2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 ABS Test
Utilizing a name from the past and a chassis based on a supermoto machine, Aprilia has re-entered the adventure touring market with the talkatively named 2015 Caponord 1200 ABS Travel Pack.
Designed by the irrepressible Miguel Galluzzi of Ducati Monster fame, the 2015 Caponord 1200 shows itself as a world-class sport bike set up for touring, along with the flexibility to wander down some easy unpaved back roads, when desired.
With a motor based on the fire breathing, ultra-short stroke V-twin from the now-discontinued Dorsoduro 1200 supermoto, Aprilia dropped the horsepower and torque peaks, and at the same time hit those peaks a bit earlier—perfect for a sport-touring mount.
The Caponord shows itself to be a very quick machine, despite a power-to-weight ratio that is not quite as favorable as some of the competition. Putting out a claimed 125 horsepower at 8250 rpm, and a healthy 85 ft/lbs of torque 1450 rpm earlier, the power from the 90-degree V-twin is right where many people will want it.
Instead of focusing on maximum performance, Aprilia has delivered what it considers the right type of power for the sport-touring aficionado who likes the upright stance of an adventure bike, even if he never intends to leave the tarmac.
To underscore its commitment to the street, the Caponord is provocatively shod with Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier II tires on the same alloy rims you will find on the RSV4 superbike. They may not get the mileage you would want on a sport-touring bike, but they are serious about performance.
With high-quality rubber and a strong motor, superior handling is a must, and an essential ingredient is outstanding suspension. The Aprilia Dynamic Damping system (ADD) is the company’s version of dynamic suspension, with a fully active shock and semi-active forks, both from Sachs.
In a rider-friendly move from the endless adjustment menus many motorcycles with sophisticated suspension have, there are no modes to set. ADD knows the way, although you do have five choices for preload—Rider, Rider/Passenger, Rider/Luggage, Two-up/Luggage, and Automatic—which can only be adjusted while stopped.
ADD is combined with throttle and brake sensors, so the computer knows what the rider is doing, and offers the best suspension action for conditions. For touring, this works well and setting the preload on Automatic lets ADD work its magic alone.
The chassis and ADD yield excellent manners in most situations. The bike is fairly neutral steering and quickly drops into corners. So much so, that I had to adjust my rhythm a bit because the Cap seemed to be one step ahead of me. A little more throttle and delayed turn-in helped. The bike is responsive, and one is often reminded that this really is a sportbike that has been pressed into touring duty, and in the doing, has been softened to make it a better companion for the long haul.
When speeds increase and the Caponord is pushed near its edge, the suspension has a slight tendency to bounce mildly due to a lack of rebound dialed in. When riding solo, the manually set Rider/Luggage pre-load option sharpens handling by raising the rear ride height a bit.
Even fully loaded, the Caponord carries its weight in such a way as to let you forget the baggage behind you. The motor has the bottom end shove needed to drive out of turns and follow any radius with a lean and twist of the bars. It is happy to rail over, scraping peg feelers on both sides.
How hard you ride can also be influenced by the three power modes — Sport, Touring and Rain — which can be changed with the throttle closed, even when rolling. Sport mode is fine when riding fast and asking for lots of power consistently, though too abrupt for everyday use. The Touring mode delivers all the juice with a damped throttle response. Rain mode dis- patches plenty of thrust, despite the drop in power.
Aprilia has developed a unique new paradigm for Aprilia Traction Control (ATC—three levels, and off ), which is built, uniquely, with two intervention thresholds instead of one; the goal is safely conveyed performance.
In operation, ATC intervenes at the first threshold with only mild power reduction, allowing the rider to get a sense of knowing he is near the edge, yet additional power remains available to push harder before more serious intervention takes place. It works well, and the slides I experienced that initiated TC intervention were smoothly continued without any upset or noticeable reduction in ride pace.
Stopping chores are handled by Brembo’s new M432 monobloc calipers, with radial mounting and steel-braided brake hoses—another nod to serious performance. They are equal to any situation, yet do not overwhelm. Initial bite is crisp and forces are linear throughout the range. Two fingers are all one ever needs, and the two-channel ABS can be disabled at will.
The ergonomics are quite similar to most naked sportbikes with an upright seating position, slight forward lean and hips over feet. Reach to the wide bars is also just right for my six-foot proportions, and there is plenty of room to move back and forth for comfort or during fast cornering.
The two-piece seat is comfortable for about 120 miles before you wish it were a bit wider — long before the 6.3-gallon tank will run dry. Shorter riders will appreciate the narrow profile, which helps them connect to the earth at stops.
Cabin layout is nice on the Caponord, and the hand-adjustable windshield is of average size for the segment and positioned to fend off breezes, though I would prefer a taller windscreen to reduce wind and noise.
The abbreviated lower fairing in front does a good job of routing wind away from the rider’s body and the environment is relatively calm. V-twin vibrations are evident through the pegs at lower speeds, but not transmitted up into the bars. These vibes are not unpleasant, nor much noticed, and reduce to a minimum as engine revs rise.
The Caponord’s gearing is a bit high, something of an Aprilia tradition. In tight curves, second gear is often a tad too tall and first gets a bit busy. In the same vein, you can cruise at 65 mph in 6th gear, but the engine prefers 4th. An easy cure is changing out the primary sprocket for one tooth less.
On another front, Aprilia has leap-frogged the entire field with its Aprilia Multimedia Platform (AMP), which offers more information and flexibility than we have seen to date anywhere. AMP features a slick iPhone/iPad-only app that pairs the bike’s computer via Bluetooth to your phone and adds the ability to monitor four parameters at a time from a list of over a dozen, including crank torque, rear wheel thrust, crank power, power reserve, acceleration wheel slip, estimated roll angle, acceleration, and more.
There is a natural inclination to compare the new Caponord to the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring, but it’s one that disappears when you realize that the Ducati is 30-percent more expensive.
The 2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 ABS Travel Pack is much closer in price and temperament to, say, the BMW R 1200 GS. The Caponord offers equally high tech and Italian charisma for a slightly lower fee, along with the friendly power and handling many of us value in a sport- touring mount.
- Helmet: Joe Rocket Speedmaster Carbon
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Ballistic Revolution
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Nitrogen
- Pants: Joe Rocket Ballistic 7.0
- Boots: Joe Rocket Ballistic Touring
Photography by Kevin Wing
Story from the latest issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine. For subscription services, click here.