2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 | Review

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2011 Aprilia 1200

It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here. Aprilia has launched the first of a range of 1200cc-twin powered products. The 2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 will naturally be the most exciting of them all. A 130 horsepower supermoto motorcycle is a mouth-watering prospect.

I’m sliding out of every roundabout and each corner. The roads are slippery, but it’s mostly due to the fact that the pace isn’t high enough yet for the hard Pirelli tires. Later, when the pace is higher I gain the confidence needed on deadly exciting narrow mountain roads.

I continue to insist on riding the maxi-motards supermoto style. I have a lot more fun riding them that way, and it’s just as fast a riding style as the conventional knee-down style, if not faster. The Dorsoduro 1200 is liquid-cooled, just like its 750cc brother.

Due to this, there’s a wide radiator messing with the supermoto riding style a little, as your boots can’t reach as far forward to the front wheel as on a proper motard.

The new steel-trellis frame might look the same as on the 750, but it’s stronger and stiffer, so it is also a little heavier. Aprilia has compensated a little by making the rear subframe lighter, but there’s no reason to think that that improvement won’t benefit the 750 in the future.

The Dorsoduro 1200 tackles the corners with great agility, and that supermoto feeling where you can place the front wheel exactly where you want is there. The Dorsoduro 1200 is a fairly heavy machine (467 pounds, claimed dry) compared to something like the Ducati Hypermotard, but it does have 30 extra horsepower to compensate.

The chassis is ultra-stable for this type of bike. Nailing the throttle out of first and second gear corners, there’s nothing but smoothness with the correct traction control and riding mode selected. Riding a supermoto to the limit, sliding in and out of corners, requires some superhuman skills on something like the smaller Aprilia SXVs.

The Dorsoduro 1200, however, allows the street riding public to approach some of those skills in a safe way. With that big 1197cc engine and stiff chassis, I couldn’t feel anything resembling that of riding a heavy bike. The Dorso 1200 just feels nimble and willing to my inputs.

The suspension from Sachs features a 43mm USD fork with over six inches of travel. The Cantilever style Sachs shock at the back also allows just over six inches of axle travel. This suspension package is of the best you can put on a maxi-motard–the top of the line is the Sachs 50mm BPF you’ll find on the Ducati Hypermotard SP).

Forget about Öhlins, as they don’t specialize on Supermoto, Sachs does. The long travel allows you to brake deep into corners and, should there not be enough grip, a slide is controllable.

At the rear, it’s the same story–the suspension is ready for pretty much any abuse you can dish out. Riding in a straight line, or even cruising, the suspension isn’t too taut and soaks up bumps nearly as well as a full on supermoto.

The steering angle despite the big radiator at the front is free and quick allowing you to make U-turns more quickly than a city scooter. One of the great things about off-road and supermoto bikes is the freedom of that front wheel to be placed exactly where you want it to be.

The rest of the body simply has to follow in the fashion–you decide be it sideways or not. The Dorsoduro take you towards that freedom whilst motorcycles like the Shiver don’t.

The double 320mm disc set up with radial Brembo brakes ensures plenty of power for braking maneuvers and the 240mm rear disc with a one piston Brembo caliper takes care of the sliding into corners bit nicely.

In most markets, the Dorsoduro 1200 will be delivered with ABS as standard. I can cope with ABS on the Shiver, but not on the Dorsoduro. The ABS works just fine as a safety feature on a rainy day, but for any other weather condition I’d prefer it off. Fortunately, Aprilias allow that. The ABS always turns on automatically after turning the ignition completely off and then on.

The 1197cc liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin engine has got that full and rich feel that is lacking on the 750. The midrange is strong with torque and twin goodness, and it accelerates in a rewarding fashion all the way from 4000 rpm and up to the maximum power of 130 horsepower at 8700 rpm.

In high gears with low load, there’s a fine push from 5000 rpm. Maximum torque of 85 ft/lbs at 7200 rpm ensures plenty of momentum, even at much lower rpm, telling of a nice and flat curve.

Aprilia has two sides to it to the company–the full-on racing heart represented by the SXV/RXV and RSV4, and the bona fide road bikes represented by the Dorsoduro and Shiver.

The difference is that the racing engines are 100-percent Aprilia-engineered, while the 750/1200 engines are engineered by Piaggio (which, of course, owns Aprilia). This is good news if you’re worried about high mileage reliability on as few dealer service appointments as possible.

The new 1200 130 horsepower twin engine isn’t stressed at all and there’s good reason to expect a touring machine featuring this engine in the near future. The Dorsoduro 1200 accelerates up and above 125 mph as easy as anything.

On the motorways there’s naturally lots of wind resistance due to the upright riding position, but the seat is long (and a lot comfier than a real supermoto) and I could slide backwards and tuck my off-road helmet nearly low enough to take advantage of the small racing number plate style wind cowling.

The mirrors provided a decent enough rearward view without too much vibration. There’s no weaving from side to side at high speed such as is normal on, let’s say, a 650cc single-cylinder bike.

Back on the twisty mountain roads is where the Dorsoduro 1200 really shines. In most markets, the traction control will be delivered as standard with the ABS. The traction control system is basically the same as on the superbike RSV4 Factory APRC, but with some of the features and functionality removed.

The lower-spec traction control is also all you need on a bike like the Dorsoduro, and it’s adjustable to three levels plus off. I found that it gave me a lot of extra confidence just riding fast with the traction control on Setting One, which is the least intrusive setting.

Move up to Two and Three and more and more torque is removed from the lower rpm calculations, based on pre programmed maps. Level three, along with ABS and the Rain riding mode, should allow you to pin the throttle on snow and ice, but it wouldn’t be fun.

The whole point of all these rider aids is that you can if you wish tame the beast completely. The best part is perhaps that if you as a new rider want to measure and control your own progression into the high performance world of motorcycling, you can do this on one bike. Experienced riders will have to put up with the annoyance that you can’t change everything whilst riding.

Only the three riding levels of Sport, Touring and Rain can be adjusted whilst riding and it’s not in rapid fashion as the throttle must be off and there’s the odd 3 seconds or more wait which is too much whilst on the move unless you’re alone on the road.

If you like to pull some wheelies, the traction control needs turning off because there are some calculations needed from the front wheel that simply disappear when the wheel is in the air. That makes the system think it should cut power, which it does. A short wheelie is still possible but not the long second gear ones.

The Dorsoduro 1200 is all I ever wanted from the 750 that wasn’t there. The 1200 engine has all that full richness I always look for in V-twins. That now sorted the bike is now 100-percent pure fun. The Dorsoduro 1200 is better in every area than the 750, and the traction control prevents serious palpitations exciting the corners with big throttle openings on high lean.

Despite the large capacity, it feels a million times smaller than BMW’s HP2 Megamoto, for instance, though compared to the proper supermotos, it’s big and heavy. Due to the fact that it’s liquid-cooled and reliable, sturdily built, and with useful safety features, I’m inclined to say that the Dorsoduro 1200 might be one of the city commuter’s best choices in 2011.