2016 Aprilia Caponord 1200 ABS Rally Test
My gang’s annual Death Valley trip is coming up, and I decided to ride the Aprilia Caponord 1200 ABS Rally for the three-day, 1,200-mile, jaunt. This follows up last year’s pick of the Moto Guzzi Stelvio, which was a lot of fun and a great companion. Of all the ADV-S bikes on the market – there are so many – I’ve chosen the one I see the least on the road or at moto hangouts.
After taking this bike out on Saturday for a 250-mile bonzai ride with pals David (Ducati Multistrada) and Joseph (BMW R1200GS) that included some freeway, a lot of fast ranch-country roads with no paint lines, a few miles of dirt, and a fast stream crossing I botched and the bike saved me, I returned home thoroughly impressed, although my boots were soggy.
On Sunday I strafed our local canyons and the Capo not only consumed them with no complaints, it absolutely dissected Decker Canyon from the beach to Westlake Village. Riders of this road know this is a fast and highly technical 13-miles of motorcycle nirvana. The Caponord ran this like a true sportbike and, afterward, effectively said, “What?”
Why don’t I see more of these bikes on the road? After I attended to launch of the 2015 model in Prescott, Ariz., I wanted to compare the bike to the Ducati Multistrada and call it the budget-buyer’s Multi killer. Editor Don Williams suggested that due to the disparity in price and features it wasn’t a good comparison to make.
Almost two years later I think this could still be a valid argument. Sure, the Multi is faster and has a few more features, but if you want 80-90% of what the Multi offers, for many thousands in savings, then the Caponord is worth a look, and not only because it’s cheaper. Its MSRP is $16,199 and it’s loaded including an 1197cc V-twin with a 125 horsepower and 84 ft/lbs of torque, electronic dynamic suspension, superb electronic rider aids and really nice two-way opening, and super-easily removable, side cases.
You can read more about the Caponord in our esteemed Online Editor Ron Lieback’s review of the launch of this machine in Sardinia last July – 2015 Aprilia Caponord Review.
Designed by the irrepressible Miguel Galluzzi -original designer of the Ducati Monster, many Aprilias, the Moto Guzzi California 1400 and a host of others – the Caponord is good looking in its Army-esque metallic green livery. The layout is sensible and it is comfortable with a good seat, excellent foot peg position and nice, high and wide handlebars.
At six-feet tall, I was able to stand through the dirt sections without having to adjust the bars or bend uncomfortably to reach them. It shares much of the electronics with Aprilia’s high performance RSV4 and Tuono as well as most Moto Guzzis, all Piaggio bikes. This includes cruise control, ABS, three ride modes, traction control and ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping), which seems a generation newer and better in operation than the 2015 version. Set it with one or two helmets and luggage icons and the system will take care of the rest. I liked one helmet and luggage. This gave me a bit more preload and hard canyon riding didn’t overwhelm the settings as they were prone to do last year.
The feedback and feel from the front end was excellent even with a 19-inch spoked and tubeless rim with a Metzler Tourance Next 120/70R19 tire. Out back is a 170/60R17 of the same brand that gripped strongly in all conditions right to full lean where the foot pegs would encroach slightly – though you’ll have to ride it pretty hard to touch down.
Much of the credit for the ride characteristics can be attributed to the steel tube and aluminum plate frame. The torsional and longitudinal rigidity are excellent for carving turns as well as at high speeds on the freeways.
Mated to this is the fully adjustable Sachs 43 mm upside-down fork with fully adjustable hydraulic rebound that is electronically managed by ADD, which also controls the same functions on the Sachs rear shock absorber. This shock also has adjustable or automatic settings for spring preload.
This chassis and suspension combination is an improvement over last year’s model and offers a set-and-forget solution that I was not tempted to tinker with on either day. Given the disparity in riding conditions and styles this weekend, this system has all I need and proved itself repeatedly.
Stopping duties are well-handled by Brembo M432 Monoblocs up front gripping 320mm full floating rotors and a Brembo caliper out back biting a 240mm rotor. All this is controlled by a Continental dual-channel ABS system which did an admirable job reining in the 502 pound (claimed dry) adventure missile. I found the front brakes to have a mild initial bite. The binders wanted a bit more hand pressure than needed on the Tuono or RSV4, yet when warm they were stronger and very easy to modulate during trail braking in tight canyon riding. The rear brakes provided good all-around feel, and I would rate the entire brake package as above average.
As an all-around bike I found the Capo to be friendly, capable and willing. Like a good dog, there was nothing the bike would not do for me. It was mild around town offering the ability to, almost, mindlessly go about my business. In the twisties it simply flung itself from corner to corner with precision control and no excuses.
I was happy to work second gear from 20-60 mph with all the low-end torque available and occasionally into third to make things easy. In the dirt it helped this noob to get along without any get-offs and on the highways, well, let’s just say tailgaters are not a problem.
On our late afternoon freeway ride back to the barn I put my spurs to it and it just rockets to the ton and wants to keep going. Like all of Aprilia’s sportbikes, constant consultations with the speedometer will be the best way to retain you driving privileges because this baby wants to run fast.
Noteworthy amenities include a USB port under the seat, auxiliary LED driving lights, manually adjustable windscreen, full front crash bars, skid plate, 6.3 gallon fuel tank (I averaged 36 mpg) and a comprehensive dashboard and trip computer.
No, it’s not as fast as a Multi and there may not be enough grunt off the apex, but you will only know this when at full chat in the hair-on-fire mode. In all other facets of the Caponord’s personality this bike may be all you want and need in a world-class ADV-S vehicle. It is for me.