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.