The first thought running through my brain as the 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 is accelerating and decelerating with astounding ferocity is that this must be how Formula 1 drivers feel. Immediately following that first thought, I knew I was not worthy!
Motorcycle love affairs are tricky business. One minute you are in love and the next, a newer, sexier model shows up, and you quickly move on. Seven years ago, I wandered into a motorcycle dealer and was stopped dead in my tracks by an Aprilia Tuono. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I was immediately smitten. Unlike my typical motorcycle crushes, it didn’t wane, and I’ve wanted to ride one ever since.
My first motorcycle was a Kawasaki Ninja 600 that I bought when I graduated college—I know, not the best choice for a first bike! So, I have a soft spot for sportbikes. In my 50s now, with arthritis from a lifetime of contact sports and bad decisions, so my body can’t do superbike riding positions. When naked sportbikes with friendly upright ergonomics became the rage, I was excited. While the Tuono is arguably the performance leader in this category with a heavy emphasis on sport, sitting on past versions, I found the ergonomics too aggressive for me. That said, I was still dying to ride the famed Tuono.
For the first time, Aprilia differentiated its standard model from the Factory model by adding a more touring focus to the bike. Aprilia’s idea of touring includes slightly raised bars, a marginally larger windscreen soft luggage, and a Touring ride mode (for all the technical details on both the base V4 model and the higher-spec Factory model, check out Nic de Sena’s excellent review of both). After waiting seven years, I could finally swing a leg over a Tuono V4 and start one up. The wait was worth it.
The Engine – That Sweet, Sweet Italian Engine
A lot has been written about the Tuono V4 engine, but nothing can properly prepare you for the actual experience. Starting the engine, it sounds like other liter-plus four-cylinder sportbikes. The 1077cc 65-degree V4 cranks out 175 horsepower and 89 ft-lbs of torque. This all sounds somewhat manageable on paper. As you start out below 3000 rpm, it feels like a cranky, complaining old person. Still plenty of power, but you can tell it just isn’t that happy.
Crack the throttle, and everything changes dramatically. Past 5000 rpm, you hit motorcycle nirvana. The old cranky person is transformed into a glorious opera diva. All the low-end vibrations fade away, replaced by the sexy sound of Italian perfection and power that seemingly has no limit. I am not sure I have ever experienced a motorcycle engine that felt so effortlessly powerful, fluid, and smooth.
Riding the first day on a variety of roads, a thought started to creep into my brain. As awesome as this engine is, is it too much of a good thing? Having motorcycled for a very long time, putting tens of thousands of miles on big powerful bikes each year, I consider myself an experienced rider. However, it became apparent very quickly that the capabilities of this motorcycle were way ahead of my skills. I am rarely nervous on motorcycles, but the Tuono was scary fast.
Taking the 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 through one of my favorite curvy roads, Mulholland Drive overlooking Los Angeles, I had a hard time getting the bike out of 1st gear. To hit that engine sweet spot of between 5000 and 10,000 rpm meant riding 1st gear into the 70 to 80 mph range!
Fortunately, the Tuono has both preset ride modes that are easily customizable. The TFT display is small but very clear and easy to read. Toggling through menus is intuitive. I did not read the manual, as usual, yet had no issues.
Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) controls everything, including throttle response, wheelie control (thank the Lord!), and engine braking. The V4’s performance can very easily be adjusted on the fly. While I spent most of the time in the Tour mode, the Tuono can be tweaked to your exact liking. Even with all the adjustability, I was still left wondering where, other than on a track, could someone possibly explore the performance limits of this machine?
Brakes – She Stops On a Dime with 9 Cents Left in Change!
As insanely fast as the engine is, that wasn’t even the scariest part of the bike. On one of my first hyper jumps to light speed, I grabbed a handful of front brake when I approached my first stop sign. The Tuono’s brakes clamped down with a stunning immediacy that stopped all forward momentum except for mine. I nearly launched into orbit over the front of the bike. Granted, I was coming off many days of riding big cruiser bikes that stop with the immediacy of an oil tanker, but still!
