Well it's about time.
So it's about time that Aprilia joined the ranks of motorcycle manufacturers that offer a softened-up, more hospitable machine based upon one of their current hard-core sportbikes? Yeah, we'd agree with you there. But that's not what we're talking about.
We're saying it's about time that a manufacturer offered up a naked bike with performance characteristics that fulfill the role that the adspeak related to these motorcycles implies. Specifically, an engine that offers gobs of instantaneous low and midrange acceleration that will squirt you out of a tight mountain corner, or out of a tight (and hazardous) traffic situation in the city. All wrapped in a comfy, yet taut, chassis that can cover all the duties a bike like this will call for.
Aprilia's Tuono may be a somewhat conventional Italian naked bike, in that it uses the V-twin powerplant from the company's top-shelf sportbike, the RSV Mille, just as Ducati's S4 Monster uses the same basic engine from its 996 sportbike. But any conventional aspects of the Aprilia Tuono end there.
The Tuono R we rode on these pages was one of just 200 units built for worldwide consumption by Aprilia last year. Built as a sort of gauge to see how the public would accept a stripped-down Mille R (the Tuono uses all of the R's race-spec running gear), the complete production run immediately sold out despite its over-$16,000 price tag. Buoyed by the enthusiastic response, Aprilia introduced a less expensive, volume production version of the Tuono at September's Intermot show (designated the Tuono Fighter in Europe), which should be available by December 2002 in the U.S. The production version of the Tuono will feature lower-cost suspension (Showa fork, Boge rear shock and non-adjustable steering damper replacing the hlins pieces), wheels (standard cast aluminum instead of the OZ forged aluminum rims), and plastic replacing the carbon fiber and Kevlar bits. Suggested retail price of the Tuono in the States will be $11,999, which puts it right in line with the Ducati S4 Monster.
But this definitely ain't no Monster, a fact that becomes apparent the moment you sling a leg over the Aprilia. The wide, motocross-style tapered handlebar (the bar's diameter tapers from 70mm at the clamps to 22mm at the grips, for just enough flex to help absorb the nasty hits a motocross course can dish out) is mounted in a 170mm riser bolted to the top triple clamp. This puts your torso in a fairly upright position, which combines with the well-padded seat to foster all-day comfort. Taller folk, however, may wish for a bit more legroom, as the pegs are in the identical position to the Mille, with a rather high and rearward setup for a bike of this nature.
The standard Mille-spec dashboard...
The standard Mille-spec dashboard is bracketed by a small carbon fiber mini-fairing, and the tapered aluminum handlebar grabbed by a set of 170mm tall aluminum risers. The Tuono R's ergos are perfect for its intended "streetfighter" purpose.
This bike is basically a stripped-down Mille R, so the engine and rolling chassis are the same. The gorgeous aluminum twin-spar frame and swingarm, however, have been painted a bronze/magnesium hue, which strikes a nice contrast to the increasingly popular graphite-black paint used for the tank and major bodywork pieces. With the Mille's fairing gone, nice Kevlar and carbon fiber bits are used in various trim areas to either smooth the engine's harsh mechanical lines, or serve a functional purpose, like the chin fairing which channels air flow through the oil cooler. Many fasteners and hardware on the Tuono R are made from titanium, befitting the bike's limited production status. As on the Mille R, fully adjustable hlins suspension is used front and rear, along with the lightweight forged aluminum OZ wheels and four-pad Brembo brakes.