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2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200: MD Ride Review

I grew up riding dirt bikes.  I raced motocross bikes for a while, as well.  Even on the street, to this day I am most comfortable sitting upright in a “neutral” position, with virtually no weight on my wrists. I like supermotos.

When we first saw pictures of the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200, with its new 1200cc 90° v- twin engine, I got excited.  A huge, massively powerful dirt bike, I thought, that could rule the roads in a way few bikes have previously.

Aprilia seems to have invented a new name for a class of bikes that would include the Dorsoduro 1200, the “maximotard” class.  Indeed, it is certainly new to me … a class of motorcycles that mimic a dirt bike with road wheels and tires … and 130hp! Not only the new 1200cc engine that is incredibly powerful, but other features set this bike apart. In the world of supermotos, you don’t often find three selectable maps for ignition and fuel mapping, for instance, controlled by a throttle that sends a signal by wire, rather than a steel cable.

Radially mounted Brembo calipers, a hydraulic clutch and even a unique frame (a combination of tubular steel trellis and aluminum castings) make this bike unusual for a supermoto, as well.  Look at pictures of the bike, and you find another unique element … its styling.

Engine power peaks at 8,700 rpm, and there is plentiful torque everywhere.  Indeed, the six speeds seem redundant, at times, as you tend to focus on how much throttle you need to apply, rather than what gear you are in.

The three maps available include sport, touring and rain modes.  Both sport and touring offer full power, with touring being a bit smoother in its application.  Rain mode reduces peak power to 100 hp.

The suspension includes 43mm Sachs forks that are fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound.  A healthy 160mm of travel is offered up by the fork.

The rear shock is mounted directly to the swingarm without a linkage, and is also fully adjustable. Again, travel is generous by road standards at 155mm.

The Dorsoduro 1200 is also available with ABS and traction control … more features setting it at the premium end of the category.  We tested the standard model without these features.  In keeping with the brutal honesty of this machine, it is only available in white or black.

Unlike most supermotards, it is blessed with a comfortable seat wide enough for longer rides.  Despite the size of its motor, it changes directions easily and the wide bars offer a familiar flickability.

Finally, the Dorsoduro 1200 is an eye-opener, both literally and figuratively.  Crack the throttle, in either the touring mode or the sport mode, and any similarity with dirt bikes or other supermotos disappears quickly … even suddenly!  This motor is not only extremely powerful, it is ultra-responsive.

Put the bike in neutral and rev it … it feels like there is almost no flywheel weight to hold it back.  While riding, although the fuel injection seems to be just about perfect, throttle response is almost too immediate.  Be careful, this big dog can bite you.

Performing wheelies on this bike (I couldn’t help it) is certainly easy in one sense.  You can get the front wheel up with no problem.  It is difficult, however, in another sense.  I like to balance the bike with the throttle while ignoring the rear brake.  The Dorsoduro 1200 has such a sensitive throttle response, this was a scary endeavor.  Don’t try this at home!

So unlike most of the motorcycles out there these days, this big Aprilia makes no apologies and does not suffer fools.  It isn’t “easy to ride” or “benign”. It is an expert level machine requiring precise control from an experienced rider.  Part of this is down to the immediate throttle response and huge power, but it also has to do with the ultra-quick handling.

While the Dorsoduro 1200 felt stable at high speeds, muscling the bike through tight turns and quick changes of direction could result in some mild head shake.  Not enough to concern most experienced riders, but coupled with the touchy throttle, it could lead to trouble.

The upside is that the bike is extraordinarily entertaining to ride. Once you find a rhythm on the big Dorsoduro, you would be hard-pressed to find another motorcycle that you could hustle through a canyon more quickly.

The first inch or two of suspension travel can feel like it sets up a bit of a wallow while hustling.  Nevertheless, without changing the standard settings, I became comfortable with the suspension and even appreciated its plush response during highway cruising.

Don’t buy a Dorsoduro 1200 to save money at the gas pump. If you baby this bike, you might approach 40 mpg, but 30 mpg is more likely if you are romping and having fun.

