Looking at the bike from any view didn’t really show many differences to a standard road bike, Aprilia’s 90 degree 850, twin spark fuel injected engine sits inside the steel trellis frame with single piece aluminium swingarm , up front are 43mm upside down non adjustable forks with mounted radial caliper brakes, and a 2 piece seat. The main visual difference is the lack of a clutch lever.
Once I looked closer though, and was shown around the bike they became more obvious, like, the fuel tank is not a fuel tank, that’s under the pillion seat and holds 16 litres. The normal fuel tank space is actually a large storage bin which will take a full face helmet, or, a supply of chocolate, what ever floats your boat. I suspect most will use it for spare gloves, waterproofs etc, yawn! It is opened by an electric switch on the left cluster.
The second major difference is the handbrake that is on the left side of the engine? That’s what I thought, but apparently the law says it has to have one because of the fully automatic mode. The remainder of the differences are on the handle bars.
On the right you have the Transmission Management System (TMS) mode switch which has 2 main settings, Fully Automatic (FA)‘Active Drive’, and Sequential (SEQ). In FA it is much like riding a scooter, you twist the throttle and you go, but unlike a scooter you are not at ¾ throttle before it goes anywhere, as you twist the wheels start turning straight away. This gives you very good slow riding control and you don’t sound like wailing banshee.
As you increase your speed so the gearbox changes up, and up, and up, all the way to 7th gear, another first, and it is so smooth that you neither hear, nor feel it changing. FA also has 3 settings, Touring, Sport and Rain. In sport mode it will hold a gear that bit longer for more acceleration, and Rain softens the delivery to help against things like wheel spin. I found out how this works for a few miles as it hoyed it down most of the day.
One major difference and an excellent safety feature is that when you close the throttle you still have engine braking, something you don’t have on any other automatic that I know of, some might say a Yamaha FJR(A) does but that does not have full automatic. When you drop to around 15mph it begins to free wheel.
This is the bit I was really impressed with, the semi automatic. There are 2 ways to change gear in this mode, one is the normal foot change lever, the other by means of a + & - buttons on the left cluster. Like most things new I was hopefully prepared for anything, but in the end I needn’t have worried.
When you are stationary the system puts itself into neutral, when you are ready to pull away just press the + button with your left thumb and it engages 1st gear, twist the throttle and away you go. Time to change gear, no problem just press the + button again keeping the throttle open, and do that all the way to top, when you are slowing or want to change down a gear just press the – button with your left index finger and repeat as necessary.
If you want to use the foot lever instead you just move it up or down as you would on a normal gearbox. Both methods take the lightest of touches for the change and it is so smooth and quiet you hardly notice it has happened. Another excellent feature is, your coming up to a junction in SEQ mode and stop before you have had time to change down to first, don’t worry, the system knows you have stopped and resets itself automatically. The same happens if you go too slow for a particular gear it will select the right one leaving you to concentrate on where you’re going.
I did 120+ miles on it, mainly in the rain and loved it, I used the SEQ on the open roads for corners etc and put it into FA in town and it was easy, I must admit I used the buttons mainly as it is so effortless.
So who will it appeal too? Anybody who wants to ride a ‘proper’ motorbike but cannot get on with changing gear for whatever reason, those that are riding scooters because they only have an automatic license, and commuters who will benefit probably more than most. On the other side of the coin, if I was in the market for this style of bike I would definitely consider it.
There must be something wrong with it though, shouldn’t there? Well there are a couple of things,
- The speedo has kmh on the visually large numbers and mph in the small inner ring, a UK bike should have mph as the main dial.
- I’m a 2 fingered braker –no sarcastic comments please, the problem is that where the lever is situated in relation to the grip meant I was pulling at the mount end thus losing leverage. I had to change my braking style to use all my fingers.
- Is a matter of style over function, like a lot of modern bikes there is no rear mudguard to speak of, just a thin hanger with the number plate and indicators on it. After riding in the rain, MY back was covered in road dirt, a pillion would have an even worse time but like I said, style is everything nowadays.
Overall it is a very good bike, strong engine, comfortable, good brakes, with, I would go as far as saying an excellent drive system, I really enjoyed the ride. There will be extras available including luggage and a screen, but if that gearbox was fitted to a fully fledged touring bike………………………………………………………
Many thanks to Bowen Moto, Chatham , Kent for the loan of the bike.
Thanks to Dave Muckle - BMF for providing this review.