2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200 | Review

2013 Aprilia Caponord 1200


2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Test

It has been nearly 10 years since I last tested an Aprilia travel enduro, and back then it was called ETV1000 Caponord. The only thing that remains the same for the 2014 model – the Caponord 1200 –  is a V-twin engine. But this time the big 1197cc V90 is transplanted from the Dorsoduro maxi motard.

During the big Caponord 1200’s launch, my route went along the south coast of the small Italian island of Sardinia followed by mountain roads and highway riding. On the second day, I chose a route that included one of the best motorcycling roads I have ever ridden between the villages of Teulada and Domus deMaria over Mount Maria. It’s only 14 kilometers, but I rode it three times, the route taking me to motorcycling heaven and back.

The Caponord 1200’s two-part seat is well padded and ergonomically shaped both for rider and pillion. The seat is also comfortable during hard braking, with a nice extension up the rear part of the 24-liter fuel tank. The 33-inch (840mm) seat height is neither too tall nor too low, and the reach to the foot pegs is relaxed. The handlebars are within easy reach while maintaining a straight back, creating nothing sporty in the riding position.

The chassis, however, is built to be both sporty and comfortable with more than a slight emphasis on sporty. In essence, it’s the same chassis as on the corner-munching Dorsoduro, but the rear wheel is mounted further back on the swingarm creating a longer wheelbase.

A steel trellis frame and aluminum plates connects the front with the rear. Aprilia has chosen pure sportbike tires, the Dunlop SportMax Qualifiers, with a 120/70-17 front and 180/55-17 rear. Should one wish to change to something less sporty and longer lasting, the Caponord features an 8-second self-calibrating system (for electronics) that can be activated after getting new shoes.

We began the ride with a few relaxing and straight roads, giving me an opportunity to test the adjustable windscreen. It’s comfortable enough in its lower position, but in foul weather the upper position will be required. I got buffeting to my full-faced SUOMY helmet when in the upper position, so I preferred to keep the Aprilia Caponord 1200’s windscreen in its lowest position most of the time. The windscreen, adjusted with two knobs, is  a low-tech solution on the technical-savvy Caponord. It’s simply not the best part of this motorcycle.

The bike I tested included the Travel pack, which features ACC (Aprilia Cruise Control) that only works between third and sixth gear, and ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping). When the corners started to arrive, the Caponord began showing its true character. Straight away on unknown roads I felt fast and the new ADD really takes care of the chassis.

The ADD system works by reading information from a host of sensors and accelerometers, including a lateral swingarm sensor, a fork pressure sensor that measures the speed of compressed and decompressed air in the fork, and some Skyhook (think Ducati Multistrada 1200) methodology to measure low frequencies. The difference between a simpler Skyhook system and Aprilia’s ADD is the fact that ADD uses mathematical algorithms on actual data, filtering the low frequencies and the high frequencies. This ensures both a comfort- and handling-orientated suspension system in one.

Aprilia lets you chose from four different modes, including a rider with pillion setting, and a fifth completely automatic setting that takes care of any change in road scenario. In the auto mode the rear shock is fully dynamic and not semi-active.

Auto mode is actually all you will ever need on this motorcycle. The ADD system is able to adjust load and suspension by detecting weight, making automatic adjustments based on additions such as a passenger or extra luggage.

According to Aprilia’s engineers, all other mode selections except Auto Mode are purely a gimmick to make riders think they contribute. For the ADD, Sachs supplies the suspension mechanical parts while Aprilia have applied their own technology and algorithms.

While cruising at a relaxed pace, you don’t notice the suspension action, and comfort is superb. Going fast through the corners in Sardinia, the true brilliance of the ADD system started showing. You can go from soft to hard suspension by simply twisting the Ride-By-Wire throttle, and d I couldn’t fail the suspension or chassis in any way.

I tested with traction control set to levels 2, 1 and off using both the Touring and Sport riding maps. Touring map and TC level 1 gives an experienced rider enough thrills to stay happy in mixed riding, but for pure mountain carving at high speed TC must be at level 1 and sport mode chosen for a more direct throttle response.

TC level 1 also allows for a higher wheelie than usual. If you don’t want any wheel spin and prefer both wheels on the tarmac at all times, then I can recommend touring mode with TC at level 2.

I really tried to upset the chassis as much as possible by exiting slow corners in a low gear for maximum power. With TC at level 1, this type of exit is possible with some wheel spin, but grip is soon there, and I still have enough of a safety net for even faster cornering. Traction Control off is also fine, but hit oil or slippery stuff on the tarmac with the front wheel and you can still be in trouble. But with TC on you can at least be able to regain control if the tarmac situation isn’t too bad.

