2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally Test

When the folks at Aprilia revived the Caponord name with its 1200, a new threat evolved in the technology-forward, big-bike adventure market. The unusual Caponord name derives from North Cape – one of the most northern parts of Europe in Norway. The name disappeared from the American lineup in 2005 before resurfacing for 2015.

But for the true adventure rider that seeks off-road boldness over upright sport touring, the new Caponord 1200 was lacking a few major essentials. This was about to change.

Enter the 2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally – upgraded with all the vitals a true ADV rider seeks, including spoked 19” front/17” rear wheels over the base-model’s cast 17”/17” setup, engine protection, auxiliary LED lights, a larger adjustable windscreen, and of course, box-type panniers that are all the rage in the ADV world.

Due to the larger front wheel, some front-end geometry was also changed over the standard Caponord 1200. The triple clamps had to be offset to fit the larger wheel, creating 27.4 degrees of rake and 4.6 inches of trail versus 26.1 degrees and 4.9 inches, respectively, on the standard Caponord. Due to these changes, which help ease turning while increasing straight-line stability, the wheel base is now 62 inches – 0.78 of inch longer.

We spent a day in Sardinia, Italy, testing the Rally in a variety of situations, from the sticky tarmac overlooking the Mediterranean, to sandy off-road passes with bubbly river crossings. Taking the lead on the tour were a few quick riders from the popular off-road Italian riding school GSSS, which we hope lands in America soon.

Engine wise, all else is the same as the base model’s 1197cc, 90-degree V-twin transplanted from the former Dosoduro 1200, except the Rally features a new exhaust resonator that has more volume. Due to this, the ECU was tweaked, and strength increased in the low- and mid-range rpm bands – this power is immediately felt over the standard Caponord. Though the ECU was changed, horsepower remains the same at 125 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, as does torque at 84.6 ft/lbs at 6800 rpm.

A huge fan of this torquey twin, we’re thankful that the Noale-based company decided to leave the engine basically untouched. We’re also thankful that all electronics are the same as the standard, including the three-level Aprilia Traction Control with shut-off capability, Ride-by-Wire with three maps (Sport, Touring, Rain), two-channel ABS with shut-off capability, and Aprilia Cruise Control (aCC). But the genius of all electronics resides in the magnificent Aprilia Dynamic Damping (aDD) system.

aDD is a semi-active system protected by four patents, but the rear-shock portion is 100-percent active – the first fully active shock offered on a motorcycle, Aprilia claims. Aprilia says aDD uses a patented “comfort oriented” algorithm that combines the principles of the popular skyhook and acceleration driven damping algorithms.

In real time (every 100th of a second), aDD adjusts fork calibration on the 43mm Sachs unit, and the Sachs shock absorber’s rebound and damping. The aDD uses a patented pressure sensor in the fork, and an angular potentiometer out back that helps read the rear shock so the system can make automatic adjustments; the latter technology is borrowed from the auto industry.

aDD features five presets: Rider, Rider and Passenger, Rider and Bags, Rider and Passenger and Bags, and the patented Active Shock Absorber. Active mode is the jewel of aDD. When set on Active – which Aprilia engineers recommend – the Rally provides the most optimal suspension setup, regardless of road conditions, passengers, cargo content, or riding styles.

Throttle cracked, aDD in Active mode was the best electronic-suspension setup that we have ever experienced. During our test that took us over 200 miles throughout southern Sardinia, Active mode provided non-stop comfort on the highways, chassis stability while pushing in the twisties, and much feeling while riding off road.

The Active mode performed the same regardless of what engine map was used – Sport (full power, aggressive throttle), Touring (full power, less aggressive throttle) and Rain (100 horsepower and non-aggressive throttle) – or whatever ATC or ABS settings were engaged.

aDD in Active mode constantly proved itself regardless of the situation. While leaning off the Caponord 1200 Rally and loading the front tire under heavy braking, the chassis provided precise damping. This allowed the chassis to remain planted while under maintenance throttle throughout hundreds of hairpin and increasing-radius corners in Sardinia.

But when riding in “Rider” mode, the suspension either become too loose or tight. This mode caused excessive fork dive under braking on the street, and an upset chassis throughout the corners. We experienced excessive peg scraping in Rider mode due to the upset chassis. Riders who remain planted in the upright position during aggressive cornering will obviously be more prone to scraping pegs, but this is an unsafe practice. Why? Riders are using much less of the tire, which means less traction. Hang off a bit, and keep the tire’s contact patch larger. You’ll not only have more speed, but you’ll scrape less hard parts, which prevents the chassis from getting upset.

Throughout our ride, I experienced with the aTC settings (1 through 3, each setting adding more intervention) and the two-setting ABS (setting 2 having much more intervention). Aprilia engineers recommended each of these settings in one, which worked really well. But by day’s end when things were on the speedy side, I was leaving both systems off.

As for riding modes, we loved the snappy throttle of Sport, but Touring worked well when riding on the conservative side. I tried Rain mode in the off-road section that was wet, but quickly switched back to sport to slide the back around.

