Europeans have eaten up mid-sized streetfighters like the Honda Hornet and Kawasaki Z750. Aprilia hopes to capitalize on this trend with the new Shiver 750.
For those in the market for a funky middleweight roadster, the choice has never been so good. Gone is the stuffy, slightly cheap image that used to go with these naked and half-naked streetbikes - because now the Z750s, Fazers and Hornet 600s of this world, as tested last week in MCN, are brimming with performance and style to match their practicality and reliability. And if you want to be a bit different from the Japanese crowd, there's always the brilliant little air-cooled 992cc V-Twin Monster S2R 1000 to tickle your taste buds.
But things are about to change because Aprilia has joined the party with its new V-Twin 750cc Shiver. This is the first Aprilia to be designed from a clean sheet of paper since cash-rich Piaggio have been in charge. It's the first of many new models that will eventually plug the massive gap in Aprilia's range between their 125cc and 1000cc bikes, which has just the single-cylinder Pegaso rattling around in it at the moment.
In typical Aprilia style the Shiver looks a million dollars in the flesh, has technical innovations like a 'ride-by-wire' throttle system (more about that later), sounds great and packs a mean punch, too. But for the first time this really is an Aprilia for the masses, it's devilishly simple and un-intimidating to ride (so it's definitely not a Tuono, then) and it's cheap, too. When it hits the showrooms in June it's going to cost less than six-grand - around the Â£5800 or Â£5900 region, although no official prices have yet been released. (No word yet on the Shiver's U.S. release date or asking price, but at the current exchange rate the British MSRP translates in $11,500
Full production starts very soon, but Aprilia were so keen that we ride what is likely to be the most popular Aprilia motorcycle ever, they invited us to Italy to try out the only two pre-production Shivers in existence. In fact they took us to Alfa Romeo's secret test facility buried among the rice fields near Milan and onto a closed section of Armco-lined, one-way 'road' to put Aprilia's newest creation to the test.
Our friends describe the Aprilia Shiver as "simple and stress-free to ride" but the 750 Twin can get up and go.
The Shiver has a lot to live up to. In recent times the quality and reliability of Aprilia's motorcycles has gone through the roof. Just look at the Swiss-watch precision in which the little two-stroke RS125 is made; the rabid, foaming at the mouth performance oozing from the Tuono, and the handling brilliance that blesses the RSV superbike.
Thankfully the Shiver doesn't disappoint. Normally on an Aprilia it's the sheer speed and lunacy of the thing that impresses, but on the Shiver it's the calm, comfortable controlled way in which it goes about its business. Climb aboard and you're immediately hit with a sense of well-built solidity. The sculptured plastic tank cover is physically very big, the bars high and wide and the chunky seat is lovely and plush.
With its rubber-topped pegs, a comfortable, natural riding position, compliant suspension and the V-Twin motor gently burbling beneath you, the Shiver is simple and stress-free to ride. Its relaxed demeanor has a flavor of the new breed of Moto Guzzi's laid-back roadsters, like the Breva - which shouldn't come as much of a surprise since Guzzi and Aprilia are both the same company now, controlled by Piaggio. But the most impressive thing about the Shiver's low-speed road manners is the beautifully smooth throttle control - or the 'ride-by-wire' system to be precise. Just like Rossi's factory M1 or Bayliss's works 999 there's no physical link between your right wrist and the butterflies inside the fuel-injection throttle bodies. From the twistgrip there's a set of normal steel throttle cables, which disappear into a black box . From there it's up to the bike's ECU to decide how far to electronically open the throttle butterflies. Each of the two V-Twin throttle bodies is operated separately for optimum performance, too.
Controlling the power delivery from the Aprilia Shiver's V-Twin motor in a new 'ride-by-wire' fuel injection system.
The advantages of this system are huge. It improves the throttle response, provides crisper acceleration, eliminates some engine braking, helps get the bike through tough noise and pollution emission controls and lets the Aprilia engineers 'tune' the engine in any way they want. If they wanted to, they could make this engine feel like a Harley pitting all of its grunt at low revs or a racebike shoving the power up at high revs or something in between, which is about where the Shiver is. Even cruise control can be controlled by ride-by-wire in the future.
The system was perfected by Aprilia electronics engineer, Andrea Ricci, who knows a thing or two about the black art of electronic rider aids having worked with Ducati's World and AMA Superbike effort for four years. Aprilia were at pains to tell us that the ride-by-wire system still had to be polished some more for the full production bikes, but to be honest the power delivery and throttle response is so good, it's already better than the best from Japan.
