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First Ride: 2002 Aprilia Tuono Fighter

Aprilia launch the production version of their Tuono-R concept bike, the Tuono Fighter. With a Mille engine and chassis, near-on full superbike power and streetfighter styling, you just know this is going to be a bad boy.




Well, I only just did it. Managed to miss the flight on the Thursday morning (4am wake-up special), so had to fly in the following morning on the same horrendous pre-sunlight flight, got a taxi from Brescia airport to the hotel (a one-hour journey), then rode the Tuono all day and flew back that same night. I was knackered, but it was worth it. The production Tuono Fighter is a blazing little bike.

For starters, it looks great. There's lots of bits, bobs and bolted-on parts on the Tuono, but they all hang together and the look works. My favourite three details are the tapered alloy anodised handlebars, the dinky intake scoops for the airbox, and the rubber scuff guard on the swingarm to stop you wrecking your £299 Patrick Cox loafers. But then there's loads more cool stuff to look at on the Tuono, like the gold-anodised frame, the sleek bikini fairing and headlights, the Boge steering damper under the instruments, the nylon crash mushrooms that come as standard and the meshing that covers the air vents. It's a right-smart moto, is the Tuono, and no mistake.

The only shame is that the enormous Aprilia Mille silencer is still present and correct. Still, nothing that a £300 straight-through race silencer and Eprom chip wouldn't fix, and Aprilia will happily sell you said items - plus carbon bodywork and full …hlins suspension - to lop kilos off the bike, add a load of funky V-twin noise and give it a performance boost.

Let us quickly identify what the Tuono Fighter is. Well, unlike Yamaha's Fazer 1000, Honda's Hornet 900 or Ducati's 900 Monster, the Aprilia Tuono is a hardcore sportsbike with naked styling and wide handlebars. Many manufacturers have taken a sportsbike engine and put it in a different frame before. Some have even taken sportsbike frames and put in different engines. But none have had the balls or marketing nonce thus far to take one of their superbikes, take the fairing off it, bolt on a set of motocross handlebars and some badass styling, and punt it out the door. That is what Aprilia have done with their Tuono - it's an RSV Mille with a slightly de-tuned motor and no clothes. And that's why it goes, stops and goes round corners so bloody well.

You see, I thought the Tuono would be a bit of a disappointment, but boy was I wrong. As soon as you sit on the widely-padded seat, your knees slot into the sculpted fuel tank and you grasp those dead smart motocross bars, you know you're gonna make a nuisance of yourself. Hit the starter and that unmistakable 60¡ V-twin 998cc Aprilia engine barks into life. Warm it up to around 60¡ on the digital dash and set off, looking for trouble. Aprilia had chosen a wicked 15 mile stretch of the A22 road between Caprino Veronese and Ferrara to unleash their Tuono on, a grippy stretch of tarmac that twists and turns its way up into the Alps. It looked like we'd be royally buggered in the morning, when a combination of overnight rain and frenetic Italian roadworks coated the road in a slimey overcoat of cack and poo. But by lunchtime the sun had burned through and we were all set to cause some serious mayhem.

There's a bit of a flatspot at 6,000rpm (there to get the Tuono through the usual noise and emissions checks), but otherwise the engine pulls like a bloody locomotive. Give it a gutsy handful in first gear and she leaps into the air, do likewise in second gear on the way out of a corner and she'll do the same thing. Keep charging up through the gearbox and the rev-counter and in no time at all you'll be looking at the wrong side of 150mph. For a naked bike the Tuono is seriously, gloriously fast, with heaps of muscle to back-up its muscle-bike looks. And where other bikes of this ilk have previously then tied themselves in knots at the first sign of a corner, the Tuono Fighter steams on in with sportsbike precision. Wide handlebars mean a number of things. They mean quick steering, because of the amount of leverage you can apply. They mean hard braking, because it's easy to brace yourself against your weight. And they mean a slight tendency to move around (note move around, not weave) at very high speeds, due to the rider being more upright. All this adds up to a highly entertaining ride that cannot fail to thrill the rider. You attack sections of road with the Tuono Fighter and it just laps it up, all the while the handlebars giving you heaps of control and the surprisingly effective fairing clearing the windblast over your shoulders.

Coming into town and she slows down as quick as she speeds up. Would-be stuntmeisters will love the Tuono's aptitude to perform mega rolling stoppies for the hell of it, while normal people will just like the security of a proper set of Brembo stoppers up-front. And at slower speeds, the Tuono is still every bit a rider's bike with no snatchiness in the throttle response, and the handling works just as well on a slippery roundabout at 25mph as it does on a grippy mountain pass at 85mph. Infact in town the wide handlebars are an absolute bonus, making flicking in between cars and dead people on the road easier than on any arse up, head down sportsbike device.