Take note that unlike some of its competitors, not all electronics are adjustable while riding. The only ones capable of switching on the fly are the riding modes. Simply keep the throttle closed and press the starter button to choose the selection. All others (aDD, aTC, ABS) can only be changed when the bike is stationary.

Also assisting the aggressiveness of the aDD in Active mode were the Metzeler Tourance Next tires, which are 90-percent street/10-percent off-road. The stock sizes are 120/70 up front, and 170/60 out back, but will fit the popular enduro sizes of 110/90 and 150/70.

Traction on the grippy Sardinia tarmac was never ending. If tire pressures were lowered than the recommended Aprilia settings, knees would be scrapping. This aDD/Metzeler Tourance Next combo also impressed in the dirt. The off-road section was only a few miles of sandy terrain that was still soft due to heavy rains the day before, and the Rally – again using street pressure – attacked with pure defiance. Lower tire pressure would have helped, but for basic fire roads, the Metzeler is more than capable.

The larger 19-inch front rim also assisted in the Rally’s off-road potential, along with the lightweight spoked wheels. These wheels use a unique spoke design (spokes attach to the outer rim) that’s been under patent since they first arrived on the market on the 2001 ETV1000 Caponord.

Take note that the rubber footpegs provided decent grip while wearing Joe Rocket’s newest ADV boot, the Ballistic Touring, even while crossing smaller rivers. Though grip was there, an issue soon surfaced; while standing on the balls in the off-road section, my heel was forced in an awkward position due to contacting the beautiful-sounding exhaust. What’s cool, though, is the exhaust is adjustable once the bags are off. This may are may not fix this issue, but we will experiment during future testing. Once the bike comes stateside this May, we will be performing a longer-term review with DOT-legal knobbies to report on the true off-road potential of the Rally.

Let’s talk power. The engine’s 125 horsepower may sound low to some considering its competitors, such as Ducati’s 2015 Multistrada (160 horsepower), but its equivalent to the world’s most popular big-bike enduro, the BMW R1200GS. More horsepower is always welcomed, but this was enough for the Caponord 1200 Rally (easy power wheelies in first two gears!), which carries a dry weight of just under 525 lbs. – again equivalent to the BMW R1200GS, though the latter’s weight doesn’t include panniers.

Stopping power is endless with the Brembo setup (dual 320mm front discs squeezed by four-piston calipers, single 240mm disc squeezed by a single-piston caliper). The brakes provides great feel at the lever and foot pedal, and even when ABS was in its more evasive stage 2 setting, intervention was slightly noticeable. Besides having to reroute the Rally’s brake lines, Aprilia also tweaked the ABS for better performance in the dirt (aka – less interaction up front).

The Caponord’s fueling performed flawless, never hiccuping in any situation. The six-speed transmission’s gearing proved perfect for all situations, from low-speed, clutch-slipping situations in the dirt, to 130 mph on stretches of the highways.

After over 200 miles of high-revving fun, the low fuel light finally came on, though 1.3 gallons were in reserve. In normal situations, the Caponord’s 6.3-gallon fuel tank should provide a range of up to 250 miles.

The Caponord also arrives with Aprilia Cruise Control (ACC) as standard equipment. To activate, hold the cruise control button in (located on right controls) for three seconds. Once activated, the ACC then needs to be engaged by holding in the button for another three seconds. It automatically shuts off when any of the following are used – front brake, clutch, or rear brake. It also does not work under 40 mph.

Aprilia performed many wind-tunnel tests, which helped designers create aerodynamic bodywork that also provides much rider protection at higher speeds. We experienced a bit of rain heading back from our Sardinia tour, and our legs and upper torso remained relatively dry.

The Rally also arrives with a larger windscreen that’s manually adjustable up and down about three inches through two large grommets. Adjustment was a PITA in the beginning, and an electronic unit would be welcomed if it didn’t affect the price much.

While in the tallest position at moderate speeds, the windscreen provided better buffeting than the standard Caponord. Buffeting was severe at highway speeds over 100 mph, but most of this was due to my Arai XD4’s sun beak. Other journalists with standard full-face lids had no complaints of severe buffeting, though there were a few gripes.

Ergonomics were perfect for my nearly six-foot body, the rider triangle keeping me upright while cruising. The bars have a wide reach, which helps ease aggressive steering inputs. The bars, which arrive standard with large hand guards, also were high enough for comfort while standing. The seat – 33-inches high – is roomy, allowing for movement during long stretches on the highway and quick transitions while riding at a quickened pace. For shorter riders, a lower seat is available as an accessory.

The new panniers – covered in aluminum – hold a combined 33 liters – up four from the standard Caponord. The Rally’s panniers open like a book for full access, but can also be opened through only the top for quick storage of items such as gloves. The panniers skinny profiles keep the rear-tail horizontal profile 36.2 inches wide – great for tighter situations such as trails and lane splitting. A 51-liter top box that will swallow two full-sized lids is also available as an accessory. Other accessories available include Arrow exhaust, heated hand grips, off-road foot pegs, tank bags, and aluminum mirrors, to name a few.

