By Paul Berglund

It was an Aprilia 750 Shiver that ignited my love for V twins. I had ridden cruisers with V twins in them but I wanted a bike that did more than sound nice. The Shiver was brand new when we reviewed it for MMM. I wanted one vert much, but I didn’t have new bike money at the time. I looked around at comparable used bikes and found an odd looking Orange bike called a KTM 950 Supermoto. I bought it and we were in love. Then I found off road riding and I thought I would buy an Adventure bike that combined V twin power with a dual sport bike. I would have every thing I wanted in one package. One bike to rule them all! Sadly, there was one thing I was missing, skill.

When it comes to riding a motorcycle off road, the skill of the rider must increase faster than the weight of the bike. You can have an adventure bike and ride it off road, but you must be a vastly better rider than I was at the time. For me it ended in tiers. I looked at 1200+ CC Adventure bikes as fantastic bikes that only a very few could ride to their true potential. I became jaded, and thought of them as a trendy status symbol. Then most of the manufactures came out with bikes that looked like Adventure bikes, but where never intended to go off road, and I thought what’s the point?

Once again I got a text from MMM that would challenge my rusty brain. They asked me if I wanted to test ride an Aprilia Caponord Rally? I still have a strong love for any Italian V twin, so I said yes.

It showed up at my garage with a full tank of gas. (A first for my fellow MMM writers.) It was beautiful in a manly Italian way. It sounded wonderful too. I climbed on and I immediately understood why you would want a road bike styled like a dirt bike. It is by far my favored way to sit on a motorcycle. For me, cruisers and sport bikes put my body in the wrong position for riding on the street. This bike looked like a dirt bike not for style points, but because that’s the best damn way for a human to interact with a two wheeled machine. The loud clank that emanated from my feeble brain disturbed a bird sitting on the power line over head. Eureka!

So, on to the road test. The Caponord doesn’t have a center stand. It sits on a rather short side stand. When you through a leg over it’s tallish saddle, and tilt the bike upright, it makes the bike feel heavier than it is. List weight is 525 pounds, that’s about what the Moto Guzzi V11 LeMans in my garage weighs. Once on the road, the feeling of having a tungsten gas tank lessens and all is forgiven when the throttle is twisted. It runs away from my Moto Guzzi. This is a modern, liquid cooled kind of V twin and it performs wonderfully. With one nit pick.

It has driving modes. You can have it in sport, touring or rain. My first ride was with the bike in sport mode. I found it to be a bit buzzy in the pegs from 4500 RPMs and up. I was starting to furrow my brows, but then I switched to touring mode. The buzzing calmed down and I didn’t notice any loss in power. It was still a blast to ride aggressively, but it’s manners improved to the point that I would now introduce it to my friends. I wanted to get on highway 12 west of Minneapolis and ride it out to where it meets the Pacific ocean. It looks like the kind of bike you can cross the continent on and it feels that way too.

At first I thought the Givi hard bags that come standard on the Rally were too small. You can’t fit a full face helmet in them. After living with the

It’s an adventure bike that can pick up groceries.
It’s an adventure bike that can pick up groceries.

bike for a few days I came to the conclusion, I wouldn’t want bigger side bags on the Caponord. It would make the bike too wide. I love the functionality of Givi bags. They are interchangeable, so you chose from many different sizes and shapes if you don’t like the bags that come with the bike.  What I would do is buy a larger top case from Aprilia or one of the many Givi venders on line and have a happy home for my helmet when I’m off the bike.

The windshield is manually adjustable. It has two positions in my humble opinion, low and loud. Riding the twisty back roads near Scandia with the shield in the low position resulted in fairly clean air flow, with minimal coverage from the elements. Raising the shield didn’t do much to protect me from the wind and the rain, it just made things louder and buffetier. (New word, just made it up.)

The seat is surprisingly good. I can say that about a bike once every ten years or so. Turns out motorcycle stylists didn’t get enough love from their mothers when they were young, and they take it out on us. The person who designed this seat had a kind and loving mother. We should all send her a card of thanks. The seat, peg and handlebar relationship is healthy too. Like I mentioned at the beginning, it’s like a dirt bike and it just plane works. The dash has plenty of information. Of primary concern is a gas gauge and a gear indicator.

The bike has many other modes and functions. None of which I understood very well. Lots of ABS this and traction control that. The brakes are great by the way. It even adjusts the suspension to one of several presets or it will monitor your riding and adjust the suspension to fit your style. I struggled to remember how to switch them about, but there was no real need. The Caponord Rally was smart enough to do that for me and the ride was sublime.

MMM

By Mark Descartes

I like twin-cylinder bikes. I have owned ten in my time. I also like dual-sport “adventure” (ADV) bikes. Four have rolled in and out of my shop. Italian hardware also trips my trigger. Three different machines from Italia have won my adoration. So when MMM’s Dave Soderholm asked if I would like to review an Italian V-twin ADV bike, I exclaimed “Si” and grabbed my gear before he could terminate the call. The Caponord 1200 Rally is Aprilia’s entry into the large ADV bike field.

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“The bike is beautiful in a manly Italian way”.

