A day spent riding in the Sicilian sunshine aboard a pre-production RST1000 Futura confirmed Aprilia designer Pietro Arru's distinctive styling is no haute couture triumph of form over function. The bars are raised and pulled back just enough; you lean forward more than on the Honda VFR, but without excessive weight on your wrists. The footpegs are far enough back to remind you this is a sportbike and ground clearance is more than adequate by sport-touring parameters.
The 5.5-gallon fuel tank's filler is offset to the right to facilitate brimful top-ups, even when the bike is leaned over on its sidestand, and the deep knee cutouts make you aware of the Futura's svelte build, thanks to the 60-degree V-twin eight-valve engine, and its careful positioning in the alloy beam frame. The under-seat exhaust means there aren't any bulky silencers like on other sport-tourers, which compromise passenger footrest height.
Thumb the electric start, and you might be disappointed initially at the muted blat coming from the exhaust as the Sagem EFI warms up the motor. This is no Latin V-twin caf racer, but a sophisticated mile-eater. As such, there's a smooth, refined feel to the controls worthy of any Japanese bike: the clutch action is light, the shifting is flawless and the light-action throttle has precise response. Like the Sagem EFI on the Triumph Sprint ST/RS, the Futura doesn't have the jerky pickup from a closed throttle commonplace on some other systems.
Aprilia's new sport-tourer pulls cleanly from as low as 2500 rpm-even with the throttle wide open-with a smooth response that becomes more urgent once the needle on the multi-info dashboard's analog tach hits the 5000 rpm mark. That's when the Futura takes off stronger, with top-gear roll-on especially strong from 6000 rpm upward. Power peaks out at just over 9000 rpm, but it's best to shift around 8000 rpm to use the fat part of the powerband. There's a bit of vibration that's enough to become annoying after only a few miles on the highway at constant-throttle cruising speeds, and the mirrors show too much of your shoulders; but the distinctively shaped screen offers enough protection at speed for a six-footer not to feel too blown about.
Despite the Futura's 56.4-inch wheelbase, it steers easily and precisely into tight turns, and changes direction from side-to-side very well. The suspension package delivers exceptional ride quality over pockmarked road surfaces, yet offers good compliance when ridden hard, with the RST1000 remaining totally planted in fast sweepers. The Sachs rear shock could use a stiffer spring, however; I had to crank up the preload to one click below max to stop the bike squatting down in the rear and understeering under power. The Brembo brakes are adequate for stopping a bike that weighs 463 pounds dry, but I wonder if they're strong enough to slow a Futura loaded with two people and luggage.
My day spent riding the RST1000 Futura showed it was a genuine all-'rounder, combining sporting Italian allure with everyday Teutonic practicality, while incorporating a build quality and attention to detail worthy of a product made in Japan. It's not perfect, but close enough that I'll wager it winning the inevitable sport-touring comparos slated to run around the world in coming months. In fact, watch for Sport Rider's upcoming staff tour, where a brace of Futuras are slated to be flung around the twisty pavement that inundates the mountains of Colorado.
This article was originally published in the August 2001 issue of Sport Rider.