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R.I.P. Massimo Tamburini

916

Massimo Tamburini, one of the greatest motorcycle designers in history, passed away last evening after battling lung cancer for several months. Tamburini designed the Ducati 916 (pictured above), considered by many to be one of the most beautiful (if not the single most beautiful) motorcycles ever. More recently,Tamburini also designed the MV Agusta F4 and other MV Agusta models.

Tamburini was a hands-on designer, even hand welding frames earlier in his career. At the time of his death, his home was in San Marino, Italy. Follow this link to a fond remembrance of Tamburini by his good friend Bruno dePrato. Our best to his friends and family.

45 Comments

  1. zuki says:

    Sad news in the motorcycle world. RIP.

    One of (if not the most) beautiful motorcycles ever? Highly subjective. Personally, I don’t see what makes the 916 so beautiful. Like one commenter mentioned, it probably looked really good to a lot of people in the mid-90s (for its type). For my own taste I can think of many much older (even antique) and newer machines that look a lot better… not dated but timeless in their beauty.

  2. AFW says:

    RIP Mr. Tamburini, true legend. 916 & MV F4 are still the most beautiful bikes ever.

  3. Brian says:

    Saw him in some cool documentaries about motorcycles on HD net a few years ago. attention to every little detail on the MV’s was seriously OCD and amazing. Even the little screws under the seat we would never see had to look artistic.
    Quite an icon. Sorry to see his talent leave the earth much to early.

  4. jake says:

    Probably not the most appropriate moment to say this, but I think the looks of the 999 has aged better than that of the 916. Maybe cause it’s just a younger design, but it appears to be more than that. It seems it was a design just ahead of its time, whereas the 916 was one just right for its era.

    I remember how awesome and breathtaking a 916 looked in the mid-90′s. Right now, not so much. It looks aged, old, uninspiring, and a bit tacky to my now 2014 eyes.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “It looks aged, old, uninspiring, and a bit tacky”

      the OG’s have name for that…

      CLASSIC. :)

    • Guu says:

      I think that Ducati made a big mistake with the grey frame color on the first year 999s. Later red (and black) frames were much better. I too would prefer a 999 to 916, but I think most wouldn’t..

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I think that Ducati made a big mistake with the grey frame color on the first year 999s.”

        well it was a carry-over. they’d already swapped to grey frames and 5-spokes in like ’00. see, can’t give you all that at once, you’d only devalue it. if they gave you red/black frames in ’03 along with the 999 restyle, then what would they have had to give you in ’05 to make you think they were improving the brand…?

        re: “I too would prefer a 999 to 916, but I think most wouldn’t”

        split the difference. they say gentleman prefer blondes…? close, gentleman prefer 998′s. 916 silhouette, 999 engine (see entry for testastretta).

  5. Marin MG says:

    He designed some of the best looking bikes ever, for years, Ducati 916 was my absolute favorite sports-bike,
    RIP Massimo

  6. Harry R says:

    The Gods must be desiring something very special. Godspeed Mr. Tamburini and Thank You for what you have brought to the sport.

  7. Brinskee says:

    A legend who developed an icon. RIP Tamburini.

  8. Gary says:

    I am sorry he is dead, of course. But I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Ducati style. Or at least not as big of a fan as others speaking out here. To me, the charisma of Ducati will always be the big desmo engine. A racing Duck pulses and vibrates like no other. And the clatter of the dry clutch. I can remember crossing the bridges across the track at Laguna, just as Marco Luccineli came roaring underneath at full tilt. The whole bridge would shake. No lie. The design is just the superficial wrapper. The engine is what makes Ducati special.

    • Dave says:

      Re: “The design is just the superficial wrapper. ”

      The design and riding dynamics are what makes it special. Without it, the engine would be seen as an unrefined, rattle box. By the numbers (HP, speed/acceleration figures) it was well behind the Japanese bikes that sold for 2/3 the price and less. Without it’s beautiful design, meaningful numbers of riders would’ve never accepted it, let alone lust for it.

      The later 999 with conventional swing arm and different design was a failure despite being superior in every way that “matters”. The difference? Design.

