I asked around at the launch of the Dorsoduro (and Shiver) 900, why was this bike named “Dorsoduro”? I know what the Dorsoduro is and have visited the district in the Italian city of Venice on two separate occasions, but I was looking for an answer full of emotion and history which I have come to expect from Italian manufacturers (and their marketing departments). To my surprise, everyone began to tell me what the name was rather than why it was named as such. Well, after having ridden the 2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, it is clear to me why the Italian manufacturer would look to one of Italy’s most iconic cities and why they would choose the sestieri of Dorsoduro as its namesake.
Venice can feel overcrowded in the summer months by tourists, however, if you make your way not far from the Piazza San Marco, you’ll find an entirely different atmosphere. The Dorsoduro is just a quick walk across the Ponte dell’Accademia and, while the universities are in session, the district feels much more lively. The change in the air, specifically at night, is almost instantaneous as you make your way through the dimly lit squares and alleyways bustling with students. It feels younger, more alive, more vibrant, more hopeful. You could just as easily use any of those words to describe Aprilia’s new Dorsoduro 900.
The launch of the Dorsoduro 900 and Shiver 900 were held simultaneously and would showcase how different these motorcycles could feel while using the same new 896cc V-Twin powerplant. The two models share the same 93.8 hp and 66.3 lb-ft of torque, with the Dorsoduro’s smaller front sprocket and shorter gearing making it feel much more hooligan and vibrant out in the canyon roads of Highway 33. While its claimed 467-lb wet weight certainly doesn’t make it the lightest bike in the class, it never felt too portly, and out of the other large-displacement supermotos, the Dorsoduro’s $10,999 price tag is the lowest of its competitors. Ducati’s 939cc Hypermotard retails for $12,995, while MV Agusta’s Rivale has a $13,798 MSRP.
The upright riding position puts you into a dirtbike-style stance, and the somewhat lofty seat height of 34 inches gives you a good view of what’s ahead. The Noale-built supermoto is fantastic for dicing through traffic in the city. The tall nature of the bike puts your wide handlebar above most mirrors, and the additional room from the wide-open steering lock makes slow, tight maneuvers a cinch. One thing I noticed immediately, though, was the fact that I was constantly hitting the heels of my size 10.5 boots on the passenger-peg brackets on both sides and the kickstand spring on the left. This was only accentuated after taking my fiancée’ on a ride to test passenger comfort. She enjoyed the flat, wide seat, but we were constantly hitting our feet against each other.
The new Twin includes a lighter piston with a new coating to reduce friction, a reinforced piston pin, semi-dry crankcase with reed valves controlling oil movement, and new double-jet fuel injectors which spray at a higher pressure for better air/fuel atomization. The brains of the operation have now been changed to a Marelli 7SM ECU, which was brought from Aprilia’s sportier motorcycles, enabling the new TC management and streamlining electrical systems while shedding a claimed one pound of weight.
The engine, with revised crankshaft geometry suiting its much longer stroke, delivers a smoother ride. When coupled with shorter gearing than the Shiver I was also riding that day, it caused me to find myself hitting the rev-limiter without realizing I was even close, despite the white, yellow, and red lights flashing as indication on the dash that I was approaching the end of the gear.
The Dorsoduro 900 shares many of it’s components with the Shiver 900, including a wonderfully vibrant, auto-contrasting TFT display, the same, adequate four-pot calipers up front with 320 mm dual discs and single-piston caliper in the rear with a 240mm wave rotor, both use braided steel brake lines. Also shared is the rebound/preload adjustable 41mm Kayaba fork, which is said to have shaved a pound from the previously used 43mm fork in the Dorsoduro 750. Spring rates are notably different between the new Shiver and Dorsoduro. Also gained, is a fair bit of wheel travel on the Dorsoduro: 6.3 inches up front with 6.1 inches in the rear as opposed to the Shiver’s 4.7-inch front and 5.1-inch rear. I preferred the stiffer fork and softer rear shock on the Dorso while riding through canyon roads.
