First Ride: 2007 Aprilia Shiver

The spitting image of Donald Sutherland in bad light, Kev Ash reports back on Aprilia's 750cc Shiver

Nice looking but I bet that seat's uncomfortable

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.

It's fine for commuting comfort although there's the inevitable wind blast at speed which will take a small fairing to sort - could well be in the new model pipeline, as lots more machines are planned using the basic motor.

In its Shiver incarnation the V-twin is a pleasure to use. The mid-range is very strong, although a little more grunt might be useful (especially if it gets smoother at low rpm), and although a couple of Italians complained about it being flat at the top end, that's not what this bike is about. It's very strong in the important 5-8000rpm range, revs pretty well to 9000rpm and will spin to the world's politest rev limiter at 10,000rpm - with such a short stroke this is well inside its potential, so expect something sportier and revvier with the same basic engine in a year or so. For real world riding the motor works a treat, and the effort the engineers have put into making it sound good has paid off as the soundtrack is deep and mellow, more like a litre twin than three quarters of the way there.

You get a high spec for your money, with radially-mounted, four-piston Brembos up front, fed fluid by braided hose and like the engine, designed for ease of use rather than ferocious performance. And on the dash there's an array of information in addition to the usual basic stuff, accessed by a menu button on the left handlebar. This is thanks to the car-type CAN-bus electrics, and these in turn facilitate the fly-by-wire throttle system, which replaces the usual cable link twixt twistgrip and butterflies. We've seen this on Yamaha's R6 and R1, but its appearance on a budget conscious middleweight is more of a surprise. It makes sense though when you want to create power units with a range of characters out of the one basic engine, and it does help with meeting emissions laws. The hardware anyway is all off-the-shelf automotive gubbins, so the cost is not prohibitive, its just experience that the bike industry lacks, and with one of the Shiver team being ex-Ferrari, they're sorted in that respect.

Importantly, as far as the rider is concerned it doesn't feel any
different, just a responsive motor with no stutter or hesitation.
The eternal problem for any manufacturer in the naked middleweight class is Suzuki, which punts out the excellent Bandit for £4500 and an even closer rival, the SV650 for £100 less than that. At its
projected £5600 the Shiver compares well with the rest of the field, and its performance and sophistication are superior to most too - in comparison the SV feels relatively slow and almost crude. But £1200 is a lot of money...

Bags of style and technology could make this sector leader




PRICE NEW - £5600


POWER - 94bhp@9000rpm

TORQUE - 60lb.ft@7000rpm

WEIGHT - 189kg



TOP SPEED - 120mph

0-60 - n/a