Aprilia Product Review Unpublished

An Italian Take on Adventure Bikes

In March of 2014, I flew off to northern Arizona to test ride the returning Aprilia Caponord for Motorcycle USA. Later that fall I got an extended ride on the machine, to deeper understand its livability with a ride up the coast to Monterey for the races at Laguna Seca. This is that story… unpublished on RoadRUNNER due to the release of the Rally version and overlapping content. The non-Rally is still great bike and deserves a few more reads than my own. Enjoy!

Living With the 2014 Caponord 1200 Travel Pack

Photos: Alfonse Palaima / Kevin Wing

ROI-caponord-3539Returning to the US, after a few years hiatus (even though they never stopped selling the model in the EU), the latest generation of the Caponord is back, after a model year in the EU first {http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/852/14914/Motorcycle-Article/Aprilia-Caponord-1200-First-Look.aspx} as what we would consider a base model.  The American (only) version of the Capo is  the kitted out Travel Pack version which includes integrated saddlebags (easily fits a Shoei RF-1200), center stand, cruise control (3rd gear and higher), hand guards and a manually adjustable windscreen. Its a turnkey tourer, ready from day one with a 690-watt generator to power your accessories, including an underseat USB port (used in conduction with the AMPS system, more on that later,also sold separately). Accessories like the top case, pillion saddle and tank bags are sold separately. The non-travel-pack version sold in Europe will not be available here by the way, but they can get the add-ons we have over there if they want them. 

While I haven’t much an experience with the brand, I do know the market and form factor rather well. Adventure bikes are in! What constitutes an adventure bike is still a little hazy however. As marketing jargon goes these days, it alludes to what used to be called a dual sport motorcycle or dualie. While what would have been called a sport touring machine 5 years ago —like the Caponord— now falls inside the ADV bracket, that which Aprilia calls the Street Enduro segment. In the end, every bike is an adventure bike ain’t it… raising instead of lowering our heart rate… amongst other things.

As with their entire model lineup, Italian pride is sprinkled all over the Caponord. The pride bring results too, boasting fifty-two world titles and sporting a decal on the tank to remind you. Aprilia takes their motorcycles to heart, building not only the heart beat but also the nervous system in their Scorze, Italy factory, mere kilometers from their headquarters in Noale. Like all their models, the Capo is also built on strong racing knowledge and technologies, like throttle by wire to management software. They believe they stand out from the competition with this passion and technology, offering an in-house ground-up motorcycle with better handling than the competition’s offerings and the best electronics on the market; the best traction control, the best engine mapping and the best electronic suspension.

Caponord-2809The high revving liquid-cooled 90-degree 1197cc V-twin, sourced and retuned from the Dorsodura for more midrange performance, is hung from a Monster-like trellis frame with a steel subframe for touring-weight strength and rolling on the very same 17-inch wheels found on the RSV4.  The Vee sucks down the go-go juice from the 6.3-gallon tank at what seemed to be too fast on our first ride. We later realized we were just going far and fast between stops and hadn’t used a complete tank, but were left with only a single bar on the gauge after 125 miles, which equals to somewhere in the mid-20s mpg, lets hope for better results on future rides. [EDIT: We’ve been told its a “long” last bar on the gauge and the claimed MPG is around 38.] The 503-pounds (dry) of high-velocity mass are put to rest with a pair of monoblock 4-piston radial Brembos up front, clamping down on 320mm floating rotors aided by a single 240mm disc with single-piston Brembo in the rear, served with braided steel lines.

At the breakfast technical briefing, Miguel Martinez, President and CEO of Aprilia, wanted not to “burden us with numbers, but with miles.” And with that our 100-plus mile photoshoot blast around the greater Prescott Valley could not have been better. The Arizona spring weather broke just enough to supply us with a chilly morning (better to test the accessory heated grips) and a few rays of sunshine for the cameras. The rest was on us to modulate: throttle, brake and clutch.

In The Saddle

With 125 HP (at 8,250 rpm) and 84.6 lbs/ft of torque (at 6,800 rpm) at the ready, the Caponord was never intimidating, always flexible, flickable, light and responsive… and with more rear wheel power than anyone needs on any given day. Tuned for low end torque with double fuel injectors and a twin spark ignition and a very tall first gear, the loaded-up touring prowess is sure to please. Delivering technology through throttles, Aprilia’s combined electronic systems create a handling-oriented system and constitutes a massive bowl of alphabet soup, including but not limited to RbW, ABS, ATC, ACC, and ADD.

Good Eats

Caponord-2First introduced in 2006, on the Shiver, and an industry-first, the ride by wire (RbW) throttle system that makes it to the Caponord as a mere cog in the larger electronic package that delivers any rider a smile. Three rider optional settings deliver maximum performance and the full 125HP to the ride in the Sport mode, while the Touring mode rounds out the hit for a more subtle peak. The Rain mode delivers only 100HP to the system in less than optimal gription situations.

Feeding fuel to the 52mm throttle bodies via a network of data paths, and patented software systems, the throttle, traction control, antilock brakes are all focused on one set of goals – maximum comfort and superior handling. Along with the unique model name, comes a litany of acronyms that define many more ideas than the threes words for each of the three-letters in them.

The two channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) offers superior control and can be switched off for any such a need. We al know how those work now, on the Caponord, they’re single finger easy up front while the rear felt a slight be numb.

