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MD First Ride: 2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200

The 2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200 was introduced to the press on the beautiful roads of Sardinia, complimented by rain and wind. If the latest Caponord from Aprilia has been a long time coming, all we can say is good things are worth waiting for.

At the heart of this new adventure tourer is the same v-twin found in the Dorsoduro we previously tested.  Peak horsepower and peak torque are down just slightly in the Caponord, delivered at lower rpm levels for a broader spread of power (125 hp at 8,250 rpm and 84.4 ft./pounds at 6,800 rpm). The changes include smaller throttle bodies, and Aprilia is claiming a 20% improvement in fuel consumption compared to the Dorsoduro. The fuel tank holds 6.4 gallons.

As it has already done in its superbike family, Aprilia is aggressively incorporating advanced electronic controls in the new Caponord. In the upper end “Travel Pack” version we tested, in addition to ABS and traction control, Aprilia incorporates cruise control as well as ADD (which means Aprilia Dynamic Damping, rather than Attention Deficit Disorder).  A description of ADD could include an article of its own.  Suffice it to say that this proprietary Aprilia system controls the SACHS suspension units by sensing road conditions and riding style to make damping adjustments that best complement the given conditions.  The bike’s ECU monitors numerous variables (among them throttle opening, braking, acceleration, speed and engine speed) to make the suspension adjustment assessment.  Additionally, Aprilia has also incorporated a self-adjusting spring pre-load for the rear shock that reacts to the load placed on the bike by the rider, passenger and luggage.

Finally, the ride-by-wire throttle response can also be adjusted by selecting one of three different maps, including Sport, Touring and Rain.

Compared to the Dorsoduro, the Caponord 1200 has revised steering geometry, with reduced rake and increased trail.  The wheelbase has been increased roughly 1-1/2 inches. The ABS braking system includes top drawer radial mount Brembo front calipers.

The Caponord has an Aprilia family resemblance.  The RSV4 superbike is brought to mind when viewing the bike from the front, and the silhouette is quite sporty for the adventure tourer class.

Swinging a leg over the Caponord revealed a seat height that is tall, but not excessive for the adventure touring class (33″). The rider triangle created by the wide-set handlebars, footpegs and generous seat provided a very comfortable mount for attacking the twisty roads of Sardinia.  The screen height is also adjustable, although it must be done while the bike is stationary.  Wind protection is good for the class, leaving a fairly smooth air stream at helmet level.

The instrument panel is thorough and legible, and assists relatively straightforward adjustment of the ignition maps, suspension damper settings, traction control settings and ABS.

The Caponard 1200 with Travel Pack features the 29 liter saddlebags pictured, each of which accommodates a full-face helmet.

The big 90 degree v-twin responds nicely from as little as 2,000 rpm, and vibration levels are noticeable but pleasant.  Clutch action is relatively easy, and gear changes positive.  A steady 70 mph yield roughly 4, 200 rpm on the tach for relaxed touring.  We had all the acceleration we needed on the windy roads by rolling the throttle on between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm.

Although the roads were frequently damp, we stuck primarily to the Sport and Touring ignition maps, finding less difference in the two than we expected.Throttle response was smooth enough that we preferred the more aggressive Sport setting.  I also preferred the less intrusive traction control setting despite the road conditions.  This is an easy bike to ride fast.

The flexibility of the engine allows you to comfortably wind it on to 8,000 rpm before shifting, and the 125 hp feels more than adequate despite some of the competition reaching for superbike-like horsepower levels.

The Caponord 1200 is not the lightest member of the large enduro market with a claimed dry weight of 502 pounds.  Nevertheless, we were impressed by the semi-active suspension performance, and the balanced feeling of the bike.  The big Caponord seemed to combine comfortable compliance with stiffer, more aggressive damping when needed for aggressive riding.  Quite impressive.

“Balanced” is a good word to describe the Caponord 1200.  It is not the lightest or most athletic member of the category, but it combines competent handling with comfort and wind protection suitable for long distances with both a passenger and luggage aboard. The most comprehensive electronics package in the category includes an excellent cruise control feature, as well.

We don’t currently have U.S. pricing, but the Caponord 1200 should be available later this year in the U.S. If European pricing is any indication, however, expect the base model to come in around $17,000.

59 Comments

  1. bad Chad says:

    “If European pricing is any indication, however, expect the base model to come in around $17,000.”

    Well, with Piaggio, parent company of Aprilia, you can be pretty sure that in 2013, EU pricing is NOT a good indication.

    This bike will likely come in at under $16000, fully kited out. The Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX with all the goodies is under 16k, no reason to think Aprilia is going to go higher. They have dropped US prices recently to boot.

