THIS bike might be one of the only machines in the country that looks like a Cagiva Xtra-Raptor, but it’s the sound which makes it one in a million.
Anything ridden through a tunnel as long as London’s Blackwall sounds pretty lively. But, in this case, the drivers could have been forgiven for thinking a Lancaster bomber had just landed on the central reservation.
The origin of the racket is a Cagiva V-Raptor with tons of carbon to make it essentially the same as the exclusive Xtra-Raptor the firm is launching later this year. It also has a different silencer – though in this case the word is a misnomer. I’ll bet my fellow tunnel users’ ears are still ringing. Mine certainly are.
Yes, it’s irresponsible, ever so slightly bad and doesn’t endear us to old ladies, but tell me honestly that you, too, wouldn’t immerse yourself in the decibels. Wouldn’t you knock it down to third, wind the throttle on and off as many times as possible just to hear the symphony of the TL1000S engine with its Casoli Moto pipes and chip?
This is the kind of environment where the Xtra-Raptor is likely to be ridden. Only 999 are being built and just a handful will come to the UK in July. And many of those are destined for the chic streets of the capital, where Ducati’s stylish Monster has been such a popular commuter steed over the years. But with such a limited run coming from the factory, most of us will have to be happy with this copy. It’s a fine job, too, and you’d have trouble noticing this wasn’t a real Xtra if you saw it parked up on the street.
Casoli Moto’s Dave Miles was inspired to create it after seeing the real thing when it was launched at last year’s Milan Show. Casoli is renowned for its carbon bolt-ons and pipes for all things Italian, especially MV Agustas and Ducati 916s.
In case you haven’t heard of the Xtra-Raptor, the real thing is a V-Raptor with a wad of carbon-fibre thrown at the single seat, sidepanels, front mudguard and headlight fairing. There’s also a matt grey headlight surround and tank, fully-adjustable suspension, 50mm more rear ride height and a 10mm shorter wheelbase. It means the Xtra-Raptor handles better than its siblings and turns a tad quicker.
Casoli’s version is a blatant copy. It doesn’t have the handling improvements, but it has carbon-fibre. And lots of it. There’s also a bellypan and colour-matched wheels, plus a grippy suede seat.
The styling isn’t everyone’s cup of cappuccino, but from my own perspective, as it’s being warmed up outside Casoli’s showroom in East Barnet, London, this interpretation looks a treat. Then again, with all that carbon I reckon you can’t fail to create a looker. And the way people in the street reacted to the bike, I’d say they’ve got it about right.
Fire it up and the looks aren’t the most startling thing about this bike – it’s the sound. Casoli Moto’s pipes follow the same design and lines of the standard oval V-Raptor pipes, but they’re way louder. They’re strictly race only and when I say it sets off car alarms, please believe me. You can hear it for yourself on this site.
Everything else is standard V-Raptor. The riding position is fairly sit-up-and-beg, but the footrests seem higher than you’d think from your first look. The first time I wobbled off the pavement and went to put my right foot on the peg I couldn’t find it. But it’s easy to locate once you’ve ridden it a couple of miles. The leg cut-aways are a bit too restrictive for my lanky frame, but should be fine for most people.
On the dash, inside the carbon side struts, there’s a digital speedo and a centrally-mounted rev counter which red-lines at 11,000rpm.
In town, there’s more than enough speed and you can chug around in the middle of the rev range, deafening cycle couriers as you cut through traffic. It’s more forgiving on your wrists than a Monster. The bars are slightly higher and you don’t feel you have to crook your neck as much.
When you do start to go a bit faster, it steers quickly and the wide bars mean you can punt it around from lane to lane with very little effort. See the gap, point the bars and squirt the droning power on.
It’s much more suited to the city than a Monster, which can feel a bit snatchy at times. The only real problem with the Cagiva in town is that it gets a little hot, as in 110°C. But the fan always chimes in to chill things out a little, even if your legs have started to feel like they’re becoming medium-rare before the blades start whirring. And when you blast away from the traffic at the lights, the engine cools down to a more reasonable 75°C as the air gets to the radiator.
In town, the brakes are well up to the task, with that typical Brembo feel, which means you know when you’ve just braked hard on diesel, rather than just think you have.
In fact, fast progress through town is a delight. Not only is it relatively comfortable, but there’s plenty of poke to zip past queues and you get the satisfaction of seeing people turn around to check you out as you blast past.
With a spare half-an-hour to go before the bike had to be back, I escaped to the hinterland of north London to find the rolling hills and back lanes on the inside of the M25. Yes, really, they do exist and they’re actually fairly traffic-free, with a reasonably good surface.
Set free from the confines of town, the bike is a slightly different animal. The suspension is a bit firm when you hit a few bumps, but even on damp roads you can get a bit of a move on. Some bikes like this suffer from a lack of feel from the front end, especially if the conditions are a bit dodgy, but on the V-Raptor you can chuck it in and actually feel what the front tyre is doing rather than hope and pray. And out of turns, dial in 5000rpm and it hoofs its way out on a barrel-load of torque and booming noise.
Only when you get the chance to out-run the Gatsos and whack it up to around 90mph does its nakedness become clear – though if you tuck down, it’ll do 130mph.
But speeds like that are not this bike’s reason for being – what’s important is how it looks, not how it performs. And in that department it won’t let you down.
It’s a shame the real
Xtra-Raptor won’t be in the country until mid-summer. For now, you’ll have to get a V-Raptor for £6849 and send a cheque off to Casoli so it can turn it into this barking replica. It’s not cheaper – the cost of a base machine plus the mods should add up to the same as the real thing.
But is it cheating to get one of these rather than hoping we’re among the lucky ones when the Xtra-Raptor becomes available? Well, no. It’s the same as having a 916 and fitting extras so it looks like an SPS, or taking the badges off a GSX-R600 so it appears to be a 750. Plenty of us are guilty of that.