Aprilia serves as the large-displacement sportbike/race branch for Piaggio, and as such, put out a lot in the way of supermoto and stoplight-burner bikes. The subject for today is not one of those, but rather an on-/off-road bike that carries that unmistakable Italian style with a veritable alphabet soup of fancy electronic subsystems. Aptly named the Caponord 1200 Rally, this ride straddles the line between race-tastic ability and real-world practicality with an eye to long-distance comfort. A 1200 cc mill pushes the thing with ride-by-wire throttle control, variable rider modes and cruise control, plus dynamic suspension and traction control to boot. As one of the few non-crotchrocket bikes made by the company, the Rally stands out as something of an anomaly, but I see no sign that Aprilia is in over its head with this design. Don’t believe it? Join me for my walk-through and I’ll show you what I mean.
Just because a bike isn’t destined for the closed circuit course doesn’t necessarily follow that it shouldn’t benefit from the same design considerations as bikes that are; a fact not lost on Aprilia. An entirely function-driven form, the Rally benefits from extensive wind tunnel testing that gives it a decidedly efficient shape while retaining that passionate Italian flair that keeps curb appeal near the top of the spectrum.
Aprilia’s signature triple headlights lead the way within the blunt front fairing that carries its own brush guard that flows all the way back to mate up with the exposed frame below the voluminous 6.3-gallon fuel tank. The overall shape is definitely within adventure bike norms, but the factory takes the edge off the more extreme aspects to make it visually less jarring than some of the current competition. (You know who I’m talking about.)
I gotta say I’m surprised at mounting the LED front turn signals on standoffs right above the brush guard (really guys?) where they are most vulnerable, and definitely think this bike would be a good candidate for mirror- or even handguard-mount winkers, but the factory didn’t call to ask me what I thought, so here we are. I do, however, like how the fairing flows into the fuel tank for a nice continuity of design, and it lends an all-around finished look that inspires confidence in the ride as a whole.
Seat height is fairly low for this genre at only 33 inches off the ground, and the rider triangle encourages a comfortable upright riding position while leaving room for a standing position — perfect for tackling light terrain. The subframe kicks the pillion pad up a bit with grabrails for passenger comfort, but for me the polished metallic cases really set the tone as a rough-and-tumble machine, ’cause you know those cases are going to encounter some brush, and probably sooner rather than later.
In further nifty-ness, you have the option of opening just a portion of the panniers for a top-loading action, or you can drop the whole side away to restrain larger items with the internal cargo straps. After all, you can’t have your stuff banging around back there, can you?
At 502 pounds dry, the Rally could be lighter, but for my money I’ll take a steel frame over aluminum any day, especially if off-road work is a possibility.
Typical of current high-end trends, the Rally uses a hybrid frame assembly that has a steel Trellis skeleton with plate aluminum members to complete the structure. The factory didn’t skimp on the removable subframe either, and went with tough steel members to finish it out. At 502 pounds dry, the Rally could be lighter, but for my money I’ll take a steel frame over aluminum any day, especially if off-road work is a possibility.
Aprilia pulled no punches with the suspension components. Up front we have a set of 43 mm usd Sachs forks with a Sachs monoshock to control the swingarm as well. Both ends enjoy the benefits of the Aprilia Dynamic Damping that comes with a semi-active, electronically controlled variable damping feature that precludes the need to manually adjust the system, and provides a smooth ride through Aprilia’s proprietary comfort algorithm and Skyhook technology. This system controls damping and preload settings, in real time, based on data gleaned by numerous sensors, so it’s a complete no-brainer feature.
Next up we have a dual-disc front brake that runs a pair of 320 mm discs and Brembo M432 monoblock binders. In back, a 34 mm single-pot Brembo caliper binds the 240 mm rear disc with the Continental dual-channel ABS on overwatch all around. Want that pure feel or to slide a bit on the brown? Aprilia has you covered with a switch to disable the ABS, so you aren’t held hostage by decisions made when you bought the thing, at least not where the brakes are concerned. Folks, this is almost as good as it gets as far as automatic comfort and safety goes, and is far beyond most of the adventure-tourers out there.
Naturally the 90-degree V-twin engine is the star of the show here. At 1,197 cc this mill falls at the top of the range for this type of bike, and since it’s a V-twin you already know it’s going to be torquey. Dual over-head cams actuate the four-valve heads via a hybrid gear-and-chain drive, and of course, liquid cooling and fuel injection is a must. Not just any fuel injection either, but a two-injector-per-head setup that delivers superior atomization and fuel control.