MMM® stalwart Paul Berglund and I picked up the gleaming beauty from Leo’s South in Burnsville, Minnesota, on a brisk spring morning. The Caponord 1200 certainly looks the part. The Rally model includes crash bars to protect the body work, a bash plate (plastic) below the motor and butch, aluminum-clad hard bags. Thick spokes are married to satin black rims. Perimeter spoke mounting gives you the lighter weight and greater strength of a spoked wheel but the ability to run tubeless tires. I liked our test bike’s verde Army (green) paint. Eccelente.

Riding comfort and function are well-addressed on the Caponord. The saddle is exceptionally comfortable. In all my miles I never did squirm or fidget. Seat height is 33.1”, tall for some, but I was easily able to get one foot on the ground with my 32” inseam. Aprilia wisely offers a lower seat option. The seat-handlebar-footpeg triangle is classic sport-tourer. Honoring Aprilia’s race heritage, footpegs are higher than some of the competition, but this increases both cornering lean angle and the generous 7.5” ground clearance.

Wide, dual-sport handlebars provide leverage, useful for picking lines on slower trails. Bar- mounted deflectors keep your hands out of the windblast and rain. Your torso is protected behind a manually-adjustable windshield and your legs stay dry, tucked into sculpted contours in the tank and fairing. I liked the ergos and wind protection. This is a bike built to devour miles. My only beef here is with the windshield. It adjusts vertically from loud to louder. I would immediately replace it with a larger screen or cut it down.

The Rally edition is well-appointed. You get the crash bars, belly pan and hard bags, plus switchable ABS, cruise control, LED driving lights and a 12VDC port for a GPS or electric gear. The Caponord also comes with several electronic control systems. Throttle is ride-by-wire and has three modes, Sport, Touring and Rain. I left her in “sport”, enjoying her torquey, punchy mid-range. The 1200 Rally also has a three-position electronic Traction Control (untested).

I did enjoy the Dynamic Damping Control. You can easily set the damping rates for Rider, Rider + Luggage, 2-up, or 2-up + Luggage. There is also an automatic function which constantly reads the road, learns your riding style and automatically adjusts the suspension, front and rear. I tried the Rider, Rider + Luggage and Auto settings but ended up leaving it in Auto. Whether on crappy roads, smooth sweepers or quick transitions, I liked how the bike handled. The 1200 Rally felt more sportbike than 575-lb ADV tourer. Bravo, Aprilia!

The brakes on the Caponord do not disappoint. The front wears dual discs pinched by radially- mounted, 4-piston Brembo calipers. The rear caliper is a lightweight, single-piston Brembo unit. Aprilia has changed ABS suppliers and the Caponord runs a system by Continental. I have come to love ABS on bikes, as it stops you faster without lock up, even with marginal traction. The ABS on the 1200 Rally is switchable should you desire to practice slide turns in the dirt.

It has that understated, Italian elegance.
It has that understated, Italian elegance.

The motor in the Caponord is a jewel, a 1,200cc, 90º, liquid-cooled V-twin that churns out endless torque. Aprilia Corsa DNA is felt in the light flywheel, as the motor spins readily to the 9,000rpm redline. Rear-wheel horsepower peaks at 107 (8,200 rpm) with max torque at 74 ft- lbs (7,200 rpm) While peak power and torque are at the top end, I kept the motor in the midrange, exploiting the available power. But be forewarned, you don’t get something for nothing, and all that power means heat. Our mornings were cool and I enjoyed the leg warming aspect but I would hate to be stuck in traffic on a hot summer day. The bottom line? The more I rode el Capo, the better I liked it.

I liked the electronic Cruise Control. It is easy to operate and adjust speed. The engine brain adjusts for hills, which is a nice feature. Cruise reduces fatigue on long days and improves mileage. One nit with the system is there is no provision to incrementally bump your speed up or down. My, how whiny we’ve become.

In addition to the low seat, other available options include heated grips and a center stand. The 690-watt alternator allows for heated grips and clothing, GPS and an espresso maker should you so desire. Average fuel mileage during our abbreviated test was 38 mpg. With 6.3-gallons (24 liters) of 91-octane premium, you can burn 239 miles before starting to look for a gas station.

The Caponord 1200 Rally is really a kick-ass sport-touring bike in ADV clothing. With its high ground clearance and 19” front wheel, riders have the option to explore a gravel road or trail, but she really sings on twisty, two-lane roads. If you like twins, Adventure bikes and/or Italian style, do yourself a favor and test ride an Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally.

Ups

Snappy, torquey 90º V-twin power.

Big tank + comfortable cockpit makes for relaxed mile-eating. Engine heat keeps you warm on brisk mornings.

Downs

Windscreen adjusts from loud to louder. Cruise control isn’t fully developed.

Engine heat will roast you above 75º

Wife’s First Reaction® “It looks like all those other big dirt bikes”

Fuel Economy: 46/34/38mpg (hi/lo/avg)

Selected Competition:

BMW 1200GS; Honda Africa Twin; Kawasaki Versys 1000; KTM 1190R; Moto Guzzi Stelvio, Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure; Triumph Tiger Explorer; Yamaha Super Ténéré

MMM

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