2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 Review

Diet plan and improved electronics highlight Noale's maxi-motard


The best way to describe the 2012 version of the Dorsoduro 1200 is to call it a lighter, more powerful version of the previous model with upgraded rider aids. Meaning, Aprilia has basically improved the Dorsoduro’s handling and added more sophistication to the traction control. New graphics distinguishes it from the original 2010-2011 model.

It’s fitting Aprilia chose to launch the new Dorsoduro in Sicily, as the tight and twisty roads suit the new bike’s personality well. It also just so happens that my arrival coincided with a Mount Etna eruption, covering the mountain in smoke and morning mist.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200

At the start of our ride in Sicily, considerable amounts of ash covered the road. If you haven’t ridden in ash before, let me tell you straight away that this stuff is very slippery. So ABS and traction control were welcome features.

Aprilia’s 1197cc (106x67.8mm) V-Twin engine makes similar horsepower as V-Twin superbikes from 10 years ago but isn’t nearly as high strung. Aprilia claims 130 hp at 8700 rpm and 85 ft.-lb. at 7200 rpm. The sound of the engine when accelerating with full throttle out of corners is overpowering and it goes from a nice Twin tootle to full-on superbike sound in a second. The acceleration is quite violent, and if you’re coming straight off an inline-Four 600cc sportbike you should practice caution.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 wheelieIn addition to traction control, the usual Aprilia riding modes are employed to help the rider tame all this V-Twin power. Sport riding mode is fierce and gives instant access to all the bike’s power and beastly throttle response. If you ask me, this mode should really be called pure unadulterated difficult fun mode.

Then you have Touring mode, which in reality is where Sport mode should be. You get smooth and predictable throttle response with or without traction control. Power is subdued at low rpm and is fully released at higher rpm so that the rear wheel doesn’t spin out too fast or too early.

Rain mode is for severe weather and the max output is reduced to 100 hp. I still find myself getting really irritated each time I want to change riding modes as it’s practically impossible to do it whilst riding as throttle must be off and it takes an eternity for the system to obey my input on the starter button.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 ergonomics

Traction control is also adjustable in three levels (four if you include off), but in Touring mode, my preferred mode, I found level one or off to be most useful. Unlike the riding modes, traction control settings can be changed with ease but only when the Dorsoduro is at standstill. This is still better than the riding mode selection and change procedure.

I rode a vast part of the test with all rider aids turned off apart from the Touring engine map. This is how I like the Dorsoduro 1200 best, and despite going from great lean into early and hard acceleration, the rear wheel hardly spun enough for me to have any wish for traction control. If riding modes had been easier to change on the go or we had more breaks to split up the riding, I would have explored Sport mode with traction control set to level one a lot more.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 leg position

The seat is spartan but slightly more comfortable than a full-on supermotard. My bum did hurt at the end of the test and my knees were a bit raw from leather suit movement after moving the heavy off-road boots up and down using the supermoto riding style.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 front wheel absIt’s easy to slide further forward than on a conventional motorcycle and also easy to slide backwards for some high-speed wind protection, adopting a clam-like seating position. The handlebar is wide with hand guards and gives very good control when riding through hairpin corners.

A Sachs 43mm inverted fork takes care of the front suspension, and a horizontally mounted shock sits at the back. Both are fully adjustable. You get 6.3 inches of travel on the front and 6.1 inches in back which is enough for a maxi road motard.

The brake set up is a double four-pot radial Brembo with 320mm discs front and 240mm single disc at the rear with separate ABS channels. ABS can be turned off and it’s much more fun to ride the Dorso this way, but it’s good ABS is available should you need it.

The new Aprilia wheels are said to be responsible for 5.9 lbs of the bike’s 6.6-lb. weight reduction. This reduces inertia by 15.4% at the front and 22.2 % at the back compared to the previous model. This allows for a more responsive and easier handling package through tight corners where change in direction needs to be quick when going fast. All in all, the new Dorsoduro 1200 should weigh in at just around the 441-lb. mark, which is still heavy, but at least Aprilia has reduced the weight in the places where it matters most.

The remaining weight reduction comes from a redesigned front mudguard and new license-plate holder. Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires were fitted during our test ride and proved to be a good match for this maxi-motard capable of speeds in excess of 120 mph. These tires and the Dunlop Qualifiers will be available as standard equipment.

2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 turning

What we have in the 2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro is a fairly heavy maxi-motard tuned for road fun. The 2012 Dorso is no doubt a better motorcycle than last year’s model just after this minor update. The engine is smoother, the bike is lighter, and there’s even more fun to be had.

With this upgrade, one feels like Aprilia may have had half an idea to perhaps label this as the Dorsoduro 1200 Factory, but the upgrades weren’t quite enough to justify the label. It’s a good little upgrade anyway, and who wouldn’t want to shave off nearly six pounds of unsprung weight?

Highs:    Lows:
  • Weight reduction and better handling
  • Decent Sachs suspension
  • Aprilia’s V90 feels better and is a package with great potential
  • Riding modes selection still awkward and, for that reason, useless whilst on the move
  • Keep reducing that weight, Noale, and we’ll have a maxi-motard sprinter eventually

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2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 Review: First Impressions
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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 Review
2008 Aprilia Dorsoduro Review

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