3 issues. Without a choke cable, it is a little hard starting until fuel gets in the carbs. With a cable, I imagine it would go on the first try. Once started, restarts fine. Tach works 50% if the time, loose connection? Lastly has a slight whistle noise at an exact rpm. Ducati said it is caused by lack of the factory air box. It hurts nothing, just the flow of air… These are 3 minute things, but I go for full transparency. The bike is in great shape. Very unique Italian styling.

“Very unique Italian styling” might be the epitome of understatement in this case. But the bones are good and the DB3 should make a pretty great weekend roadster for cruising, carving up traffic, and shocking onlookers. “What is that?” is something I’d expect you’ll hear pretty often, riding the Mantra. So what’s it worth? Well the Bimota pedigree and rarity certainly makes it more valuable than an equivalent 900SS or Monster powered by the same engine, with similar performance. But by how much? Values for 90s Bimotas are currently at a bit of a low-ebb, although I doubt that can continue forever. Bidding on this one is very active and up to just about $5,000 with another day left on the auction.



  • I always felt these things were butt ugly.

  • I have given Tad grief in the past about these, referring to them as the “pontiac-aztek-of-motorcycles” but lately I have begun to shift my thinking a bit. The styling on this is still odd but its important to remember that this came out in the period where the popular school of thought regarding motorcycle design was to have large, enclosed fairings at the front and minimal fairing/bodywork at the rear. You can see this style in this bike as well as the Ducati 999 and Buell 1125CR. When you take that into account you can kind of see where Bimota was going with this bike; it was a standar-ish bike (almost like an old UJM) but intended to be more stylish and have high level components.

    This one in particular has the advantage of being in the better color scheme. While the yellow always looked kind of disconnected, the red seemed more integrated. Perhaps its the fact that the red has the black headlight cowl while the yellow had a silver version that looked like a bad 1980’s boob job.

    I think Tad’ suggestions for improements are spot on, especially the god-awful dash and mirrors too. The exhaust has always seemed strange, almost like its trying to evoke a Aprilia 250cc vibe.

    I don’t think this one will appeal to investment oriented collectors but it might be a fun ride for an italian sportbike fan who wants to be a bit more comfortable. It will probably also appeal to Bimota collectors who want to complete their lineup collection.

  • I agree these are afflicted with a serious case of the uglies, but they can be a great basis for a custom build. I know, I know, this is “Rare Sportbikes for sale” and not “Cafe Customs for sale” but google “custom Bimota Mantra” and you’ll see these can look seriously sweet by shitcaning the entire fairing and putting on a round headlight, also the exhaust as Tad suggests. These have great motors (especially with 944cc and FCR carbs), great running gear and a cool frame. Its mostly all there, just needs de-uglified.

    Or just buy a Monster and be done with it 🙂

    • I think the bodywork is more “weird” than “ugly,” but that’s a matter of taste and I fully acknowledge this is a odd one. But you see what I mean: that bodywork wouldn’t be quite so shocking if the other details [those godawful footpeg brackets] weren’t so busy. Simplify the exhaust and I’d think you’d be left with something pretty strange, but kind of cool. Maybe see if you could use the bits [and exhaust] from the DB4 as a pattern… No argument that the Monster is the better option though, especially when new! But with prices for both so low, I could easily understand why someone would spring for the Bimota… Maybe I’ll whip out the Photoshop and see what I can come up with!

  • The 10th picture in the ebay ad, without the windshield, gives me a late 50’s Buick Road Master vibe.

  • Fake plastic wood mixed with (fake?) carbon fiber? Stop the world i want to get off 😫

    • I can’t verify it, but I’d expect the carbon fiber is real, this being a Bimota and all. The wood though is apparently fake!

  • In person the wood looks good to my eyes. I like the style. Supposedly the harder you ride them, the better they are, like the MHRe. Then again, my car is a Z3 Coupe and they’re nicknamed clown-shoes or a Smurf Hearses…. If I could get it to my door under $6K I’d do it, but that ain’t gonna happen.

  • This was Bimota’s first foray into the naked bike category. Out of the entire production of 454 bikes only 28 were red. The rest were yellow. Definitely a polarizing design but if you think this looks funky, the first generation (1995-1996) will probably make you a bit nauseous – look at the aforementioned picture #10 in the fleabay ad and you will start to get an idea. Tad’s write up is on the kind side but he is right on many marks. If you want something rare for very few ducats or own the bike from the maker that started the legacy (I am talking about The Master) this is very hard to beat. Given the condition, $6k sounds like the right price here. At 454, the production numbers are on the lighter side for the 1990’s Bimotas.

    • Yeah, the early headlight does kind of look like the bike is trying to eat a small television set…

  • eBay shows sold for just $5,045.


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