2009 Aprilia Mana GT ABS Review

The most practical bike in the world


In April Motorcycle.com showcased the 2009 Aprilia Mana and its fully automatic transmission. While not everybody in motorcycledom is embracing this unique steed, its comfortable riding position, great brakes and excellent value make it an interesting option for many.

European correspondent Tor Sagen wanted to try it out for himself so he took a Mana GT ABS for a ride in the Italian Dolomites. You can read about his experience below.


It seems like the motorcycle industry is on the verge of changing and Piaggio is at the forefront. Piaggio deserves kudos for trying to lead the way in many new areas in the two wheeled world. Piaggio is trying to make three wheeled motorcycles and large capacity motorcycles with automatic transmissions mainstream – some serious hybrids are on the way too. But is the world ready for the Mana yet?

The Mana is great for riding around a big city like Rome, but what about everywhere else? My feeling is that everywhere else isn’t ready quite yet so let me tell you how the Mana GT faired touring the Italian Dolomites first.

At first glance it’s difficult to tell there’s anything different about the striking Mana.

When it comes down to dead easy practicality and clever solutions the 2009 Mana GT is right up there. Under the dummy tank there’s room for a full faced helmet and in the panniers you can put everything else needed for touring. Release the handbrake, fire it up twist and go. This is scooter practicality in a big motorcycle and it really can charm even a big bad motorcyclist given half a chance.

The 850cc twin proved to be a nice mill for touring.

I rode the Mana GT alongside the conventional Shiver 750 GT and I must say that for touring I would choose the Mana each time. Everything is so smooth and easy and practical and I really don’t miss the conventional gearing. The big 850cc twin is much smoother than the raw 750 twin in the Shiver and almost as fast.

The seat is comfortable and vibrations from the engine are almost non existent. I’ve left the Mana GT in sports auto mode. This also enables manual downshifts where you can use the minus button to gain maximum revs when you want them for a little more lively acceleration past traffic. The other auto modes are rain and touring. The second mode is a 7-speed sequential where you use the +/- buttons actively. If you forget to downshift when reducing speed the Mana will do it for you. There’s no clutch handle on the left side of the handlebar and all you have to play with is the gear mode buttons. On the right hand side is the conventional front brake lever and I’m riding the ABS version. With powerful radial mounted brakes the Mana could possibly be a bit of a handful for customers upgrading from a scooter so the ABS version would be recommended for those not so accustomed to a powerful front brake. Riding up and down steep mountain passes I was more than satisfied with both the brakes and the power of the automatic engine. No scooter can do these steep Alpine passes as effortlessly as the Mana.

The Mana GT is many things for different riders. If you’re upgrading from a scooter or a small 125cc motorcycle the Mana is the wolf and a real motorcycle. If you’re downgrading from a more powerful conventional motorcycle it’s a bit of an oddity and perhaps a sheep in wolf’s clothing. But nevertheless, I really like the Mana GT for what it is; a practical no nonsense real world vehicle that will take you from A to B in the most effortless fashion. What’s not to like about that?

The Mana doesn’t handle quite as well as a standard motorcycle. Its behavior in the corners takes some getting used to.

The center of gravity is quite low and the handling is slightly different compared to the Shiver 750 GT. If there’s one area the 750 Shiver really beats the Mana it’s in the handling department – the Mana doesn’t lean with the same ease. It just doesn’t have the same mass centralization and frame as the Shiver and so it behaves slightly differently through the corners. However, the lower center of gravity makes the Mana very easy to ride at crawling, which is important for new riders.

The Mana GT is distinctive straight away as it has an adjustable windscreen. This windscreen is slightly better than the one on the Shiver 750 GT as it is a bit taller. It provides decent protection against the varying weather conditions I encountered in the Alps. The big panniers are also standard on the GT, but the topbox is an accessory. As previously mentioned, the dummy tank contains a large storage compartment that is opened by using a button on the handlebar and should the battery ever be flat there’s a manual button under the passenger seat. The compartment is even illuminated when it’s dark.

A full face helmet fits comfortably in the dummy tank. You’ll find the real fuel tank under the passenger seat.

For city usage the 76 horsepower 850cc V-twin responds immediately and with more than enough power to leave cars far behind. The Mana is a perfect city vehicle with motorbike performance and scooter twist and go properties. Life is busy in the city so if you can leave the gearing for the machine to worry about there’s one less thing to occupy your thoughts. Add the ABS brakes as well and you only concentrate on pointing the Mana where you want to go.

The Mana is the motorcycle world’s answer to the point and shoot digital camera. It’s just that easy. If you should ever run out of fuel (it’s not easy as the automatic mode is very fuel efficient) you can open the passenger seat and fill up the 4.4-gallon fuel tank.

Conclusion

When I’m not testing motorcycles and only riding for my own pleasure for a quick spin or going to the shops the Mana GT could well be the answer. It’s a lovely creation from Aprilia and if you add the GT’s extra practicality it’s even better. There are better handling bikes out there and the Shiver 750 GT is one of them, but I’ve already made my mind up if the choice were between the two. The Mana is the Manna for me, but then again I get to have fun on other bikes all the time.

It may not be for everybody, but the Mana should find a good niche in the motorcycle world.

If you want to learn more about riding motorcycles then the Mana falls short. It’s lacking a gearbox and clutch and as such doesn’t teach you how to ride a conventional motorcycle. However, if you don’t care about that so much then the Mana GT is the most practical thing in the world. One thing to consider is that if you do get tired with the Mana after a while there’s nothing similar to upgrade to and you simply have to learn how to ride a regular motorcycle. That said, I believe there’s a definite market for this motorcycle and the biggest customer group should be current car drivers or scooter riders. For everyone else it’s something worth trying, but not necessarily the answer to your future two-wheeled cravings.

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Too easy
  • Large storage capacity
  • Smooth 76 horsepower 850cc automatic
  • Not everybody’s cup of tea
  • Doesn’t help you too much in improving your own riding skills

Related Reading
2009 Aprilia Mana Review
Aprilia Mana U.S. Announcement
2008 Aprilia Shiver Review

View all Photos PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox