CHEAP AND DEFINITELY CHEERFUL ITALIAN
Because this was the first proper test-ride I’d done on an Aprilia (I had a brief ride on a race-replica 125 that my son-in-law owned once), I’ll start with a general description of the brand. Aprilia, like so many other brands, began by making bicycles. Although, compared to those other famous brands that began with pushies, Aprilia was a late starter, not commencing operations until 1945. And it wasn’t until 1968 that they made things interesting by putting motors in them. The business grew quickly though, and in 2000 they took over two other high-profile brands, Moto Guzzi and Laverda. But then just four years later, Piaggio bought the lot. By 2010, they had become the world’s fourth-largest motorcycle group. From the beginning, racing was paramount in their activities: firstly in off-road bikes (motocross, trials etc) and then in road racing. I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Having run this web-site for around 10 years at the time of writing, doing test-rides whenever possible, Murphy’s Law would state that it was inevitable. Although I wasn’t expecting it to happen. But happen it did: I dropped a test-bike! Well, to be precise, I didn’t actually “drop it” as such: it was more a case of it falling over with me on it. But I’ll get back to that later. For now, let's take a look at the Aprilia Shiver 750. In 2010 Aprilia became the most successful motorcycle brand in racing history, surpassing MV Agusta, which had held the record up until then. That’s quite a rich and exciting pedigree! The Shiver 750 is not only the entry-level model of the Aprilia range, it’s also the general, all-purpose, all-rounder type bike. No, I don’t mean it’s a dual-purpose bike (like a BMW GS or something), I mean it’s a bike for all purposes. Commuter, sporty play-bike, fun naked, it does them all. Strap on some luggage and it’ll even go touring without too much discomfort. At Just $14,000 – on the road! – the Shiver is definitely cheap; especially for a road-bike bearing this name. To put it in perspective, it is $8,000 cheaper than the next model in the Aprilia range (the Tuono V4R), and a whopping $17,000 cheaper than the top-shelf model (the RSV4RR). That makes it a great bargain for this Italian make, and even by Japanese price standards it’s cheap for what it is! So just how cheerful is this cheapie from Aprilia? I rode one to find out!
IN THE DRIVEWAY
Sitting in the driveway I reckon it looks good! It’s not as spectacular looking as its stable-mates with fancy graphics all over their full fairings, but it’s a good-looking basic bike. It is, of course, a naked, but has a little screen in front of the instruments and a belly-pan under the engine. So it’s not quite as naked as some nakeds. The riding-position is fairly upright, with just a slight, comfortable, lean forward to the bars – which is just as it should be on a naked. The bars are quite wide, offering good control over the bike. The seat, with its tapered shape and step up to the pillion area, looks like it might be comfortable, but feels hard when you first sit on it. Despite this though, it’s more comfortable than it seems. After nearly an hour in the saddle I was getting a bit uncomfortable, but that’s not too unusual for me, even on a comfortable bike. So as I said, it’s better than it seems when you first sit on it. With a well-padded sheepskin cover I reckon it’d be pretty good. To put this in greater perspective, it’s worth mentioning that a friend of mine – who rides a Yamaha FJR1300 – rode the bike before I did and came back feeling as fresh as when he’d begun the ride; even though he too thought it hard when he first sat on it. The foot-pegs feel high – no doubt intended to keep your feet well clear of the road as you flick it through the twisties. That does, however, result in quite a sharp bend at your knees. Once out on the road though, I soon forgot about that; and I didn’t feel cramped while riding it. The controls are all easy to get at and light and easy to operate. The instruments consist of an analogue tacho and a big digital display. Speed is prominently shown in this digital box, so there’s never any doubt as to how fast you’re going. Other things are less clear, but they are there. Well, sometimes they are. There is a gear-position indicator, but annoyingly, this only works once the bike is moving. At anything under about 20kph you just get a “_” in the display. This gets annoying when you’re at standstill and trying to get neutral (which can sometimes be difficult), or trundling along slowly in traffic. It’s almost as if the bike is playing a guessing-game with you. “See if you can get 1st, go on, see if you can!” It lets