With 54 World Championships, Aprilia likes keep the appearance of its motorcycles on the sporty side. The Caponord 1200 Rally – based on the Caponord 1200 designed by Miguel Galluzzi of Ducati Monster fame – adheres to this styling, and its triple-headlight design gives the ADV bike a unique look – definitely sportier than others in the genre. These headlights provide sufficient lighting, but the Rally also arrives the LED auxiliary lights – a popular upgrade for ADV bikes nowadays.

The Aprilia Caponord’s fully digital gauge layout is clean, and features easy-to-read speedometer, rpm gauge, two trip odometers, fuel level, coolant temperature, and all electronic settings. The lights signifying active TC or ABS were bright, but not annoying. The same can’t be said for the cruise control light – it’s bright, and the blinking becomes annoying when the aTC is activated but not engaged.

The Rally also arrives with Aprilia’s Multimedia Platform (A-MP), which allows for Bluetooth pairing to Smartphones. All test bikes had an iPhone hooked up, and the A-MP allowed for various options to be viewed, such as instantaneous engine power and torque, lean angle, longitudinal acceleration, instant and average fuel consumption, average speed and battery voltage. It also features a bike manual, and GPS.

The 2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally is available in three matte color options: giallo Dune (yellow), grigio Safari (grey) and verde Army (green), and has a starting MSRP of $15,699. This is only $200 more than the standard Caponord 1200, a deal considering the upgrades. Also, the Rally’s MSRP is cheaper than the 2015 BMW R1200GS’ base price of $16,175 (base GS lacks things such as electronic suspension, panniers, cruise control, and hand protection – all items that push the GS’ price to around $20,000).

For what’s offered – aDD  being the highlight – the pricing will surely attract many stateside ADV riders, and regrets – if any – will be few. If buyers choose the Caponord 1200 Rally over more expensive competitors, some extra cash will be available. And the best way to put that extra cash to work? Spare sets of tires, which Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally owners will need. This bike begs to be ridden, and ridden with authority.

We will have a more on the 2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally in our touring test that will be published in an upcoming issue of Ultimate MotorCycling.

2015 Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally Specs:

  • Engine type: Aprilia V90 four-stroke longitudinal 90° V-twin engine, liquid cooled, double overhead camshaft with mixed gear/chain timing system, four valves per cylinder
  • Bore and stroke: 106 x 67.8 mm
  • Total engine capacity: 1197 cc
  • Compression ratio: 12.0 ± 0.5: 1
  • Maximum power at crankshaft: 125 HP (92 kW) at 8,000 rpm.
  • Maximum torque at crankshaft: 11.7 kgm (115 Nm) at 6,800 rpm.
  • Fuel system: Integrated engine management system. Injection with two injectors per cylinder and Ride-by-Wire throttle control with three maps: Sport (S), Touring (T), Rain (R)
  • Ignition: Magneti Marelli 7SM twin spark electronic ignition integrated with injection system
  • Starter: Electric
  • Exhaust: 100% stainless steel 2-in-1 exhaust system with dual catalytic converters and double oxygen sensor
  • Alternator: 690 W/6000 rpm.
  • Lubrication: Wet sump
  • Transmission: 6 speeds, drive ratio: 14/36, 17/32, 20/30, 22/28, 23/26, 24/25
  • Clutch: Multiplate wet clutch, hydraulically operated
  • Primary drive: Straight cut gears, drive ratio: 40/69
  • Secondary drive: Chain. Drive ratio: 17/42
  • Chassis: Modular tubular steel frame fastened to aluminum side plates by high strength bolts. Removable steel rear subframe
  • Front suspension: Fully adjustable Sachs Ø 43 mm upside-down fork. Hydraulic brake in rebound and compression electronically managed with ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping)
  • Rear suspension: Aluminum alloy swingarm; Sachs dynamic monoshock absorber. Spring preload and hydraulic brake in rebound and compression electronically managed with ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping)
  • Brakes Front: dual ∅ 320 mm stainless steel floating discs. Four-piston (Ø32 mm) Brembo M432 monoblock radial calipers. Metal braided brake hoses
  • Brakes Rear: stainless steel disc ∅ 240 mm. Single piston (Ø34 mm) Brembo caliper. Metal braided brake hose. Continental two channel ABS system and Aprilia Traction Control (ATC)
  • Wheel rims: Spoked; front: 3.00 X 19″; rear: 4.50 x 17″
  • Tires: Radial tubeless tires; front: 120/70-R19; rear: 170/60-R17
  • Maximum length: 89.7 inches (2,280 mm)
  • Max. height: 58 inches (1,475 mm)
  • Saddle height: 33 inches (840 mm)
  • Wheelbase: 62 inches (1,575 mm)
  • Trail: 4.6 inches (118 mm)
  • Steering angle 27.4°
  • Dry weight: 524.7 lbs (238kg)
  • Tank: 6.3 gallons (24 liter), including a 1.3 gallon (5 liter) reserve

 

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Photos by Milagro