RideApart Review: Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200

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The Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 promises to be a fun bike, wrapping a 130bhp/85lb-ft, 1,200cc v-twin engine with edgy styling, nice components and an upright riding position.

Photos: Nate Harvey

What’s New
The name of the Dorsoduro’s game is fun. It doesn’t exist in any rigidly-defined class like a 600cc supersport or single-cylinder supermoto does. Heck, it’s not even really a supermoto, more a naked bike with some height. By not adhering to class distinctions or existing archetypes, it hopes to expand its appeal to a wide variety of riders, something it’s comfortable ergonomics and very accessible, $11,999 price help with.

Aprilia’s own, 1,197cc, liquid-cooled v-twin provides motivation. Rather than chase outright power, it delivers a very fat torque curve, developing 85lb-ft in its mid-range at 7,200rpm, while peak power of 130bhp arrives at 8,700rpm. That’s a ways behind the $16,995 Ducati Multistrada’s 150bhp and 92lb/ft figures, but in action, on the road, it doesn’t feel like there’s anything in it.

Swing your leg over the very tall, 34.25-inch seat and you settle into a narrow, long, dirt-style saddle. Despite that narrow width, it’s actually very comfortable. Something aided by the surprisingly low pegs, which really allow taller riders to stretch out on long rides.

Front forks are nice, if not overly-fancy 43mm, USD, fully-adjustable Sachs units while the shock is also a fully-adjustable Sachs. It’s side mounted, sans linkage, as is becoming a defining feature of non-superbike Aprilias. One of the main areas in which the Dorsoduro definitively departs from supermoto practice is in that suspension. It’s travel is only 6.3 inches (front) and 6.1 inches (rear), which is much closer to that of a road bike than it is something capable of travelling off road.

In contrast, the smaller, lighter Ducati Hypermotard SP we recently reviewed has 7.3 inches of front suspension travel and 6.9 at the rear. That’s part of the reason it feels and rides like a real supermoto.

The Dorso does maintain a dirt bike’s wide handlebars, complete with swoopy bash guards. Those guards come in handy, while the bike itself is remarkably slim, the bars are 36.4 inches wide, meaning the plastic guards do tend to familiarize themselves with car wing mirrors.

The Ride
Sean, Adey (pictured in all the photos) and I split time on the Dorsoduro over the course of several weeks, riding it through LA traffic, up and down the highway and through some of the best canyon roads in Southern California.

You feel every one of the Dorsoduro’s 494lbs of kerb weight, mostly because it is so tall. That makes it awkward the first few times you try and thread it through dense traffic. Abrupt reaction from the ride-by-wire throttle, regardless of which of the three modes you have it set in, doesn’t help there.

But, sitting up high, with good brakes and wide bars, you’re able to identify risks a long time before they become problems and are equipped with excellent tools for reacting to them.

On the highway, the Dorsoduro fairs better. That dinky little screen around its headlight actually doing a good job of keeping much of the wind blast off your torso. The engine really gets into its stride at higher speeds too, taking us up to an indicated 160mph at one point. It’s surprisingly comfortable and stable at that speed for a bike that’s so tall, upright and unfaired.

In the canyons, the Aprilia excels through 3rd and 4th gear sweepers, where it’s stable and planted and smooth, flicking between them with the aid of those wide bars. But, get it into the tighter 1st and 2nd gear stuff and that weight again becomes apparent. On The Snake or a similar road, the suspension is suddenly too soft, the throttle reaction to abrupt and the steering too imprecise to delivery much speed. Ground clearance is also surprisingly limited. It’s just the pegs that touch down, but they do touch down very early.

Photo: Shera Richter

What’s Good
Comfort, once you’ve climbed over that tall seat, is exceptionally good for a naked bike with a dirt-style seat. And sitting so high up, without a windscreen in the way, you have unrivaled vision.

The brakes are strong and predictable. Proving again that you don’t need race-spec components to deliver excellent braking on the road. Plain-Jane Brembo radial calipers are much more user friendly than the fancier Monoblocs or new M50s as used on the RSV4 R and Factory, respectively.

This is also an extremely striking, good-looking design that, complete with restrained color choices, looks years newer than most other bikes, even though its now a six-year old design.

The engine is powerful, flexible and punchy, belying its relatively tame peak output figures.

What’s Bad
Fueling is abrupt and jerky. We’ve ridden Dorsoduro’s equipped with aftermarket exhausts and their accompanying engine maps, which are flawless, but Aprilia appears to struggle to combine smooth fueling with legal emissions on this model. Not something that’s a problem on the faster V4 range.

At over 34 inches, the seat is going to be too tall for most riders and, at 494lbs (wet), it makes the bike difficult to manage for all but the strongest. Even Adey, who packs over 200lbs of muscle onto his 6’3” frame, struggled to pull the Dorsoduro backwards down my gravel driveway.

Surprisingly limited ground clearance is the penalty for all that leg room. You will drag peg in tight corners and that will limit your outright speed.

Despite its relatively short travel, the suspension’s damping is overly soft, causing the bike to wobble and weave if you really start putting serious cornering forces through it.

In combination, all of those factors can make the Dorsoduro feel surprisingly clumsy.

