Oh, to be young and stylish and living in Milan. Unfortunately for that envy-worthy young italiano, perhaps ready to trade his Aprilia scooter or RS125 race replica for a full-size streetbike, Aprilia had nothing urban and stylish to offer, except the huge jump to a 1,000cc Tuono or RSV 1000 R.
Freshly revived with support from new owner Piaggio, the Aprilia lineup is expanding. The newest entry is the SL750 Shiver, a completely naked 750cc streetbike just dripping with modern Italian styling. Suddenly, our young milano has a middleweight option without changing brands. And beginning next year, so will young and style-conscious riders from Miami to Minneapolis, because Aprilia is bringing the Shiver to the United States.
The attention paid to styling is obvious from one end of the Shiver to the other: from its twin, triangular exhausts to its gold-colored trellis frame to its molded headlight (apparently designed by Salvador Dalí when he tired of doing paintings of melting clocks).
Its heart is a liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin engine. A combination of chain and gears drives the twin camshafts that operate the four valves per cylinder. Aprilia claims the engine will produce 95 horsepower at 9,000 rpm. On a short day ride, the Shiver showed plenty of V-twin-style grunt in pulling out of corners and still revved satisfyingly to five-digit rpm.
The Shiver's most unique feature is a fly-by-wire throttle. The throttle bodies in the fuel injection system are controlled electronically. The engine management unit considers engine speed, gear selected, temperature and atmospheric pressure, as well as the throttle position and rate of opening and closing when deciding just how much fuel to squirt into the twin cylinders. Aprilia said this greater control allowed an even flatter torque curve than what you'd already expect from a mid-size V-twin.
How's it work? Sometimes, especially in the upper midrange, the throttle doesn't give you exactly the response you expect, but the result is not worse, just slightly different. Ride this bike for a few days and you'll forget that electronics, not old-fashioned cables, control fuel flow.
In addition to the high-tech throttle and the attention to styling, you'll find quite a few other upscale touches on the Shiver, such as radial-mount, four-piston front brake calipers with metal-braided lines, the stainless steel exhaust (which includes a catalytic converter and an oxygen sensor for closed-loop precision), an inverted 43mm fork, a hydraulically operated clutch, a comprehensive digital gauge display with adjustable backlighting, and the fat, gold handlebar reminiscent of the one on its big brother, the Tuono. The Shiver may slot into the highly competitive and price-sensitive middle range of the market, but by no measurement does it look or feel cheap.
The Shiver does have its quirks, which take a little while to get used to, especially in the switchgear. The headlight switch is on the front of the left-side switchgear housing, operated by your index finger, not your thumb. The engine shutoff and the starter button are incorporated into one switch.
Of course none of the styling, high-tech features, or quirks would matter, either pro or con, if the motorcycle weren't fun to ride. The Shiver is definitely fun.
Narrow and nimble, with a bolt-upright riding position, the Shiver feels like a powerful Supermoto bike. And like a Supermoto, it's ideal for squirting through traffic in an urban setting and yet still holds up well when you slip free of traffic and dive into a curvy backroad.
The suspension is taut enough for those curvy backroads, but not punishing on city potholes. The Sachs rear shock allows adjustment for preload and rebound damping. The 17-inch wheels, in standard sport sizes, allow the rider to choose from a wide variety of tires: Go for stickier grip or longer mileage, according to your preference.
The weak spot in the Shiver's portfolio comes when you're not on city streets or twisted two-lane. The upright position and total lack of wind protection make freeway runs tiring. The gas tank holds just four gallons, but if you're on the open road, you'll need a break from the wind blast after burning a tankful, anyway.
The brakes just plain work well, which you'd expect considering the up-spec components. In addition to the radial-mount, four-piston calipers, Aprilia uses the same 320mm front rotors found on the RSV 1000 R and Tuono 1000 R.
Piaggio sees the Aprilia brand as aimed directly at buyers who want sporty performance and modern styling, which is why you'll find so many upgraded components on the Shiver, even if it is a mid-range model. How will that style (not to mention the name; Italians named this one) play in Peoria?
That remains to be seen. The Shiver won't have an easy time denting the U.S. market, if only for two reasons: dealer network (see sidebar, right) and competition.
Aprilia cites the Yamaha FZ6, Kawasaki Ninja 650R and BMW F800S as the Shiver's competitors. They could have mentioned the Ducati Monster S2R 800, the Suzuki SV650 and the new-to-the-market Kawasaki Versys and Triumph Street Triple. In other words, this is a tough class. Only the BMW is more costly than the Aprilia.
But the Shiver is also the only one of that group with tech like the fly-by-wire throttle, it has the power to run with any of its competitors, and it easily matches the Ducati in Italian style.
You won't see one on every street corner. But the Shivers that do make it to the street will definitely win attention, from Milan to Miami.
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