Before you even ride Aprilia‘s new Dorsoduro 1200, the very existence of the bike poses an obvious question:
why is it such a very small niche machine - a big, soft supermoto - when it has the basic ingredients needed to enter the much larger and more lucrative adventure bike class?
After all, the 129bhp liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin sits perfectly between BMW‘s air-cooled GS and the 150bhp Ducati Multistrada, while the tall chassis and long travel suspension are ideal for the class.
The reason is a big picture one: Aprilia is concerned that its image in the bike market is fuzzy, that people don‘t really know what Aprilia stands for, so the company first of all is bringing this into sharper focus and emphasising the brand‘s association with technology, sport and fun, and they don‘t seem to think the adventure class is defines this quite sharply enough. Maybe they started developing the Dorsoduro 1200 before the Ducati Multistrada was really known about...
Ironically then the new Aprilia is not especially sharp and sporty, at least not compared with the products of the most tightly focused manufacturer KTM. We rode the 1200 on a variety of mostly dry but slippery roads in southern Spain, and the Dorsoduro does handle very well, with neutral steering and accomplished suspension, but it feels quite heavy and slow to flick side to side. That will be fine for some riders, but those hoping for a raw, muscled supermoto wild ride will be disappointed.
The engine is built in the same vein, offering a wide spread of torque and very good low rev manners that mean you can trickle it around happily if you want, or wind open the throttle for some really exciting performance.
The Sport engine map option though is very aggressive and even in good conditions, on twisty roads and also around town is just too sudden and twistgrip sensitive. Even when going for it along a fabulously sinuous road I was more comfortable and probably faster too using Touring mode.
The motor is very smooth too, another factor in reminding you what a fine basis it would be for a GS-rival - okay, will be rather than would be, Aprilia has all but admitted a Dorsoduro-derived adventure bike is on the way.
The bike comes with traction control, and while this isn‘t as sophisticated as the RSV APRC SE‘s sublime system it still works very well, although annoyingly the bike won‘t wheelie with it on (surely the raison d‘etre of supermotos?), but you have to stop the bike to turn the traction control off. Still, on the unpredictable and sometimes treacherous roads of our test route, it was a very welcome feature.
Comfort‘s not bad, although the seat feels quite hard after a few hours aboard, and with more wind protection and a tank that‘s more generous than the 15 litres you get, it could well make an exceptionally competitive adventure bike...
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