The year is 2013, I have spent 11 months with the most underwhelming, slow and downright unpleasant motorcycle ever produced (a Triumph Thruxton in case you’re wondering). I am overcome by the desire to try something radically different. I therefore purchase an Aprilia Tuono V4. It’s utterly insane. No naked bike should be this unhinged, this is supposed to be a calmer more comfortable RSV4! It really isn’t. I am smitten. Our love lasts for two years and we make beautiful memories together.

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All of the horror stories about Aprilia’s legendary unreliability are unfounded. Their legendary depreciation however is real and very scary. I lose a significant amount of money when I say goodbye to the Tuono.

What to replace it with? I can’t buy a sportsbike, my wrists are ruined from too many supermoto accidents. I can’t go backwards to something staid and boring, I’ve got a BMW GS for that. So what’s out there in the summer of 2015? Ducati Monster 1200? No it’s a handbag, not a motorcycle, they’ve sucked the awesome out of it (some may have later returned with the 1200R). BMW S1000R? Hmm, that’s more interesting, active suspension, heated grips, it seems like the perfect mix of speed and sense. KTM Duke 1290? Don’t be silly, it’s the single ugliest motorcycle since the last really ugly one. So what did I end up with? Oh yes, another Aprilia Tuono V4, except this time I’ve gone for the 1100 Factory, complete with idiotic colour scheme, stupid red wheels and some golden suspension trinkets.

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So yeah, I’ve purchased two broadly similar motorcycles in the space of three years, so how do they compare?

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What the 1100 Factory does better:

Style

This one’s fairly easy because I don’t think Aprilia actually made an effort to style the old one. The found some bits lying about and threw them at a crashed RSV4, took a long lunch and deemed it production-ready. The new version has a bit more of a flow to the styling, there are two pronounced ribs which start on the nose fairing, continue on the tank and finish on the seat unit. They were present on the old one, but only on the nose and the tank and the uniform matte black paint job didn’t really do anything to show them off. Plus they’ve clearly made an effort on styling the nose fairing and it does a far better job of deflecting some of the wind.

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Engine

The 1100 feels completely different to the 1000, angrier, coarser, much more alive. While the 1000 was utterly useless below 4000rpm and only properly woke up at 8000rpm, this up and pisses off from 2000rpm, which when you consider that idle is barely 500rpm lower is some result. This is the proper kind of super-naked stomp. The kind that makes you shit yourself from tickover. It may be a four cylinder, but it behaves like a twin when it needs to. Then there’s the sound. I don’t know how Aprilia have managed to get this thing through noise testing because at idle it’s much louder than the 1000 with a full Akrapovic exhaust system. And the volume isn’t the only thing you’re getting; the sound itself is somehow meatier. The 1000 occasionally could sound like a slightly argumentative parallel twin, with this one you’re in no doubt that there’s something very, very special underneath. The only reason you change the exhaust on this bike is for looks, because you’re set on power and sound. It’s quite a vibey bastard, this is the first motorcycle I’ve ever ridden which really reminds you that there are thousands of explosions happening just underneath your gut. Unfortunately Aprilia have seen fit to keep the ultimate idiotic startup procedure with the engine blipping up past 3000rpm when it catches, which makes you look like a complete dick.

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Flexibility

This is tied in with the above point, those extra 100ccs make themselves felt lower down in the rev range and you can get away with carrying an extra gear (or in some cases two) in most circumstances. 50km/h speed limits through towns were normally 2nd gear affairs with the 1000, now I find myself going through most towns in 4th if not 5th some times. The old bike wasn’t having any of that nonsense.

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Brakes

I don’t know what it was about the old one but the brakes never filled me with confidence. They were far too spongy and no amount of bleeding really did anything to sort them out. A pad change was my next avenue but I sold the bastard before managing to do it. The brakes on the 1100 are ostensibly very similar but the calipers look a bit different and were changed when ABS came in a couple of years ago. There’s a lot more feel and the stopping power is excellent. Then there’s the obvious plus point of ABS, which on wet, leaf-covered roads have saved me a couple of times. The one major complaint I had with the old one was the brakes, they’ve sorted them out beautifully from what I can tell.

