2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 | FULL TEST
Italian For Hooligan
Aprilia’s given its Dorsoduro a new lease of life in the new 900. Is it as rad as it looks?
The Aprilia Dorsoduro was one of the first big-bore street supermotos available to the public when it was first released in 2007. At the time, the Dorso 750 it was somewhat of a revelation, as Aprilia didn’t have many bikes that got the loins going other than the aging RSV1000 and the utterly bonkers RXV450 and 550 V-twin supermotos.
I quite liked that 750 and put lots of miles on them in Australia between 2008 and 2010. It was easy to ride, not too harsh on the eye and one that made people second guess what I was riding when I cruised past—so it scored points there.
But Aprilia had one major issue with the Dorso, and that came in the form of the Ducati Hypermotard. Released at the same time as the Dorso 750, the Hypermotard was far bigger in capacity (1100 vs 750), weighed less and was a damn sight more fun that the porky little Aprilia.
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Photography by Kit Palmer
And Aprilia did nothing about it until 2011 when they released the Dorso 1200, a bike that when graced with a full tank of gas weighed about 500 pounds. Not exactly what you’d call street supermoto material.
Fast forward to 2018 and for this year we get a new Dorso in the 900. This is basically a bored out 750—it has the same stroke as before—that shares its designation with the Shiver, itself a new model for 2018. The main difference between the two is the Dorso gets a one tooth smaller front sprocket to coerce a little more hooligan behavior out of the pilot.
The new engine makes a claimed 93.8 horsepower and 66.3 lb-ft of torque—respectable numbers—but when paired to a claimed wet weight of 476 pounds isn’t going to set the world on fire, performance-wise. Aside from the bore increase, the new engine enjoys some frictional losses thanks to new pistons and a lightened piston pin, and electronics are now governed by the new Marelli 7SM ECU that houses traction control and a new Continental two-channel ABS system.
The throttle is a ride-by-wire unit (quick pub fact: the first Dorso of 2007 was the very first Aprilia to get ride-by-wire as standard) and houses three separate riding modes in Sport, Touring and Rain, all accessed through the 4.3-inch TFT dash that comes straight off the RSV4 and Tuono 1100 range (but still without a remaining fuel range meter). It’s an easy system to read and use, and is the best dash in the class against the Hypermotard 939 and the MV Agusta Rivale.
Also, swiped from the standard Tuono V4, are the three-spoke wheels that drop a claimed 1.9 pounds off the front and 2.8 pounds from the rear of unsprung mass of the old 750, while Kayaba donates the 41mm front suspension and rear cantilever shock—both ends adjustable by preload and rebound.
Two things immediately stand out when you complete your first five miles of riding a Dorsoduro 900: the first is it feels heavier than an urban supermoto/streetbike of this ilk should, and the second is the claimed 93 horsepower feels too little for a bike this size. It simply doesn’t have the get up and go I was hoping for out of a bike that looks like this cool. Couple the overall lack of punch with a ride-by-wire throttle that’s surprisingly heavy, given that it’s not actually pulling open the throttle bodies and just sending voltage to the ECU.
The flip side of this is that the throttle is not jerky in any way, but it has a very “computerized” feel to it. While some ride-by-wire throttles have a linear connection between when I move my wrist, they open the butterflies and when the go reaches the rear wheel, the Dorso 900’s feels like I’m sending an e-mail by comparison.
It’s all well and good when you’re up and rolling, and for the most part the ride is very enjoyable on the Dorso 900. The bike—although big and for my money, too heavy—will turn at even the smallest sign of a corner and is great fun in the twisties when you can get a flow on a link corner to corner.
The engine can be a blast here, as you’re not relying on super hard acceleration unless you’re drag racing from hairpin to hairpin. But to make this part of the ride even more fun, I’d have loved it if Aprilia had fitted a quickshifter to the Dorso 900. The gearbox is not the smoothest out there and could certainly benefit from having a little electronic aid. Although I know this would add expense, I feel it would be worth it.
Another thing that would be worth it would be to fit more than three gallons into the gas tank! A round trip from my place to Ortega Highway and back saw the gas light on after 71 miles, certainly not good enough for anyone wanting to tour on this bike—which should not be out of the realm of possibility, given the comfortable riding position. Granted, I was probably mashing the throttle a little harder than I should have been. But I’d have expected at least 80-90 miles when riding hard and 100 miles when riding at regular traffic pace.
The chassis is remarkably good at letting you ride like a nutter, which is precisely why this bike was made in the first place. But like the Ducati Monster 821 we just tested a few months ago, Aprilia fitted a pretty old-school mater-cylinder that, while not entirely spoiling the otherwise good stopping power of the Brembo monobloc brake setup, doesn’t offer the braking I feel it should, as there’s a lack of bite when you first hit the brake front brake lever and then the power comes in faster than expected.
The Kayaba fork and shock set up offer a planted and comfortable ride and will stand up to a solid amount of punishment when you really get into the hard riding. The fork action can be a little abrupt under full load/braking at the bottom of its stroke. But for 90 percent of riding cases the Kayaba set up is a good compromise between sport riding stiffness and touring comfort.
The dirt bike ergonomics of the Dorso make for a rather comfortable long distance ride, but I felt the seat padding would get too hard too early during my time with the bike. After half an hour on board, I was riding the Dorso like an enduro bike, standing up with my bum right off the seat. So this is an area Aprilia really needs to look at if they want riders to tour on a bike that is clearly capable of it.
Where Aprilia doesn’t need to work is in the dash. It’s quite amazing the Italians are now leading the world in how to make an easy-to-read and -use dash. They used to be consistently awful in this area, and now they are easier to use (on some bikes) than their Japanese counterparts. Everything is accessed by the left switchblock, allowing easy navigation of everything you’d expect like trips, clocks, etc, as well as allowing you to pair your phone to the bike via the optional Aprilia Multimedia Platform.
The Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, especially when other bikes in its lineup, like the Tuono V4 1100 RR, are about as good as motorcycling gets. The Dorso is a fun bike when you really get into it, but the lack of grunt, the overly digital feeling of the throttle and the porky weight detract make this a good motorcycle, rather than a great one. If, in the future, the Dorso goes on a diet, it’ll go a long way towards being the hooligan bike it promises it can be. CN
Helmet: Klim Karbon Adventure Helmet ECE/DOT
Jacket: Dainese Veloster Tex Jacket
Pants: Dainese New Drake Air Tex
Gloves: Dainese X-Strike
Boots: Alpinestars SMX-1 R Vented Boot
Communication: Sena 10S
2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 ($10,299)
Aprilia V90 Longitudinal 90° V-twin engine, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, double overhead camshaft with mixed gear/chain timing system, 4 valves per cylinder, Ride-By-Wire system
Bore x stroke:
92 x 67.4mm
93.8 hp at 8750 rpm (claimed)
66.3 lb-ft at 6500 rpm (claimed)
Modular tubular steel frame
41mm Kayaba inverted fork, rebound damping and preload adjustable
Single Kayaba shock absorber, rebound damping and preload adjustable
320mm dual semi-floating discs, radially mounted dual monobloc Brembo 4-piston calipers, ABS as standard
240mm disc, single-piston caliper, ABS as standard
120/70 ZR 17
467 lbs (curb, claimed).