By Troy Siahaan
Photography by Adam Campbell
They're smart, those Italians. Recognizing how super motard racing could easily translate into a ridiculously entertaining road bike (and also not having as strict a corporate ladder to convince of such) it was a natural step for both Ducati and Aprilia to take their passions for two wheels and create something that would shake up the status quo. The only question now was what platform could be used as a base? Ducati's off-road experience is rather slim, with the Multistrada being the closest thing to an off-road vehicle in the lineup. Good enough, really. After a modest diet, some new bodywork and suspension changes, what was once a modest dual-sport machine is now a lean, mean canyon carver, ready to hack it in sideways at every turn.
For Aprilia it was a rather different approach. The company has vast experience in super motard competition, with multiple world championships to its name. It even has two homologated, street-legal versions of its competition bike: the SXV550 and SXV450. But those machines are too specific. Too track oriented. Aprilia was after a machine that's inspired by its racing past rather than mimicking it. The answer to those prayers lie in the Shiver 750. If you'll remember, from the start the Shiver platform was always intended to be a base for a multitude of different models-thus broadening Aprilia's product range for a limited amount of tooling costs. And much like the Hypermotard, the Dorsoduro sheds the unneeded Shiver bodywork, adapts the single seat, and adds more wheel travel to the suspension.
More Than Skin Deep
On paper it would seem like these two bikes aren't even in the same league. For starters, there is one big difference between the two: their engines. By big, we mean a difference of 329cc. Don't let the numbers fool you though. The Ducati mill might be 1078cc, but it's also an air-cooled lump with single overhead camshafts and two valves per cylinder. Heck, Harleys are air-cooled and only have two valves! In comparison, the 750cc Aprilia capitalizes on modern technology with its liquid-cooling, fly-by-wire throttle, dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The dyno numbers don't lie either. Despite its displacement advantage, the Hypermotard only edged out the Aprilia by just two horses: 77.8 horsepower compared to the Dorsoduro's 75.8. When it comes to torque, however, there really is no replacement for displacement and that's where the Ducati trumps the Aprilia: 64.2 ft.-lbs. for the former compared to 45.7 for the latter. It gets worse for the Dorso; on the scales the Aprilia came in at a portly 476 pounds full of fuel. The Ducati meanwhile weighs a sprightly 439 pounds in comparison.
With such an imbalance in the numbers you might be wondering just what we're doing even mentioning these two in the same breath. That's a good question. The answer is that there's another big difference between these two. Price. At $11,995 the Ducati is a good two thousand dollars more than the Aprilia ($9599). So are you really getting more for your money?
Beyond The Spec Sheet
The whole purpose of both of these bikes isn't something tangible like which has the better lap time. No, their purpose is quite clear: to knife through the streets and slice through the canyons. If you're a city dweller with places to be and things to do, or a sportbike retiree who still wants to ride hard without the aggressive seating position then this is where you belong. The fact that each bike employs vastly different methods to get there is what makes this interesting.
The air-cooled, two-valve...
The air-cooled, two-valve dual-spark engine on the Ducati may be low tech, but its sheer size makes up for many shortcomings.
We've covered the Hypermotard before ("Motard Madness", Sep. '07), though we had the S model with forged Marchesini wheels and Ohlins rear suspension at the time. Our test mule this time around was the base model with cast aluminum wheels, Marzocchi fork (without the DLC coating) and Sachs rear shock. Weight difference between the two is six pounds (433 for the S, 439 for the base). The first thing you notice when you sit on either of these bikes is that the vertically challenged need not apply. The Ducati actually has the lower of the two seat heights, coming in at 33.3 inches from the ground-a whole inch less than the Aprilia. Both bikes have a very off-road-like seating position, with the Hyper placing the rider far forward on the seat, "practically above the front tire," as El Jefe put it. Compared to most other bikes the seating position of the Dorsoduro would feel front-heavy as well, but not so compared to the Hyper. In contrast to the Ducati, however, the single seat is slightly narrower and the bars are more evenly spaced, providing for just a slightly more comfortable ride. In the twisty stuff that extreme forward riding position of the Ducati gives an almost telepathic connection to the front of the bike, inspiring confidence to place it practically anywhere you want. Wide handlebars on both bikes give plenty of leverage to toss the bike to-and-fro and the standard Marzocchi/Sachs suspension pairing on the Ducati-both fully adjustable-do a fine job keeping the Pirelli Diablo Corsa IIIs hugging the road. Meanwhile, the Aprilia is no slouch either, though both front and rear are only adjustable for preload and rebound damping. Despite this, the Dorsoduro only feels hampered by its suspension when pushing to the limits.
