So What's It Like To Ride?
The first adjustment you need to make when riding the Mana is accepting that the clutch lever is gone. You'll instinctually reach for it, but forget it. It's not there. From there the ride experience is much like a scooter--just twist the throttle and you're on your way. A common problem with bikes that do away with clutch levers is slow speed maneuverability, as clutch slippage helps in these situations. Thankfully, the Mana doesn't have that problem. Despite the fact that the CVT disengages at speeds below 20 mph, it immediately transfers power again at the slightest crack of the throttle, giving the same effect as a slipped clutch.
When in Autodrive mode it's near impossible to tell when the CVT is switching gears, it's that seamless. Shifting manually with the hand controls takes some getting used to as well. Thumb for upshifts, pointer for downshifts. Rowing through the gears pressing the button (or using your foot with the traditional foot lever) never offers that sensation that you're really manipulating the motorcycle. Upshifts are still seamless and the engine is automatically rev-matched when downshifting. The feeling is much more akin to riding a large computer. A 516-pound computer, to be exact. In Autodrive, the rider is still able to downshift as long as there is no throttle application. The system will then take over again once it detects the right grip being twisted. The ability to switch between the three power modes: Sport, Touring and Rain is also available while in Autodrive, and while some testers preferred the responsiveness of the Sport mode, others found its high-revving nature a bit annoying and instead preferred the subdued (and quieter) behavior of Touring mode. As on all other bikes we've ridden with power modes, we're still trying to figure out who would really use rain mode. Especially on a bike with only 55 horsepower to begin with.
Convenience. Italian Style
That being said, the Mana is not the motorcycle for the purist. It is, however, the one for the utilitarian. An added side benefit of the CVT is the distance one's able to travel on a single tank of gas. We averaged slightly more than 39 mpg with the riding consisting of everything from long highway stints to runs up the local twisties. Our best mpg figure for a single trip was an impressive 42 mpg, but the riding was long and boring throughout. When you take into consideration that these numbers all came with the Autodrive map set to full sport mode, where power takes precedence over economy, the numbers become that much more staggering. Beyond that, the seating position is comfortable for long distances (even without a windscreen), the bike handles better than expected given it's budget suspension and there's plenty of room for storage.
But then there's the price. For $9899, the Mana 850 suddenly loses its appeal to the utilitarian. It's got some great features and some innovative technology, but for this price we expect more. A detent in the turn indicator switchgear would be a nice start. Little things you might say but hey-we're purists.
A non-adjustable 43mm inverted...
A non-adjustable 43mm inverted fork sits out front, as do the radially-mounted calipers and stainless brake lines. Stopping power is strangely lacking compared to other Aprilias we've tested.
Because the CVT defaults to...
Because the CVT defaults to neutral at speeds under 20mph, you risk having your bike roll away if parked on anything other than a flat surface. This parking brake locks the rear wheel to prevent something like that from happening.
Where'd the gas tank go? It's...
Where'd the gas tank go? It's now located under the passenger seat and the conventional gas tank location is now a large storage compartment complete with a 12V A/C adapter.
The offset shock is mounted...
The offset shock is mounted directly from the frame to the swingarm without linkages. Adjustable for only preload and rebound, it performs admirably for a budget piece.
We would have used this space...
We would have used this space to showcase the innards of the CVT, but that would require dismantling the engine. Instead we bring you the 850cc Mana engine, which was developed entirely in-house. Note the easy-access oil filter and unsightly emissions canister.
'09 Aprilia Mana 850
+ High bars and low pegs are comfy
+ Easy bike to ride--just twist and go
+ The bike for an urban dweller
- Very anemic for an 850
- It feels like a big scooter
- A $10,000 scooter at that
x Aprilia may be ahead of its time with the Mana
Suggested Suspension Settings
|FRONT ||Ride height: set fork caps flush with highest part of triple clamp |
|REAR ||Spring preload: position 2 from full stiff; Rebound: 12 clicks out from full stiff |