But then, the Tuono is a very serious sportsbike device. It just happens to eminently rideable in any situation, by anybody. Short-arses might struggle a bit, but that's their problem. What I would proffer, as I sometimes do with bikes of this nature, is that this is what 90% of sportsbike riders should really be riding. You can go sling your identikit four-cylinder supa-dupa racers down the bog. You show me the road and I'll show you the way home on the Tuono, and I'll be having far more of a laugh the whole time. Comfortable and practical, from the crash protection to the pillion accomodation, the Tuono is equally happy going absolutely bloody bananas on road or (most likely) track as it is pottering to work during your daily commute. Thinking about it, the bike I can most liken it to is Honda's excellent VTR1000 FireStorm, except the Aprilia comes with a shitload more style, character and aggression than that.

I wouldn't have thought the Tuono would survive the ravages of a full-on English winter very well, what with all that pretty but exposed alloy and plastic. Aprilia are making it available in two colour schemes only, the rather boring grey and black, and the much smarter red and gold, lthough the use of parcel-tape brown slashes on the red paint scheme seems odd.

I have a horrible suspicion that Aprilia won't sell the Tuono Fighter in the sort of numbers it deserves to in this country. We are, after all, completely hung-up on hardcore sports machines in the UK, and anything without a full-fairing and low bars is too often regarded as quirky and weird. Aprilia UK reckon they'll be punting the Tuono out at £7,300, which considering it's a full RSV Mille without its clothes is a good price, and if you're in the market for a new sports tool I urge you to have a demo ride on one of these. You'll love it or hate it. I loved it, so much so that I blasted up and down the 15-mile stretch of twisting A-road four times, until I ran out of petrol. On my second run I discovered the Tuono's best trick - powering out of second-gear corners, quick tug on the bars when you're still leant over, and up she wheelies, all the way down the next straight and into third before you have to put it down to brake for the next corner. Get yourself a ride on an Aprilia Tuono Fighter. If you regret it, go and sue me...

SPECS

TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2002

PRICE NEW - £7300

ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc

POWER - 126bhp@9500rpm

TORQUE - N/A

WEIGHT - 184kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 820mm

FUEL CAPACITY - 18L

TOP SPEED - 150mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Well, I only just did it. Managed to miss the flight on the Thursday morning (4am wake-up special), so had to fly in the following morning on the same horrendous pre-sunlight flight, got a taxi from Brescia airport to the hotel (a one-hour journey), then rode the Tuono all day and flew back that same night. I was knackered, but it was worth it. The production Tuono Fighter is a blazing little bike.

For starters, it looks great. There's lots of bits, bobs and bolted-on parts on the Tuono, but they all hang together and the look works. My favourite three details are the tapered alloy anodised handlebars, the dinky intake scoops for the airbox, and the rubber scuff guard on the swingarm to stop you wrecking your £299 Patrick Cox loafers.

But then there's loads more cool stuff to look at on the Tuono, like the gold-anodised frame, the sleek bikini fairing and headlights, the Boge steering damper under the instruments, the nylon crash mushrooms that come as standard and the meshing that covers the air vents. It's a right-smart moto, is the Tuono, and no mistake.

The only shame is that the enormous Aprilia Mille silencer is still present and correct. Still, nothing that a £300 straight-through race silencer and Eprom chip wouldn't fix, and Aprilia will happily sell you said items - plus carbon bodywork and full Öhlins suspension - to lop kilos off the bike, add a load of funky V-twin noise and give it a performance boost.

Let us quickly identify what the Tuono Fighter is. Well, unlike Yamaha's Fazer 1000, Honda's Hornet 900 or Ducati's 900 Monster, the Aprilia Tuono is a hardcore sportsbike with naked styling and wide handlebars. Many manufacturers have taken a sportsbike engine and put it in a different frame before. Some have even taken sportsbike frames and put in different engines. But none have had the balls or marketing nonce thus far to take one of their superbikes, take the fairing off it, bolt on a set of motocross handlebars and some badass styling, and punt it out the door.

That is what Aprilia have done with their Tuono - it's an RSV Mille with a slightly de-tuned motor and no clothes. And that's why it goes, stops and goes round corners so bloody well.

You see, I thought the Tuono would be a bit of a disappointment, but boy was I wrong. As soon as you sit on the widely-padded seat, your knees slot into the sculpted fuel tank and you grasp those dead smart motocross bars, you know you're gonna make a nuisance of yourself. Hit the starter and that unmistakable 60° V-twin 998cc Aprilia engine barks into life. Warm it up to around 60° on the digital dash and set off, looking for trouble.

