Over the weekend I went to a Demo day at the local Aprilia and Moto Guzzi dealer and test rode everything I could and/or found interesting. I love events like this as they tend to open up riders to models and brands they otherwise wouldn’t give a second look. Test rides weren’t very long but just enough to feel out the characteristics of each bike.
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100
First bike I rode was the Tuono, because it’s one of the bikes I am genuinely interested in and a slot opened up last minute.
I’d like to start by saying I am not a huge fan of how it looks kind of half way between a fully faired bike and a naked. I like my naked bikes to have a more stripped down look. It is however, without a doubt, one of the most versatile motorcycles I’ve ever experienced. For something making nearly 200hp it is amazingly civil and smooth around town. It felt perfectly at home putting around city streets which is pretty surprising if you consider it’s essentially the same engine out of the race bred RSV4. Speaking of the engine, that V4 sounds absolutely glorious through the stock muffler and is fully capable of dislocating both your shoulders if you crack the throttle open in lower gears (this is a compliment, BTW). The slipper clutch and quickshifter made for smooth accurate shifts every time I kicked the lever in either direction. It tuned direction quickly and the wide handlebars offered great control. Of all the bikes I tested I felt most at home right away on the Tuono, and If I could only have one bike in the garage to handle everything it would be a strong contender. This was the only bike tested that I wasn’t able to go full throttle on.
8/10 overall (lost a few points for sub 30mpg fuel economy and a $2400 per year insurance quote I got)
Did not test, not really interested in the race replica when the Tuono is so good
I was really interested in trying out the Shiver as it’s the Italian version of my trusty SV650 and the V-twin is by far my favorite motorbike engine configuration. I think the bike looks great with it’s color matched frame, exposed rear shock, and unfaired belly pan. I’d personally prefer a standard round headlight, but the unit on the shiver flows well enough with the rest of the lines that it wouldn’t bother me much. Getting on the bike is where things fell apart a little bit. First thing I noticed is that it feels HEAVY. At 450lbs dry, it’s only 10 lbs lighter than the Tuono (almost 100lbs more than the SV650!) and feels heavier when pulling the bike off the side-stand. The engine makes all the right noises and plenty of power for the chassis, but where the Tuono was smooth and refined the shiver feels rough and jerky. Low speed maneuvers need a lot of clutching to be completed smoothly and shifts are noticeably harsher with the absence of a slipper clutch. Once moving it turns in well and the riding position is comfortable, but it never feels as light and maneuverable as the Tuono did. I had fun riding it, however I didn’t really find it better than a used SV650 in any single area.
Aprilia Dorsoduro 750
I didn’t have the chance to test dive the Dorso, but I did sit on it and had the same initial impression I had with the Shiver. It felt heavy. At 100+lbs more than my DRZ-400 (which is already a bit fat for a supermoto mind you) I don’t know how much of the supermoto experience you’ll be able to get. but I’m reserving judgement until I actually get the chance to ride one.
Moto Guzzi V7 (Racer and Stone)
First off, I love this bike. My infatuation with all the cool vintage hipster pandering is going to heavily bias my opinion here. I’ve always liked vintage bikes as they offer a level of connection and lack of refinement that I’ve never experienced on a “modern” bike. The V7 changes that, as soon as I got on and turned on the engine (hey Piaggio, add a kickstart and I will buy one!), I felt like I was on any of the number of late 60's bikes my dad owned as I was growing up. The engine shakes and vibrates the frame at idle as if to say “Hey, I’m a motorcycle and I’m running” but no so much that it would become fatiguing. That said, it might be a little much for city stop and go traffic, but why would anyone want to ride any bike in those conditions? The longitudinally mounted engine torques the frame slightly on throttle blips. It sounds sketchy but it’s actually a ton of fun. I found myself blipping the throttle at stoplights and giggling as the gyroscopic effect leaned the bike over a few degrees. Suspension and brakes feel perfectly adequate for the bike and both are far better than any of the 60's bikes it seeks to mimic. I wouldn’t take it out to a trackday or anything, but it would be right at home hitting twisties at a good clip. Riding position was comfortable on both the racer and the stone, which is a damn good thing as the 5.5 gallon tank and 300 mile range begs to be ridden long distances.
Ok, now for the criticisms... It really needs 10 more horsepower or a shorter first gear. Neck snapping performance isn’t really this bike’s raison d’etre, but I like first gear to scare me a little. On my test ride I hit throttle stop in first, rode it out to the rev limiter, and I found myself thinking “is that all she’s got?” Keep in mind this was just after riding the Tuono, so I might have been a little bit preconditioned with a bike 4X more powerful.
Moto Guzzi V9
Sadly, they didn’t have one of these available to test. Would have been interesting as it’s a little more powerful than the V7 while being about the same weight.
Moto Guzzi Eldorado
The V7 was booked for a few rides so I figured I’d take a spin on a big cruiser. It’s well outside of what I usually ride, but I’m under the impression that all motorcycles are fun regardless what type. I think the bike looks great, I hate chrome and thankfully it’s kept to a minimum here. The white wall tires and spoked wheels really give it a vintage feel, and its styling is unique enough that it would stand out in a sea of cruisers that all kinda look the same to me. She’s pretty heavy but the low seat makes it really manageable and once moving you don’t really notice. First riding impression was “god damn, I could literally ride this thing all day long” it is supremely comfortable, even the footboards have built in vibration damping. The motor pulls strong and has a ton of torque on tap. It runs out of steam as you approach the red-line, but that’s not really how the bike is designed to be ridden. Considering the weight and riding position it handles acceptably well, but I wasn’t confident enough to push it. I haven’t tried a lot of cruisers, but I found myself liking this one a lot more than I expected.
Overall 6/10 (only brought down because it wouldn’t happily support the kind of riding I do most often)
Aprilia SR50 Motard
Full disclosure, trying this guy out was the main reason I attended. If you happen to be shopping for a 50cc scooter this is the obvious choice to the point where even considering anything else is foolish. It is faster and cheaper than anything else on the market plus it’s got a freaking kickstart! Upon arrival, I was sad to see that the scoot wasn’t lined up with all the bikes for the demo, but upon asking I was informed that they had a demo unit in the back and would let me take a spin. First impressions are that it is light and comfortable. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the engine, but it seems to accelerate with a lot less urgency off the line than my ‘85 Aero 50 (2 stroke for the freaking win!). It has more pick up through the mid-range and easily tops out a little more than 5 mph faster than the Honda ever did (even when new). The SR50 has nice sporty feeling suspension and enough ground clearance to allow aggressive cornering and full use of tires (The Aero 50 drags frame when I ride aggressively). You probably think I’m joking, but good handling is really important on a scoot because, more than any other two wheeled vehicle, they are momentum machines. You want to take every corner as fast as possible because it takes a long ass time to gain back any speed you lose. Brakes felt able to cope with anything I could throw at it. I want one.