The auto-contrasting TFT display offers excellent rider interface. Three ride modes: Sport, Touring, and Rain are selectable while riding by using the starter button, needing only to close the throttle to make the switch. ABS is on or off and can only be accessed while the motorcycle is in neutral. Three levels of traction control are switchable while riding. Also available as an option is the Aprilia Multimedia Platform, allowing you to sync the motorcycle to your Bluetooth headset. The AMP feature allows the rider to see on the gauge panel incoming calls, message alerts, and music being streamed.
While speaking to Aprilia staff, they mentioned the Dorsoduro is the more exciting of the two new 900s, explaining that the Dorsoduro is the more fun, exciting, hooligan motorcycle, while the Shiver shines in all-around versatility.
It became apparent on my 90-mile freeway blast home that head/side winds at speed on the Dorsoduro can be a little disconcerting, with its tall stance more liable to wobble with large gusts. At first it led me to think, “Man, this would be tough to live with as a do-everything motorcycle,” however, I would change my tune over the next few days.
I found myself riding the new Aprilia nearly 800 miles round trip to attend a riding school in Stockton, CA, the Superbike-Coach school. Due to time constraints, I would need to take the most direct route: the 5 freeway. Ugh. I’m not saying that after all of those freeway miles the stability of the long-legged Dorsoduro got any better. It did not. But, it was something I got used to fairly quickly and no longer bothered me too much.
Another ding against the Dorsoduro’s traveling prowess is its diminutive fuel range. While its sub 100-mile horizon was a fine excuse for me to stop and jump off the bike every 90 miles, that might not be enough range for some riders. Burning through the rest of the tank after the riding school, the gas light came on after 65 miles. Yikes. Typically, though, as I made my way along the 5, I would see the glow of the little yellow gas light come on around 80 miles. If you’re trying to be economical, you could probably get 110 miles out of a tank. That’s not many miles to work with for traveling unless you plan your gas stops ahead.
I have always appreciated the styling of these big supermoto-style bikes. The 2018 Dorsoduro, like the Shiver released concurrently, showcases great attention to detail which, in my opinion, elevates the appeal of the new 900s. The red valve cover, red trellis frame, wheel decals, loud graphics, and gold fork look fantastic and won’t allow you to mistake the bike for anything other than an Aprilia.
While I enjoy the look of the headlight shape, the actual light it produces is dismal. The Dorsoduro’s lighting is only worsened by using the high beam which splays more light to the sides next to the motorcycle and cuts the distance which can be seen down the road.
While the 2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro may not stack up performance-wise to something like the Ducati Hypermotard, it isn’t that far off, and with a $2,000 savings, it may just be close enough to take a slice out of its rivals motard pizza pie.
|2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 Specifications|
|Engine Type||90-degree V-Twin, 4-stroke, Four valves per cylinder, liquid-cooled|
|Bore and stroke||92.0 x 67.4mm|
|Horsepower (claimed)||93.8 hp at 8,750 rpm|
|Torque (claimed)||66.3 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm|
|Fuel system||Marelli 7SM Double-jet fuel injectors and latest generation Ride-by-Wire engine management. Choice of three different engine maps selectable by the rider with bike in motion: S (Sport), T (Touring), R (Rain)|
|Front Suspension||Inverted Kayaba 41 mm fork body, adjustable preload and rebound damping. 160mm wheel travel|
|Rear Suspension||Sachs monoshock absorber with adjustable preload and rebound damping. 155mm wheel travel|
|Front Brakes||320mm floating double disc. Radial-mounted four-piston calipers with steel braided brake lines|
|Rear brake||240mm wave stainless steel disc. Single piston caliper with steel braided brake lines|
|Wheels and Tires||Cast aluminum; Front: 3.5”x17” Rear: 6.00”x17” Radial tires. Front: 120/70ZR-17 Rear: 180/55ZR-17|
|Saddle height||34.0 inches|
|Curb Weight||467 lbs (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||3.0 gallons|
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