However, that doesn't mean your bike can't be naked. There is something very appealing about the elemental, basic look of a motorcycle that is free of windshield and bodywork. With nothing covering the mechanical elements, the observer sees the basic nature of what makes motorcycling wonderful; a big engine and a pair of wheels. It's saying to the world: this is all we need to move around and have a good time.
Every manufacturer offers such a machine, and here at MO we have a fondness for the biggest, fastest and best-handling around. In August we tested the offerings of the Japanese factories, picking Yamaha's FZ-1 as the victor. But a hue and cry rose from our discussion boards; where are the European bikes in this test?
Luckily, Aprilia's people called us up and asked if we wanted to ride around on a new Tuono 1000R for a few weeks. We had barely hung up the phone when we got a call from BMW's Ministry of Corporate Communications inviting us to the launch of their R1200R naked twin. And the nice people at Cagiva offered us the use of the fearsome and beautiful MV Agusta Brutale 910S. Sometimes we have to do a lot of organizing for comparison tests to happen, and sometimes they kind of fall into our laps.
With three bikes in place, we needed an expert in both being nude and owning exotic bikes. Perhaps you remember MOron Buzglyd? Arthur "Buzz" Waloch has been a friend-of-MO for years, assisting us with our first Euro-streetfighters story in 2004. He also owned a Brutale 750, so who better to come along, give us some riding impressions and help do his part to correct Southern California's massive fried-food trade imbalance?
So how did they stack up? Let's find out.
2007 BMW R1200R
$13,025 ($14,990 as tested) 102.08hp 79.12 ft-lbs 437 pounds (claimed dry weight)
We here at MO think there is a psychiatric ward somewhere for motorcycle designers and product planners driven mad by the conflicting and intricate demands made by the motorcycling public. We're also guessing there is a separate locked, padded chamber for ex-BMW employees. We feel for them, as BMW tries really hard to give motorcycle consumers what they want while still trying to maintain their own unique identity. But they can only do so much; give it the power and equipment riders want and they complain it's too expensive and heavy. Make it lighter and less expensive and they say it's not a real BMW. It's enough to make you want to drink Jagermeister.
Lately, BMW has been getting closer to hitting the nail on the oil-cooled head. The spinning-propellerites have in the last few years have offered both a 150hp superbike and a 100-plus horsepower version of their oil-cooled boxer twin. They've even started using frames. Last year they introduced the beautiful and sporty high-performance R1200S, and for 2007 they present the naked roadster version of that bike, the R1200R.
We sent Pete to the R1200R intro in Dana Point, CA, where he learned some more about what makes the R1200R an important new model for BMW. Although BMW's PR people and engineers greatly stressed the electronic innovations like the partial-integral ABS and the quasi-traction control ASC system, there are plenty of changes in the chassis, suspension and motor.
|Get Up to Date With BMW's Acronym Frenzy|
Partial-Integral ABS ($1040)
Out with those noisy, power-assisted integrated ABS brakes and in with the latest-generation, partial-integral-valve system ABS.
Step into the way-back machine and set the dial for 1988. That's where you'll find BMW's first -- and first in the world on a bike -- ABS system, weighing in at a healthy 24.5 lbs. Fast forward and boy how times have changed. Gone is the fully-integrated set up (use the front, and braking pressure is applied to the rear to a small degree; apply the foot pedal and to a lesser degree the front brake is applied as well, whether you like it or not) and in its place is an ultra-simple Bosch system weighing just a little over three pounds. And it keeps rear-wheel braking where it belongs -- in the rear!
It seems BMW heard the cries of the media -- and more importantly the buying public -- and opted to update and simplify their ABS. This current generation -- number four, if you want to be technical -- of BMW ABS is actually an enhanced version of the BOSCH system introduced on the F650GS in 2000. Front braking is effected in the traditional sense in that a simple hydraulic circuit applies pressure on the rotors when you apply pressure at the brake lever. The "partial" part comes into play when an electronically controlled hydraulic pump gradually builds and applies pressure to the rear when the rider squeezes the front lever. But try to get the front brakes to work by simply pushing on the rear brake pedal and you'll be disappointed -- or very happy. Two completely separate circuits are in operation. The cynics among you will be happy to hear that the front brakes will have the familiar feel of any other bike out there. One advantage is that you won't have to make a mental note after transitioning from a bike with this new ABS system to a non-ABS equipped. Many of you probably learned this the hard way on previous Beemer systems.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Unlike the power-assisted days of yore -- when the bike's ignition switch had to be on to activate full braking power -- this newest generation doesn't play by those rules. You can coast along with the ignition off and still get full braking power sansABS. Anyone familiar with previous versions will recall that half-there mushy feeling you got when the power was out. Scary.
The partial ABS setup will be working its way into much of the BMW line over the next couple of model years, save for the mighty K1200LT. The LT will retain fully-integrated ABS, due mainly to the bike's heft. The R1200 GS/GS Adventure will not only have the partial-integral ABS system, but it will come with the ability to deactivate the ABS should the rider see fit to do so during certain off-road encounters. Yet, even when ABS is deactivated, the partial-integral aspect remains.
