At last Aprilia have arrived with a middleweight. Laden with high-tech features and cutting edge styling. Only it's 750cc. And £5600. You have to ask, is this cheating?
The bike we rode for this test was a prototype but seeing as the Shiver's due in UK showrooms by the end of June, if there's anything seriously wrong, there's not a lot they can do about it now. This theory is substantiated after a chat with the design team - it turns out the chassis is signed off, the styling is pretty much done (the engine colour will be different and that's more or less it) and the motor itself is 98 per cent ready, with just some refinement of the fuelling map to complete.
Well, if this is fuelling that's not ready, it's a shame some other manufacturers don't work to the same standards. The all-new 749.9cc, 90¡ V-twin, as it is, fuels better than a lot of bikes you can wheel out of a showroom today, with just a little lumpiness and uncertainty at low revs a small blot on its otherwise fluid and predictable delivery copybook. And not only is that the bit they're still working on, it's still better than something like a Ducati Monster five years ago or a Buell two years back.
The reason we were allowed to ride a prototype before an official press launch is that Aprilia has nothing in its range whose sales might suffer as a result - usually bike manufacturers like to clear stocks of old models before trumpeting the new, but Aprilia has an empty stall and that's been its ongoing problem: while Aprilia makes Europe's perennially best selling sports 125 in the gorgeous little RS, and has outsold Ducati's V-twin superbike by some four to one at the other end of the scale with its fab RSV Mille, the big numbers middle ground has been serviced from Noale only by the effective but niche Pegaso trail bike.
There were plenty of other reasons for Aprilia going bust three years ago, but this unbalanced range certainly didn't help, and now some sensible men at new owner, the Piaggio Group, have directed Aprilia to fill the gaping hole. Naked middleweights are where the sales action is at in Europe and the US generally, so this is where the Shiver is pointed, the crosshairs fixed on the M800 Monster, Honda Hornet, Yamaha FZ6 and so on. It's designed to work best for inexperienced riders while still offering some riding satisfaction for older hands (ie, something for everyone), packaged in a modern, techno style. A bit like a two-wheeled VW Golf then.
The biggest pain with riding a prototype was a more pragmatic one: it wasn't road registered, so Aprilia blagged the Fiat group's vast test centre at Bellaco, west of Milan - ideal aside from an understandable car bias manifested as Armco lining every metre of road on both sides.
The Shiver handles so easily and predictably though, it was nowhere near as stressy as it might have been. The steering is neutral at low speeds, so no tucking in at hairpins, and although it doesn't change direction especially fast it compensates with reassuring stability and a surprisingly good ride quality for a sub-£6000 machine. The riding position is reasonably upright, but the bike also feels wieldy and manageable when you want to throw it around.
Continue the 2007 Aprilia Shiver SL750 Review
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