  2. Jeremy in TX says:

    The more expensive these things get, the less impressed I am with them. I am fortunate enough to have the disposable income to buy one today if I wanted, but I just don’t think there is enough bike there to justify spending that kind of money. I don’t know if it has to do with me getting older or some other dynamic altogether, but I just don’t lust after these premium bikes like I once did.

    • Provologna says:

      Sir, you took the words from my mouth…well, except for difference in our disposable income.

      I’ll add one comment about this bike: just another Cadillac Escalade minus three whells (including emergency spare).

      My adventure dream bike is 400 lbs wet maximum (more like 350), probably a twin, 21″ front wheel (19″ minimum), with optional OEM motard kit (17″ front wheel, possibly lower suspension).

  3. HalfBaked says:

    For what this thing costs I could buy every XR 650L in 6 western states and still have money left over.

  4. vfr999999 says:

    Why are the manufacturers making these expensive to buy and maintain heavy machines?
    The originals like the first multistrada, first few years of the GS etc Nice light simple adventure tourers. Most bikes today are to much like cars complicated and expensive. The reto simple bikes will reign in the future. The retro cafe types keep will keep growing

  5. tomoto says:

    As they say… “Imitation is the best form of flattery”. There is only one Multistrada. I don’t know which is uglier, this or the new KTM Adventure. I think this one wins the miss ugly contest, I love all dogs, but I don’t want the front of my bike to look like a Pug. This bike needs a high front fender badly. They are useless, but they look great and give big Adv. bikes that more aggressive “dirt bike” visual appeal, regardless of the bikes actual dirt worthiness. Ducati simply choose to make the Multi’s functional. I thought the Dorso was a beauty, but Aprilia dropped the ball on this one. JMO of course.

    • Bones says:

      The LACK of a useless high front fender is one of the appeals of this bike’s design for me. The Caponord isn’t a dirt bike and few people take big adventure bikes off road. Off paved roads, sure, but off road not so much. Aprilia is just being honest. I think this bike makes for a great sport tourer, and if you want to go explore some forest service roads or maintained but unpaved roads, so much the better. JMO of course. :)

  6. Randy T. says:

    Beautiful, and no doubt a stellar performer, but at a price of $17K +, perhaps a used one in 3-5 years is a possibility. A new one is not. When bikes cost as much as cars (and the top line models do), motorcycling will become a memory for a lot of us.

    • superbikemike says:

      and manufacturers wonder why certain models don’t sell well…. i.e. ducati wonders why there multistrada’s do not sell better….. really…… buy a clue ducati….

  7. falcodoug says:

    beautiful!

  8. Bones says:

    Blessedly beakless. I like it.

  9. takehikes says:

    I’m one of those guys that loves all motorcycles but I really don’t get this whole class at all. Too much “stuff” for me…..and the whole class is ugly as hell.

    • Fangit says:

      I agree. I think this class is the four wheel drives of the bike world. Very few people use them off-road and it seems they have come at the expense of the sport-touring class. And I don’t mean the fat sport-tourers ala FJR1300 etc. Where have the new versions of Futuras, ST4s, VFR800s and R1200Ss, etc gone? Triumphs Sprint ST is about the only one left and that is so long in the tooth it is long outdated. I reckon bikes like the Caponord and Multistrada would make superb sport-tourers with relatively minor mods to lower suspension, lower the handlebars and move footpegs further aft. This is what makes sense not these fake off-road fashion statements.

  10. Wendy says:

    I STILL want a RS250. Big fat bikes are fun, but fast skinny stinkwheels are funner.

    • Provologna says:

      Why do 90% of posters here get this but OEM are oblivious.

      Their “adventure” offerings range from 250cc (too small and under powered fully loaded) to 650 singles (too archaic), to these two-wheeled Escalades.

      In the caged universe is found at least one of every kind of vehicle you can dream of. Not in bike land. I don’t get it. I never will.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Because 99% of those posters are not going to go out and buy the bike.

        The market is focused on the big ones right now because that is where the buyers and profit margins are, though Honda seems to have a different idea about that. If Honda’s approach is successful, we may see a change in focus on the market and get more offerings in the light, strong-enough and cheap category.

        And I still want an RS250 too!

  11. Mike says:

    I/we had a 2002 Capo which spent most of its time two up with my wife. Added sport tires, dropped the front a bit, Ducati 916 mufflers and was a great ride two up…….take the wife loaded Givi top and side cases off and it was a real threat on the back roads also.

