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2014 Aprilia Caponord 1200: MD Ride Review

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Large displacement adventure tourers are certainly popular these days, and most of the manufacturers have jumped into the category with entirely new or updated bikes this year.  Two of the all-new competitors have been thoroughly tested by MD, including the KTM 1190 Adventure, and the Suzuki V-Strom 1000.

Aprilia has joined the party, as well. The 2014 Caponord 1200 represents an entirely new design by Aprilia that incorporates as its heart the powerful 1200 cc  90° v-twin we first encountered when testing the Dorsoduro 1200.

This Caponord is extremely sophisticated, incorporating more electronic aides and controls than just about any competitor. That’s saying a lot. The list includes ABS and adjustable traction control, cruise control, Aprilia Dynamic Damping (which has pre-selectable damping settings, based on loads, as well as an automatic setting that can sense road conditions and riding style) and ride-by-wire throttle (with three different maps, including Sport, Touring and Rain).

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All of these electronic and computer-controlled features were described in greater detail in our First Ride report from the European launch of the Caponord last year. Take a look back at that story for more detail on these features.

Power, of course, is something that defines the category of large displacement adventure tourers, and the Aprilia Caponord 1200 certainly measures up in this regard. At a claimed peak of 125 hp at 8,250 rpm and nearly 85 foot/pounds of torque at 6,800 rpm, like the Suzuki V-Strom 1000, the Caponord has a power band that emphasizes low-end and mid-range performance.

It does not have the vicious thrust of KTM’s 1190 Adventure, but the Caponord is probably in the zone of overkill for most riders, in any event. Throttle response is excellent, and certainly much better than it was on the Caponord we tested years ago. We had dry roads and good traction, so we didn’t have use for the Rain setting, alternating between Sport and Touring, instead. Even the Sport setting, which can be a little too abrupt for relaxed riding on some machines, responded smoothly and predictably to the throttle hand.

The power band comparison with the Suzuki is not meant to imply that the two bikes are equally powerful.  Far from it. The Caponord has substantially more thrust than the smaller displacement V-Strom. Beginning with the lower mid-range, the Caponord offers that kind of effortless acceleration you might associate with big bore sport machinery. It is fast.

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The Caponord is also extremely comfortable. With its adjustable windscreen and standard hand guards, wind protection is good.  The upright rider triangle, with ample leg room, is complimented by a supportive seat that was a pleasure to sit on for extended periods.

Some large Adventourers Tourers pretend to be off-road capable more than others.  The Caponord, on the other hand, offers very little pretense of dirt worthiness. It doesn’t offer the suspension travel of some of the competition, and the front wheel size is road-standard 17″. Road tires wrap cast aluminum wheels.

At a claimed dry weight of 502 pounds, the Caponord is a big, heavy motorcycle. Once underway, it handles quite well, however, and the adjustable suspension gives the rider plenty of options when it comes to damping.

Suspension stiffness is, to some extent, a matter of rider preference, but we found the standard settings too soft, and ended up adjusting the dampers to the setting designed to accommodate both a rider and passenger even when we rode alone. Speaking of passengers, when we rode with one, we preferred to adjust the dampers to accommodate rider, passenger and luggage. Our passenger found the seat comfortable, but had a bit of difficulty mounting the Caponord with the bags in place.

The somewhat soft damping did limit aggressive corner carving to some extent. Although the big Caponord changes directions without too much effort thanks to the wide bars, it becomes somewhat unsettled during aggressive transitions.

The standard saddlebags offer decent storage capacity, and are relatively easy to lock or remove. They will not accommodate a large, full-face helmet, however, which is a capability we would certainly appreciate on a bike with hard bags.

We don’t have any complaints about the performance of the clutch or the transmission, particularly in the context of a large displacement, powerful v-twin. Clutch pull was reasonable and engagement predictable, while the six-speed transmission did its job, and was  something we could generally ignore (the way we like it).

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The Brembo brake system, which includes 320 mm discs in front squeezed by gorgeous monobloc four-piston radial mounted calipers, was generally faultless.  Excellent power and control, sometimes overwhelming the soft suspension.

The Aprilia Caponord 1200 is an attractive machine, in our opinion, and looks particularly sporty with the bags removed. It is not an off-road machine, rather it is focused purely on street performance. The engine is powerful and charming (in a way only 90° v-twins can be), effortlessly motivating a generously stretched out, comfortable riding position that could take you great distances without breaking a sweat. In our opinion, it is not a leader in the category when it comes to suspension performance and handling, however, so if that is your priority, you might look elsewhere.

At a U.S. MSRP of $15,499, the Caponord is beautifully finished in your choice of either Red or White paint. Take a look at Aprilia’s web site for additional details and specifications.