you take off and once you’ve got a bit of speed up, it says, “Now I’ll tell you what gear you’re really in!” Believe me, that little game gets a bit tiresome after a while! At higher speed (when it’s working fine) it can be quite useful, because it’s easy to think you’re in top when you’re actually in 5th. The Shiver, it is claimed, was the first bike to be fitted with a ride-by-wire throttle. Being electronic of course enables it to have different riding modes. There are three on the Shiver; termed “Sport”, “Touring” and “Rain”. (Don’t you think it’d be better if they had more interesting names for these modes? Like: “Rev-head”, “Grandad”, and “What’re ya doing out in this?” But I digress). I didn’t play with these on the test anyway. It was set to “Touring” (or “Grandad” as I’d call it!). Suspension is where we start to see the trade-off for the low (by Aprilia standards) price. Up front there is an upside-down fork, which looks pretty trick, but is non-adjustable. At the rear there is a side-mounted mono-shock (like you see on mid-size Kawasakis) that is adjustable for preload and rebound damping. No trade-off on brakes though, which have ABS standard.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Start up the 90-degree V-twin and you get some healthy gurgles and rumbles out of the pipe. Out on the road it’s interestingly loud, and crackles and bangs on the over-run, which sounds great! There are always vibes, but they’re not unpleasant; well, not until you really get the tacho into the higher numbers, when it does get a bit tingly. The engine is very tractable, pulling from under 3,000rpm without complaint; especially in the lower gears. In the higher gears it will still do that, but does prefer to be above 4,000rpm. The power of the engine comes on stronger when you get to those revs too: by 5,000rpm it’s really getting into its happy-to-go area. Because of this, I often found I was in a gear lower than I normally would have been in the situation; especially around town and in open road twisties. At this point I should describe the test route. This was a group ride from a dealer, but it was longer and more varied than most dealer rides. That’s one advantage of living in regional areas – test rides are mostly a lot more than 10-minute around-the-block rides that you get with city dealerships. This route was a beauty! It began in heavy traffic, opened up to highway cruising, then followed some well-surfaced twisty undulating rural roads that are a favourite with local riders (including me). That’s a section of the road pictured above. So it was an excellent test of the machines over very varied riding conditions. The Shiver 750 handled all of these varied conditions with ease. It was easy to ride in the congested traffic, but then cruised effortlessly on the highway. On the undulating rural roads, as on the highway, it felt happy and eager to go faster. And, although a naked, even on the highway the wind seemed less of an issue than expected. Performance over the route was generally good. The engine is quite powerful, although felt a little underwhelming at times. As I mentioned above, it was set in “Touring” mode, which appropriately I suppose, softened the response at the throttle. Overtaking, or any quick acceleration, required a good twist of the wrist. When cruising on the highway though, it felt fine. No doubt if it was in “Sports” mode the response would’ve been sharper. I said I didn’t try swapping modes, (I didn't know how anyway), but if it was mine I think I’d be leaving it Sports mode all the time – unless it was raining or tricky conditions. I mentioned that neutral could be hard to find, but once on the move the gear-change was easy and smooth. Clutch-less up-changes were smooth. Gearing is probably perfect for the bike. Top gear runs at 23kph per 1,000rpm, which means that at 100kph it’s heading for 4,500rpm. Doing 115kph brings the tacho needle right on the 5 mark. It’s happy at these revs, and you get the feeling that higher gearing would adversely affect the performance. I know the test-route very well, and as I mentioned earlier, I often found that I was in a gear lower than I would expect to be, so it’s certainly not under-geared, even though you might expect me to say it was, given those figures. The handling is great! Gentle counter-steering is all you need to get it to go just where you want it to go. I didn’t push it too hard through the bends, although I kept running up behind a Moto Guzzi cruiser in front of me – he’d take off on the straights and I’d catch him in the corners. But you get the feeling that if you really got stuck in, the bike would do just what you wanted it to and provide a lot of enjoyment while it