    For anyone having the same interests……..comfy two up most of the time……the new Capo might not be all that attractive to wives/girlfriends for long rides with that rear seat angle……major minus compared to the old Capo.

    Sorry for the very narrow viewpoint ………but as we all should know……a happy passenger……makes motorcycling two up a very happy experience

    The new Triumph Explorer fit us great………and felt comfortable in the dealer show room……compared to the Ducati……but the Triumph realllllllllllly felt heavy and massive. Again show room impression.

  12. stinkywheels says:

    I was very sorry to see the V Twin relegated to a softer status. Apart from the price this looks to be an excellent bike. I still wish for a Futura and Mille. These Adventure bikes seem to be tall heavy and IMHO kinda homely. They are getting better though. Good to see a real gas tank.

  13. Vrooom says:

    I like it, but that’s mighty steep for a base price. I realize that’s where BMW, Ducati and only $1,600 more than the Triumph Explorer, but that’s going to be $20+ as tested I’d imagine. I’ll probably be waiting for it to appear on the used market.

  14. Craig Jackman says:

    A note to the Editors:
    Guys I realize that you are just using supplied photos from Piaggio, but I really hate looking at a new bike and not being able to see all of it. Those 3/4 shots succeed in hiding some of the things I want to see from the side. One of the things the Adventure Rider wants to know is range. Great it gets better mileage than the Dorsoduro, but that bike has a (relatively) small tank for an Adventure bike. How big’s the tank on this? Adventure bikes are farkle monsters. What else is going to be available from Piaggio?

    • Jake says:

      re: “How big’s the tank on this?”

      A little research finds — a shade over 6 gallons.

    • Agent55 says:

      100% Agreed on the photo complaint. Not having a single profile shot of the bike in the articleis just frustrating.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Good point on the photo mix. Added a large profile photo with the bags removed. The bike holds 6.4 gallons of fuel (also added to the article).

      • SmokinRZ says:

        I grew up reading Cycle Magazine and they always had large studio shots of the left and right side of the bike and then shots of the bike without the tank and seat (no bodywork back then). Maybe i’m just old but they were a lot more informative to me than action shots. I used to spend hours gazing at them.

  15. SmokinRZ says:

    Aprilia moves me like Ducati did 20 years ago. The detail and lines are really something in person. I can’t say that about many other bikes.

  16. motowarrior says:

    I haven’t ridden all of them, but so far my ranking of the 1200 Class adventure tourers would be: BMW, KTM, Ducati, Triumph, Aprilia, Yamaha. The great news is that even the last place bike is still and excellent motorcycle. A lot of this is obviously very subjective, and depends upon what is high on your personal list. Hard to beat the new BMW, especially when you factor in the experience they have had with this type of motorcycle. Still, I really think I could be happy with any one of them. The V-Strom doesn’t quite fit in this category, but it is still a great bike for the money. The Golden Age of Adventure Touring!

  17. Hair says:

    It’s a great time to be a 90/10 rider. The new Capos is a fine looking bike. Seems that it has plenty of upgrades too. I wish that their dealer network was stronger.

    • Gary says:

      +1000 on the dealer network being stronger. Also a bike with a 17,000 dollar(appx) msrp should be more of a full on tourer. A lot steep if it is not which this one is not. Aprilias are really nice looking and performing bikes, but about 2 dealers for large States is just not enough to feel secure in traveling any distance. They demand too much for a dealer to take them on in my opinion.

    • DorsoDoug says:

      I bought a Dorsoduro 750 when they came out in ’09. I really struggled to even purchase one because the dealers were so weak. One place was a car dealership. Another did not know the bike existed. Another said it wouldn’t be available in the US that year. One guy added $1500+ to the MSRP because he had one. I finally found a boutique shop 350 miles away in eastern PA that had one and would sell it to me at a fair price. Then I was challenged with servicing it. I took it to one of the local dealers for the initial (600 mi?) service. Oil change valve check and once over. They changed the oil and never cracked a bolt on the engine although the invoice said they did. I took it to a second dealer for the next major service and they did most of what they were supposed to do. The machine has performed flawlessly in 16k miles. And it is an awesome motorcycle. One of my all time favorites.
      But the dealer network is not good.

  18. stratkat says:

    nice to see the ‘beak’ finally going away, much nicer without!

  19. Allworld says:

    I like Aprilia’s in general, and this is a nice expansion of their line-up. One thing that Piaggio has to do is expand their dealer network. Adventure tourers are popular, sort of like SUV’s of the MC world, so Aprilia perhaps sees opportunity. I personally would like to see them do more with the Shiver 750.

    • Chaz says:

      Oh, yeah! An adventure version of the Shiver would be so fine. Leave off the ADD, please.

