Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200: Italian for hooligan

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160mph indicated top speed. Leaned over power wheelies leaving almost every corner. A throttle response so addictive that you won’t be able to help yourself. It’s not a sportsbike, but it’s faster than a 600 everywhere except right at the apex. It also puts down 118hp to the rear wheel and has an incredibly smooth and flat torque curve. As a naked bike, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 has one more impressive trick: get down in a racing tuck and you’ll find that the miniature fly-screen actually generates a secret bubble for you to hide behind.

Photos: Bucky Sacrilege

It might be heavy
The Dorso’s two closest competitors, the KTM 990 Supermoto R (441 lbs wet) and the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo(377 dry), are quite a bit more trim, but its portly 492lbs of weight are just not a big deal. Bikes competing in this class of motorcycle aren’t racing bikes; feel is much more important than outright speed and the feel of the Dorso is confidence inspiring. Really. Despite the heft the bike feels nimble — comparable to the Yamaha WR250R we’re also running around on right now. You can get closer to the bars and the hand grips are much closer together than the widespread variety you’d find on a Hyper. The seat is tall and the pegs (while not low enough to scrape) allow your legs to stretch quite a bit more than a sportsbike would.

But it’s fast
Like really fast. With 130bhp at the crank, it absolutely blows the 95bhp Hypermotard away and embarrasses the 114bhp KTM 990 Supermoto R too. Peak torque is only 75lb/ft, but it makes nearly all of that before 3,000rpm and the additional couple of lb/ft build ever so slowly before things begin to drop off at the end of the rev range.

Drop three gears and dump the clutch while braking hard to get a little sideways on corner entry. You’ll feel like a superhero. Though the 27.3º rake is only .7º away from a Diavel, it’s set up that way for a reason. You’ll be happy to have that rake for stability at 160mph and the rest of the time, turn-in will be so blazingly fast that you’ll never wish for steeper geometry.

The Dorso 750 was endowed with a flexy flyer chassis and crappy forks. Even Aprilia factory techs admit to that. Not so with the 1200. Forks have been upgraded to fully adjustable Sachs units that are easy to adjust on the fly. Once you’ve got your sag set, you can adjust compression and rebound without ever leaving the seat using just the pointy end of the key. It’s nice when one fork handles compression and the other handles rebound. The shock is also from Sachs and is also fully adjustable, though it’s disappointing to see whiz-bang adjusters on the forks and a boring old set of preload rings out back. The chassis itself is awesome and has been significantly upgraded from the 750. Tube diameter is up from 30 to 32mm, and they’re 1mm thicker too. Extra plates have also been added around the steering head to increase stiffness. As a package, it does nothing but inspire confidence. Front end feel is good enough to trail-brake all the way through downhill decreasing radius corners after just a few hours on the bike. Rear end feel is just as good. If you’re dragging your knees a bit and feel like you’re on the edge of the tire, you probably are. Most owners will likely end up swapping to a steepr 190 rear for a little more lean angle.

Ride it like a road racer, a supermoto or just sit on top. In most circumstances, it doesn’t matter too much. The seat is a little too tall and the factory fitted 180 rear tire too flat if you’re used to dragging your knees on sportsbikes, but if you hang way off and stick your knee way out, it’ll likely touch just as you’re rolling onto the very edge of the rear tire. The ideal riding style for going fast on the Dorso is a mix between proper roadracing and supermoto (think Eddie Lawson on a KZ1000R). Scoot back in the seat and brake late, turn in, hang off and get to full lean as fast as possible, hit your mark, then stand the bike up, scoot forward and roll the throttle wide open to pick the front end up once you can see the corner exit. The Dorso feels like it was designed to be ridden this way.

