Rippin' it up with Aprilia's bad seed
You're looking at the Aprilia Falco, but you may not recognize it. Our test bike was festooned with seven pieces of glimmering aluminum body panels that are part of the Streetfighter kit Aprilia now offers.
Ears perk up when they hear the deep, menacing roar echoing off the canyon walls. Seconds later the moaning of the fast-approaching gleam gets louder, and then you see the the shiny bike's front wheel pawing at the air in a crossed-up wheelie exiting the turn. The deep roar turns into a booming staccato wail before a quick upshift with the front wheel still in the air. A screech and a whiff of burned rubber continues the aural assault as the front wheel lands at about 70-miles-per. In an instant the silver streak flashes past as your eardrums dance around in your head to the tune of a ripping V-Twin.
What the hell was that?!
You're looking at the Aprilia Falco, but you may not recognize it. Our test bike was festooned with seven pieces of glimmering aluminum body panels that are part of the Streetfighter kit Aprilia now offers. (See page 5 for a full list of the kit's pieces).
The standard Falco is an impressive sportbike in its own right: fast, cool and half-naked. But its personality is a mite confused. Playing little brother to the hardcore RSV Mille (that we loved in our Italian Twins shootout), the Falco has 90% of its sibling's high level of performance.
High and wide bars make the Streetfighter much more nimble than the standard Falco
But it's surprisingly hard-edged with uncomfortably low bars that do little to differentiate it from the top-dog in the family, making you wonder why you chose the slightly homier Falco in the first place. Aside from ECU mapping, the Falco's engine tuning is the same as the Mille (which is good), but the half-faired Falco gives up some of the Mille's glamor while not gaining much in comfort or appeal.
Enter the Streetfighter, a kit that transforms the Falco into a high-barred, attention-getting hooligan machine. Call 'em naked bikes, sporting standards or streetfighters, and we'll just call them Big Fun. Wheelies, stoppies, extreme lean or feet-up smoky burnouts, this machine entices its rider into questionable behavior. The Streetfighter's personality? Imagine Dennis the Menace being raised by Giacomo Agostini.
If you crave attention, the Streetfighter kit is well worth its $2000 price tag. From the moment the bike is set on its sidestand and is shut down, inquisitive crowds swarm around and pepper its rider with an unending stream of questions, exhibiting an allure unmatched by the standard Falco.
You'll be getting even more attention when you fire up this beast. Imagine the sound of a shotgun being fired at Uzi-like speed.
Like babies, motorcyclists seem to be attracted to shiny things. The silver color of our Falco and its alloy frame and swingarm mix well with the new aluminum bodywork to create an acid-warped blend of Mille and Harley-Davidson V-Rod. The Falco's so bright, ya gotta wear shades. Another neat trick is way the oval-shaped, high-mount exhaust canisters snake under the sinuous new passenger pegs.
And you'll be getting even more attention when you fire up this beast. Exhaust pulses can't wait to get out of the kit's carbon fiber slip-ons (made by Italy's Roadracing brand), which really stretch the meaning of the term "muffler." Imagine the sound of a shotgun being fired at Uzi-like speed. The (too) loud cans work in conjunction with a new ECU chip that is claimed to boost power, especially in the midrange. We confirmed Aprilia's claims by dyno testing the Streetfighter against a standard Falco. BTW, the kit is "for off-road use only," which is kind of ironic considering the "Streetfighter" monicker.
But if that kind of thing bothers you, you're probably not the ideal candidate for this bike anyway. Hooligans just aren't that nice.
Instead, hooligans dig a bulging upper-midrange that makes second-gear clutchless wheelies a doddle. Aided by the higher and more rearward motocross-style handlebars, third-gear, 70-mph wheelies are possible with determination. And in first gear at full throttle, you'll wish the motocross-style handlebars have an MX-style crossbar pad, as the triple clamps are coming up to slap your chin regardless of your less stratospheric intentions.