      • allworld says:

        I am not looking for an adventure touring version of the Shiver, but would like a more touring version something similar to the BMW F800GT. The Dorsoduro 750 and the Shiver 750 should expand their markets.
        I don’t know what “ADD”is :)

  20. John says:

    I like it. But not nearly three times as much as a CB500X. I guess adventure bikers are rich.

    • johnny ro says:

      You dont have to be rich to ride an adventure bike. Even a serious one. Older V-stroms 650s are still pretty awesome for what they are. Cheaper than your new CB500x. Plenty of others to choose from.

      $17k is a lot for most riders though.

      • johnny ro says:

        I should add that when you get up close to the Aprilia, I mean stand there and look at it, you will be able to notice why it costs more than the honda, or the DL650. Same for a super tenere I am lusting after.

        • stratkat says:

          my buddy has a Super Tenere (im not sure how they justify the price on that one) and its nothing special to look at. i agree if you stand next to most of the euro brands, Ducati, KTM, Aprillia, you see where your money goes. most of the fasteners are made for the brand, the castings are usually much more delicate perhaps forged, and the components are high end. you just dont get that with Japanese machines. Japanese bikes are extremely reliable however, just dont have the same flair/design as the Euro stuff.
          it all depends on what you are looking for.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “you just dont get that with Japanese machines.”

            nor do you have to pay for it, so it all works out.

            re: “it all depends on what you are looking for.”

            more accurately it depends on what your WALLET says you can afford. “window shopping” is a fun way to kill time. i do it at the aston martin dealer quite often.

        • Tim says:

          I’m with you on the Super Tenere. The only thing holding me back is the lack of electronic cruise control. With many of its top competitors now offering that, I was hoping they would come out with that feature this year. On a long trip (and on a bike like this that would make up most of the miles I put on it) that cruise would be worth its weight in gold. For that reason I’ll probably end up going with the Triumph (unless the local dealer actually would sell the BMW GS for MSRP instead of well above it). I’m not holding my breath on that.

          For the dealer network alone, the Yamaha makes the most sense. When you’re in the middle of nowhere and break down, it would be nice not to be 500 miles from the nearest (Triumph or BMW) dealer.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “(unless the local dealer actually would sell the BMW GS for MSRP instead of well above it). I’m not holding my breath on that.”

            you’re a smart man tim. that’s right, you could die. and for what…? better to step aside and let those VALUING the brand, consume the brand. it’s important that transaction be a win/win for everybody.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I guess adventure bikers are rich.”

      bingo… (oracle voice)

  21. mk says:

    I wondered if they fixed the fuel economy on these little buggers.

    • Gronde says:

      I wonder if they fixed the reliability of these little buggers.

      • stratkat says:

        I wonder if they fixed the reliability of these little buggers.

        • Michael H says:

          I wonder if they fixed the dealer network reliability of these little buggers.

          • Butch says:

            The dealer network is still a bit thin, and the U.S. marketing is generally poor. However, my personal ownership experience with the brand is excellentt. The bikes are high quality products and very reliable.

      • DaveA says:

        Aprilias have been, apart from a very few specific and easy-to-address issues, stone-axe reliable since the first Milles and Capos appeared on US shores. To wit, n acquaintance of mine has been racing a 2002 Mille since 2004, and he’s got over 50,000 track miles on it. As far as I know, he’s never done a thing to is apart from maintenance.

        Now parts availability? Not so much…

        • allworld says:

          I had a lemon law replacement, my reliability experience was not so good. I still do like Aprilia, but with out a strong well established dealer network, I will pass.

        • Vrooom says:

          I have an ’03 Tuono that I’ve put 50K on using it on the track and street. It’s never had an issue (OK, other than the key just doesn’t quite move the ignition smoothly), and just routine maintenance. We have a good dealer where I live, so parts are available if pricey.

        • ROXX says:

          Had a Futura and it was dead nuts reliable.
          Rode the hell out of that bike and it almost never needed valve adjustments.

        • Dan W. says:

          I owned a Futura for 4 years and spent a LOT of money trying to get it to run properly – and never did get it sorted, dealer couldn’t get it to charge properly, stop throwing error codes, make the gas gauge work, heck even idle cleanly. Spoke to the guy I sold it (at considerable loss) to just this weekend, – and HE hasn’t been able to get it work right, thinks it needs ANOTHER starter – that’d be 3 in 15 K miles.

          Sure looked good, but I will have a hard time trusting the brand again myself – I feel the product they sold me was NOT ready for consumer use, and their certified mechanics hadn’t a clue.