  9. Fred M. says:

    First we lost Claudio Castiglioni to lung cancer and now it has claimed Massimo Tamburini. Not surprisingly, both men were heavy smokers. It’s just disgusting that first-world countries still permit tobacco use when it claims so many lives and has no redeeming values at all. No one’s life is fuller because they smoke. Tobacco use doesn’t improve anyone’s quality of life. It’s just an addictive carcinogen.

    • David Duarte says:

      So lung cancer is ok for third world countries?

      • Daytona James says:

        Picking the corn from Fred’s c%@p… good job there David. I think his point is that first world countries should have the most educated citizenry and therefore know better. I lost my mom to lung cancer and I have one thing to say about that – Tobacco companies offer one thing in exchange for profit (and government tax base)… death. I have a middle finger permanently standing erect at all of them.
        On a more sympathetic note, RIP Mr. Tamburini. I concur you were the best.

      • jake says:

        Well, the 3rd world does have a higher birth rate, triple to quadruple the rate of the 1st, so maybe Fred is implying the 3rd world can handle the loss whereas in the 1st, it’s still a bit harder to stomach.

        It’s all just a big numbers game.

        • Fred M. says:

          Daytona Jones properly interpreted what I wrote. You (jake) and David Duarte misinterpreted what I wrote. But I expect that you both knew that even as you wrote your replies.

          • jake says:

            “P.S. When I write something, it is true. If there’s ever a doubt, I’ll start it off with some kind of qualifier like ‘I believe’ or ‘maybe.’”

            Ha, Ha. Spoken just like a first worlder with a big head and an overly high opinion of himself. You really know how to keep sticking your foot in your mouth when you try to squirm out of the pretense of being a first worlder with a big head. Yes, Daytona got what you were trying to say correct, but me and Duarte got the underlying innuendos and conceit of your statement even more correct – of the two obviously what you unknowingly and unconsciously imply and even try to hide is always the deeper of the two beliefs.

            I mean, even the smoking capuchin monkey on the Big Bang theory probably knows that smoking is bad for him, but you say, even with a straight face that only a first worlder can be “educated” enough to know smoking is bad, whereas the stupid, illiterate, grunting 3rd worlder is just hopeless to be able to figure something as complicated as – smoking is bad – out on his own with his own little, itty bitty brain.

            And you have absolutely no idea just how hopelessly ignorant and obnoxious you sound – yea, that’s the hilarious part about it.

    • jake says:

      Not true. Smoking is a not so subtle way of telling the world and its established beliefs and order to F itself. Who said self destructive contempt can’t improve a person’s quality of life? Just about all smokers are discontent rebels at heart. People like that would probably rather die on the spot than be unable to daily express their disdain and disgust with the world. Not everyone can live like an over sterilized, over optimistic, always hopeful good boy. Some people have to be a bad boy and need to express bad boyness in their bad, non-socially acceptable behavior for all the rest of the world to see.

      Notice how the most creative men, at least those creative on the aesthetic level, tend to only come from a certain class of men, and how those types are known for their rebelliousness and being anti-establishment. Along with their talent for shapes and colors also seems to come a certain degree of what others see as irrational, hard to explain for extremism.

      • Fred M. says:

        Quit trying to romanticize stupidity. In this day and age, there’s nothing rebellious or anti-establishment about buying cigarettes from massive tobacco companies. It doesn’t make you a “bad boy.” If you were born in the last 50 years, all that smoking tells the world is that you probably got suckered by slick ads and marketing aimed at insecure teenagers.

        Let’s substitute morbid obesity for smoking: “Being morbidly obese is a not so subtle way of telling the world and its established beliefs and order to F itself. Who said self destructive contempt can’t improve a person’s quality of life? Just about all morbidly obese people are discontent rebels at heart…”

        Yeah, it sounds just as idiotic when you substitute morbid obesity, binge drinking, or any number of other unhealthy behaviors for smoking.

        I don’t smoke and I have no trouble expressing my hatred of people. I don’t have to resort to passive-aggressive bullsh*t like smoking because I’m too cowardly to tell someone what I think of them.

