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  • October 23, 2017
  • Billy Bartels
  • Brian J Nelson and Kevin Wing
  • 17 Comments

2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900: MD First Ride

Intention makes the hooligan. We recently reviewed Aprilia’s Shiver 900, a bike that shares its frame, engine, electronics, brakes and wheels with this motorcycle. But a simple change of intention via longer travel suspension, wider bars, flatter enduro-style seat, and other assorted tweaks, and you get a machine that has a very different character.

Some would call the wide off-road style tapered handlebar a nod to fashion, and you wouldn’t be all wrong. In practical terms, the need for a wide bar on a quick-steering bike is pretty much non-existent.

Granted, if you’re coming to the street from off-road you will appreciate all of these features in a road-going motorcycle, as it will feel familiar and comfortable. From the wide, flat seat, to the high-mounted aluminum kickstand … the two-part high/low front fender to the radiator guards and bark busters (hand protectors) reminiscent of an enduro bike, it plays the role of a large, powerful road-only dirtbike to a tee. And looking at the concrete jungle like a technical off-road course is sometimes a good idea.

Just a curb between you and freedom from a gridlocked highway? The Dorsoduro has your back with 160 mm of travel at both the front and rear wheel (40mm more travel than the Shiver in front, and an extra 30mm in the rear). To be fair, the things that make a good hooligan bike make a good urban streetbike as well. Roads aren’t always in good repair… and there are all sorts of only-marginally holliganish uses for bark busters, right?

If you want a rundown on the technical changes to this from the 750 Dorsoduro, check out our story on it’s Shiver 900 cousin. Everything in the engine compartment and chassis (other than the swingarm) is the same. They even share the same light 3-spoke wheels. Besides a bump to 896cc, the Dorsoduro lost almost 30 lbs.

The other big news is the new 3-setting Advanced Traction Control (ATC)… that basically defeats everything someone would want to do with this bike.  My guess is that it’s really only there because it’s included with the Marelli ECU that it shares with the Sensible Shiver.

I like low sportbikes, with an “inside-the-bike” feel, not the top-heavy vibe of an adventure bike. I like supportive seats, not the over-the-tank plank of an off-roader. I’m lazy, and I want my bike to do a little more of the work for me.  Good thing I’m not the target.

That’s actually the remarkable thing about the Dorsoduro. With some very small changes from the Shiver, they managed to make an entirely different bike. Like I said, it’s all about intention. Riding them both on the same day had me thinking, “Well, it’s no Shiver.” Actually, the longer travel suspension doesn’t seem to change the handling all that much from the Shiver, other than making the bike a bit more composed on choppy surfaces.

The longer suspension travel does allow the bike to shift its weight a bit more, diving a bit more under braking and squatting a bit more in the rear under acceleration. This is why wheelies (and stoppies, for that matter) are easier on the Dorsoduro despite identical engine performance to the Shiver.

The $1,700 difference (over the Shiver) might be a bit extreme, but apparently putting dirtbike bars on a motorcycle (and making it taller, beefier swingarm, cosmetics, etc.) costs a lot of money (the Dorsoduro is $10,900 MSRP). Other than Triumph’s Scrambler and the base Ducati Scrambler Icon, there aren’t any wide-bar street bikes for under $10k. That is if you don’t count actual (small-displacement) supermoto bikes like Suzuki’s DR-Z400SM. The two Scramblers have quite a bit less capability than this bike, while Ducati’s Hypermotard is thousands more and BMW’s Scrambler is also more expensive.

So despite the price premium over the Shiver, it turns out the Dorsoduro 900 is a fabulous deal … at least, when you consider the competing “supermoto” models. If you like the street-tracker style, you could possibly just get it for that and have a hell of a motorcycle. While I may sound damning with faint praise, make no mistake: If this is what you’re looking for, it’ll wow you with a sweet exhaust note, easy handling, fantastic braking, and gobs of torque.

Oh, and we think the new Dorsoduro 900 looks bitchin’ to top it off. Excellent fit-and-finish, together with unique Italian style. Take a look at Aprilia’s web site for additional details and specifications.


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17 Comments

  1. Vrooom says:

    It’s a good looking bike, and reasonable practical if not for the 3.2 gallon tank. You better know where all your gas stations are on a ride. You’ll be visiting them.

  2. Ryan says:

    Love it..If you have ever ridden Motard, but wanted all the street bike qualities (more fuel, more motor, better seat, hwy cruising speed, etc)..these style bikes are just fantastic!

  3. Neil says:

    If you’re going to spend that money, a Monster 797 will give you the same amount of fun. Lower pegs than usual and a nice flat seat. I rode the DUC when it came out and it was fun. But there too, you have to ride a bit to get to the twisty stuff.

    • ilikefood says:

      A Monster 797 will be a lot less comfortable (more forward lean, less leg room) and much less useful on bumpy roads (less suspension travel).

      The Dorsoduro looks awesome – except for the tiny tank.

  4. todd says:

    They’d sell more if it was a 450.

  5. My2cents says:

    I have found that by design most tank volumes mathematically equate with given seat comfort.

    • DorsoDoug says:

      X2. I’ve got an ‘09 DD750. 20k miles. Have done many 650+ mike weekends in Ohio and West Virginia twisties. I’ve chewed more tires off this bike than any I’ve ever owned. Most with a backpack and a tent and sleeping bag strapped on the tail. It’s no Goldwing, but the seat never really bothered me with my riding style. And, never had a single problem with it. Awesome machine that you don’t see everyday. perfect for the roads I ride and my riding style.

  6. Nick Dalessandro says:

    In upstate NY we have no Aprilia dealers. We have no Ducati dealers and we have no Triumph dealers. Can not sell bikes without a dealer network.

    • allworld says:

      “Can not sell bikes without a dealer network.

      Yeah manufactures keep loosing dealers, mostly because they force them to buy bikes they don’t want, add to that a less than fair price for warranty work.

      It’s stupidity at the top.

  7. Bob says:

    Does it still overheat in traffic, even if you’re lane-splitting? Does it still have a thimble for a fuel tank, resulting in sub-hundred-mile range? Does the seat still stuck?

    Yeah, this thing’s a toy at best, a joke at worst.

    • Sterfry says:

      I have an ’09 750 and it has never overheated. I live near Charlotte, NC and sitting in traffic is pretty much standard issue around here. If you have one that’s overheating check the fan and / or the water pump idler gear. Never gotten under 100 miles out of a tank of fuel despite the fuel tank being rather small. I will agree the stock seat is terrible on a good day.

  8. randy says:

    so the 750 was not enough and the 1200 did not sell,so we now have a 900.That may be too much for the 250cc millenial fanboy and girl.

  9. Jeremy in TX says:

    Very cool bike, but I just don’t see how it could make a useful fun machine with such a small fuel tank. With such a small range, I wouldn’t even be able to connect my favorite roads on a day ride.

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