2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 | Review

2012 Aprilia Motorcycle

Mount Etna has just erupted and the mountain is covered in smoke and morning mist. Down in Catania, there’s a layer of smoke around the 180mm Pirelli Diablo Rosso II vulcanised rear tire aboard the 2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 I’m testing, so I better put the traction control on.

At the start of our ride in Sicily there were actually considerable amounts of black ash deposit that covered the entire road in places apart from in the car wheel tracks. Let me tell you straight away that this stuff is very slippery so ABS brakes and traction control were a very good idea early on in the ride.

The Aprilia Dorsoduro’s 1197cc (106×67.8mm) V-twin engine is in the same horsepower league as the V-twin superbikes of 10 years ago but much less stressed.

When accelerating with full throttle out of corners, the sound of the Aprilia’s engine is overpowering, and it goes from a nice twin tootle to full on superbike sound in a second. The acceleration is quite violent in fact and if you’re coming straight ofF an in-line four 600 you should show caution.

Aprilia still claims 130 horsepower at 8,700 rpm and 85 ft. lbs. at 7,200 rpm, but engineer Mauro Salvador told me that they are now working on the upper range of their crank claims which allegedly means 134 horsepower. Aprilia has achieved these performance gains by reducing friction loss and by adding a new engine map.

To control all this V-twin power, the Dorsoduro 1200 has traction control and riding modes. The Sport riding mode is fierce and gives instant access to the full on torque beast and 130 horsepower. This mode should really be called pure unadulterated difficult fun mode or simply riding mode OFF. It’s really like riding with no engine control at all with Traction Control off and a beastly throttle response.

Then you have the Touring mode, which in reality is the Sport mode as this is where everything works best also for medium to fast riders. You get a smooth and predictable throttle response with or without traction control. You basically get some torque control in early rpm and a full release at higher rpm so that the rear wheel doesn’t spin out too fast or too early.

Rain mode is for severe weather and the max output is reduced to 100 horsepower. I still find myself getting really irritated each time I want to change riding modes as it’s practically impossible to do it while riding as throttle must be off and it takes an eternity for the system to obey my input on the starter button.

It would be a massive improvement if Aprilia just incorporated the riding modes in the traction control but just increase the TC levels to six different levels where level one could be Sport mode with traction control set to level one and level six Rain mode with traction control set at level three. Everything in between could be the different riding modes but with a suitable variation in traction control.

The traction control is also adjustable in three levels and off, but here I only find level 1 or off with Touring engine map useful. Unlike the riding modes, traction-control settings can be changed with ease but only when the Dorsoduro is at stand still.

This is still better than the riding mode selection and change procedure. I rode a vast part of the test with all rider aids turned off apart from the Touring engine map. This is how I like the Dorsoduro 1200 best, and despite going from great lean into early and hard acceleration, the rear wheel never spins up enough for me to have any wish for traction control.

If riding modes had been easier to change on the go or we had had more five-minute breaks splitting up the riding I would have explored Sport mode with traction control set to level one a lot more but there you go a launch test can’t always be perfect. The engine and throttle response is definitely better in Touring mode and as such the Dorsoduro 1200’s V90 is starting to look very good also in a historic sense.

The 2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200’s seat is a spartan but slightly more comfortable affair than a full on supermotard. My bum did hurt at the end of the test, and my knees were a bit raw after leather suit movement from moving the heavy offroad boots up and down using the supermoto riding style.

It’s perfectly possible to just sit straight on the bike both feet on the pegs and use whichever riding style, but I just love the motard style and will use it on any bike with a mudguard resembling that of a full on supermotard. It’s easy to slide further forward than on a conventional motorcycle and also easy to slide backwards for some high speed wind protection adopting a clam like seating position. The handlebar is wide with hand guards and gives very good control when riding active through hairpin corners.

The suspension is from the motard specialist Sachs and a 43mm USD fork takes care of the front and a mono laterally mounted piggy-back sits at the back. You get 160mm travel on the front and 155mm on the back which is enough for a maxi road motard.

The brake set up is a double four-pot radial Brembo on 320mm discs front and 240mm single disc at the rear with separate ABS channels. ABS can luckily be turned off and it’s much more fun to ride the Dorsoduro 1200 with ABS off, but it’s good ABS is available should you need it.

The all new Aprilia wheels are responsible for 5.9 lbs. of the 6.6-lbs. weight reduction. For the handling part, inertia is reduced by 15.4 percent at the front and 22.2 percent at the back. This allowed for a much more responsive and easier handling package through the tight corners where change in direction needs to be quick when going fast.

All in all the new Dorsoduro 1200 should weigh in at just around the 400-lbs. mark, which is still heavy but at least Aprilia has reduced the weight in the places where it matters most first. The remaining 0.7-lbs. reduction comes from a redesigned front mudguard and new rear number plate holder.

On Aprilia’s new and lighter wheels we rode with Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires in 120/70-ZR17 front and a 180/55-ZR17 rear, which are standard supersport dimensions. The Dorsoduro 1200 is a maxi motard capable of 200km/h plus speeds so good tires are important. You can choose between the Pirelli Diablo’s and Dunlop Qualifiers at your dealer.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 Conclusion:

Is it just me that dreams of an Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 with 130 horsepower in a 330-lbs. chassis, one fitted with slicks and let loose on a circuit for a day’s fun? Oh yes, that’d be something, but will probably never happen.

What we do have is a fairly heavy maxi motard tuned for road fun. The 2012 Dorsoduro 1200 is no doubt a better motorcycle already after its quick update program. The engine is smoother, the bike is lighter and there’s even more fun to be had.

The speed of this upgrade feels like Aprilia may have had half an idea to perhaps label this as the Dorsoduro 1200 Factory but the upgrades were not quite enough to justify the label. It’s a good little upgrade anyway and who wouldn’t want to shave off nearly 6 lbs. of unsprung weight?

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 Positives:

+ Weight reduction and better handling
+ Decent Sachs suspension
+ Aprilia’s V90 feels better and is a package with great potential still.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 Negatives:

– Riding modes selection still awkward and for that reason useless whilst on the move.
– Keep reducing that weight Noale and we’ll have a maxi motard sprinter eventually.

Photography: Milagro