        P.S. When I write something, it is true. If there’s ever a doubt, I’ll start it off with some kind of qualifier like “I believe” or “maybe.”

        • jake says:

          “Quit trying to romanticize stupidity.”

          “If you were born in the last 50 years, all that smoking tells the world is that you probably got suckered by slick ads and marketing aimed at insecure teenagers.”

          I love how overly sanctimonious you sound cause you believe you have the clear higher moral ground when its comes to smoking. You sound as clueless and as silly as an over the top preacher on the pulpit preaching against SIN or an FBI agent slamming organized crime on a televised press conference. And likewise, all your over hyped anti-smoking beliefs says is that you are completely suckered and brainwash in today’s world by the slick, anti-tobacco marketing campaign run by the very same people who engineered the pro-tobacco campaigns 50 years ago.

          Can’t you see it through that thick skull of yours and the overly high opinion you have of yourself and in the truth of your beliefs? The relation of the 3rd world with respect to tobacco vis-a-vis the first is not one of smart vs. less smart. It is simply due to the overall, now global marketing scheme of the tobacco companies. There is a limited supply of tobacco now that the hordes of the 3rd world are continually demanding it. The tobacco companies have simply found it to be more profitable and advantageous for themselves to sell en masse to the large 3rd world markets, while limiting supply and demand but increasing price and profit ratio in the non-growing, static first world.

          • Fred M. says:

            Let me remind you that we’re having this discussion after we lost both Massimo Tamburini and Claudio Castiglioni, both smokers, to lung cancer

            You wrote: “I love how overly sanctimonious you sound cause you believe you have the clear higher moral ground when its comes to smoking.”

            It’s got nothing to do with morality and everything to do with education. The more education you have, the less likely you are to smoke. In Virginia, 32% of high school dropouts smoke while only 9% of college graduates do.

            You wrote: “And likewise, all your over hyped anti-smoking beliefs says is that you are completely suckered and brainwash in today’s world by the slick, anti-tobacco marketing campaign run by the very same people who engineered the pro-tobacco campaigns 50 years ago.”

            My mainstream beliefs are based on medical science and independent, peer-reviewed, scientific studies. Your delusional beliefs have nothing to do with reality and everything to do with what you want to belief.

            You wrote: “Can’t you see it through that thick skull of yours and the overly high opinion you have of yourself and in the truth of your beliefs?”

            My opinions of myself and my beliefs, and of you and your beliefs, are realistic.

            You wrote: “There is a limited supply of tobacco now that the hordes of the 3rd world are continually demanding it.”

            There is not a “limited supply of tobacco.” They aren’t mining it like gold. It is a farmed crop. They can grow as much as the world is willing to buy, both on farms in the U.S. and overseas.

            You wrote: “The tobacco companies could easily resolve most of the issues regarding tobacco simply by creating a more healthy, less harmful cigarette, which with the tech of today they could easily do.”

            Using computer chips and cloned sheep, right? I have no idea what kind of “tech” you think they’ve been shunning, but if you think that they could create even a somewhat safe tobacco cigarette, you’re out there in la-la land.

            You wrote: “But they won’t cause it is simply not in their interests to do so. They would rather have their customers continue to drop dead prematurely.”

            I’m sure you have some theory as to why it’s good for them to lose customers early, but don’t feel like you have to share it.

          • Fred M. says:

            Although you pontificate at excessive length, I’m not interested in turning this debate into a war of attrition. So I’ll be more brief in my reply.

            You wrote: “When I was a child, sniffing paint was quite common”

            You don’t say…

            You wrote: “all people have elements of a self-destructive streak in them which they feel needs to be expressed at all costs”

            No, not all people. You are like a schizophrenic who thinks that all people hear voices in their heads.

            You wrote: “You see, by nature, human beings hate themselves.”

            No, not all people are self-loathing masses of misery. I’m sorry if you are, but that doesn’t describe most others.

            You wrote: “Sure, but it also enriches their lives as well.”

