As Aprilia don’t have UK offices as such I had to go begging to a local dealer for the loan of one, Bowen Moto in Chatham, Kent came up trumps with an 05 model. It had progressive springs fitted up front and a taller screen, but other than that it was a standard bike.
On the first look around you notice the height of the screen and seat, and the length of the wheelbase, the dash has both analogue and LCD elements which tell you everything from your speed to the ‘outside’ temperature-that’s what I thought. You even get a light with the word service in case you forget.
I think the fairing is the best in class giving excellent wind protection, and reducing wind noise around your head, on the same tack the shape of the Double Wave Twin Beam frame and petrol tank do a good job of deflecting wind around your legs. The fuel tank holds 25 litres including a 5 litre reserve which gives you a range of just over 200 miles between stops.
The seat is very comfortable with the class standard of seat to foot peg being very good, it is 820mm and at my height it is easier to hold the front brake on and stand on the peg before throwing your leg over. There is a lower option available at an extra cost. The rear seat can be removed completely leaving a plate, which can be used as extra luggage space for the single traveller. The pillion seat is comfortable, according to the wife with a relaxed overall sitting position.
On the left hand side panel there is a 12v socket, which is handy for inflatable beds, Sat nav etc,
The front suspension with 50 mm diameter sleeves is the same used in racing Enduros, but has been calibrated for maximum comfort both on roads and motorways and on tracks and trails. There is no adjustment on the front.
The rear suspension is multi-adjustable with a convenient external knob to change the trim of the bike not just to all types of terrain, but also to all carrying conditions, whether alone or with a passenger, with or without bags.
The wheels are Tubeless Spoke Rims enabling tubeless tyres to be used, not a bad thing as you’ll spend most of your time on the road, there is a lot of plastic to break dropping it off road. In addition, the spoke arrangement together with the exclusive hollow hubs and large diameter wheel spindles provide a high level of torsional rigidity and thus stability during cornering, even at high speeds.
The engine is a pearler, designed specifically for the bike and built by Rotax, it is pushing out 98bhp on full power. Unlike the Buell it is very easy to ride slowly with none of the snatching, mainly due the advanced fuel injection system. As for the acceleration, it has plenty, and because of the way it is delivered you are always in control of what the bike is doing.
The ABS system available as an optional extra on this bike works very well. Without boring you by going into the ins and outs of how it works, what I will say is that I tried to get it to skid on a few occasions but couldn’t, and unlike some systems I’ve tried there was no pump at the lever as the system cut in. There is a switch on the fairing to turn the ABS off if you want to play, and all the brakes come with braided hoses as standard.
My main gripe with these style of bikes is the lack of a centre stand, especially on chain drive ones such as this, for some reason they are an optional extra. Why?
Riding the bike at any speed is very easy, with the light clutch & throttle action there is no pressure on your hands from having to grip too tight, changing gear feels deliberate through the lever, partly down to the PPC (Pneumatic Power Clutch) which also helps avoid rear wheel bounce during sudden deceleration for even better stability and handling
It has a long wheelbase, at 1544mm it is longer than both the Tiger and GS (1515 & 1520 respectively), which makes it very stable in a straight line, but doesn’t adversely affect the handling down the twistier roads. I rode my favourite piece of road (B2082) from Tenterden to Rye, a picturesque little town on the south coast, in a comparable time to when I’m on my Blackbird, but the relaxed riding position means you just don’t feel like pushing it all the time. It does handle very well for it’s size though.
The main attraction of these bikes for me though is the ride quality giving all day comfort. Whether it is the Capo or GS, the ride on our bumpy, broken, potholed roads is so much smoother than any other class of bike. You don’t need to stay alert for the problems with our road surfaces, as these bikes seem to sail over them with no hint of a problem, or movement of any orifice as you hit a hole at some silly speed.
With an unparalleled view ahead on these high perches you can see into the distance meaning you shouldn’t need to brake suddenly, but, it will happen at some time so it is nice to see it coming.
At £7000 with ABS this bike has to be a serious contender.
Chocks away Biggles!!
Special thanks to Mark at Bowen Moto for the loan of the bike.