Mana 850 GT Review
The year 2009 seems to be the year when electric could get a breakthrough into our consciousness for the future in motorcycling and I think the Aprilia Mana 850 GT could be the motorcycle to bring us into a new era in a smooth way.
Piaggio, the owners of Aprilia, deserves kudos for trying to lead the way in many new areas in the two-wheeled world. Piaggio is making innovative three-wheeled scooters (the MP3) and large capacity motorcycles with automatic transmission (the Mana) mainstream, and there are serious hybrids on its way too.
When it comes down to dead-easy practicality and clever solutions, the Aprilia Mana 850 GT is right up there. Under the tank-dummy, there’s room for a full-face helmet. and in the panniers you can put everything else needed for touring. Release the hand brake, fire it up twist and go. This is scooter practicality in a big motorcycle and it really can charm even a big bad motorcyclist given half a chance.
I rode the Aprilia Mana 850 GT alongside the conventional Aprilia Shiver 750 GT, and I must say that for touring I would choose the Mana 850 GT each time. Everything is so smooth, easy and practical, and I don’t miss the conventional gearing. The big Mana 850cc twin is a much smoother than the raw 750 twin in the Shiver, and nearly as fast.
The seat is comfortable and vibrations from the engine almost non-existent. I’ve left the Aprilia Mana 850 GT in sports automode. This also enable manual downshifts where you can use the minus button to gain maximum revs when you want them for a little more lively acceleration past traffic. The other auto modes are rain and touring that smoothen the already smooth power delivery even more.
The second mode is a 7-speed sequential where you use the +/- buttons actively. If you forget to downshift when reducing speed the Aprilia Mana 850 GT will do it for you. There’s no clutch handle on the left side of the handlebar and all you have to play with is the gear mode buttons. On the right hand side is the conventional front brake lever and I’m riding the ABS version.
With powerful radial mounted brakes the Aprilia Mana 850 GTcould possibly be a bit of a handful for customers upgrading from a scooter, so the ABS version would be recommended for those not so accustomed to a powerful front brake. Riding up and down steep mountain passes I was more than satisfied with both the brakes and the power of the automatic engine. No scooter can do these steep Alpine passes as effortlessly as the Mana 850 GT.
The Aprilia Mana 850 GT is many things to many different riders. If you’re upgrading from a scooter or a small motorcycle, the Mana 850 is a real motorcycle. If you’re downgrading from a more powerful conventional motorcycle, the Mana 850 is a bit of an oddity, though a practical no nonsense real world vehicle that will take you from A-to-B in the most effortless fashion. What’s there not to like about that?
The center of gravity is quite low on the Mana 850 GT, and the handling slightly different to the Shiver 750 GT. If there’s one area the 750 Shiver really beats the Mana it’s in the handling department. The Mana 850 doesn’t lean with the same ease. but it does lean. The footpegs are scraping through the corners and I put my knee out just as on any sporty motorcycle. It just doesn’t have the same mass centralization and frame as the Shiver, and so behaves slightly differently through the corners. The lower center of gravity makes the Mana very easy to ride at crawling speed, which is important for new riders.
The suspension is comfortable, but also enables entertainment through the countless hairpin corners. At the front we find 43mm upside down forks, adjustable for preload. In the rear is a laterally offset shock that is adjustable for preload by a knob. The steel trellis and aluminum swingarm keeps the whole thing together in a solid fashion. The tires are Pirelli’s all new Angel ST sport touring tires that works well on both dry and wet tarmac. The dimensions are firmly motorbike territory in a 180/55-ZR17 rear and a 120/70-ZR17 front. The standard Aprilia Mana 850 weighs in at a dry 399 pounds and for the GT it’s safe to add at least 20 pounds without it being mentioned in the press kit.
The Mana 850 GT is distinctive straight away, as it has an adjustable windscreen. This windscreen is slightly better than the one on the Aprilia Shiver 750 GT, as it is a bit taller. It gave decent protection against the varying weather conditions I encountered in the Alps. The big panniers are also standard on the GT, but the top box is an accessory. The tank dummy contains a large storage compartment that will fit a full-faced helmet or lots of other touring essentials. The faux tank is opened by using a button on the handlebar and, should the battery ever be flat, there’s a manual button under the pillion seat. The compartment is illuminated when it’s dark.
For city usage, the 76 horsepower 850cc V-twin responds immediately and with more than enough power to leave cars far behind you. The Aprilia Mana as a naked bike is the most perfect city vehicle with motorbike performance and twist-and-go properties offered by a CVT (constantly variable transmission). Life is busy in the city, so if you can leave the gearing for the machine to worry about, there’s one less thing for you to think about. Add the ABS brakes and you only concentrate on pointing the Mana where you want to go.
The Aprilia Mana 850 GT is the motorbike world’s answer to the prosumer point-and-shoot digital camera. It’s has professional features and capabilities, but it’s as easy to use as any consumer camera. If you should ever run out of fuel–it’s not easy as the automatic mode is very fuel efficient–you can open the pillion seat and refuel the 4.2-gallon fuel tank.
When out for a quick spin or going to the shops, the Aprilia Mana 850 GT could well be the answer. It’s a lovely creation from Aprilia, and when you add in the GT’s extra practicality, not much could go wrong. There are better handling bikes out there, and the Aprilia Shiver 750 GT is one of them, but I’ve already made my mind up if the choice were between the two–the Mana is the Manna for me.
If you want to learn more about riding motorcycles, then the Aprilia Mana isn’t it. It’s lacking the gearbox and clutch and, as such, doesn’t teach you how to ride a conventional motorcycle. If you don’t care about that, then the Aprilia Mana 850 GT is the most practical thing in the world. If you do get tired with it after a while there’s nothing similar to upgrade to except, perhaps, the new Honda VFR1200F.
That said, I believe there’s a definite market for this motorcycle and the biggest potential customer group should be current car drivers or scooter riders. For everyone else it’s something worth trying. It’s not necessarily the answer to your future motorbike cravings, but it could be the perfect spare bike or preparation for an electric revolution! Photos by Milagro