That's the simple, layman's version. If you want the complicated version laden with tech-jargon phrases like, "...outlet valve arranged in parallel..." and "analogue pressure management", you won't find it here; this is MO, the short bus of motorcycling publications. Just ask BMW to send you their pamphlet. Their description of the new ABS is only six pages or so.
ASC: Coming Soon to Some BMWs Near You (available only with ABS, $365)
Calling it the "logical counterpart to ABS", BMW will be introducing their ASC (Automatic Stability Control) system on a smattering of bikes beginning in February 2007 here in the US. Specifically, the K1200GT and all Boxer models -- except for the R1200S -- will be the first to add yet another acronym to their spec charts. One more note along the lines of exclusivity: ASC is only available in conjunction with ABS.
The simplistic explanation of this traction control system -- BMW uses this term loosely -- is as follows: if the rear wheel is spinning faster than the front wheel, the bike's ECU cuts power to keep it on pace.
At the risk of sounding too austere with the above definition, we'll look a little further into what it takes to keep both wheels turning in harmony. Utilizing wheel sensors from the ABS system, the ASC monitors wheel speeds and then "applies diagnostic functions" from the sensors. It's not so much the ASC as it is the bike's computer brain that determines wheel spin by comparing the difference in speeds between the front and rear. If the rear starts to go off, the ECU will first reduce torque output by retarding ignition timing. Failing that measure, the next step is to cut -- not reduce -- fueling for whatever length of time necessary. Obviously this will be a matter of milliseconds.
How will you know this is happening? In theory, the mini-symphony of electronic yesses and nos should happen without your personal ECU ever picking up on the tragedy that never was. But should you start to accuse BMW of cavorting carelessly with your God given "right to know", fear not, they've made concessions and you can expect a flashing indicator on the control panel. And if you think you're smarter than the average electronic control unit, you can disable the ASC completely at the push of a button. It's worth noting that ASC operates as part of the greater engine control electronics system and has no special control device of its own. Ghost in the machine?
If when purchasing your R1200GS you decide to hop it up further by adding ASC, you'll want to be aware that it will come with on-road and off-road modes. The off-road mode accounts for additional wheel spin and allows more slip-slidin' to occur. Simply switch between modes by toggling the ASC button. Be warned though, BMW clearly states that the off-road setting is a no-no in on-road environs.
Finally, BMW wants very much to emphasize that their ASC is not some magical wand that will turn you from the road toad you are into some flawless canyon strafer freed from the constraints of physics. As they plainly put it, ASC "does not relieve the rider from the need to use engine power appropriately when leaning over to a low angle." That has to be about as frank as BMW can be, so we'll take the liberty to translate: You can't ride slipshod and expect to get away with it, ASC or not!
For one thing, BMW's wizards somehow managed to unlock 102 rear-wheel horsepower out of an engine that traditionally never made much more than 80. To do this, they used the new-for-2004 R1200GS motor and gave it a larger airbox, pointier camshafts and a 12.0:1 compression ratio. That re-designed GS motor also donated its balance shaft for smoother top-end operation. Like Harley-Davidson's re-designed Sportster motors, the smoother functioning allows prolonged high-speed use without damaging bike or rider, while making power previously unknown to air-cooled twins. Our test unit made 102hp on MO's Dynojet Dynomometer, compared to the R1150R's anemic 80.3 the last time we tested an 1150 engine. It isn't all peak power, either; the R makes a class-crushing 79.12 ft-lbs of torque, which wouldn't be bad for a power cruiser, much less a naked standard. Boat trailer, anyone?
This gem is solidly-mounted into a tube-steel and aluminum composite thingee that parks the two double-spoke wheels (encased in sportbike-spec Michelin Pilot Road rubber, 120/70-17 front and 180/55-17 rear) 58.9 inches apart. The back wheel is bolted to a single-sided Paralever driveshaft/swingarm that uses a preload-and-rebound-adjustable monoshock. Leading the way is BMW's wishbone-shaped Telelever suspension, with an automotive-style swingarm locating a non-adjustable monoshock. Braking is handled by a pair of 320mm floating rotors in front gripped by fixed four-piston calipers, with a two-piston caliper and a 264mm disc in back. Our test unit had the optional ($1,040) Integral ABS II, and the whole thing weighs in at 437 pounds dry (claimed).
To complete the package, there's a superbike-bend tube-steel handlebar, a steel -- steel, by God! -- 4.6 gallon fuel tank, a nice big seat that's available in three heights (30.3, 31.5 and 32.7 inches) and a big, highly-legible instrument panel with a digital speedometer and analog tachometer. Our bike had the optional on-board computer ($225), which tells you how you're going to run out of gas three different ways, as well as how cold (or hot) you are, what gear you're in and other bits of info. Our test bike was also equipped with heated grips ($235), the Sport windshield ($210), saddlebag mounts ($135, even though the saddlebags won't be available until February) and a very useful centerstand ($120).