Aprilia had chosen a wicked 15 mile stretch of the A22 road between Caprino Veronese and Ferrara to unleash their Tuono on, a grippy stretch of tarmac that twists and turns its way up into the Alps. It looked like we'd be royally buggered in the morning, when a combination of overnight rain and frenetic Italian roadworks coated the road in a slimey overcoat of cack and poo. But by lunchtime the sun had burned through and we were all set to cause some serious mayhem.

There's a bit of a flatspot at 6,000rpm (there to get the Tuono through the usual noise and emissions checks), but otherwise the engine pulls like a bloody locomotive. Give it a gutsy handful in first gear and she leaps into the air, do likewise in second gear on the way out of a corner and she'll do the same thing. Keep charging up through the gearbox and the rev-counter and in no time at all you'll be looking at the wrong side of 150mph.

For a naked bike the Tuono is seriously, gloriously fast, with heaps of muscle to back-up its muscle-bike looks. And where other bikes of this ilk have previously then tied themselves in knots at the first sign of a corner, the Tuono Fighter steams on in with sportsbike precision. Wide handlebars mean a number of things. They mean quick steering, because of the amount of leverage you can apply.

They mean hard braking, because it's easy to brace yourself against your weight. And they mean a slight tendency to move around (note move around, not weave) at very high speeds, due to the rider being more upright. All this adds up to a highly entertaining ride that cannot fail to thrill the rider. You attack sections of road with the Tuono Fighter and it just laps it up, all the while the handlebars giving you heaps of control and the surprisingly effective fairing clearing the windblast over your shoulders.

Coming into town and she slows down as quick as she speeds up. Would-be stuntmeisters will love the Tuono's aptitude to perform mega rolling stoppies for the hell of it, while normal people will just like the security of a proper set of Brembo stoppers up-front.

And at slower speeds, the Tuono is still every bit a rider's bike with no snatchiness in the throttle response, and the handling works just as well on a slippery roundabout at 25mph as it does on a grippy mountain pass at 85mph. Infact in town the wide handlebars are an absolute bonus, making flicking in between cars and dead people on the road easier than on any arse up, head down sportsbike device.

But then, the Tuono is a very serious sportsbike device. It just happens to eminently rideable in any situation, by anybody. Short-arses might struggle a bit, but that's their problem. What I would proffer, as I sometimes do with bikes of this nature, is that this is what 90% of sportsbike riders should really be riding.

You can go sling your identikit four-cylinder supa-dupa racers down the bog. You show me the road and I'll show you the way home on the Tuono, and I'll be having far more of a laugh the whole time. Comfortable and practical, from the crash protection to the pillion accomodation, the Tuono is equally happy going absolutely bloody bananas on road or (most likely) track as it is pottering to work during your daily commute.

Thinking about it, the bike I can most liken it to is Honda's excellent VTR1000 FireStorm, except the Aprilia comes with a shitload more style, character and aggression than that.

I wouldn't have thought the Tuono would survive the ravages of a full-on English winter very well, what with all that pretty but exposed alloy and plastic. Aprilia are making it available in two colour schemes only, the rather boring grey and black, and the much smarter red and gold, lthough the use of parcel-tape brown slashes on the red paint scheme seems odd.

I have a horrible suspicion that Aprilia won't sell the Tuono Fighter in the sort of numbers it deserves to in this country. We are, after all, completely hung-up on hardcore sports machines in the UK, and anything without a full-fairing and low bars is too often regarded as quirky and weird.

Aprilia UK reckon they'll be punting the Tuono out at £7,300, which considering it's a full RSV Mille without its clothes is a good price, and if you're in the market for a new sports tool I urge you to have a demo ride on one of these. You'll love it or hate it. I loved it, so much so that I blasted up and down the 15-mile stretch of twisting A-road four times, until I ran out of petrol.

On my second run I discovered the Tuono's best trick - powering out of second-gear corners, quick tug on the bars when you're still leant over, and up she wheelies, all the way down the next straight and into third before you have to put it down to brake for the next corner. Get yourself a ride on an Aprilia Tuono Fighter. If you regret it, go and sue me...

2002 Aprilia Tuono Fighter Specifications

SPECS
TYPE - STREETBIKE
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £7300
ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc
POWER - 126bhp@9500rpm
TORQUE - N/A   
WEIGHT - 184kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 820mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - 18L   
TOP SPEED - 150mph   
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A