Supermoto meets every day street bike. That’s how you’d describe the Aprilia Dorsoduro 750. Where the Duke is more focused on the supermoto segment, with its narrow seat, single-cylinder engine and low rolling mass, the Aprilia has more street bike DNA built into it.
You’ll notice this as soon as you slip inside the cockpit. There you’ll feel like you’re sitting within the machine rather atop of it like on the KTM. But don’t let its hybrid seating position fool you because this bike still oozes Supermoto.
Just look at its body. Although it shares the Shiver’s street bike drivetrain, you’d never know from looking at it. Visually the Dorsoduro shares many design elements with Aprilia’s SXV line of track-spec supermoto racing equipment. We are especially keen on its sharp front end design and flat tail with stylized twin undertail mufflers that not only look fresh, but sound the part too.
Like the Duke, both control levers offer a reasonable range of adjustment for different sized hands. Push the starter button and the Dorsoduro snarls to life with more aggression than the Duke. Wrap the throttle a few times and you’ll hear its racy mix of chain/gear driven valvetrain noise as well.
Without question, the Aprilia is a larger motorcycle in every aspect than the KTM. It feels wider, longer, a bit taller, and is considerably heavier (almost 120 lbs more than the Katoom!). This is especially apparent in parking lots or when you’re really moving slow. As speed increases the Aprilia’s mass begins to evaporate, but it never disappears to the Duke’s level.
Similar to the Duke, the Dorsoduro allows the rider to alter the engine mapping but its system is easier to manipulate. With the motorcycle running one can toggle through three different modes (Rain, Touring and Sport) via the red starter button. And the difference in the engine’s character in each mode is astounding.
In Rain mode engine power is substantially subdued to the point where response feels sluggish. It makes it spool up slower and robs the rider of any kind of power hit. However, for a less experienced rider, or when actually riding in the rain, we see how this setting would be a real advantage.
On the opposite end of the performance spectrum you have Sport mode. When engaged, it makes the engine respond with frightening urgency as soon as the throttle is cracked. Just barely twist the gas and the Dorsoduro charges forward as if you pushed the NOS button! In fact, throttle response becomes too precise, especially when you’re trying to ride long wheelies or when you’re racing through the canyons or on the track. This forced us to use Touring mode for the majority of our riding, and despite what its name implies it actually still delivers an exhilarating rush of linear power without being overly responsive. The bottom end feels softer than the Duke’s, but as revs climb power comes on strong, and closing in on its 10,000 rpm redline the engine really comes to life, pumping out a hair over 75 horsepower at 9000 revs.
Around the Grange’s tight, 8/10th-mile course, the KTM would continually get the jump out of the corner. But once you had the Aprilia straight up-and-down and hammer the gas, it inhales asphalt and quickly closes in on the Duke. Its larger 180-series Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier rear tire also seems to hook up better than the KTM’s 160-series rear rubber. We also perceived an enhanced connection between the Aprilia’s rear tire and the rider’s wrist. Spinning the tire out of the corner was not only more entertaining on the Aprilia but it was just plain easier as well.
However, its less refined chassis makes getting into a corner more difficult than on the KTM. Sure the Aprilia changes direction almost as quickly as the Duke, but after you initiate the turn its handling gremlins appear. Where the Austrian-built bike can charge in and out of the corner, the Dorsoduro has to deal with either diving through its long front suspension stroke too fast or having it skidding over the pavement, only using the top two-thirds of its stroke while delivering a harsh feel—depending on how much spring preload is dialed in. Either way, when the fork springs back it’s as if it has zero rebound damping. The rear suspension equally underperforms with a noticeable lack of rebound damping.
Part of the problem is that the Dorsoduro only offers preload and rebound adjustment fore and aft. And while the preload adjuster can compensate for a considerable range of riders’ weight, it’s the lack of effective rebound damping and no compression damping adjustment that really make riding it fast difficult. Add in its generous mass and you quickly understand why the suspension is so overwhelmed.
Another problem is its lack of ground clearance; with aggressive riding hard parts will drag. In fact, we tried adding some more rear preload thereby raising the rear end of the motorcycle but it made no difference – parts still dragged.
The Aprilia lacks a slipper clutch which makes controlling the rear tire during aggressive deceleration more difficult.
A reasonable street pace masks the suspension problems and on the highway the Dorsoduro delivers a pleasant ride even over rough pavement, which is remarkable since it lacks a traditional rear suspension linkage. Its hybrid street-oriented ergos pay a real dividend for a rider logging extended time in the saddle. Specifically, the seat is wider as is the bike’s overall profile, which makes it superior for freeway hauls. It also vibrates less on the freeway and the mirrors deliver a clear view no matter what your speed is. We also like its plastic guards over the control levers just in case you trade paint with another vehicle on the road.
The Aprilia’s instrument panel is superior to the Duke’s. A large swept tachometer bordered by a red-backlit multifunction display provides speed information, coolant temperature, trip meter and clock. The rider can also scroll through other functions via a left-hand toggle switch including instant and average MPG, maximum speed and a lap timer.
The OE-fitted Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tires deliver an astounding amount of grip for a street tire.
In terms of braking, since the Aprilia uses twin brake discs and calipers compared to the solo set-up on the KTM, you’d assume it would offer better stopping, right? Well, yes and no. While the brakes don’t fade and power is slightly better than the KTM, the brakes lack initial bite as well as feel. Leaning deeper on the brake lever doesn’t solve the problem either. Yet for a novice, its less-sharp braking performance might be a bonus as it perhaps gives a rider more leeway in a panic braking situation.
The combination of a high compression engine and lack of slipper clutch also hinders aggressive deceleration. Precision clutch work helps keep the rear end from hopping around violently, but it is way too much work and really takes away from a true Supermoto experience. We also weren’t particularly enamored by its 6-speed transmission, especially at a stop where it was difficult to find neutral.
Aprilia has always been known for its quality fit and finish, but when compared to its Austrian counterpart, you can see that the Italian’s have some catching up to do. Everything from the way the body pieces fit together to the feel of the controls just don’t have the same solid feel as the 690. By no means is it bad, but surprisingly it’s a step behind the KTM.