did it. It’s a bike that inspires confidence. We didn’t encounter any rough roads, (that's about the one negative of the route as a test-route), but you get an idea of how a bike rides even just riding out the driveway. (I’ve ridden bikes that failed to provide a decent ride even just doing that!). But when it did encounter the occasional (small) bump, the suspension displayed a good degree of compliance. As I mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of adjustment available, although the rear can be tweaked a bit to suit your preference. Brakes are good. I didn’t really give them a good test during the ride, in fact I didn’t use them a lot at all, but they felt effective and easy to use when I did use them. I did give the lever a decent squeeze a couple of times, and there was commendable bite there to quickly slow the bike. And so we got back to the dealer: and that’s when it all went wrong. That’s when I fell over. In the parking area! Most bikes were parking in jumbled fashion to the right. I decided to follow another rider to the left where there was lots of room in front of the workshop. I swung left and decided to park nose outwards. So I turned left, and with the bike feeling so light and stable, put my feet on the pegs: a feet-up U-turn (to the right, to get it nose outwards) should be easy on this. I began to turn right, but then needing to turn tighter, I leaned in and turned the bars – but the bars didn’t turn: I was out of lock! So the bike tipped over. The footpegs are quite high and I couldn't get my leg out quick enough to save it, so the bike went down, with me basically still sitting on it, with my leg still under the bike. I put my hand out to break my fall (as you do!) and landed on my hip, knee, and then shoulder. Also my head hit the ground. My leg was still bent up, so came to rest in a space under the upper part of the bike, created by the handlebar holding that part of the bike well off the ground. Of course I had all the gear on, so didn't sustain any serious injury. My hand / wrist was jarred pretty badly, and my knee and hip were sore, but no bruises developed. I didn’t even feel the impact on my shoulder, and my helmet did its job absorbing the impact to my head. I was aware of my head hitting the concrete but the cushioning of the helmet meant that I hardly felt the impact, and had no soreness or headache. It did scratch my visor a bit though. It goes to show the benefit of wearing the right gear! People came running over as I scrambled up. They picked the bike up. (Good to see they had their priorities right!). Yes, of course some also asked if I was okay. The bike sustained some very small scratches to the end of the handlebar, and bent the gear lever in against the motor. The Aprilia guy looked at the bike closely but said it was only very minor marks so wouldn't worry about it. (I could've been liable for the damage – up to the usual excess of $2,000). Yes, embarrassing! And probably silly putting my feet up to do a U-turn in the parking area, but on the Shiver it was easy to do – well, it would've been if the steering had more lock! But let's get back to the bike. There’s no denying the sporty nature of the Shiver 750 – with things like the thinly-padded (yet surprisingly comfortable) seat, high foot-pegs and so on, but this bike will also do the commuter thing well (as demonstrated by our crawl through congested traffic), and of course is in its most natural element as a fun-naked. My impression was that performance could be better, but that was probably down to it being in “Touring” Mode: “Sports” Mode would probably unleash the potential you expect from a sporty 750. My only real criticism is that the steering could probably do with a bit more lock! SNAPSHOT The “cheapie” of the Aprilia road-bike range is surprisingly good. It’s sporty by nature – perhaps a bit overly so for some, with its relatively high foot-pegs and sports-style seat – but it’s also a very practical bike, performing the role of commuter, naked tourer and back-roads blaster with equal ease. It handles well, rides well and performs well. And at the price, I reckon it’s a bargain for an iconic Italian bike!
Engine: 2-cylinder, 749.9cc. Power: 69.3kW at 9,000rpm. Torque: 80.9Nm at 7,000rpm.
Suspension: Front: Inverted 43mm fork, 120mm travel. Rear: Mono-shock, adjustable for preload and rebound, 130mm travel
Fuel capacity: 15 litres.
Weight: 193kg (dry).
Seat height: 810mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17”, Rear: 180 X 17”
Brakes: Front: Twin 320mm discs, 4-pot calipers. Rear: Single 240mm disc, with single-pot caliper. ABS standard.
Price: $14,000 Ride-away.
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