The ATC, or Aprilia traction control system (also disengagable) has three settings and two thresholds to help keep any ride in control yet as close to the edge without going over. Their patented Slip Control system calculates and compares the differential between the front and rear wheel speeds, against the rear wheel speed to know if and when to intercede. In “regular” traction slippage, intervention comes by reducing the input from the throttle application electronically. In emergency situations, spark interruption assists the throttle reduction. The former can be felt with a light touch upon heavy throttle launches at the stop light, the later application we didn’t get to test out, sorry. Interruption control is applied according in 3 levels: Level 1 for pure adrenaline with the heaviest hits, Level 2 for the everyday ride and touring, and Level 3 is optimized for riding conditions with which you might also be using the Rain ABS mode.

Caponord-2995The ADD markings on the fork tube and near the rear shock refer to the Aprilia Dynamic Damping and focus on two goals at all times, maximum rider comfort and enhanced handling with yet another Aprilia-patented system combining the first ever fully-active rear suspension with a semi-active fork spring adjustment… all on the fly… and done automatically! Gone are the idea of riding modes and thinking to yourself, am I going to ride fast and hard on this ride? Or take it easy… only to_not_ take it easy when you see the road ahead? The single-map ADD system keeps you in the right mode and all times thanks to their stroke-speed sensing combination (and series) of sensors and potentiometers.

Most important in mind, managing the damping. But how? Trial and error attempts to use accelerometers fore and aft failed to pass muster no thanks to the rigid mounted engine. The automotive-type sensors were blown away with the high frequency vibes so another new idea needed to be cooked up. Aprilia instead stuffed a Bosch pressure sensor inside the fork tube along with the Sachs componentry and put a swing arm angle detector in the rear to create the best compromise between the Skyhook suspension system and other acceleration driven damping systems. With another homegrown software package listening to wheel speed, throttle position, the front brake and the fork and swing arm sensors, the 10-millisecond return to the components keep the Caponord at the ready for every corner and every bump in the road… making a better ride for you and me.  Come in hot to a corner, stab the brakes, the front stiffens up, the rear rebound increases to keep the rubber driving the ride… off the brakes and before you’re back on he throttle, the front loosens up again and the rear stiffens as necessary for the speed and weight loaded on the bike.

Furthermore, Aprilia has also beefed up the usual (and still rather awesome) electronic rear preload adjustment system to include a fifth mode. Beyond the usual settings for single rider, two-up, single with luggage and two-up with luggage is an automatically sensing and adjusting mode that eliminates the need to ever worry about if you’re set up right for the combination your riding with at the time. Pick up a ‘friend’ at the bar, load up with groceries and then get back on the bike minutes later with a whole new weight level… thats no longer a problem with the Caponord! Not that the 18 seconds you might have spent changing it in the past took too long, but hey, its cool!  Its’ what they call an “exclusive active mode” and its another first for the market.

The last spoonful in the soup bowl is the accessory Aprilia Multimedia Platform System (AMPS), and yet another world first for the industry. This enables the motorcycle to speak to your smartphone via Bluetooth and not only tracks your route, offers driving directions and a super-cool homecoming landmark bonus feature, but also a whole lot more! In what essentially becomes a secondary dashboard, one can display a wild array of bike data shipped wirelessly to your smartphone: engine temperature, adjustable shift point indicators (or automatic), redline marks, traction control intervention levels, RPM, torque, thrust, speed, horsepower and more… all live! And when your park the bike and walk away, it records the bikes location for easier finding when you return to it. 

Caponord-3106Don’t like the bar tach on the bike’s dash, us the AMPS to display a more traditional analog needle, in digital projection. Ground speed seems to keep exactly 2 mph below bikes indicated speed however – good or bad. While there are a few bugs in app to be worked out, such as keeping the Bluetooth connected when keying off… with stop and go touring use, the reconnection gets tiring. Perhaps with your phone hardwired to the bike’s USB port it has better luck. The app only displays in horizontal layout as well, a possible problem for fully-farkled handlebars with standing room only (vert).

Railing the backroads of central Arizona, in Sport 2 traction mode, single rider preload and in sporty throttle mode, we could feel the bike correcting itself in flight like a fighter jet… adjusting to lean angle, speed and so on… bringing the Nord home with a romping jolly good time!

Propped up 33.1-inches from earth, the wide and comfortable saddle is offered in 3 models, standard, sportgel and a sportgel low. Adjustable muffler mounts offer for the race-ready rider more lean angle clearance when pulling of the saddlebags.

The New Caponord a friendly race bike for the street, in an upright riding position and all-day ergonomics with auto-sensing suspension, selectable traction control and horsepower levels, with switchable ABS, ride by wire throttle, cruise control, bluetooth enabling and one damn sexy exhaust and intake sound! Aprilia sought out to make a better handling bike than the Multistrada (and you’ll have to wait for our complete test to know more about that) with best-in-class electronics. I think they’ve done it. They’ve poured their heart and soul into the Caponord, from pistons to data points, with thoroughbred stock to start with…I can’t wait for my second ride!    Combining a lightweight chassis with sophisticated electronic management of traction, suspension and braking, Aprilia has built an RSV4 for the everyday rider, for the best of every riding application. And with 8 more models on the horizon, they’ve got a bright future ahead!