So at town speeds the Aprilia is smooth, comfortable and easy to control. The V-twin motor is docile at low revs and there's little sense of the Shiver's 189-kg (417-lb) weight once rolling; it's nimble and agile, a bit like a supermoto. There's plenty of legroom for taller riders but the seat is low enough to appeal to shorties too.
But the Shiver wouldn't be an Aprilia if it didn't have a cheeky side, and winding up the wick will reward with wheelies in the first two gears, while the engine note turns from burble to full-on roar the further you and the bike's computer jam open the throttle butterflies.
The Aprilia Shiver 750 is an agile ride, with its 417-lb weight not holding back its handling capabilities.
The real meat in the power is between 6000 rpm and 9000 rpm, although the 95 hp, 90-degree V-Twin will rev on to 10,000 rpm before a very soft rev-limiter gently chimes in, which is another little trick operated by the ride-by-wire system. Up in the higher gears (there's an LCD gear position indicator, which really should come standard on all bikes) the force of acceleration disappears quite quickly, although it's always hard to really judge with a twin-cylinder machine as they never feel as fast as a screaming four.
On an A to B run through some country lanes I'm pretty sure the Shiver would keep with the slightly more powerful (by 5 hp) Honda Hornet, thanks to its usable power delivery and predictable and agile handling - not to mention superb radial Brembo brakes, but in a straight-line dash the revvier Honda might have the legs - there's not going to be much in it though.
So will the Shiver be the middleweight to go for? Well, it's well-built, stylish, comfy, roomy, easy to ride, fun and practical. It's going to cost about the same as the Monster S2R1000, which as good as it is, is still a 15-year-old design and is starting to feel its age - so it should have the Ducati licked.
Whether it'll upstage its Japanese rivals is another question. At less than six-grand you've never been able to get so much fresh, trendy Aprilia for you money. Aprilia did have problems with parts supply last year, but that was more to do with the fact they shifted their parts factory to a different location right in the middle of the summer busy period than anything else. Aprilia's are as bullet-proof as anything from Japan and are as well built as a Honda.
MCN predicts the new Shiver will be more than a match for its fellow Italian rival the Ducati S2R, but its popular Japanese competitors may be a different story.
Some will still take the 'conventional' route and stay with their Hornets/Fazers and Z750s, but if you want to stand out from the crowd the Shiver could just be the one.
Box out: Interview with engineers
It's not often you meet all the people who made a bike all at the same time, but we were lucky enough to meet the entire Shiver crew. Here's what Mariano Fioravenzo (Chief Engineer, Motorcycles), Pieotro Soati (Chief Engineer, Shiver), Andrea Ricci (Chief Engineer, Electronics), Alberto Cappella (Designer), Marcello Fiaccavento (Engine Development) and Francesco Polimeni (Marketing) all had to say:
"When we develop our plans we always look at what opportunities there are in the marketplace. This project is new for Aprilia because we got the chance to enter a segment that is the biggest in Europe. The Shiver has helped us let people know that Aprilia don't just make race track bikes. We've got the chance with this new engine to have the chance to keep the young customers we have from scooters and 125cc, and keep them in our family.
"The design is 100% an Aprilia. It's not a Tuono of course; it's another kind of bike. It is something very different although there are lots of sporting references in the bike to satisfy our customers. We think this is right answer for what people expect from Aprilia. We think the bike will be bough by young guys between 35 and 45 years old who appreciate Aprilia and its technology like the ride-by-wire innovation, the engine and the chassis.
Aprilia produces everything from scooters to superbikes, but will the mid-sized Shiver 750 be a hit for the Italian marque?
"It's difficult to say why we called it the Shiver. It's like why do you call your child it's name, you just feel it, that's the point.
"The ride-by-wire is the biggest improvement with this bike. It's a system derived from the car world, so it's tried and tested. We've had to develop it to suit the demands of a bike as it's exposed to the weather, there's extra vibration and less space. For bikes it's derived from racing but there are also lots of advantages for this type of everyday bike too, especially for emissions.
"We developed the system on the track for the safety of our test riders, but the rest of the bike, like suspension, engine and handling was done on the road using a normal throttle system.
"The final design of the Shiver was signed off in January 2006 and we have been developing the bike since then."
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