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Range

The comedy fuel thimble of the 2012 model which saw the reserve light chiming in at 130kms and game over at 155kms is thankfully a thing of the past. The tank now holds 18 litres and I’m getting at least 150kms before reserve. Not that much more, but every little helps! Also, please note that I said range, not economy, the fuel consumption numbers are still utterly frightening.

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What the old one did better.

Stealth

There’s no two ways about it, if you ride a motorcycle with red wheels, APRILIA writ large down the sides and an extremely loud exhaust it’s going to draw a lot of unnecessary attention. By contrast the old Tuono, in matte black with no stickers and a slightly less offensive exhaust could be parked up in total anonymity. I personally don’t like having people crowd around my bike, which is why I don’t stop at traditional stopping points, but this thing is like a fucking homing beacon.

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Heat management

Water is wet, ice is cold, V4s get hot. These are simple facts of life and there is nothing you can do about them. However the old 1000 didn’t get nearly as toasty as the Factory. One red light and the temperature is deep into triple figures and the fans are making scrotum brulee.

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Throttle response

I said that the engine being a lot more eager lower down was a welcome change, however it does bring on a slightly negative repercussion. Aprilia’s ride by wire systems have never been noted for their soft responses off a closed throttle, the old Tuono masked this a bit with its wooly low down power delivery, the Factory, can be a bit of a handful (get it?) on the throttle. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but in conjunction with my next point it can make things a bit dicey.

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Comfort

Aprilia have made a great deal of the improved riding position on the 1100, both RR and Factory. Well as far as I’m concerned they haven’t improved it, quite the opposite, they’ve made it orders of magnitude worse. The seat is indeed a tad lower but it’s much harder than before and having made no change to the footpegs means that my legs are more bent and that’s no fun. Aprilia have also lowered the bars and that’s properly screwed me. My slightly careworn (read, destroyed) wrists just can’t take it. The old Tuono was a bike you could ride all day, and I did, 400kms in a day no bother. The Factory becomes utterly unbearable after about 30 minutes. Out of all the things that I’ve noticed about it, the first thing that comes to mind when people ask me to tell them about the bike is ‘it’s crippling,’ and that’s not a good sign. I’ve experimented with lever and bar positioning but I think the bar itself is wrong and am currently looking for an old Tuono one to fit instead, in the hope of curing what is potentially a bit of a deal-breaker. Having wrists which are in agony and hands which are numb as hell don’t really help when you’ve got a hair-trigger throttle. If I’d wanted discomfort I would have bought an RSV4.

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The details

I said that Aprilia made more of an effort in styling, particularly up front. But in spending more time on the styling they’ve made some slightly questionable decisions. The old fairing was pig-ugly but had LED running lights and projector spots as headlights. The new one looks nicer, but has common bulbs for running lights and headlights. It’s not a major issue but it does seem like two steps forward and one back. Then there’s the ‘carbon.’ Look at that front mudguard.

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Now take a closer look...

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THAT’S NOT FUCKING CARBON!!! What it is in fact is plastic with some sort of shitty weave designed to ape carbon. Now I can’t fucking stand bare carbon, I think it looks hideous, but if there’s one thing that gets on my tits even more it’s fake carbon . There’s more of the shit on the sidepanels too!

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I’m sorry, but on a €17000 motorcycle that’s just unacceptable.

Now if you’ve been paying attention (and I can imagine you haven’t because I’ve been going on for a fair old while), any mention of difference in suspension has been conspicuous in its absence. There’s a very good reason for that, in the hands of an average-bordering-on-inept rider such as myself there isn’t any. The standard Sachs stuff on the non-Factory Tuono is perfectly adequate for road riding at an average pace. They aren’t the budget pogo sticks fitted to Japanese nakeds which get confused by a moderately bumpy corner. The step up to Ohlins flies right over my head. But they sure look cool.

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The 1100 Factory is an amazing step forwards compared to the old 1000, but to be honest the 1100 RR would have been as well. This isn’t to damn it with faint praise, I fucking love it, but I don’t think the extra couple of grand over the RR are spent particularly well if you aren’t riding everywhere at 100% (and let’s be honest, it’s a 160+bhp bike, that won’t happen very often) or on a track.