Motorcyclists looking for the ultimate road-going supermoto experience need to strongly consider the 2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 ($11,999). This Italian-made street bike represents the extreme in terms of performance courtesy of its liquid-cooled, 1197cc V-Twin engine, hybrid steel/aluminum chassis and racing brakes. For all the juicy tech details make sure to read the 2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 First Look as this review will focus on the riding impression.
Hop into the saddle and it’s immediately apparent how tall of a motorcycle it is. With a seat height of 34.3-inches it wasn’t exactly built to be ridden by vertically challenged folks. In fact, it’s quite a stretch to get both of my feet planted on the ground at a standstill (I’m six-foot tall). Compared to a pure supermoto, the seat is wide with ample padding which made it surprisingly comfortable even on a 150-mile ride. Grab a hold of the aluminum handlebar and you’ll notice its relatively low bend, though it’s not enough to alter the straight-up riding position and generally works well.
Flip the key, thumb the starter and the engine roars to life with an intoxicating melody courtesy of its mixed chain/gear-driven valve train and raspy exhaust note (86 dB idle / 98 dB at 4800 rpm) emitted from its twin underseat mufflers. Pull in the clutch, drop it into first gear and it’s time to ride…
As you pull away from a stop the bike feels slightly clumsy and top heavy. The first inch or so of suspension travel is soft which only exacerbates the condition. Fortunately its awkwardness vanishes above parking lot speeds.
(Left) Ground clearance is a big improvement as compared to the 750 model. (Center) Braking is one area that the Aprilia really excels at. (Right) The Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 is a surprisingly comfortable bike on the street.
Right off idle, the engine carburates cleanly with minimal vibration. Bottom-end power is robust with upwards of 60 lb-ft of torque from just over 4000 revs. This makes it quite easy to lift the front wheel off the ground in first or second gear. Peak torque of 72.78 lb-ft arrives at 7600 rpm and the torque curve remains flat even as the engine closes in on redline (9600 rpm). Both final drive gearing and the internal gear sequence work well to maximize acceleration yet gearing isn’t so short that you feel like the engine is going to be revving excessively in top gear, even at triple-digit speeds.
Like other Aprilia street models, the Dorsoduro 1200 allows the rider to select one of three engine maps while moving based on road conditions or rider preference by pressing the red starter button. “S” or Sport mode allows for maximum engine power (114.49 horsepower at 9000 rpm) with the most aggressive hitting throttle response. “T” or Touring also unleashes full engine power with a milder throttle response. Lastly, “R” or Rain mode limits the engine’s power for use on wet roads or other traction-limited surfaces.
(Top) The open cockpit allows the rider to move around the motorcycle. (Bottom) The aluminum handlebar has a low bend but is still comfortable on the street.
While we enjoyed the outright acceleration force in both Sport and Touring modes, the throttle is overly sensitive which makes the bike more challenging to control when you’re wheeling or modulating the throttle mid-corner. Based on that experience, I actually preferred riding the bike in “R” mode in slow-to-medium speed corners as it makes the bike friendlier to ride aggressively. Sadly, the U.S.-spec model doesn’t come equipped with ATC (Aprilia Traction Control) or anti-lock brakes in order to keep its price competitive, according to Aprilia. Instrumentation is comprehensive and fairly easy to read, but navigating the menu system is way too complicated and an area that Aprilia could really improve.
In our performance tests the Aprilia galloped to 60 mph from a stop in a time of 3.52 seconds. It continued to a quarter mile time of 11.57 seconds at 121.9 mph. With its relatively long wheelbase (60.1 in.), adequate feel from its hydraulically-actuated clutch, not to mention its open dirt bike-style cockpit which allows the rider to position weight over the front wheel, it’s one of the easier bikes to launch hard. As expected, one area the Aprilia fails at is fuel mileage. We averaged just 25.2 mpg which netted a range of less than 100 miles.
On the scale the Dorsoduro 1200 weighs in at 488 pounds with full 3.96-gallons of fuel. It’s a bit of a surprise because it feels much lighter in motion and is generally a fairly good handling motorcycle in the corners. Tip the motorcycle into a turn and steers with minimal effort though we wish it employed a slipper clutch as it’s quite easy to get the rear wheel to chatter during aggressive corner entry. Ground clearance is good as well, and is definitely an improvement compared to the 750 model.
As mentioned before the first inch or so of travel is soft, but as the suspension moves deeper into the stroke damping firms up in a progressive manner allowing the rider to better explore the handling capabilities of the bike. In fact its well-calibrated suspension settings are one of our favorite features of the bike. Not only does it serve up a high-level of sport ability in the corners, when rough pavement is encountered the bike delivers a very plush ride which makes it very enjoyable to ride all day. OE-fitted Dunlop Qualifiers (view more Dunlop motorcycle tires at Motorcycle-Superstore.com) deliver adequate levels of outright grip, but it would have been nice if Aprilia would have fitted a newer style tire with more road feel.
Stopping performance is another area that the big Dorsoduro impresses us even though it doesn’t make use of a slipper-clutch. The two-piece Brembo radial-mount front brakes deliver excellent power with sufficient feel through the stainless-steel brake lines. From 60 mph the Aprilia stopped in a distance of just 110 feet.
As expected the Aprilia impresses with the outright acceleration power from its big-bore engine, not to mention its corner-carving abilities when the road starts zigzagging. And it’s above average level of comfort now makes it a viable motorcycle for more than just backroad riding adventures. If Aprilia could improve fuel economy and fit a slipper clutch without bumping up the price we’d be completely sold on the Dorsoduro 1200.