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2008 Aprilia SMV 750 Dorsoduro: MD First Ride

“This is a true Aprilia”, Francesco Polimeni (Aprilia Motorbike category Manager) told me at the Rome presentation. What Polimeni meant is that it carries more racing heritage than the last big Aprilia news, the Shiver.

Just by looking at the new Dorsoduro you can see clearly what it is. It’s Aprilia’s take on the hottest niche in the motorcycle market. It’s Aprilia’s answer to Ducati’s Hypermotard and KTM’s 990 SM. By using the 750cc V-twin, Aprilia also positions itself as the smallest of the big ones.

But Aprilia’s 750cc, 90 degree V-twin is liquid cooled, not air-cooled like the Hypermotard. Despite tuning the engine for more low-end torque, the Aprilia Dorsoduro still ends up with a respectable 92 peak horsepower @ 8750rpm. The main target with the Piaggio developed 750cc V-twin was low-end and midrange power. And torque there is plenty of from very low revs and max torque (82Nm) is available already from 4,500rpm.

Aprilia’s ride-by-wire is also in place on the Dorsoduro. From the starter button you can change between Rain, Touring and Sport settings. The R setting takes away all the fun for safe throttle usage when it rains. The T setting softens the low-end torque response but leaves full power on top. The S setting allows the hooligan to express himself fully!

Needless to say, I spent most of the day in S mode. In the morning though, I involuntary set off in T mode. I was thinking that this wasn’t too aggressive a throttle response and kept it on full throttle for best drive. To change the 3-way ECU settings you have to let go of the throttle so that the engine is on idle and then push the starter button whilst the engine is running.

After a heavy thunderstorm during the night, the roads were covered with dirt and debris. Despite this, I felt that I had really good traction from the combination of a long swingarm and the Dunlop Qualifier 180/55-ZR17 rear tire. The Dorsoduro aluminum swingarm is longer than on the Shiver for better sliding control. The rear sub-frame is new as well. The front end is a bit livelier just like on a true supermotard. All this aids aggressive corner entry and exit.

The wide handlebars allow supreme bike control, and for good measure Aprilia have added the hand guards from the SXV. On a supermoto, they mainly protect the clutch and brake levers from accidental contact during close racing. But on the Dorsoduro they’ll protect the levers in the event of an accident and also shield your hands from wind and weather. This is very practical when using short supermoto gloves.

The front area of the Dorsoduro has a striking headlight design that resembles a knight’s helmet. Since all of the bikes at the launch were black, it’ll be a black knight then. The design works for me, and the clean view of the 17inch front wheel is pleasing on any supermotard.

The SMV7 50 has wavy double-discs with Aprilia’s radial brake callipers attached. The wheel is mounted on a 43mm USD fork that is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping. A generous 160mm travel is available from the front end. The side-mounted rear monoshock also sports the same adjustability and spring travel as the front suspension.

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I love the brakes on most supermotards, and the Dorsoduro mega motard is no exception. That travel at the front and the Dunlop Qualifiers allows extreme usage here, too. Despite being somewhat heavier than your usual motard (186 kilo dry weight) the brakes do the business.

I expect Aprilia will suffer some criticism when the Dorsoduro is compared to the Ducati Hypermotard that weighs only 179 kilos dry. The Dorsoduro may have a water coat around the engine, but it is also almost 350cc short of the Hypermotard in terms of engine displacement.

Sitting on the suitably tall seat (870mm) riding through the countryside about 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Rome, I didn’t feel that the Dorso was too heavy. About 60 kilos (132 lbs.) heavier than the race-spec supermotards, of course, but as a roadbike it works fine. Getting close to 200km/h (124 mph) a couple of places the Dorsoduro is stable enough for motorway riding, too, and much more so than the singles. Compared to a single-cylinder motorcycle, there is hardly any vibration, and this allows for a clear view in the mirrors and the ability to hold a cup of coffee with steady hands after a ride. It’s also worth mentioning that the seat is not of the extreme race-type, as I was riding with a cracked sacrum (tailbone)! I didn’t have to top up on painkillers until after lunch, which gets the stock seat my stamp of approval.

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Riding in and out of small towns, I got the chance to check the fuel injection at very low rpms. In the S mode, it was a little disturbing at times as the engine does prefer 2,000+ rpm. But everything above 2 grand provided smooth acceleration, with a kick around 4,000 rpm when the torque curve is near its peak. A pleasing V-twin rumble accompanied me the whole day.

Conclusion
Do I love this type of motorcycle or what? It’s the most pleasing niche to arise since the streetfighter, and might turn out to be the dominant category in a few years time. Aprilia have created a great motorcycle from its 750cc V-twin platform. Despite the fact it is based on an existing platform, the Dorsoduro is all-new in so many areas, such as the chassis, exhaust, styling and more. It’s so much more than just a Shiver with supermoto design. I prefer it strongly over the Shiver, as the Dorsoduro is pure fun made easy. Is it better than the Ducati Hypermotard? That’s difficult to judge without riding both side-by-side. All in all, the Dorsoduro is the most enjoyable new Aprilia I have ridden since the SXV. Highly recommended.

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Styling and Aprilia supermoto racing pedigree
Handling and chassis details
Reliable V-twin engine that should suit everyone

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Takes too long to change engine modes (R, T or S)
Is it enough to beat Ducati and KTM?