At a 2000-year-old Castle in Italy the sound of horse’s hooves is replaced by a throaty rumble from a V-twin. The old horse wagons stand ready for a different type of transport. Knights in armour are replaced by men in leather and it makes the peasants shiver. We’re ready to ride, Shiver in the morning!
The front wheel lifts slightly as I descend from the mountain where Castle Brando sits. The new SL750 makes all the right noises that escape through a beautifully designed underseat exhaust. Should even make old Count Brandolini’s haunted ghost’s timbers shiver!
The Aprilia test rider that I am following knows these mountains like the back of his pocket and the pace is urgent straight away. We ride through some fast sweeping corners, through a couple of villages and then up one of the many mountains North of Venice. This is where we will test the Shiver for a day and a half.
Aprilia have long wanted to fill the big gap in the model line-up between their 125′s and 1000cc motorcycles. Aprilia have been one of very few manufacturers without a real multi-cylinder alternative for beginners. This is the reason why the SL750 was designed. The SL750 Shiver enters one of the most competitive parts of the motorcycle market. The competition includes the Honda Hornet, Yamaha FZ6, Suzuki GSR600, Kawasaki Z750, Ducati S2R Monster and BMW F800S. All very competitive in price, but Aprilia have just upped the ante with some high tech features previously not seen in this segment. This includes an all-new, ride-by-wire controlled 95bhp twin engine. USD fork and radial calipers usually belong to far more expensive motorcycles. Aprilia themselves admit that none of these features are needed on an entry level naked, but they are there anyway at the same price as most of the competition — so more value for money from Aprilia.
The SL750 Shiver is all new from top to toe. The V90 750 is Aprilia’s first big displacement engine built in-house. The last big engine project was the 4.5 and 5.5 twins built for offroad and supermotard racing. The new SL750 has not been built for racing though; it is a pure street project with a big emphasis on torque. The RBW (ride by wire) system completely controls everything from the delivery of torque down to the air mixture. Traditionally, the ECU would only control injection and ignition. When opening the throttle fully the system will provide all torque available at the given engine speed without delay. The Aprilia engineers told us that the double engine mapping system on the Shiver allows for several different engine mappings to be loaded onto the ECU. Aprilia SL750 is, in other words, ready for handlebar operated change of engine modes similar to what we find on the K7 Suzuki GSX-R1000. Aprilia mentioned sport, normal and wet as possible options. The Aprilia RBW system also features take-off, engine braking and anti-shudder control.
In real life on the road it is hard to even notice that the throttle is ride-by-wire. There is no delay when opening the throttle and acceleration is instant. In first gear, things don’t really start to happen until around 4,000 rpm. The engine starts feeling meatier in this rev-range all the way past 6,000 rpm where some serious power is released until the bike tops 9,000 rpm. I played a lot with rolling on and off the throttle from 4,000 rpm because the engine sounds really good when doing that! In some of the many slow hair-bend corners I felt that I was left a bit short of response from the engine below 4,000 rpm — literally impossible to get the rear wheel sliding on the power with warm tyres, it makes the SL750 a safer motorcycle for beginners, but takes away some of the fun for more experienced riders.
Aprilia have tested many different engine mappings before opting for the standard one. We think Aprilia have some very exciting engine characteristics lying around on some computer in Noale being saved for later.
The Shiver feels stable and solid even from standstill. The seat is wide and comfortable and the handlebars are easy to reach even when sitting upright. My knees tuck neatly in under the 15 litre fuel tank. Perfect comfort and all I have to think about is my riding.
The Shiver is all very controlled and pleasant at low speed. No jerking whatsoever and big throttle openings can be used safely from the word go. For doing wheelies this is not ideal, but foolproof. At 7,000 rpm the front wheel will lift if you go off and on the throttle. No hooligan machine as such, but still more fun through the bends than a lot of motorcycles.
The part steel trellis/part aluminum frame is more than solid enough for the SL750 Shiver. This tells us that Aprilia have more in mind for the Shiver frame than just this 750. As a matter of fact Aprilia have made this frame also with a 1200 version of the engine in mind.
Shiver tackles both slow and fast bends with ease and for the short straights only a minor headshake near the redline tells us there’s 95bhp in action. The Shiver handles so well that it’s a bit deceiving, and I had a tough time believing the claimed power figures. For a modern liquid-cooled 750cc V-twin there shouldn’t be any doubts though, and I give the smooth delivery the blame for making the ride so civilized.
Just for good measure Aprilia have used a sexy 43mm USD fork from Showa and Aprilia radial race calipers (not Brembo as many think…) The fork is not adjustable, but Aprilia have already warned us that the traditional Factory version is on its way. At the back, Aprilia have opted for a side-mounted adjustable rear shock from Sachs. Aprilia used the side-mounted solution to make space for the 2-1-2 stainless steel exhaust system. The catalyzer sits where the rear shock usually sits and the exhaust ends under the seat in two mufflers that are a work of art.
Attached to the aluminum swingarm is a lightweight 17 inch wheel with a Dunlop D208 Qualifier sized 180/55-ZR17. At the front, an equally sporty Qualifier in 120/70-ZR17. The Dunlop Qualifiers provided plenty of grip early and suited the 189kg (415 lbs. claimed dry-weight) Shiver well. The double 320mm steel discs come directly from the RSV-R sportbike flanked by Aprilia’s four pot radial struts. There is plenty of power in them and through the 43mm USD fork I had full control over the braking when needed.
The SL750 Shiver is a motorcycle that gives confidence straight away. There is no steep learning curve and everything is just smooth and easy. Use the upper rev-range and the sporty Aprilia character shines through coupled with a great chassis and good brakes. Everything you expect from Aprilia is there and with that exciting new 750cc V-twin the Shiver can’t go much wrong. The engine sounds great and has got so much more character than a highly strung in-line four. And at £5.500 (British Pounds) the price is right too. I can’t see any other motorcycle in this segment with as much going for it on several levels. Good value for money!