It’s comfortable
Even comfortable enough to be used as a touring rig if you compliment its already nice fit and finish with the right accessories. After a 300-mile day on a Hyper, most riders would be spent. Something about the wind blast, seating position and the seat itself make it uncomfortable when it comes time to do some distance. In stock form, the Dorso is pretty decent for a long day on the road. The seat is plenty comfortable, the pegs have removable, thick rubber pads that deaden vibration and the bars are in a sensible place. Aprilia offers factory saddle bags, a tank bag, tail bag and tank side bags, as well as an extra comfy gel seat for the Dorso 750 so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same become available for for the 1200, along with taller aftermarket windscreens.

It manages the unexpected
Smart aerodynamic styling comes out to play on the Dorso. Radiator exhaust is ducted away from your legs and those large tank shrouds are great to tuck your knees behind. The flimsy plastic hand guards start to make sense when you realize they actually do keep wind off your hands and that miniature fly-screen is designed so that at speed, there’s a bubble of still air to hide behind (a feature you won’t find on the Super Duke or Hyper or any other supermoto-style bike for that matter).

But it’s not for pussies
Reviews elsewhere have seen the big Dorso take criticism for its snappy throttle response in Sport Mode, but this is not a relaxed Sunday cruiser. If you find it’s most comfortable in Rain Mode, you should probably just get on another bike. This is a damn serious motorcycle and it demands respect.

In fact, aside from the KTM 990 SMR, this is the first supermoto-style, large-capacity bike we’ve ridden that actually makes sense. Unlike air-cooled rivals, the power is there for supermoto-style wheelies every time you open the throttle and the control is even there for supermoto-style slides. Aprilia enthusiasts have bemoaned the disappearance of the old v-twin Tuono from the model range in the run up to the North American release of the new V4 model this fall, but they shouldn’t. This Dorsoduro has all that old character and performance while managing to be approximately the sexiest-looking new motorcycle that’s been in our hands this year. Can’t say that about the old Tuono. Everyone we know that’s seen it, sat on it or ridden it is now trying to find a way to buy it. That shouldn’t be too hard; at $11,999 it’s the same price as the slower Ducati and $2,000 cheaper than the KTM.

  • Glenngineer

    Great to see Aprilia come out with another winner. I’d ditch the Strom for this in a heartbeat, if I didn’t have two years of school left.

  • Gene

    “Hooligun”?? Don’t you mean “hooligan”?

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      It’s a shot across the bow of Cleveland Cyclewerks. Be afraid!

  • Denzel

    “nimble…comparable to the Yamaha WR250R we’re also running around on right now”

    That good huh?

    • Sean Smith

      Yep. It turns that fast.

      • Denzel

        Awesome that everything works so well together then. Hopefully companies will keep dialing in their products. I’m looking forward to you riding the Husky Nuda, with high end components,”more than 100 hp” and less than 386 lbs” wtf…385?

        • Sean Smith

          Dry weight is basically an imaginary made-up number. That’s without fork oil, a battery, shock oil, brake fluid, motor oil and coolant. My GSX-R has a “dry” weight of something like 383, but even after tearing off lots of heavy factory parts, exhaust with cat, huge can, big mirrors with signals and carbon canister, it’s still over 400 pounds. From the factory it’s 426.

          I’d bet good money that the Nuda will end up somewhere around there and be extremely close, at least in acceleration, with the Super Duke R and the Dorso 1200.

          • Gene

            “Dry weight” always pisses me off. It should be “weight w/o fuel” so bikes with larger tanks & more range don’t get penalized… but no fork & brake fluid? That’s enough to make me find my AK-47 and a clock tower.

          • Denzel

            SO your GSX-R has a ‘marketing’ dry weight of 383ish, but from the factory, without fuel, it’s 426? Nice… and I thought I could trust everyone…

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

      When I owned a KTM 950 SM and a 625 SMC, the heavier/bigger 950 was WAY more nimble than the 625, especially while accelerating. The 625 really had to be leaned way over to get it to turn, and sticking out your foot, supermoto-style, was pretty much a necessity. The 950, on the other hand, turned in effortlessly and pulled itself upright out of a more natural lean with a smooth twist of the throttle. I often felt like I was fighting a giant gyroscope every time I tried to turn the 625 quickly.

