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Aprilia Dorsoduro - Hardback Hooligan

 

The sister to Aprilia’s redesigned-for-2018 Shiver 900 takes the same solid framework and redresses it as a supermoto. The Dorsoduro 900 is slightly less sensible, and slightly less comfortable but cranks the fun factor even more than the Shiver.

Words: Nile Bijoux   |   Photos Nile Bijoux

We’ve already run down the base formula of the Shiver 900 in its review, and nothing major has changed with the Dorso. The engine is the same 900cc EU4-ready V-Twin unit pushing 70kW and 95Nm, replacing both the 750cc and 1200cc variants that came before. The electronics package is identical to the Shiver’s, as is the screen.

Forks are lightweight upside-down Kayaba 41mm units and are adjustable for both spring preload and rebound dampening. The rear shock is adjustable for preload. Unsprung weight is further shaved by using wheels nicked from the RSV4 parts bin. Brakes are four-piston, radially mounted units chomping dual 320mm discs on the front and a single-piston caliper paired with a 240mm disc at the rear.

The longer wheelbase and higher seating position give a bit more confidence through city traffic and let you slug it through backroad corners without feeling squirrely.

So how goes it? Very well indeed, since you ask, which probably isn’t surprising given the close relationship to the Shiver. The Dorso sits 60mm taller, and it has a 60mm longer wheelbase. With a claimed dry weight of 186kg, it isn’t a featherweight but when you’re on the move that’s not noticeable. The longer wheelbase and higher seating position give a bit more confidence through city traffic and let you slug it through backroad corners without feeling squirrely. Its seat is basically like a dirt bike’s that flares out for pillion comfort, which means the Dorsoduro is a rare bike that is more comfortable for a pillion than the rider. ‘Dorsoduro’ translates to ‘hard back’, which is appropriate because for trips longer than half an hour the seat really doesn’t quite cut it. But if that trip involves hitting some twisties, chances are you’ll be moving around enough to avoid aches and pains.

Being a supermoto means dirt bike DNA, and that means to really ride the Dorso properly you have to sit as far forward as you can. The further up you can get, the better the bike handles. The engine might not rev very much - topping out at just beyond 9000rpm - but the gearbox is very positive. Clutchless shifting is the way to go here, requiring not much effort at all to fire through the gears. Going back down requires a bit more pressure, and getting into neutral from first was oddly difficult, something that others have noted.


Despite its looks, the Dorso loves corners. It is happy to be flicked around and beaten up a little bit - it’s a bike that rewards harder riding. The power isn’t going to catch you out when you’re stacked over but nor is it going to win any drag races. In this package, we’d take that compromise any day. The result is a proper hooligan of a machine. The one thing Aprilia could look to upgrade for 2019 would be the brakes. The same issue carries over from the Shiver - they just feel too vague. There isn’t much initial feel and the stopping power could be improved. A simple pad swap could be all it takes to remedy the issue, and with any luck Aprilia will have this on the ‘to-do’ list for next year.

A quirk we found with the bike is the side stand. It’s situated much further back along the frame than usual, meaning it takes a little bit of effort to get the stand down. The first few times I resorted to getting off the bike to find the little nub in order to push it down. It is an odd design choice but perhaps was forced upon them.

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The Shiver had rather good fuelling with very little roughness, but for whatever reason the Dorsoduro wasn’t quite the same on low throttle inputs. When you’re caning it the fuelling is fantastic, so hopefully Aprilia can fix the low-speed stuff. Maybe there's a way to simply copy over the Shiver’s mapping?

As mentioned, the electronics package is the same as found on the Shiver - modes are Sport, Touring and Rain. Sport gives sharpened throttle response and the full Monty of power, Touring softens the response to give the bike a more cruisy nature but keeps the power at full, and Rain drops power by about 30 percent. Similarly, the three-level traction control system scales from intervening late (level one) to very early (level three), or you can switch it off entirely. Despite the longer wheelbase, the Dorsoduro is more than happy to briefly become a unicycle if you’re too hasty with the throttle.

Competition? There’s the Ducati Hypermotard which is $21,290 over the Aprilia’s $16,790 but crams in more power and is subjectively better styling (read: a single-sided swingarm), or the $16,499 KTM 690 Duke R which costs similar but loses out on power and torque. However, being a single, the KTM weighs next to nothing by comparison.

For our money we would pick up a Dorsoduro, slap a nice exhaust system on it to really let that engine sing, and buy a round at the Puhoi Pub.

The Stats

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Model Aprilia Dorsoduro  Price $16,790

Engine 900cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, V2, 70kW / 90Nm

Transmission 6-speed, chain final drive Vitals 4s 0-100km/h

2.5s (7.1m) 80-120km/h, 52m 100-0km/h, kg