First Ride: 2008 Aprilia Dorsoduro

Another rabid machine from Aprilia? Excellent...

The Aprilia Dorsoduro shares it’s name with an area of Venice, which once again reminds me why Italian is such a beautiful language. Should a similar machine developed from the world of Supermoto racing ever be built in the UK, I’m not sure calling it ‘The Gorbals’ or ‘The Moss Side’ would work quite the same. And the stylish name certainly befits the motorcycle as I stopped dead in my Nikes after clocking it for the first time in the hotel car park the night before the Rome launch.

And we may well have England’s Supermoto star Christian Iddon partly to thank for this creation as he has been doing the business for the factory over the past eighteen months. Christian has been winning British Championships and running at the front in the World Championship, no doubt feeding back what works and what doesn’t.

In my seven years as a journo I’ve found many bikes are much better to ride than they actually look, which can make them difficult to sell. Customers have to be tempted with test rides, whereas a stunner like the Dorsoduro should practically sell itself. So it looks fantastic and is well finished, but is it the perfect bike in the big supermoto category?

It depends on what you want. It certainly isn’t as hard-core as the Ducati Hypermotard or the new KTM 990 Supermoto. You could argue both these bikes are equally as striking but unless you are either very experienced, or just plain brave you’ll never use them properly and they are also more expensive.

Aprilia claim the Dorsoduro is not for beginners, but it is a manageable package and if you do fancy getting into this type of bike you have three different power options: Rain, Touring or Sport.

The 750cc 90-degree V twin produces a claimed 95bhp, which is delivered smoothly from very small throttle openings until it dies away just over 10,000rpm. The throttle is actually ‘ride by wire’, a feature that only a few years ago would have scared me, whereas now it seems mainstream technology.  Mechanically the motor is exactly the same as the Shiver but is remapped to give more midrange power and has a short ratio gearbox. I’d describe the engine feeling as linear and didn’t really notice any huge mid range torque surge. It has a soft sound when idling which turns into a nice bark while shifting up through the (sometimes notchy) gearbox. And if you are average at wheelies, don’t expect this one to make you look good, as the lack of cubic inches means skill, combined with a delicate balancing act is required. Note to myself: must keep practicing.

 The firm (numb bum after 70 miles) lofty riding position, is just right and gives good control plus the feel good factor continues with the fresh Aprilia dash, solid handlebars and ignition switch nicely mounted at the front of the fuel tank. There is an easy to use toggle switch on the left side handlebar for the computer and trip functions and halleluiah; the indicator switch is in the right place so you no longer press the horn by mistake. On the right side, I like the combined starter/kill button switch, which also changes the engine power map whether on the move, or stationary, providing you have the throttle closed. I tried the two reduced engine performance settings, but was happiest in Sport mode, knowing I had power should I need it for passing or attempting another crap wheelie.

The even power delivery means smooth acceleration and I found the rear end handling was faultless on the various road surfaces we encountered.

The 43mm USD front forks didn’t cope quite as well, however, as on standard settings they were too keen to dive quickly whenever I touched the brakes. I found the bite from the radial mounted brake calipers and 320mm wavy discs just a tad sharp for the soft front suspension settings, although nothing that adding spring preload and compression damping wouldn’t cure.  Otherwise the steel trellis/aluminium frame combination seemed stable at high speed, while just needing some pressure on the bars to finish off the slower turns. Aprilia tell me this two-piece frame set up allows them to perfectly balance frame flex and stiffness so will continue to appear on future models. I can’t honestly say I would know what good or bad frame flex is so I’ll have to trust their R&D department on this one.

Rounding it all off is a nice range of trick accessories including a sexy seat and levers, plus not-so-sexy panniers. There is also a slipper clutch should you fancy taking on Christian Iddon. 

After Piaggio took over I was hoping the new Aprilia would raise its game and so far that seems to be happening. I like the fact that Aprilia have gone the extra mile with this one and finished the job off properly. They could have easily not bothered with the numerous extra touches, like the fork leg protectors, the handlebar guards or the enduro style stand. They could have put less work into finishing off the underseat exhausts or settled for lesser quality plastics. But they didn’t and it shows. It may not be the fastest or most powerful bike in it’s category but this is one superbly engineered, funky motorcycle.

Aprilia’s message is to have fun with the Dorsoduro pushing it right to the limit whenever you can, without having to scare yourself witless in the process. I dare you not to.

2008 Aprilia Dorsoduro Specifications

Price: £6,469
Engine: 749.9cc, WATER-cooled, 8-valve V-twin
Power: 92bhp @ 9,000rpm
Torque: 60.5ft/lb @ 7,000rpm
Front suspension: 43mm USD fully adj
Rear suspension: monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brake: 320mm discs, four-piston Brembo caliper
Rear brake: 240mm disc, two-piston caliper
Dry weight: 186kg (claimed)
Seat height: 870mm
Fuel capacity: 12l
Top speed: 120mph (est)
Colours: Red, black, grey