      Geometry, mass centralization, size/weight of the flywheel — I guess all of that had more to do with the “feel” of the motorcycle than the total weight.

      Speaking of the flywheel — I loved how the 950 SM was pretty much flywheel-less. I found it much easier to shift (especially downshift), and I rarely used the clutch on it.

  • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

    This bike has one of the best looking stock exhausts in those though euro 3 times.
    Haven’t had the chance to ride it yet but i like the big supermoto genre, i love my corsaro but miss my duke 2 when i’m in the city, maybe that’s the perfect combination…

    • Gene

      Plus they actually did a decent job of the obligatory ugly plate bracket, one that isn’t pleading to be shredded the moment you get the bike home. I could live with this one.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

      im actually not into the exhaust on the bike, but they sound incredible. the arrow’s look reeeeeally nice on this bike. http://www.apriliaforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=178482

  • Jeff

    Thanks for the review, I have been looking at and reading about this bike for a bit. It sounds like winner, winner, chicken dinner to me. I have always liked Aprilia, they have always made nice, neat stuff. When I bought my last bike it came down to them and Ducati… The 1098 just tugged at my heart strings stronger at the time than the RSV1000. I might have to get one of these to have as a sit up, longer distance, stinkload of fun, wheelie monster, hooligan inspiring daily rider.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    A lovely motorbike, to be sure. And it is priced exceptionally right. Too bad I am a pussy.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

      touring mode isn’t bad. gives you the horsepower without the kick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

    Sean, you’re the resident body position expert. When riding a bike with bars instead of clipons in the twisties, do you still keep your butt to the back of the seat or do you jam your junk against the tank?

    • Restless Lip Syndrome

      Nuts on the tank seems to work best for getting these style bikes around tight turns. Sitting farther back on the seat doesn’t produce the same results, at least on a track in my experience.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

        Same with a naked bike, you think, or particular to the motard style?

        I’m coming from a Z1000. I went a long stint of pure commuting and, recently, went out for a mildly twisty ride. My habit has always been to be up against the tank, as I feel like I have considerably more leverage on the bars, but the “body positioning” article had me questioning that. Scooting back didn’t feel comfortable, but the whole ride frankly didn’t after so much time away from that sort of riding.

        • HammSammich

          I don’t ride this sort of bike, and I’m no racer, so this may be completely bass-ackwards, but I always feel more confident and comfortable riding agressively in the twisties when my chin bar is closer to bar clamps. This position essentially requires scooting your @ss back.

    • Sean Smith

      “The ideal riding style for going fast on the Dorso is a mix between proper roadracing and supermoto (think Eddie Lawson on a KZ1000R). Scoot back in the seat and brake late, turn in, hang off and get to full lean as fast as possible, hit your mark, then stand the bike up, scoot forward and roll the throttle wide open to pick the front end up once you can see the corner exit.”

      I mix a few styles together to really make things work. All I’m doing is moving my weight around and making sure I still have clear vision and enough leverage to make the bike do what I want it to.

  • ktaisa

    why is this more like the hyper than the 1098 streetfighter?

    • Sean Smith

      Because they’re both large fake supermotos.

  • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut

    Can you even buy the KTM anymore? I thought they stopped selling it in the states.

  • JTourismo

    Is this engine an in house Ape design, or is it built by rotax like their old twins?

    • stink

      it is an Aprilia original.

      • Rick

        Almost ten years ago Piaggio displayed an advanced new 90-degree twin of ~850cc that was intended for a Gilera, but it never entered production. I believe Aprilia inherited this engine project from Piaggio after the takeover in 2004, they’ve done the development work on a motor design born elsewhere.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

    The only thing I disagree with in this article is the bit about comfort. The first thing i would change on it is the seat. it’s too wide and could be a tad squishier. I found that my ass was super sore at the end of every day after my daily 50 mile commute from Long Beach to Orange County and back, which isn’t the case on pretty much everything else i’ve ridden outside of sportbikes which hurt my back (insert joke about my ass being sore because i live with Wes here). I was so glad I didnt end up taking it up to Laguna with you because there’s no way i could have done that many miles in one day on it, I had to ride it up to la after work one day and could not have been happier to get off of it after getting there.

    other than that, this is by far the scariest and most fun bike i’ve ridden yet. this bike just moved to the top of my short list.

