Auto Review: Tropical transportation

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Oct. 13, 2011
- Contributed Photo

It was a dark and stormy night, which led to an equally stormy day. You may recall an unwelcome entity named Irene that visited all of us recently and stayed too long and disrupted our lives. After the storm passed, we had a number of very impressive trees strewn across the roads, making transportation difficult, to say the least. However, I was fortunate enough to have an ideal test vehicle in my stable at the time that not only proved to be an impressive motorcycle, but a huge asset when I needed to get out and run errands. Tropical storm Irene is almost forgotten now, but I’ll be fondly remembering my time aboard the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 for a very long time.

Aprilia is an Italian motorcycle company with origins going all the way back to the 1940s, and these days is part of Italy’s Piaggio Group. The Dorsoduro is part of a new family of motorcycles that I like to call “urban sports machines,” which essentially means bikes derived from Supermotard racers. These bikes blend the upright architecture and riding position of dirt and dual-sport bikes with the type of suspension and performance found on high-performance street motorcycles. The result is a best-of-both-worlds riding experience that suits a broad spectrum of roads and conditions.

The engine is a stout, liquid-cooled, 1200cc, 90-degree V-Twin that belts out a claimed 130 horsepower and delivers the power to the pavement via a six-speed transmission. The fuel injection system has Ride-By-Wire technology that includes rider-adjustable engine mapping to help tailor throttle response to the prevailing conditions. There are three settings (Sport, Touring and Rain), but to be honest, I left it on Touring pretty much all the time. The fact is, the 1200’s impressive muscle means acceleration is strong at any RPM, and the Sport setting seemed a bit like overkill to me. As for the Rain mode, it cuts down output to help prevent wheel spin under slippery conditions, but throttle response is so linear and easy to modulate that controlling the big mill is never a problem. Gassing the muscular machine not only delivers a smooth blast of torque, but the beautiful, unique Italian V-Twin exhaust note is soulfully addictive and adds a touch of exotica to this very capable machine.

Such capability is welcome, too, especially under conditions where low-speed maneuverability is an asset. This was evident when creeping around fallen trees and power lines after Irene, and the Dorsoduro’s broad, high handlebars made control a breeze. The seat height is a lofty 34 inches, making straddling the bike at stoplights a delicate affair for the short of inseam, but excellent balance helps this situation. My only other quibble is that the small, 3.6-gallon tank means refueling happens frequently when the riding day is long. And long the days will be, too, as this is a comfortable, powerful, enjoyable motorcycle that handles traffic and downed oaks with equal grace.

The 2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 has an MSRP of $11,999.

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