Not surprisingly, we found the brakes more than capable. The extra travel offered by the fork, however, requires you to modulate your application of the front brake very carefully … again emphasizing the fact that this bike is not for beginners. The rear brake did its job well. It is not overly powerful, but you can lock up the rear wheel, supermoto style, if you need/want to.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but we thought this bike looked tough. It doesn’t really look like anything else, and that was just fine with us.

In the end, if you have the skills the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 can be an extraordinarily capable, entertaining ride. Practical?  Not really, but that isn’t the point of this machine. Between the tiny bikini faring and the hand guards, it offers a bit more comfort at high speeds on the freeway than other supermotos, but that is about as practical as this bike gets.  No, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 is really more about adrenaline and overkill. Remember adrenaline and overkill?  Not PC, but it has its place.

The Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 is available at a U.S. MSRP of $11,999. Visit Aprilia’s web site for additional details and specifications.

32 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    I own a Shiver 750 and I have ridden both models of the Dorsoduro (a good friend is an Aprilia dealer.) I suspect that Dirck was in Sport mode when he tried the wheelies. Aprilia’s sport mode is insanely sensitive, too sensitive and downright annoying for daily riding. All three bikes are wheelie monsters straight out of the box. All three bikes have a bit of head shake as Dirck described. I have made a few tweaks to my Shiver, which some others have copied on their 750 Dorsoduros, and I suspect they would work on the 1200 as well. Raise the forks in the triple clamp about 5 to 7 mm to put a bit more weight on the front end. This will reduce the tendency to wheelie on every WOT gear shift and will also eliminate the head shake in the twisties. You might have to put a extra washer or two in the bottom headlight mounts to re-align the headlight. Run the bike in touring mode. The only difference between sport mode and touring mode is the shape of the throttle response curve. The actual horse power one gets is the same in both modes. The only real rider difference is the amount of wrist twist required to get to the same power setting, and touring mode allows one to finesse the throttle more easily. Sport mode is too on-off like a two-stroke and can surprise you with its harshness when leaned over coming out of the apex. I use sport mode on a track day, but that is about it.

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  2. zrx4me says:

    I’d love to have this bike,but the dealer network sucks.Few and far between and a lot of fly by night dealers with no inventory listed on aprillia website.Contact me aprillia if you want a dealer in orlando.You pay for the franchise and I’ll do all the hard work-LOL.

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  3. Treg says:

    Finally a review right on the money….I had this baby for a month and all the reviews that I read on the web were off. Dirck got it right, and as for throttle sensibility you get use to it…and Dirck pull your wheelies in 2nd gear it’s much easier to balance it…:) amazing bike!!!!

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  4. Stinky says:

    I’ve been quite adamant, I like twins, I like nakeds. I’d looove to have one of these, aaand a KTM, BMW, Duc Hyper. I’m guessing the touchy throttle is that throttle by wire instead of cable. I’d prefer the KTM or Hyper but they’re too expensive, poor seats, no fuel capacity or all of the above. What’s with the poor fuel mileage? Poor mileage + no tank size = ?. I’ve got a Ulysses, S1 and an old Monster. Early motards with shorter suspension. Their tanks are a little on the small side but good mileage makes them liveable. Most would blast my bikes for rough suspension, lack of power, poor seats… but they’re a hoot. So would this big girl. Hope they sell and get to swap rides with someone on a good road!

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  5. Stratkat says:

    er… it may be ‘new to you’ but KTM have been building big ‘tards for years now, and then there is the Ducati Hyper. Aprillia just hopped on the wagon not really innovative as much as trying to grab a piece of the proverbial pie, just sayin’

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  6. crashmw says:

    Those comments about the throttle are concerning. You should be able to float wheelies without the rear brake…I am not saying that you should ignore the brake, but that is and should be either for emergencies, or for real stunters that are looking to go beyond 12 o’clock for coasters, etc.
    If the throttle is too touchy for BP wheelies, then it is too sensitive for modulating speed on sketchy roads (freshly pea-graveled) like some around here (Mt Hamilton-Mines road comes to mind).
    As another asked elsewhere…how does it match up against the likes of the KTM 990SD?