Gear selection is important on the Hypermotard as the tall gearing can be sluggish coming out of a corner. Add to that the vibration coming from the engine at low revs and it's all the more reason to be in the sweet spot (4000 - 7000 rpm) as much as you can. Power drops drastically after 7500 rpm, so there isn't much to be gained by pinging the engine to redline. Riding the Hypermotard means taking advantage of the gobs of torque because doing so successfully borders on intoxicating. With a lively torque output it's a good thing that the Brembo four-piston calipers do such a fine job of bringing the action to a halt. Braking power has never been an issue with Ducatis, but we still would have liked a bit more feel, especially when modulating the brakes.
The 750cc, liquid-cooled four-valve...
The 750cc, liquid-cooled four-valve engine of the Dorsoduro hides its displacement disadvantage with current technology.
Though the numbers may make the 750 twin of the Aprilia to be a non-performer, sometimes the butt dyno is the one more riders should pay attention to. The Dorsoduro shares the engine and chassis with the Shiver, the former being completely unchanged. This is a good thing as we've praised the performance of the Shiver engine in the past. Thanks to its throttle-by-wire system, the Dorsoduro retains the power modes (Sport, Touring and Rain) used on the Shiver, with the same fuel maps as well. We found the Sport map to be extremely sensitive to throttle inputs-often times jolting us back over even the slightest bump in the road. We resorted to Touring mode for most of our riding, which slows the opening of the throttle butterflies and delivers 75 percent power until approximately 3000 rpm, where full power is again restored. For our money, a setting in between Sport and Touring would be perfect. As for Rain mode, well, it made us yawn...
In The Real World
Here you can see the wide...
Here you can see the wide Hypermotard wingspan with the mirrors fully extended. What's worse is you can't see anything with them anyway.
Sure both bikes are performers in the twisty bits, but that's only part of the equation. A small part at that. Living with the Ducati is a whole different story. The saddle is wide and square and makes for an agonizing ride after only 30 minutes. Wider-framed riders may actually benefit from this, but our testers weren't big fans. Remember the wide bars mentioned earlier? Well they're made even wider by the side mirrors, making it a bit of a chore to weed through traffic (which may not be as big of a problem if you live anywhere but California). Add to that the fact that the mirrors vibrate so much at speed that they're practically useless and living with the Hyper starts to become frustrating. If there is a saving grace for the Ducati, it's that the engine and transmission work so well together. Power delivery is silky smooth and the six cogs require an effortless flick of the ankle to change over. Our only complaint is that the dry clutch is grabby, which makes launches from a green light particularly cumbersome. The Aprilia, meanwhile, proved to be a more comfortable bike to live with on a daily basis. With mirrors placed in a more conventional location with stalks above the bars, making our way through traffic was less of an issue (the bars are wide on both bikes to be honest). The 750cc engine and its flat torque curve seemed every bit as peppy as the Ducati, and if we didn't know any better we'd have no idea the Dorsoduro was carrying a little extra heft. Not only that, but the Aprilia engine also seems to have a wider powerband as opposed to the Ducati, making it easier to carry a gear longer. That's useful, too, as the gearbox on the black bike is the antithesis of the red one. Shifts always felt notchy and finding neutral at a stop was damn near impossible. But that's really the only gripe we could find about the drivetrain
Highway riding on both bikes puts a bit of a strain on the neck as the lack of wind protection makes itself known above 70 mph. On the Ducati especially, the forward riding position exposes more of the rider to the wind. Despite the fact that the rider basically acts like a sail, both bikes averaged respectable mileage, with the duo averaging just under 40 miles per gallon. You'll need all the miles you can get as the Achilles' Heel for the pair is their extremely limited range-the fuel tanks on both are just over three gallons. But then again, we'd imagine most riders of these bikes aren't looking to traverse the country.
So What'll It Be?