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29 Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Sorry, no shaft drive, no deal.

    • Norm G. says:

      really…? ok why…? not saying you’re wrong or anything, just saying help me understand.

      like others, I’ve got a few bikes in the stable (not an illegal amount). some are shaft driven (“talkin’ about shaft”), others via chain, but honestly I ride them interchangeably with no bias. depends on where I’m going and whatever I feel I haven’t ridden in awhile when the helmet slips on.

      now how I come to OWN them came down to how they were either A, good used deals or B, had certain design features (read engine) I found appealing, but not a one was i ever motivated (or put off) by it’s method of final drive…?

      and being a decidedly “sport rider”, you’d think I WOULD be put off by shaft drive…? admittedly, while I am wary of the replacement cost and the “all or nothing” failure mode (relative to a chain) if and when it does break…? even still, not so much. just don’t think about it, when I’m on it all’s I think about is ridin’ it. dunno.

    • mickey says:

      All drive systems have plusses or minuses. Just ask a BMW owner sitting on the side of the road with a blown final drive, or the Harley guy sitting on the side of the road with a busted belt, or the sport bike rider sitting on the side of the road with a busted chain. No system is a guarantee of getting where you are going or getting back home again.

      I own a shaft drive bike, a chain drive bike, and a belt drive bike. When I jump on, turn the key and take off, I don’t really think about what is powering the back wheel on whatever bike I am on, I just think about how good the ride feels.

  2. Norm G. says:

    the Adventure Tourer most likely to be chosen by Peter Fonda. curious, what’s Aprilia quoting for RAKE…?

    I thought it an illusion before, but every pic’s gotta a whole “Easy Rider thing” going on…?

    notice “Edgy” in the first, it appears the Diavel isn’t the only Italian chopper. it’s like they’re trying to address the issue of seat heights, which seams to be a deal breaker for a great many.

    get it “seams” (vs seems). see what I did there…? 🙂

  3. The Other Bob says:

    The power sounds nice. I love V-twin power delivery more than I4s. Too bad it isn’t particularly attractive, better suspended or lighter.

    I’ll wait to see what Mercedes has up it’s sleeves. Maybe by the time the MV Turismo Veloce Lusso is ready for release, they’ll have some dealer and service stuff worked out. Price shouldn’t be much more than this but will be nearly 100 lbs lighter and the longer travel Skyhook suspension will be to die for. And it’s a looker. I’m building up my bank account as we speak.

  4. Frank says:

    Nice bike. Don’t think 500+ lbs. is too heavy or this obviously built for comfort, street oriented ride.

  5. Joe Bogusheimer says:

    I’m not really sure by what measure this should be considered an “Adventure” bike, if the word has any meaning left – it has no pretensions to off-road at all, not even a stupid beak. It’s a half-faired sport touring bike, as far as I’m concerned. Just like the Multistrada.

    The exhaust canister is a little unfortunate – maybe they should have gone for two, because that one is huge! Also it’s too bad that it seems to have the same problem as the original FJR – springing (especially the shock) that’s just sufficient for a decent-sized rider and a little luggage, but overwhelmed when a passenger is added. That is, assuming they were talking about the springs as the source of the softness, rather than the damping.

    • Joe Bogusheimer says:

      BTW, I think it’s really nice looking overall, and I bet it would be a sweet ride. Although I’m not sure an Aprilia would be my first pick for a sport-touring ride that I’d be riding all over the place. I wonder if there’s an Aprilia dealer in Cape Breton, or even anywhere in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick? Ooh, there’s one in Dieppe, NB – probably only a good part of day’s drive in the back of a truck from Cape Breton (for example). There are a whole bunch in Quebec, though – I guess Quebec really is the motorcycling capital of Canada, cold winters and seasons limited by winter tire laws notwithstanding.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “BTW, I think it’s really nice looking overall, and I bet it would be a sweet ride. Although I’m not sure an Aprilia would be my first pick for a sport-touring ride that I’d be riding all over the place.”

        definitely a dealer issue on the front end as well as the back. seems like a perfectly competent product (i’d hit it) that could proliferate just as easily as anything else if not for the “catch-22” of availability. good or bad, people like to buy (and think) what other people are doing more than they like to be seen as individuals (watch tomorrows news reports for the iPhone 6 and we’ll see more clearly).

        there have been at least 3 (maybe even 4) aprilia dealers that have come and gone in my area in the past decade. hell, there may even be one operating now…? but since I haven’t seen anybody riding around on a new one, I have no “visual cues” to trigger me to even investigate.

    • Dave says:

      Re: “but overwhelmed when a passenger is added”

      I don’t imagine a passenger would want to stay on the back of this very long. That doesn’t look much better than sport-bike passenger accommodations.