When combined, ATC, ABS and ADD are guaranteed life savers, and Aprilia has given enough adjustability for most people to have as much fun as they like while maintaining some margin of safety.

Up front, the brakes are double 320mm discs with radial Brembo M430 calipers fitted with the same two-channel ABS as the Dorsoduro. Particularly, because of the ADD system, the brakes and ABS work flawlessly, allowing very late braking into corners.

The Caponord 1200 fitted with the Travel Pack weighs 502 lbs. (228 kilos) dry, which is 31 lbs. (14 kilos) more than the standard model. The extra weight arrives from the Travel Pack’s 29-liter panniers, center stand and extra electronics (ADD cabling alone weighs 2.2 lbs. (1 kilo)).

The 1197cc V90 is detuned for better and more torque at lower rpm compared to the Dorsoduro 1200. The 6-speed transmission is also fitted with a lower gear ratio, which creates a superb response and smoothness when beginning in first gear.

New 52mm throttle bodies are fitted (57mm on Dorsoduro 1200) to improve fuel economy. There’s also a new exhaust valve and new muffler that is adjustable in height for even better ground clearance and aesthetics if panniers are removed.

The heavily reworked V-twin now produces 125 horsepower @ 8,250rpm and 85 ft. lbs. (115Nm) of torque @ 6,800rpm (400rpm lower than Dorsoduro 1200). The power surge is at its strongest from 7,000 rpm, but there’s plenty of oomph also at lower rpm.

Aprilia has created a version of its 1200cc V-twin that is more than happy to move you forwards with considerable authority from low rpm, but it’s still a lot of fun to use the top end for the ultimate ride in the mountains. The foot pegs touch down in the corners and perhaps also the center stand if it’s a bumpy corner, but the scraping occurs with absolutely no drama.

Speaking of the center stand, it’s easy to elevate the bike on flat and hard tarmac, but if parked slightly with the front downhill it gets very laborious due to the bike’s 502-lbs. dry weight. The center stand could perhaps be redesigned for easier engagement, but there’s always the sidestand.

One practical detail missing from the Travel Pack version is heated grips. The button is there, but it doesn’t work unless you pay extra for the option. Hand guards are mounted, but in cold or wet weather heated grips always add to comfort.

I also got to test Aprilia’s latest iPhone app, which will be available from May 2013. This gives you access to an unbelievable amount of more or less interesting real time data from the engine such as torque, power, revs (which you have on the original dash anyway mind) and percentage of power in use at all times.

The application also features a highly sophisticated engine saving rev alerter, and the whole dash goes red if you’re using higher revs than the engine likes while warming up. This feature got the potential to increase engine longevity and optimize fuel consumption.

While riding with this applicatio, it’s easy to become completely OCD in regards of lowering fuel consumption and taking care of the engine. It’s completely fascinating to follow the torque figures in real time, also, to see exactly how much you are using. I was genuinely surprised about how little torque is needed to cruise along at 60 mph in sixth gear, or how much is needed to increase speed again.

It’s difficult not to recommend this application as a must for any Caponord 1200 owner. The application also registers on the GPS, allowing you to find where you last parked the bike should you be a bit senile. The system is ready for satellite alarm, and there will be future multimedia capabilities. The application knows exactly how far you are from the North Cape at all times. Nice gimmick Aprilia! The app will also be available for Android phones.

Depending on the equipment level, the Caponord 1200 has been competitively priced in Italy where it will cost from $3,800 to $5,200 (€3,000 to €4,000) less than Ducati’s Multistrada 1200.

2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Conclusion

The 2013 Aprilia Caponord 1200 is truly a technologically tour de force. In the high tech area, Aprilia has even managed to bang the Ducati Multistrada down into the ground for now.

No adventure tourer should handle this well, and you simply can’t underestimate how important the new ADD system helps the whole package come together. Right now Aprilia reigns supreme in the electronics game – it all works and it works really well. If you didn’t already get it, the Caponord 1200 is not a BMW GS killer, it’s a Multistrada killer. There’s no doubting it I have a new favorite Adventure Superbike –  it’s called the Caponord.

2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Positives/Negatives:


+ ADD suspension and handling

+ Great job in tuning the 1200 V-twin for touring while it’s still a superbly sporty package

+ Electronics that works perfectly in the real world

+ Comfortable riding position doesn’t take much away from the handling


– Simple windshield that doesn’t do enough in its highest position

– Center stand can be laborious to apply in certain situations

Photography: Milagro