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  7. Denny says:

    What amazes me is how Italians make these things accessible pricewise, regardless of the genre. Price is what interests consumers most and they (makers) deliver. In past anything Italian was expennsive. There must be a huge organizational change behind the scenes which allows that.

  8. Vroooom says:

    It actually seems a lot like my Tuono except for a slightly more neutral riding position. That thing is incredibly unpractical unfortunately, and destined for Craigslist, as inclement weather and no real ability to carry groceries or a laptop is a killer, even if it’s fun as hell. As a wheelie machine or track bike though it’s killer, this thing must be over the top.

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  9. ziggy says:

    Pretty awesome dude, you’ve been holding out on us.

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  10. ko0616 says:

    +1 on the wheelie shots.

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  11. Neil says:

    I sat on the previous model and liked it. I can likely test ride this at my local dealer. I do know from riding my brother’s 07 multistrada that the power is great for just loafing along in third, getting on the highway and any time you want to not shift all the time. The throttle sounds like the Kaw z1000 I test rode and the 04 zx10 a friend let me test ride. Great machine. Great review. Naked is always good to me. First bike was a Yamaha TY250 trials.

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  12. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    Looks like a blast to ride.
    Too bad for me I don’t feel like spending 12 grand on a street bike, anymore. ;)
    Maybe I will again, someday.

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  13. Gordon says:

    Dirck,

    Thanks for the great review. I have always enjoyed your reviews going way back. Nice to see the obligatory wheelie shot, also.

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  14. kent says:

    Over one liter twin with Motard ergonomics.

    How different from the SuperDuke & HyperMotard is it? The article makes it seem like a whole new class of bikes, but I figured those other two are already in it.

    Where has my thinking gone wrong?

  15. CCulwell says:

    +1, light weight, strong rideable power, low maintenance, and monster brakes. I’m looking forward to seeing the new Husky, but still not sure it fits the bill.

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  16. mxs says:

    1200 cc supermoto candidate …. yeah OK. Aprilia, how many will you sell? Don’t cry that not too many. I mean the 750 cc Dorso is a stretch, now 1200??? How about 450 or 550 which I don’t have to take apart or change oil all the time.

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  17. Ninou says:

    Aprilia may call it “maximotard” but this is not a new class of bikes. BMW had its Megamoto, Ducati has the Hypermotard (1100 and 796) and KTM has the 990 SM, 990 SMR and 990 SMT. The new Husqvarna Nuda is close to being in this class too although it has a lot of characteristics from naked bikes.

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    • Dave says:

      I feel that the Nuda and Super Duke are closest to what this kind of bike should be (little weight, big torque, simplistic). Nearly 500lb is far heavier than it should be. I agree that calling this the birth of a new class is just marketing fluff. I’d even add Aprilia’s own Tuono to this list, esp. considering the weight figure.

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  18. RAD says:

    That looks like a Wheeeeelllliieeee good time .

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  19. Norm G. says:

    is it me, or were you bombing around 10-15psi low in that rear tire…?

    (ps: i just got a captcha with Kanji lettering… KANJI…!? really…??)

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    • Chris says:

      Tire looks fine to me… The 1200 is something like 485 lbs with a full tank. Add a rider in gear… Rear tire is going to squish a bit…

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      • Norm G. says:

        not THAT a bit. just had 2 guys wreck hard here locally. both from rear tires that “mysteriously” deflated. one a friend. inpected his rear tire/rim combo myself. no puncture and valve stem and core were intact. culprit…? failure to check air pressure that was too low to start resulting in bead seperation under load. it happens. and when it does… you don’t wanna be THAT guy.

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        • Chris says:

          There is a point where tire pressure can be too low. If DE’s post from below is accurate “roughly 30 psi”, then the tire pressure was fine. That is more of a track pressure though.

          Sorry to hear about the two wrecks. Checking tire pressures before a ride takes maybe a minute. And the guages themselves are fairly cheap.

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    • sliphorn says:

      The second photo definitely looks like the rear tire is low.

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    • Dirck Edge says:

      28 PSI ,,, just checked the rear tire this evening, Pictures were taken a few days ago, so figure roughly 30 PSI at the time. too low, I would normally want 35 PSI or there abouts.

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