The Price
$11,999 is surprisingly cheap for a slice of Italian exotica with such a big motor. A 2013 Honda CBR600RR is only $500 cheaper, while the smaller Ducati Hypermotard starts at $11,995. A Triumph Speed Triple, of which the Dorsoduro reminds us of for its performance, capability and comfort, is $12,799, but does include ABS.

Photo: Shera Richter

The Verdict
The Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 is a fun, fast, capable motorcycle, but is a little too tall and a little to heavy for smaller riders and a little too limited for the really fast guys. If you just want to play though, this is going to be a good looking, rare, fun bike to have. If you want to wheelie, this is your motorcycle.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

Helmet: AGV Grid ($360)
Jacket: Dainese Speed Naked ($700)
Gloves: Dainese Steel Core Carbon ($260)
Boots: Dainese Axial Pro In ($500)

Helmet: Shoei RF-1100 ($400)
Leathers: Dainese Laguna Seca Pro ($1,200)
Gloves: Dainese Pro Metal RS ($250)
Boots: Dainese Axial Pro In ($500)

  • Seth Harvey

    I’ve been lusting after one of these to attack The Crest since I first saw them a couple years ago. My local Los Angeles dealers told me they were only shipping limited quantities to the US so good luck finding one. I guess I’ll have to “settle” for a Tuono instead :-)

  • Jono

    great write up guys, the naked segment keeps getting better and better.

    just wondering, would you ever consider doing a supermoto comparison article, including all the sweet euro factory sumos as well as what the Japanese companies are offering? I bet there’s plenty of interest out there….

    cheers =)

  • Stephen Mears

    Intersting to read the Caponord review from you guys following this. None of the euro rides complained about any of the things you gents had issues with, so maybe Aprilia sorted those issues.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      We’re looking forward to riding that bike and will as soon as one arrives in the States.

      • Stephen Mears

        Good deal. It would be cool if you had a small ticker of bikes you were currently in the process of reviewing. The amount of content you guys are pumping out these days is very impressive btw. It’s amazing to see how far you’ve come since the NYC days.

  • the antagonist

    A 500 lb supermoto? No thanks!

    • Mugget

      True that!

      Supermoto is not just about the long suspension and tall seat, the light weight is a big part as well.

      These big supermoto-wannabe road bikes will always just be road bikes with tall seats and wide ‘bars. Nothing wrong with that, but they’re never going to be anything like a supermoto because of their weight.

      • Shaun9lives

        Exactly. It might be a decent bike. This platform could be used to make a cheaper version of the Multistrada 1200 or something. But trying to pass it off as a supermoto is a bad joke.

        • Supermoto Central

          Bikes like these should be called a Hypermoto. For me Supermoto is a single cilinder bike with 700cc max.

          • Piglet2010

            I would rather have a Yamaha WR250X than this huge Aprilia, just as I am happier with my current Ninja 250R than I was with my former CBR600F4i. Less is more in motorcycles as well as architecture.

        • Stephen Mears

          Cheaper version of the Multi? You mean the Caponord?

  • Mark Vizcarra

    This bike is pretty awesome. I test rode this in San Fran and unfortunately dumped it during the test ride. Coming from a 900 lb harley this machine is pretty light coming from a guy that is 5’5″. Just because it weighs a certain weight doesn’t mean its a fat heavy pig. Get real and take one out for a spin.

    • Strafer

      So what happens if you dump a bike during a test ride? Dealer’s insurance covers it? Your insurance covers it? Or are you the proud new owner of a Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 lol?

      • Mugget

        Dealers here in Aus will make you sign their waiver before you can test ride. Usually includes a $3-3.5k insurance excess!

        But from what I have been told, that justcovers them for a worst case scenario (totaling the bike). If it’s only minor damage, then you’ll only have to pay for that.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      no, it’s a fat heavy pig because it weighs way more than anything you could compare it to and that weight negatively impacts it’s performance/abilities

  • Miles Prower

    I love so many of Miguel Galluzzi’s designs (including the *gasp* Moto Guzzi California 1400). Of all the maxi-’tards, the Dorsoduro is the best looking — by far.

    But I can’t get over the weight! Even the original 750 Dorsoduro weighs as much as my Multistrada 1200. And compared to my 690 Duke, the 750 Dorsoduro is 120 lbs heavier in curb weight!

  • Supermoto Central

    How do you want to “fix” a thirsty twin engine? That’s just the nature of the engine configuration.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      A larger tank is the easy fix, true. I will leave the engine-engineering to the professionals.

    • yyzmxs

      I get 4.5 – 6l/100km… Comparable to others… Not a F800R territory but that engine is blunt and boring.

  • yyzmxs

    I have 750 version and it is definitely a pig. Mine is 460lbs wet and you can feel the top heavy distribution. The bike is fun and large revvy engine like not many other bikes. If it was about 30-40 lbs lighter it would be fabulous.

  • Jason Ludlow

    I have an ’11 model and it really is heavy, but accelerates like a small superbike. Braking is better than I ever expected, but low speed handling is a bit tricky. Wheelies are super easy with the traction control off, although the throttle reaction can catch you out sometimes, feeling pretty snatchy and too quick. After having a GSXR 1000, its definitely slower, however riding through traffic upright inspires loads of schoolboy naughtiness so the fun and smile factor leaves you happy and inspired after you take your helmet off.