A ride-by-wire throttle controls the engine for seamless transitions, and as you might expect, it enables other systems to include the Aprilia traction control and cruise control. Like the ABS, the ATC can be switched off, and comes tune-able with three levels of intervention to choose from based on riding conditions and skill level, one of Sport riding, a smoother delivery for Touring, and a 100-horsepower limit for Rain. The engine cranks out a generous 125 horsepower at 8 grand in the first two modes with 84.8 pound-feet of torque that comes on at 6,800 rpm — plenty for a bike that weighs in under 600 pounds soaking wet.
The Caponord Rally rolls for $16,499 MSRP and comes in green, gray and a fetching yellow, all with black trim and graphics. Aprilia has you covered with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Overall, the adventure/tour sector is filling out nicely, but rides over a liter are still relatively scarce. It didn’t take long for my search for a worthy competitor to lead me to BMW and its R 1200 GS Adventure, and it looks like just what the doctor ordered.
The Beemer carries a more severe style with a large bird-beak fairing and camel-like, fuel tank hump. As with the Caponord, a forward brush guard protects the fairing cheeks and continues on down to cover the protruding heads of the flat-twin engine. Moving aft across the saddle and p-pad, the subframe tapers down to a luggage rack that serves as the only stock storage, so Beemer falls short in the baggage department even if you include the above-tank possibles box, at least on the showroom floor. I suppose they had to have something to put in the accessories catalog, after all.
Like the baggage, BMW fails to use its dynamic suspension system, so the struts are rather vanilla with only a preload and rebound damping adjustment at the ass end, but at least the engineers threw us a bone with switchable ABS protection. The R 1200 powerplant cools itself through a hybrid air/liquid system but still manages to meet Euro-4 emissions through electronic injection and a catalytic converter.
Power output is neck-and-neck with 125 ponies and 92 pounds of grunt from the Beemer versus 125/84 from the Caponord — not really enough to make or break any deals. Aprilia gains a victory at checkout with a $16,499 sticker against the $18,695 tag on the R 1200 GS Adventure, but I would point out that folks looking at bikes like these probably aren’t on a strapped budget, and the less expensive bike comes with a lot of lagniappe the BMW just doesn’t have. In short, I’m afraid only die-hard Beemer fans would be likely to pick the GS over the Aprilia, and even then they’d need blinders.
“I like this bike, and I guess what I like best is the aesthetics. Sure, it’s got all kinds of fancy gadgets and comfort related doo-dads, but what I like best is the looks. Aprilia did a good job in sexifying what is normally a rather dry, and sometimes ridiculous looking, sector. Said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s hard to beat that Italian passion for performance and design.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “You could have knocked me over with a feather when my husband said he was going to look at an adventure bike, but then when it turned out to be an Aprilia, I wasn’t all that surprised. The Rally is the off-road oriented Caponord, built like it is meant for the dirt and when you’re talking about Aprilia, you know there’s going to be techno-goodness going on.”
|Type:||Aprilia V90 four-stroke longitudinal 90° V-twin double overhead camshaft with mixed gear/chain timing system, four valves per cylinder. Ride By Wire with 3 engine mappings (Sport, Touring, Rain)|
|Max power (at crankshaft):||125 HP (92 kW) at 8,000 rpm|
|Max torque (at crankshaft):||84.8 (115 Nm) at 6,800 rpm|
|Fuel system:||Integrated engine management system. Injection with two injectors per cylinder and Ride by Wire throttle control with three maps: Sport (S), Touring (T), Rain (R)|
|Alternator:||690 W/6000 rpm|
|Clutch:||Multiplate wet clutch, hydraulically operated|
|Traction management:||Aprilia Traction Control (ATC)|
|CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES:|
|Frame:||Modular tubular steel frame fastened to aluminium side plates by high strength bolts. Removable steel rear subframe|
|Front suspension:||Completely adjustable Sachs 43 mm upside-down fork. Hydraulic rebound and compression electronically managed with ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping)|
|Rear suspension:||Sachs dynamic single shock absorber. Adjustable or automatic setting for spring preload coupled with electronically controlled rebound and compression dampening via ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping)|
|Front brake:||320 mm stainless steel floating discs. Brembo M432 monoblock four-piston radial calipers. Metal braided brake pipes.|
|Rear brake:||240 mm stainless steel disc. Brembo 34 mm single piston caliper. Metal braided brake hose.|
|ABS:||Continental dual channel ABS system|
|Front wheel:||3.00″” x 19″ spoked wheel.|
|Rear tire:||4.50″” x 17″ spoked wheel. Tire 170/60-R17″|
|Seat height:||33 in (840 mm)|
|Dry weight:||502 lb. (228kg)|
|Fuel tank capacity:||6.3 gal. (24 liters)|
|Standard Equipment:||ABS, aprilia Traction Control (aTC), Aprilia Dynamic Damping (ADD), (semi-active suspension)|
|Warranty:||2-year unlimited-mileage warranty.|
|Approval:||EPA and CARB.|
|Colors:||green, yellow, gray|