2008 Aprilia 850 Mana U.S. Introduction

Techy, tricky Twin!


“The 850 Mana is really a number of motorcycles rolled into one...”
- Aprilia press materials.

The buying public will probably make the final determination on the flexibility of the Mana; one thing’s for sure, this bike is unconventional, at least in the sporting realm.

We’ll get into the usual stuff in a minute, but first let’s look at what makes this Italian Twin, running around Europe last year and finally hitting the U.S., so unique.

The clutch lever is gone and is replaced by an electronic control system. The sequential gearshift can be operated by a simple handlebar control as well as by the traditional foot-operated shift lever. This isn’t so new to the two-wheeled world; recall that Yamaha made electronic shifting part of its line-up two years ago with the YCC-S (Yamaha Chip Controlled-Shifting) on the FJR1300AE. What is unique is that in auto mode, the tranny is essentially a CVT setup. If the rider doesn’t shift manually (when decelerating), the control system intervenes to automatically downshift. Holy car tranny!

The Aprilia 850 Mana has some secrets.

Aprilia does well in combining this tech with more tech. The “Sportgear” transmission can be operated in seven-speed manual shifting mode, or electronically in Autodrive with three engine mappings: Touring, Sport, and Rain. These three mappings are most likely the same as on Aprilia’s SL750 Shiver and are not unlike the premise behind the A-B-C settings of Suzuki’s S-DMS (Suzuki-Drive Mode Selector) found now on all of its GSX-R line.

Here’s how Aprilia sees its slick tranny management system:

Sequential mode: The rider decides when to change gear, either using the conventional shifter or a switch on the handlebars. A servo mechanism shifts the main pulley to change between the seven gear ratios. During deceleration, if the rider doesn’t shift manually, the control system intervenes to change down automatically, preventing engine speed from dropping below the set threshold.

Push-button shifting of the electronically-controlled tranny is operated on the left-side switch gear.
“Touring” setting is one of three engine mappings that work in conjunction with the bike’s CVT tranny.

Fully automatic mode (Autodrive): Sophisticated electronics assume control over everything, and the CVT transmission keeps the engine running at maximum torque speed for optimum pickup and acceleration. The Sportgear transmission offers a choice of three mappings:

Touring: for minimum consumption and maximum usability.
Sport: for top performance and acceleration
Rain: for use on wet or slippery roads

Semi-Autodrive mode allows the rider to downshift (no upshifting, though) independently. This is particularly useful for overtaking at maximum torque revs or for boosting engine braking when riding down a hill.

You can switch from Autodrive to Sequential mode and back at any time, irrespective of riding conditions. The handlebar gearshift control can also be disabled from the dashboard.

In yet another thumb in the eye of convention, the 850 Mana plays visual trickery with the petrol holder.

The 16-liter (4.2 U.S. gal.) tank is located under the seat to distribute weight more evenly and lower the bike’s center of gravity. Again, not ground braking, as BMW’s F800ST and F650 also fuel under the saddle. The traditional tank location is occupied instead by an illuminated storage compartment that is lined with non-slip, non-scratch material and is big enough to house a full-face helmet. The compartment also incorporates mobile phone storage and a 12V power socket.

The vehicle documents and toolkit are also located inside the same compartment, as are the battery and fuses. The faux fuel tank storage compartment is opened electrically by a switch on the handlebars. The lid opens under the control of a hydropneumatic damper that prevents accidental opening while the bike is in motion. A manually operated lever under the passenger seat is provided to release the compartment lid in the event of a flat battery.

Now we’re talkin’ one-of-a-kind! Especially when you look at the sum of all the atypical operations that makes up the Mana.

“Nobody but us helmets in here!” False fuel tank serves as storage. Fuel out back, meng!

The Mana’s liquid-cooled, eight-valve, SOHC, 90-degree V-Twin engine has an oversquare bore and stroke of 88 x 69mm displacing just over 839cc and squeezing the fuel mixture induced via Weber-Marelli EFI with a single 38mm throttle at a compression ratio of 10.0:1. Claimed output is 76 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 54 ft-lbs at 5,000 rpm, all at the crank. Aprilia anticipates the Mana will get over 40 mpg in city driving. And the whole thing is E3 compliant thanks also to the 2-into-1 stainless steel exhaust that houses a three-way catalytic converter. This mill is “the perfect partner for this type of transmission,” according to Aprilia materials.

The 850 Mana’s tubular-steel trellis frame uses the engine as a stressed member and a linkage-less offset monoshock with preload and rebound adjustments connects the aluminum swingarm. Front suspension is a 43mm USD fork, apparently unadjustable. Braking is handled by a pair of radially-mounted four-pot calipers pinching 320mm floating rotors, and a single-piston clamp squeezes a 260mm disk in back; both are carried on 17-inch wheels. We suspect the brake package was snatched right from the SL750 Shiver.

Chassis dimensions of a 57.5-inch wheelbase, 4 inches of trail and 24-degree rake should keep the 850 Twin competing with the sporting crowd. A 31.4-inch seat height keeps the bike manageable for most riders.

Available accessories consisting of an adjustable windscreen, sidecases and rear trunk make the Mana 850 into something of sport-touring machine.

Time, or rather people’s spending, will tell if the Aprilia 850 Mana is just a collection of other manufacturer’s ideas or if it’s truly a unique, practical and, equally as important, fun motorcycle.

Ready for distance riding and lazy shifting.

The Mana 850 should now be in U.S. Aprilia showrooms at an MSRP of $9,899.  Color choices for U.S. riders include Passion Red and Lead Gray.

Oh, and one more thing. No more filling the bike without getting out of the saddle. Dern!

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