Massimo Tamburini

April 16, 2014

All Posts, Obituaries

He was not an American. He was not a Harley guy. His country fought on the wrong side in the Second World War. But you cannot love going fast on a motorcycle without at least acknowledging the passing of Massimo Tamburini April 5 at age 70 in the postage stamp state of San Marino. He was, after all, the most influential motorcycle designer in the world.

He always loved motorcycles. He said, “When I heard them coming I would get so excited and rush out to watch them ride past,” he said. “My passion for bikes started then, they are my first memories.”

He later told the motorcycle journalist Dean Adams, “I was born with this great passion. I remember when I was a little boy, my mother always complained about the obsession which was in my blood with bikes, which continued and grew with time. I have no intention (of designing outside of the bike field), even though I like mechanical things in general. I’ve always liked high speed aircraft, but now at my age I feel quite fulfilled and am happy to stay with bikes. I think I can still contribute to this sector ….”

In 1980 he described his perfect bike as “a 750cc with the power of 1000cc and the weight of a 500cc.”

He may be best known as the designer of the V-Twin Ducati 916, a rocket ship with a unique swingarm that literally saved its manufacturer. He was also well known as the designer of the MV Agusta F4: Another rocket ship that the New York Times described as, “like something Batman would ride in the 21st century.”

In 1998 the poet Jonathan Galassi wrote:

A Ducati 916 stabs through the blur.
Massimo Tamburini designed this miracle
Which ought to be in the Museum of Modern Art.
 The Stradivarius
Of motorcycles lights up Via Borgospesso
As it flashes by, dumbfoundingly small.
Donatello by way of Brancusi, smoothed simplicity.
One hundred sixty-four miles an hour.
The Ducati 916 is a nightingale.
It sings to me more sweetly than Cole Porter.
Slender as a girl, aerodynamically clean.
Sudden as a shark.

Tamburini was a design perfectionist. He said he wanted his motorcycles to have “soul.” The Canberra Times reported in 2000 that the design staff at MV Agusta would sometimes arrive at work in the morning to discover that their boss had chopped their clay and wooden motorcycle models to pieces with an axe.

Massimo Tamburini was born on November 28, 1943. He was diagnosed with lung cancer last November. He is survived by his wife Pasquina and their three children. He did what he wanted with his life.

Requiscant In Pace



12 Responses to “Massimo Tamburini”

  1. jj solari Says:

    his idea of a perfect bike sounds like my own idea of a perfect bike. gee, i actually agree with someone. what’s the date today?

  2. Vikingtrotter Says:

    He was an amazing designer. The Agusta F4 when looked at overhead had the same dementions as a woman lying on a bed, naked…

  3. Vikingtrotter Says:

    Too bad Ducati sucks at MotoGP for the last few years. Audi is rumored to be getting ready to buy them. If Audi does to Ducati what they did to Lamborghini….Ducati will once again be on top of MotoGP.

  4. RVN69 Says:

    I rode a 996 Ducati, handled like a dream, well blanced, begged to be thrown into turns at speed, the faster the better. It was the fastest best handling bike I ever rode, and the most uncomfortable.

    RIP Mr. Tamburini

  5. Rashomon Says:

    He was a hell of a designer to be sure. I’ve owned a few Ducati’s over the years and been lucky enough to get some track time on an MV Augusta F4 – they certainly make your heart beat faster.

    @Vikingtrotter – a third last Sunday in Austin was encouraging. The race was boring as hell but running in the open class to continue the development was a smart move. I guess time will tell.

    RIP Mr. Tamburini.

  6. FDTS Says:

    With my back, I could only ride a Ducati for half an hour max. But what a ride. RIP Mr. Tamburini

  7. Vikingtrotter Says:

    yeah. I watched Moto2 and 3 also, That Marchesi(sp?) won MGP by 5 seconds….That guy is unstopable on that Honda.

  8. Sohn Says:

    I rode my Ducati a couple of days ago. The 916’s and on handle like they’re on rails. It’s to bad he passed.

  9. John Deaux Says:

    Although I’ve personally never been a fan of bikes that have me laying on the tank I can respect what their capable of. It takes great engineering to build a bike like the Ducati. RIP.

  10. Tomo Says:

    24yr old friend of mine bought a 916 as her first ‘bike. She binned it on a turn a few months after buying it; God alone knows how she lasted that long. Figured she needed something slower so she got a Monster instead. Don’t think it slowed her down any, just got stronger arms and used to throwing her negligible weight around on top of it. RIP Mr Tamburini.

  11. OC VAGO 1%er Says:

    Incredible machines. RIP Mr Tamburini

  12. onikeeg Says:

    RIP, he was one of the best designers in history, many iconic bikes to his legacy. Always wanted a 916 in the garage.

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