  6. Norm G. says:

    re: “The engine is powerful and charming (in a way only 90° v-twins can be)”

    FISTPUMP…!!!

    if you think 90V Adventurers are “Prince Charming”…? wait till you try a multi cylinder 90V4…!?!?

    oh, wait.

  7. Kagato says:

    I have to be the spelling nazi here–I think Dirck meant Vicious, not Viscous, which is a term usually used for fluids–I guess it could be viscous thrust. BTW I had to google it myself, vicious spelling for hooked on phonics types. That scoot looks like it’s ready for a trip to Alaska : – )

  8. mickey says:

    502 pounds is a big heavy motorcycle? hardly.. The only bike I have that weighs less than that is a 400cc scooter…and it’s close.

    • billy says:

      Yes! I’ve owned ten bikes at least from 400 to 1000cc and never one that heavy.

      • thornrider says:

        Yes, 502 lbs is a heavy motorcycle these days. Tiger 800 is 463 lbs. wet. All depends on what you want the bike to do. The older I get, the more light weight becomes desirable.

        • mickey says:

          Im 64… My naked FZ-1 weighed 50 pounds more than that, my naked Cb 1100 weighs 70 pounds more than that..my ST 1300 with fairing a bags ( like this) weighs 200 pounds more than that. To me that thing is a lightweight.

          I would think the number of bikes with a fairing and hard bags big enough for two up sport touring cross country that weigh under 500 pounds would comprise a very short list.

          • Joe Bogusheimer says:

            Multistrada and R1200GS? There are a few that are just below or just over 500, and then it goes up from there. Many are closer to or well over 600 lbs. 500 lbs for a sport-touring bike (particularly on the more touring end of the spectrum) is pretty reasonable. Hell, the last iteration of the much-loved VFR800 comes in at 480 dry, which must mean it’s over 500 wet and fueled. And that’s without bags or nearly as big an engine or as good passenger accommodations as this Caponord.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            The weight quoted by Aprilia is dry weight (most manufacturers are quoting wet weight these days). Considering the fuel alone is roughly 40lbs (6.3 gallons), with all fluids, the Caponord is likely north of 550lbs.

    • Starmag says:

      It’s really 592 with the bags and 6 gallons(!) of gas. About 30 less than a Norge or a RT which I think is it’s real competition. Still, that’s getting up there.

      • mickey says:

        6 gallons of gas would be 48 pounds, right? How heavy are those bags? Loll

        • Starmag says:

          Gas is about 6 lbs. per gallon so, no, it would be 36. I got the 592 from Motorcyclist. Why the discrepancy? I don’t know. I do know that I’d rather have the wet or curb weight reported than the manufacturer’s fantasies. CW has it at 560 dry 600 wet.

    • MGNorge says:

      As we all know, weight tends to melt away once rolling. It’s while wheeling them about in the garage, negotiating a tight turn or thrusting a foot out to catch yourself with loose traction that weight can make itself really noticed. Sure, there’s a difference when riding, but like cars a lot of the time that extra mass helps with a more planted feeling ride than if you were riding some lightweight bikes. Just a matter of a good test ride to know if it’s for you or not.

  9. Starmag says:

    This seems like a great sport-tourer that’s priced fair. Not over-styled. Charming big-power engine. Utility. No beak! There could be one of these in my future. Shame about the canister with hose clamps on the left side and the cheap-looking black plastic lowers and rear fender, but those are basically niggles. The weak dampening could no doubt be improved with cheap heavier fork oil.

    Great write-up and side pics as usual Dirck. If I was a motorcycle manufacturer I’d be looking you up to advertise and I’d have my marketing team (think big!) hawk the best comment section in motorcycling without taking them all to heart.

    • Oilhead says:

      Ditto on the canister, which also afflicts the Mana.I can’t imagine it was an afterthought for the U.S. market as European emissions standards would seemingly require the same. We used to perform a “canister-ectomy” years ago on BMWs with no side effects. Maybe the same procedure could be applied here.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “The weak dampening could no doubt be improved with cheap heavier fork oil.”

      isn’t there a “fancy trim” version of this with s’pension electrics…? or has that been done away with…?

  10. Dennis Hill says:

    Maybe because I’m 72, that soft suspension sounds pretty good, never been a knee dragger. My Beemer is old enough to vote with well over 100k, and I’m a little sore myself. I’ll take comfort all the time…

  11. arbuz says:

    Thanks for the review. Where there any heat management issues, is suspension adjustable for 2 up riding, what was the MPG. And how would aprilla compare to the non-dirt-pretending bikes, like an FJR 1300ES ?