While still wide, the Dorsoduro...
While still wide, the Dorsoduro is a bit more sensible. Mirrors are useful, bar position is more natural, and gauges are easier to read.
To be perfectly honest, both bikes are fun for a very specific purpose: embarrassing sportbikes on tight, twisty roads. In that regard we don't have a favorite-they're both equally as entertaining. Otherwise, the lack of wind protection, wide handlebars and the constant trips to the gas station start to peel away from the overall fun factor. But when you factor in price, suddenly a favorite starts to emerge. The more we rode the Aprilia, the more we were reluctant to give up the keys. It may not match the Ducati on paper, but the real world is an entirely different story. The engine is a winner, the brakes are powerful...and the mirrors are actually useful. When all else are equal it's the details that separate the winners from the losers, and when you factor in one final detail-the price-we fail to see how one can go wrong with the Dorsoduro in the urban-motard market.
Ducati hypermotard 1100
Telepathic connection with front end
Excellent power delivery
Supremely capable chassis
Wide bars (and mirrors) make it impossible to get through traffic
|SUGGESTED SUSPENSION SETTINGS
||Spring preload: 1 lines showing; Rebound damping: 4.5 turn out from full stiff; Compression damping: 3 turns out from full stiff; Ride height: 2 lines showing
||Spring preload: 31.75mm from top of spring to top of thread; Rebound damping: 20 clicks out from full stiff; Compression damping: 4 clicks out from full stiff
|Aprilia Dorsoduro 750
Power modes still need more tweaking
|SUGGESTED SUSPENSION SETTINGS
||Spring preload: 2 lines showing; Rebound damping: 1 turn out from full stiff; Ride height: 4mm fork tube showing above triple clamp.
||Spring preload: 15mm thread showing; Rebound damping: 18 clicks out from full soft
||Liquid-cooled, 90-deg., 4-stroke V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl.
||Air-cooled, 90-degree, 4-stroke V-twin, SOHC, 2 valves/cyl.
|Bore x stroke
||92.0 x 56.4mm
||98.0 x 71.5.0mm
||EFI with single injector/cyl., 52mm throttle bodies with electronic actuation.
||Marelli EFI, single injector/cyl., 45mm throttle bodies
||43 mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel, non-adjustable
||Marzocchi 50mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel, adjustments for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Single shock absorber, 5.1 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload and rebound damping
||Sachs shock absorber, 5.6 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III
||180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III
||25.7 deg./4.3 in. (109mm)
||24 deg./3.9 in. (100mm)
||56.7 in. (1440mm)
||57.28 in. (1455mm)
||476 lb. wet (216 kg); 457 lb. dry (207 kg) dry
||439 lb. wet (199kg); 419 lb. dry (190kg)
||39 to 41 mpg, 39.8 mpg avg.
||38 to 41 mpg, 38.7 mpg avg.
I didn't know what to expect with either of these bikes since I've never really been comfortable with the motard style of riding. Once I got the hang of things, tearing up the twisty stuff and bombing through traffic became that much more enjoyable. But the longer I rode these two the more I gravitated towards the Aprilia. Performance from the two were remarkably level, though the Ducati engine would probably get the nod between the two. But it wasn't like the Aprilia was too far behind, its chassis is really well balanced and when it comes to everyday use I actually thought it was a more user-friendly package. Seating position is more comfortable than the Ducati, gauges are easy to read, and not only are the mirrors functional, but they don't expand the wingspan of the bike to completely impractical dimensions. Factor in the price tag and it's a no-brainer for me.
I'm kind of torn between the two, actually. The Dorso is smoother and the ergos are more comfortable (with the exception of the narrow seat), and its clutch doesn't suffer the grabby feel of the Hypermotard's after just a few hard launches. The Hyper vibrates and shudders a lot when you get on the throttle hard at low rpm, although it definitely gets with the program past 4000 rpm. It's also got a slightly better positioning for cornering than the Aprilia; you feel right on top of the front wheel when turning aggressively. Brakes need a bit more feel and less aggressive initial bite on the Aprilia. Mirrors are useless on the Hyper, and the bar graph tach is way too small, so it's a good thing the two-valver has a lot of torque. I kind of like the Aprilia's styling more than the Ducati, but that's just me.