  • Todd

    What’s the fuel tank capacity and range on the 1200 Dorso? I’m curious as to how easily it could be slotted into SPORT-Touring duty. The mention of available luggage sounds promising, but if it’s 115 miles between fill-ups, that might not cut it for me.

    FWIW, the new Ninja 1000 is quite appealing to me too.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

      not great. best i got was 103 miles on a tank and it was about to die as i pulled into the gas station. it’s onboard computer said i was averaging 35 mpg, but in reality it was much more like 25. really didnt seem to matter if i rode like an asshole or rode normal either.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        100 miles to the tank is unfortunate for real world (read as: my) commuting use.

        • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

          agreed. 100%

          however, i had the same problem on the r1 we had. i was bummed about it on the r1, on the dorso it just felt like the price of riding around with a huge grin.

          in all honesty, it has so much power that i started looking at the 750 because it gets better gas mileage and if it’s anywhere close to as fun, will be a good fit for my use.

          • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

            With regard to the 750, I was thinking the exact same thing. Get out of my head.

            ‘Certain other magazines’ attribute the 750 with a flexible chassis and less than awesome suspension and brakes.

            While my uneducated arse is unlikely to be able to pick apart the details, I wonder how much of the total package gets diluted if the brakes and suspension aren’t quite up to the 1200 feel.

            • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

              i have the same questions and know i’ll be suggesting we try and get one at every chance i get.

              get a petition going, wes caves when you annoy him just so he doesnt have to hear you whine at him, how do you think grant gets him to be the big spoon?

      • Todd

        Thanks for the added info. Well, that sorta kills it for me. I don’t really see the point in having such small tanks & limited range on bikes – especially non race replicas. I mean if weight is such a critical concern for a given rider, they don’t HAVE to fill the tank; but at least give riders the option/ability to go more than a 100 miles. I primarily like to ride in rural mountainous areas where gas stations can be fairly infrequent. 100 mile range isn’t anything, and realistically you need to start thinking about it around 75 miles or earlier so you know you can make it. That impacts the routes themselves and often causes you to have to stop for gas even earlier because you don’t know when your next opportunity for gas will be.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    I’m really feeling this bike, high-wristed ergos, snatchy throttle response and all.

    The greatest question remains unanswered: Why is the deathsheep on the right side, with the skull looking towards the back? I imagined leftside-forward facing would be canon.

    • Denzel

      Yes, and are they still superimposed, or are we using real stickers now? :)

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

        That’s a real sticker.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I like to put them on the “up” side so they’re visible when parked.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        I can get behind that. Mine’s on the other side so Deathsheep is looking out for the next thing trying to kill me.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Well Grant only trusts me with a couple stickers at a time, so I have to use them sparingly. Guess he figures I’d cause mayhem if I had access to a bunch.

          • HammSammich

            I’m picturing you clandestinely covering over missing children’s faces on the milk cartons in your supermarket dairy aisle…

          • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

            Clandestine HFL Deathsheep on patrol bikes. You won’t.

  • Rick

    A few weeks ago I saw a new BMW R1200R parked at Nepenthe in Big Sur, and it got me thinking…about Aprilia.

    Why not do something similar with this big V-twin? Forget today’s supermoto / adv tourer pretense, put that 1200cc engine in a standard motorcycle that can carry factory hardbags (think Futura or Caponord). Give it excellent ROAD dynamics and a real five gallon fuel tank (more mpgs too, please). Step back to a simpler and practical yet super sporty machine that can do more, and its owner smiling all day long.

    With its incredibly short range and 34.3″ seat height the Dorsoduro 1200 won’t be more than a minor niche bike, and that’s not gonna help this brand rebuild or expand its dealer network much.

