2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro ridden

By Adam Child -

First rides & tests

 19 March 2012 15:49

Aprilia’s revised exotic Dorsoduro 1200 has lost weight, gained some Italian ponies and now has a three-way traction control as standard. If you thought the Supermoto scene was drying up you’d be wrong.

Aprilia are seven times world supermoto champions, and the Dorsoduro has been a success story since its launch in 750 format back in 2008. It’s Aprilia’s third best-selling big bike in the UK and has a huge following in Europe, especially in Italy.

And for 2012 Aprilia wanted to add some performance, quicken up the handling, and yet at the same time make the most powerful Supermoto on the market safer. So how have they done it?

Arguably the most impressive part of the new 130bhp Dorsoduro is now the mighty V-twin which we will get back to, but the three-way traction control which comes as standard.

There are three different modes to choose from. Mode three is for slippery wet conditions, the most intrusive. Mode two for normal road riding and the least intrusive is mode one for track use.

The system monitors wheel speed from the ABS sensors, which incidentally also comes as standard and reacts accordingly.

It’s not the highly acclaimed system as used on Aprilia’s RSV4, slightly more basic but impressive on a bike costing less than £10,000.

The impressive V-twin engine now produces an extra 5bhp, pushing peak power to 130bhp, that’s V-twin superbike power form only 5-7 years ago, in a Supermoto, who would have thought it?

The majority of the power increase is due to revised fuelling, however they’ve also improved manufacturing which has made the engines closer to perfect tolerances, closer to a blueprinted engine if you like.

Finally weight has been reduced by almost 3kg. The majority of the weight has been saved by changing the wheels to forged items stolen directly from the RSV4. They not only look mouth-watering but have saved over 2kg alone.

Other weight savings have been gained from redesigning the front mudguard, and rear number plate holder, it all adds up.

Due to the reduction in weight, suspension both front and back has been revised to compensate for the lack of weight.

But how does this all transfer onto the road or track? Aprilia launched the new Dordsoduro in the perfect environment in Sicily, Italy, the perfect playground for a Supermoto.

The never ending switch back roads around the base of a grumpy Mount Etna are some of the best roads you’ll find in Europe.

However, volcanic Etna wasn’t happy, a few days before we arrived had a minor eruption which covered some of the roads in a layer of black dust. But these dusty roads did prove ideal for testing the new traction control.

It doesn’t matter which mode you’re in, one to three it will react identically, however the modes dictate how quickly the power comes back in and with how much power and torque.

When the traction control is activated it’s not as smooth as some modern systems you’ll find on specific supersports bike like Aprilia’s own RSV4 or Ducati’s Panigale.

It doesn’t have a gyro like the RSV4, it works on wheel speed. However, the traction control on the Dorsoduro is there as a safety measure and not necessarily for fast laps as you push for the last levels of grip.

In terms of safety it’s excellent, as soon as the traction breaks free the traction control instantly stops the slide. Deliberately exiting wide onto slippery volcanic ash got the system working overtime, impressive.

In mode three it seems to take a while for the power to come back on song, attempted wheelies result in instant power loss, a sudden stop and crushed testicles against the 15l tank. Unfortunately mode 1 is almost as intrusive for one wheel action.

You can almost get the front to hover over crests in third or fourth gear as in mode one it allows the power to come back on sooner and harder.

But like every dedicated supermoto fan if you like to pop the odd wheelie you have to switch the system off, which can only be done in neutral at a standstill.

Handling wise the ABS-assisted radial brakes are really strong and the ABS isn’t too intrusive. I only switched the ABS off once just to see what it was like, backing-in sideways, the rest of the time it was always activated.

The fully adjustable suspension has been slightly softened to compensate for the reduction in weight, and works really well on the open road. It’s on the hard side for Italian cobbled streets but that was my only fault.

It’s not too far from a track set up straight out of the box. Despite its supermoto stance the forks don’t plummet into the ground every time you touch the impressive strong Brembos. 

Equally the rear side mounted shock has more travel than a conventional bike; around 40mm of sag with an average rider on board, but it allows you to feel what the rear Pirelli Diablo 2 is doing.

I rode 90% of the time with the traction control deactivated and never had a problem with rear end grip as the feedback was so good. The reduction in weight has quickened the steering and made the bike more flickable.

Yes it can be described as a barking supermoto but there’s a practical side too. It’s far more practical than any other supermoto, the little screen isn’t too bad, and you can cruise at 85mph without too much discomfort, until the 15L tank runs dry, which doesn’t take too long.

There’s room for a pillion and only after a full days riding did I complain about a firm seat, but I’d have done the same on a sports bike. Clocks are hugely informative with an easy to use mode button on the left bar.

Fuelling is excellent around town, the turning circle is relatively small and wide bars combined with slim dimensions allow you to throw it around up mountain passes or in-between blind Italian drivers in busy traffic with equal confidence.

For reference I’m only 5’7 and was on tip toes, I think you’d struggle a little if you’re 5’5 or under, but the 1200 is actually thinner in dimensions than the 750 and nearly the same weight, don’t think it’s a big overweight supermoto, you’d be wrong.