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