    No, think about that R1200R again and design something better for more riders, Aprilia.

    Grazie Mille!

  • Austin Milbarge

    How does this compare to the KTM SMT?

    • Sean Smith

      It probably does some things better and other things not so good. They’re completely different bikes.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The SMT is more touring/commute oriented, but has a similarly poor tank range.

      • Austin Milbarge

        I am suprised to hear that. Loved my SMT until it was recently totaled in a collision(I’ll enter the next scar off) and am looking for a replacement. I am trying to find a bike that has more power than the SMT, a little more cornering clearance, but just as “flickable” with a similar seating postion and hooligan undertones. Is this such a bike? I would think the weight would disqualify it…

        • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

          My local Aprilia dealer, when I considered trading in my KTM 950 SM for a 750 Dorso (before the 1200 was available), talked me out of it. They said that the Dorso was heavy and sluggish compared to my 950 SM. Granted, I never got a chance to ride the Dorso — but at least two of the guys at the dealership had ridden my 950 SM when I dropped it off for a week for some carburetor work. (I told them to ride it.)

          Have you read Kevin Ash’s reviews of the 990 SMT, 990 SMR, and 1200 Dorso? Read them back-to-back and infer the comparison:

          http://www.ashonbikes.com/content/ktm-990-sm-t
          http://www.ashonbikes.com/content/ktm-990-sm-r
          http://www.ashonbikes.com/content/aprilia-dorsoduro-1200-review

          And while you’re there, check out Kevin’s take on the KTM 1190 RC8 as a sport tourer, instead of a track bike:

          http://www.ashonbikes.com/content/ktm-1190-rc8

          • Austin Milbarge

            thanks, interesting take on a rc8 being a sports tourer. I’m 6’5″ and typically do not fit onto sport bikes, I will sit on one next time I am in a KTM dealership

            • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

              Keep in mind that the RC8 is super adjustable, including seat height, so see if theyll adjust it for your size. I’m 6′ 2″ and it’s all day comfy for me.

  • Paul

    Sean – sorry to be late to this party, but you’ve written a heck of a review here. Stunning really. I’m trying to assess how you and Kevin ash came out so differently on whether the bike is nimble or heavy and slow. Did you make some adjustments to the suspension that you could share? Did you ride the same bike? I’m going to try to arrange for a test ride, but I’m curious. Thanks.

    • Sean Smith

      Our guy at Aprilia knows I’m somewhat of an aggressive and fast rider, so he sets the bikes up accordingly. I did dial in a little more compression and rebound in the forks, but those are very minor changes.

      The bike I rode felt amazing pretty much everywhere. I read Kevin’s review and came across this paragraph:

      “The Sport engine map option though is very aggressive and even in good conditions, on twisty roads and also around town is just too sudden and twistgrip sensitive. Even when going for it along a fabulously sinuous road I was more comfortable and probably faster too using Touring mode.”

      I absolutely love sport mode. What this says to me is that Kevin is a more laid-back rider, where as I am a very aggressive rider. The harsh, instant power that comes from a minuscule movement of the twist grip is just what you need to pick the front wheel up at 25º of lean.

  • Paul

    Fair point. The part of Kevin’s review that left me scratching my head was the “Dorsoduro does handle very well, with nuetral steering and accomplished suspesnion, but it feels quite heavy and slow to flick side to side.” Obviously, there’s a fair amount of subjectivity at play here and I need to ride it for myself. Many thanks for the feedback Sean.

    • Sean Smith

      It turns exceptionally fast and feels like it weighs nothing. It’s a v-twin with big wide handle bars. Just turn them to the lock and see how long it takes to change direction.

      The only thing it needs to change direction in a hurry is a good firm input. Don’t tip-toe around steering, the bike will turn as fast as you make it turn.

  • Paul

    got it. youre the man. thanks

    • Sean Smith

      No problem, I’m always happy to help.

  • Paul

    Sean – got the bike, did 1000 miles. you were spot on. Sean Smith1. Kev Ash 0.