The Tuono sports Brembo M50 calipers and 330mm rotors up front, with a single Brembo floating 2-piston caliper and 220mm rotor in back—both with steel-braided lines. All of this translates to absolutely incredible stopping power, bringing this Italian rocket to a halt with mind-blowing immediacy. Similar to the engine, in the hands of mere mortals, the brakes are almost too sharp.
Six-speed Transmission, Quickshifter, and Suspension
Although I have owned and ridden several motorcycles with quickshifters, I don’t usually use them a lot. I typically only use quickshifters for fast acceleration and downshifts during aggressive riding, where the auto-blip keeps the rear wheel more planted. I much prefer the control and feel of using a clutch. I find my shifting is smoother than the clunky shifts you can get from a quickshifter (unless you time them just right). Not so with the Tuono, which has a near-flawless up-and-down shifter. Aprilia updated its quickshift software this year, which improved an already very impressive system. Other than starts and stops, my left hand was unemployed during my rides.
The fully adjustable Sachs suspension holds up its end of the deal in the slalom course that is LA traffic. For those looking for more, the Tuono V4 Factory upgrades to Öhlins suspension units.
As you would expect, the suspension on the 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 is firm. Still, it handled most road imperfections well on the city roads and highways around LA and Palm Springs. The only time the chassis felt less collected was on bigger bumps or during more aggressive riding on rough roads. I didn’t do any fiddling with the suspension settings, which allow for compression and rebound adjustments.
Usually, I am not much of a lane splitter. However, as traffic slows on the LA freeways, the Tuono becomes an incredible slalom machine. I actually look forward to slowdowns! The combination of firm suspension, incredible brakes, and a super-fast engine makes quick work of LA traffic.
Soft-cases on the Tuono V4
When I first got on the Tuono, I immediately worried that I would not be very comfortable riding it for anything beyond short distances. Compared to my adventure bikes, the riding position is pretty compressed. The pegs are high, and my legs folded up. It bends me over the bars with pressure on my hands and wrists. The windscreen doesn’t look like it will deflect much wind, and the seat is pretty firm. The 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 Touring is basically the total opposite of my typical touring adventure bike.
While it took a bit of getting used to, touring on the Tuono is a lot better than I expected! The firm seat is comfortable, the wind, while still hitting my shoulders and head, has no buffeting, and the slightly raised handlebar releases some of the pressure on the wrists.
Having cruise control helps, allowing me to sit up a bit and periodically take pressure off the throttle hand. The cruise control switchgear, mounted on the left side by the grip, setting it requires a slightly awkward slide of a button. I would have preferred a simpler set-up that uses a “+ or -” toggle to set, and another button to resume. Fortunately, it works well with easy up and down speed adjustments.
The nearly five-gallon tank is sufficient for only about 125 miles between gas stops, at least the way I ride. By that time, my legs and shoulders need a break anyway.
For the first time, Aprilia offers OEM soft luggage to facilitate touring. To accommodate the Tuono V4’s design, particularly its muffler location, the set-up is uncharacteristically unattractive for Aprilia. One larger pannier mounts on the left side, while the right side requires a smaller pannier in order to accommodate the muffler. I understand why the panniers were designed this way, but it looks odd nonetheless. Additionally, the Tuono V4 Touring includes a large, sculpted tank bag. The luggage is weather-resistant and functional, providing enough storage for a long weekend trip, though not much more.
The 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 Touring Verdict
So, am I leaving my current relationship for this hot Italian beauty? As amazing as the Tuono V4 is, it isn’t for me. While I loved her performance, style, and more approachable form, her talents would be squandered on me. I am not a track guy, so riding the Tuono V4 in its ideal “zone” means riding public roads at speeds that are not safe for me. Daily, around-town riding just isn’t the Tuono’s happy place. If you are a track person and would love a bike that you can take for a weekend trip, rip some canyons, embarrass some superbike riders, all with reasonable comfort and superb capabilities, then I can’t think of a better bike for you than the 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 Touring.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Defiant-X
- Communications: Sena 50R
- Jacket: Alpinestars Atem V3
- Back protection: Alpinestars Nucleon
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Plus R V2
- Jeans: Alpinestars Copper 2
- Boots: The Executive by Cortech