            I don’t think that the average smoker would say that it ‘enriched their life’ Most first-world smokers go through life regretting that they ever took it up and trying, repeatedly, to quit. Everything from dating to disposable income is negatively affected by smoking.

            You wrote: “just about everything we believe is fun, desirable, and impossibly alluring in life, including motorcycling by the way, has an element of self-destruction and irresponsible, anti-rational decadence and anarchy to it.”

            Most of us motorcycle in spite of the danger, not because of it. I can’t imagine anyone calling cigarette smoking “fun” or “alluring.”

            You wrote: “Who cares about the reason tobacco supply is limited? The simple fact is that it is. You know, farmers make more from growing soybeans and corn than tobacco.”

            The supply is not limited; the demand is. The crop price is low because demand is low. In 2012 the average cost to produce name-brand cigarettes was 22 cents per pack, or just over a penny per cigarette. The profit margin is huge at 41%. So if there was more demand for cigarettes, then the tobacco companies would pay more for tobacco. As it is, they are cutting back on their contracts with tobacco farmers.

            Did you know that the price per pound of tobacco is right around $2 U.S. and that there is less than 0.05 pound of tobacco per cigarette?

            You wrote: “Actually, the higher ones[sic] IQ, the more likely one is to smoke.”

            Untrue. A 2010 study in Israel determined that young men who smoke have significantly lower IQs (on average) than their non-smoking peers. The study, the largest of its kind, involved over 20,000 18- to 21-year-old men enlisted in the Israeli army. The average IQ for non-smokers was about 101, while the smokers’ average was more than seven IQ points lower at about 94. The IQs of those who smoked more than a pack a day were lower still, at about 90.

            Interestingly, brothers scored differently depending on whether or not they smoked. Despite similar environmental conditions growing up, brothers who smoked had significantly lower IQs than their non-smoking siblings. The study did not determine whether smoking causes IQ levels to drop or whether less intelligent people are simply more inclined to smoke. Nonetheless, the study shows a strong relationship between low IQ and smoking.

            I don’t appreciate having to spend that much time debunking your fabricated claims, so I’m ending my response here. If you wish to continue this discussion, then start providing sources for your assertions.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            I think this horse is dead. Get back to motorcycles.

        • jake says:

          Part II.

          How did they do this? Simple by negatively campaigning against tobacco itself, their own product, thus creating similar conditions and price spikes as the era of Prohibition and alcohol – and we all remember how well that went and how it turned out to be boon of all boons for organized crime and their profit margins. The same principle applies here.

          The tobacco companies knew they couldn’t create a Prohibition like environment by using the religious or moral card anymore like in the early 1900‘s, since so few people in modern society take religion or morality all that seriously anymore. So they used the health and self promotion card, since they are more than aware that we moderns are compulsively self-obsessed with ourselves and our interests – hence the tag “The Me Generation”.

          The tobacco companies could easily resolve most of the issues regarding tobacco simply by creating a more healthy, less harmful cigarette, which with the tech of today they could easily do. But they won’t cause it is simply not in their interests to do so. They would rather have their customers continue to drop dead prematurely.

          What a business, eh? For it to be in your interests for your customers to drop dead than to remain alive.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “No one’s life is fuller because they smoke. Tobacco use doesn’t improve anyone’s quality of life.”

      you’re prolly right, but good luck arguing that with my dad. he was on the ground in Germany in ’45. when you survive W2, Korea, and Vietnam…? it kinda earns you the right to ultimately make the call on what kills you.

      the rest of us…? well we got to shut up about it.

      • Fred M. says:

        My father, a WWII veteran smoked, too. So did my grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side. My father died of cancer. So did my grandfather. My grandmother had multiple strokes that left her totally paralyzed and unable to speak for 9 months before she died.

        They were a different generation without the benefit of knowing the full dangers of smoking. It’s too bad, but that’s the way it was.

        It’s no longer that way. It’s time for laws that say if you’re over 18 on the day the law passes, you can continue to buy cigarettes. If you’re under 18, then you’re not starting.

  10. RD350 says:

    There will never be another motorcycle designer like Massimo Tamburini. Not in our lifetime anyway. No one before him has ever created the vast number of not only beautiful machines, but land-mark, game-changing motorcycles. While best known for the 916 and modern MVs, his legacy is much deeper.

