First Ride: 2002 Aprilia ETV 1000 CapoNord

Giant Steps for a Small Company


Torrance, California, December 17, 2001
For a company who has managed a name for themselves by producing title-winning racing machines, the last thing anybody expected was a utilitarian sport-tourer.

The more conventional Futura seemed destined from the start, but Aprilia's new CapoNord has turned some heads. What's an Aprilia doing this far off the beaten path?

Approaching the bike at first, it's easy to think its allegiance falls along the same lines as BMW's R1150GS. Looking much like something out of a Cagney space flick as penned by Hunter S Thompson whilst in the midst of a Jimson Weed escapade, the Aprilia cloaks itself in duds best described as "angular." That may be a polite way of saying "ugly," but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

It looks every bit the adventure-sport-tourer, though its trump card lies more in the touring than sporting, or even adventure for that matter. That is, unless your idea of adventure means never leaving the paved road. In fact, on Aprilia's own web site, this bike is listed as a touring bike, right alongside the Futura. The Pegaso, with its more dirt-oriented nature, finds itself in another slot, far from the CapoNord. In this particular line of street-biased touring work, however, the Aprilia is hard to fault.

From the angular bodywork and frame to the external oil-level tube, it's easy to see that a lot of thought went into Aprilia's CapoNord.Though touring is its thing, the Capo' lets you know, right from the off, that it has no intentions of replacing your stately Gold Wing. Rather, its stance suggests something a bit less pretentious. Rugged looks aside, the CapoNord's ergonomics fit the touring template almost perfectly. With a reasonable seat hight, good location of the foot pegs and decent padding, your butt and feet are happy. The reach to the bars is pretty short, and one long-armed test rider thought the Aprilia could use a bit more room in this area. For most people, however, the ergonomic package is hard to fault -- as is the motor.

At the bottom of the too-stiff forks are excellent brakes. Above it all, the fairing's styling drew mixed reviews, though nobody questioned its effectiveness. The 996 cc motor is one of, if not the absolute smoothest twins we've yet to sample. At freeway speeds, the V-twin lets you know it's down there, though it never intrudes. Throbbing away, it sends signals to your brain to stimulate various pleasure-sensing nerves while neatly isolating potentially offensive ones. And as our dyno numbers show, the motor has a decent amount of power tucked neatly between the frame's not-so-tidy-looking welds. Checking in with 86.2 horses and 57.6 foot-pounds of torque, the bike puts all of its available power to the ground.

  From as low as 2,000 RPM, it's safe to grab a handful of throttle and expect instant acceleration in any gear. The fuel-injection is good and motor never disappoints. Then as the revs rise, things get a bit more frenetic as the motor revs past 5,300 RPM and builds steam as more horses come to the fore. It's only when the 9,000 RPM redline nears that things get a bit vibey and the Aprilia urges you to grab another gear, a chore that is easily accomplished thanks to an extremely-slick transmission and smooth clutch.

Using the same basic instrument cluster as the Futura, the CapoNord gives you all the info you need. Best results were achieved by keeping the motor between 4,500 and 8,000 RPM. As with any good touring rig, there's no need to rev the motor unless you're either (wrongly) aggressively passing somebody and can't afford to grab another gear. Or maybe you're like us and just like to see "what happens if..."

Though its looks are quite a departure from the norm' the CapoNord's handling traits are pretty much as you'd expect them to be, judging the book by its cover. The upright seating position combines with the leverage afforded by the relatively wide, in-your-lap bars, to allow relatively quick changes in direction. The bike is a tad top-heavy, though this perception rapidly disappears as you lay the bike further on its side, allowing it the chance to settle mid-corner. It tracks straight and holds a line well, exhibiting a decent mix of agility and stability.

High-mounted twin mufflers make room for the same excellent hard bags as found on the Futura. Passenger accomodations are roomy.When the road gets a bit choppy, however, the CapoNord's suspension begins to unsettle the chassis a bit. Even on well-used chunks of freeway, the suspension feels as if one end is working against the other. This is especially true of the front forks which allow no provisions for adjustment. The rear shock feels more composed and even allows you to season its pre-load and rebound damping to taste. This forces you to further focus on the ill-feeling forks, praying they'll somehow inherit some lighter-rate springs, though you'd settle for a handful of rebound damping to slow things down for the time being.

Though annoying on the freeway, this trait became a serious disturbance on twisty bits of back roads that are less than cue ball smooth. This is a shame when the rest of the bike -- from the excellent brakes to the smooth motor -- make the rest of the ride such a pleasant experience. The stiff front end doesn't allow much weight transfer to the front tire, allowing it to stay light and become skittish when the pace escalates. A representative from Aprilia reiterated that our machine was a European pre-production unit, and the bike that goes on sale here in the United States may have different springs or damping rates. We can only cross our fingers and hope.

Where the fun usually stops, the CapoNord just keeps on going. All-day comfort combines with all-around usability to make this a serious contender for the adventure-touring crown. On the other side of the coin, in the CapoNord's favor, there's the issue of wind-protection. Aprilia has done their research here as the Capo' does an admirable job of keeping its rider out of the breeze. The only thing any of the testers wished for was a pair of hand-guards to fight of cold triple-digit breezes, though others admitted they mourned the omission of heated grips on our particular test unit.

In the grand scheme of things, the only other bikes in existence that fill the same odd niche as the Capo' are Triumph's Tiger and BMW's R1150GS. There is, of course, Suzuki's new V-Strom which takes aim at the same group the CapoNord intends to persuade, but we won't be seeing that bike until at least March.

In the meantime, this market segment continues to grow, and the new CapoNord from Aprilia is a serious contender in it -- a strong effort in a do-it-all touring bike from a company that started out in racing but is ending up in our hearts.

Specifications
Engine: Four-stroke, longitudinal 60 V twin, with anti-vibration double countershaft (AVDC patent)
Displacement: 997.62 cc
Bore and Stroke: 97 x 67.5 mm
Gearbox: 6 ratio
Fuel Injection: Integrated electronic engine regulation system. Indirect multipoint electronic injection. Diameter of throttle bodies: 47 mm 91 octane unleaded
Ignition: Digital electronic with two spark plugs per cylinder (TSI Twin Spark Ignition), integrated with injection.
Frame: Wave Twin Beam in box-type aluminium-magnesium alloy, highly-resistant removable steel rear subframe
Front suspension: Hydraulic Marzocchi fork, 50 mm sleeves, wheel travel 6.9 inches
Rear suspension: Swingarm in aluminium alloy, progressive linkage with APS (Aprilia Progressive System). Sachs hydraulic shock absorber, adjustable in rebound and preload. Wheel travel, 7.3 inches.
Front brake: Stainless steel 300 mm diameter Brembo double floating disk. Twin pot floating calipers, differentiated diameter (32 and 30 mm) semi-metallic pads. Freudenberg brake lines
Rear brake: Stainless steel 270 mm diameter disk. Twin pot caliper,  34 mm diameter Freudenberg brake lines
Tires: Tubeless radial; Front: 110/80 VR 19 Rear: 150/70 VR 17
Tank: Capacity 6.6 gal.
Weight: 474 Ibs 215 kg (dry)


Max HP : 86.2 hp @ 8300 rpm
Max Torque : 57.6 lb/ft @ 6800 rpm

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