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Aprilia SRV850 ridden

By Steve Farrell -

First rides & tests

 30 March 2012 14:30

Super scooters have re-ignited the top speed battle between manufacturers – a battle which has been largely irrelevant for motorcycles since hyperbikes such as Suzuki's Hayabusa started cracking 180mph 13 years ago. 

But with big scooters it’s just getting under way and BMW recently claimed a top speed of 175kmh (108mph) for the C600 Sport scooter. Not bad for a step-thru. And now Aprilia has launched its answer, the SRV850, with a claimed top speed of 200kmh, or 126mph. Forty years ago it would have been faster than any production motorcycle.

It manages this, as Aprilia were also proud to claim, by being the ‘most powerful scooter ever manufactured anywhere in the world’, if only by a whisker.

It makes 76bhp, one more than the Gilera GP800. That’s because it is a Gilera GP800, rebadged, restyled and with a few tweaks – one of which is the addition of two new oxygen sensors in the exhaust which allow the engine management system to optimise the fuel-air mixture and gain the necessary 1bhp.

Stability also seems to have benefited. The GP800 has a reputation for getting a bit of a wobble on at high speed. The SRV shows no sign of this.

But it does not, as Aprilia claims, handle like a sports bike. At least not one made during the last quarter-century. 

The handling is vague. The front wheel feels far away, which it is. The suspension seems under-damped. I’m under 12stone and when I sat on the bike the handlebars descended by a good 40mm before rebounding by a couple.

On highs-speed bumps both front and rear suspension threatens to bottom out. It feels heavy, bulky and as long as a canoe.

I had flown straight from the Madrid launch of the BMWs, to the SRV launch. I'd been mildly impressed by the BMWs – I thought they were competent but not a revelation.
But after riding the Aprilia, the BMs seem like a feat of engineering.

It’s as though BMW set out to build big scooters that worked while the Italians aimed for the most outrageous one possible and found out if it worked by making it.  

Read the full verdict in the March 28 issue of MCN.