    Bimota as a company really built the first great handling, light weight superbikes. Their bikes practically forced the Japanese and everyone else to eventually get with the program. The Bimota SB2, my personal favorite Bimota, is as alluring today as it was in 1977. The Bimota DB1 & the Ducati Paso, with their all-enclosed body work, were both stunning and profoundly influential in the 1980s.

    But that is not all: How about the most beautiful GP500 bike ever made .. the Cagiva 500 (as ridden by Eddie Lawson!). And the coolest 125 sportbike a kid could ever hope for, the Cagiva Mito.

    The list goes on and on …

    He was no doubt the greatest motorcycle designer of all time .. a Michelangelo for motorcycle enthusiasts.

  11. Dave says:

    The 916 is an iconic design that is responsible for changing the direction of sport motorcycles.

    Thanks for your wonderful contribution to our sport Massimo. May your heaven include all the best mountain roads in Italy.

    • Bill says:

      While the 916 an iconic design, it was inspired by another machine, the Honda NR750 which debuted in 1991, several years before the 916 first appeared. Several key design features were copied from the NR750, not least of which were the high mount underseat exhausts and single sided swingarm. Read more about it here: http://www.ashonbikes.com/content/massimo-tamburini

      • Dave says:

        And the NSR750 took cues from 500cc GP bikes and their exhaust packaging. Everybody is influenced by someone or thing. The NSR was a beautiful design but it cannot be denied which bike had a greater influence on sportbike design into the future, can it?

  12. Ricardo says:

    A genius in design, godspeed Mr. Tamburini in the heaven of motorcycles.

  13. BimboLover says:

    What many do not remember is that Tamburini was the ‘ta” in Bimota and he started designing motorcycles with that innovative company. His first design in 1972 was the HB1 (Honda Bimota #1) and his many following designs won numerous championships. During those early years Bimota had a couple dozen employees compared to the thousands at BMW, Honda, Suzuki, etc. RIP

  14. Gary says:

    So sorry to hear this. His work and for those that knew him (I unfortunately did not)his memory and influence on motorcycle design will live on for years. Godspeed Massimo.

  15. Tom says:

    I own a 2000 Ducati 996S and think it is one of the prettiest bikes made. I remember seeing the 916 for the first time on the cover of Cycle World. I think everyone was awestruck at how beautiful the bike was. It was revolutionary. I remember reading about Carl Fogarty response to seeing the 916 for the first time. He was just as shocked and couldn’t wait to throw his leg over it. It’s one thing to make a bike look good but to perform as good as it looked just made Massimo Tamburini an instant legend.

    Lost my dad to lung cancer when he was 70. He was a smoker as well. If you smoke, stop.

  16. denny says:

    I am joining with my wish our collective motorcycling conscience… RIP, Massimo!

  17. motowarrior says:

    So sad to hear the news. The 916 was a very special design, but I still think the MZ F4 was his best design. I used to have one, and I’d go into the garage and just stare at it. I still haven’t forgiven my wife for not agreeing to keep it in the living room…

    • Gham says:

      I can see how that could strain a relationship.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “MZ F4″

        re: “I can see how that could strain a relationship”

        yeah, Italians and Germans working together has always been a difficult thing to pull off. who knows, maybe the VW/Ducati mash up will bear fruit…?

        oh yeah, RIP to Maestro Tambo. if it weren’t for him, I prolly wouldn’t be in moto world.

        • Motowarrior says:

          Pretty funny! Not many people even know about the MZ motorcycle. I happened to have owned an MZ Skorpion as well as an MV Agusta F4, so obviously my old brain scrambled the info. Fun with typos…

  18. John says:

    The 916, IMO, was the prettiest and most Italian of all the Ducatis, even if it isn’t as racy as the current ones.

  19. jabe says:

    Godspeed, Massimo.

  20. powermad says:

    Sorry to hear of this, a designer of some magnificent machines.

  21. Mike says:

    He definitely left his mark. God bless.