Wheelies, stoppies, extreme lean or feet-up smoky burnouts, this machine entices its rider into questionable behavior.
That bountiful powerband also proves to be an asset on a twisty road. Healthy squirt from the 997cc Twin launches the bike out of corners at any speed, trying to force the front tire to defy the law of gravity. Power hits with controlled force due to the seamless fuel injection, allowing for tire-spinning exits from the wears-like-steel 180/55-17 Metzeler Z3. Clutch feel is excellent for a hydraulic unit, and knocking gears in the 6-speed transmission is a precise affair.
Big-bore V-Twin sportbikes have never really been considered nimble, but with its higher and wider bars, the Streetfighter is nearly flickable, despite its lazyish 24.5-degree rake and 3.9-inches of trail. Even the kit's adjustable steering damper didn't slow things down, especially when set at its loosest range.
Once out on the straight and narrow (roads, at least), the Streetfighter is quite comfy with its higher handlebars. The alloy nose fairing offers decent wind protection, and the chest-high windblast is free of annoying turbulence. The wide seat is pretty good for a sportbike, but its thin padding can wear down a hardy butt while draining the capacious 5.5-gallon fuel tank.
Like babies, motorcyclists seem to be attracted to shiny things. The Falco Fighter's so bright, ya gotta wear shades.
Less comfortable is the firm ride offered by the Falco, though that can be alleviated somewhat by softening the fully-adjustable 43mm inverted fork and preload- and rebound-adjustable Sachs rear shock. The Showa fork's lack of compliance gave a better appreciation of the high bars, as a rider's arms can assist in bump absorption, soaking up harshness instead of jolts being fed into wrists. Annoyingly, the kit's alloy disc brake shrouds hide the front's compression clickers.
Getting the Falco slowed are the same excellent 4-piston, 4-pad Brembo calipers biting on 320mm rotors that we loved during the Mille R test. These stellar binders bleed off speed in a hurry and offer a degree of sensitivity not seen since Mother Teresa. This is about as good as it gets for streetbike brakes.
Just so no one thinks we get Aprilia checks in the mail, we must say the 220mm, twin-pot rear brake is a smidge too easy to lock up. And while we're feeling irritable (that time of the month... rent), we'll whine about its cold-bloodedness from the kit ECU and the way the sharply upturned exhaust pipes steal room from behind the footpegs, making it almost impossible to plant the balls of your feet on the pegs. Oh, and before we forget, let's gripe about the dismal headlight: Larry Bird could lay directly in front of the Streetfighter at night and you still wouldn't be able to see his toes. (There, that oughta keep the Honda checks rolling in).
Burning up the double yellow, the smokin'- hot Falco Street Fighter gets a thumbs-up from our resident hooligan Kevin Duke.
So what do you get for your $12,998 ($10,999 for a Falco plus $1999 for the Streetfighter kit, of which just 60 are allocated for the U.S.)? The Falco Streetfighter is a brilliant combination of neck-swiveling appearance, exclusivity and high-performance, all the while providing a reasonably comfy place to do it on for hundreds of miles a stint.
This thing is a grin factory, folks, and it makes bystanders feel as lucky looking at it as you do riding it.
And if there was any doubt the Falco Streetfighter inspires hooligan behavior, then you should talk to Officer Wall of the CHP. I did, and it wasn't by choice.
Streetfighter kit includes:
Front fairing (with subframe)
Electronic dash is standard-issue Falco, but the high tubular bars and groovy front fairing are part of the Streetfighter kit.
Front and rear fenders
Side radiator shrouds
Handlebar (with adaptor) Carbon fiber slip-ons
Exhaust hangers with passenger peg relocators
Mirrors (fit into lever pivots, not shown)
Bracket to relocate coolant overflow bottle
Screened covers over airbox intakes in frame rails
Adjustable steering damper (to counteract the more rearward weight bias)
License plate hanger