On board the big black Bavarian, a prospective rider instantly notes a very comfortable and ergonomic experience. The "bar, footpeg and saddle triangle is the most comfortable of the three" said Pete, who in his advanced years craves comfort above all else. The bars were a little high for little Gabe-o, but he didn't complain too much; he thought the ergos were as "close to perfect as [he's] found." Pete also liked the styling; the bodywork and frame look "simple and clean", with a minimal tailsection and a normal-looking headlight, unlike the weird Buck Rodgers spaceship styling of past Beemers. In fact, if it wasn't for the big cylinders sticking out like Prince Charles' ears the bike almost doesn't look like a BMW, at least not until Fonzie strapped his German shepherd-sized camera bag to it, when Buzz said, "now it looks like a BMW."
PAGE 2 The motor fires up with a noisy clatter and car-like rattle, settling down to a loping, busy idle. Buzz noted that the powerplant sounded like it was "devoid of any soul", but Gabe loved the "classic boxer chuffing at idle." If you can't afford a centerstand ($120), be prepared for some smoke to come out of the left side of the bike if it's been parked on the sidestand for awhile. First gear engages with a clunk -- although the gearbox is much smoother and quieter than past BMWs, it still has an automotive dry clutch and lots of big parts -- and the FI responds without a hitch as you chug away from a stop. Twist the throttle and....
Airborne! This is not grandpa's BMW roadster, no sir. Pete was as surprised as the rest of us when he felt the bike's prodigious power; there's "plenty of linear power and smooth torque -- surprisingly so -- from the boxer twin." Getting up to freeway speeds -- not to mention slicing through city traffic -- is a snap. Suddenly there's a standard-styled boxer twin that feels as nimble as a Supermoto; Gabe says "very nice!" in his best Borat voice. The transmission has well-spaced gear ratios, and sixth gear puts the motor in a nice vibration-free zone for 80mph-plus cruising.
Too bad the teensy flyscreen ($215) offers just barely enough wind coverage at those speeds for the diminutive likes of Gabe and Pete; bigger folks might want more wind protection. However, the R1200R, like all BMWs, is a decent touring mount, with a comfortable seat and room to stretch the legs. The heated grips ($235) are a nice touch for winter, and of course all the amenities like the accessory electrical outlet and trip computer help the miles pass by more comfortably. Good thing, too: with the computer indicating about 42mph regardless of how the bike is ridden, and a 5.6-gallon tank (including a gallon of reserve), you can go well over 200 miles. We hope your bladder is extra-stretchy; at 70mph, that's over three hours of riding time.
After a break, it's time for some twisties, and the BMW holds even more surprises. Although the mostly un-adjustable suspension can feel squashy on rough road or at high speeds, the sophisticated front suspension works as intended, isolating the rider from bumps and braking action and keeping the bike stable in all kinds of conditions. Buzz noted that "the BMW is the easiest to ride quickly when the pavement is less than perfect" and Gabe said that "suddenly, the Telelever suspension made sense. It lacked that vague, heavy sensation prior systems have had and instead felt like a magic carpet, floating over the road without feeling out-of-sorts braking, steering or accelerating." Pete characterized the bike as "stable", even though he noted that "it doesn't turn in as quickly as the Brutale or Tuono." However, those wide, high bars mean that precise steering is still easy, if not fast.
For those of you who think Telelever is some kind of over-complicated gimmick foisted on us to boost BMW's profit margin, confine your conspiracy theories to the Tri-lateral commission; it really works. On one memorable chunk of canyon road, Buzz, mounted on the BMW wound up ahead of Pete -- trying out his new roadrace leathers on the Brutale -- and ex-roadracer Gabe, on the 120hp TuonoR. Pete and Gabe turned up the pace, pushing the two Italian bikes into the tight, bumpy corners harder than they usually ride. Buzz, in the meantime was expecting to be passed at any second; he said Gabe and Pete "are both much faster riders than I'll ever be", but instead he had no trouble staying ahead, sitting bolt upright and relaxed on the Beemer's broad, comfy seat. Gabe experienced the same thing on his regular Sunday ride back home on the same bike; the narrow, bumpy road he rides on "suddenly seemed smoother, less curvaceous and a whole lot shorter." The BMW's technology is unusual among sporting motorcycles; unlike 150hp motors and five-way adjustable suspension, it actually improves a novice's skills, rather than give the top riders a tiny edge over their rivals.
Braking is just as good. A strong pull on the adjustable lever halts the bike macht schnell, with just a bit of judder to remind you the ABS is doing what it should. The functionality of the partial-integral system is undeniable; the rider feels firm and linear braking, with minimal dive from the front end. It just hunkers down and stops, regardless of speed or surface conditions. It's a much more "natural" feel, according to Pete than the older BMW systems, which had a delay as the power assist would kick in. In fact, none of the testers said anything about the linked aspect of the brakes, which is what motorcycle braking engineers have been after -- unsuccessfully -- for a long time now.
So if this bike is so good, why did we vote it last place (or second-to-last, in Gabe's case)? Chalk it up to the schizophrenic nature of being motorcycle journalists. We spend a lot of time riding a lot of different bikes, so just because a bike is incredibly competent everyday transportation, it has to do more than be competent to stand out and be the object of desire. "The trio is like Charlie's Angels and the BMW is Kate Jackson" said Buzz. "Not the hottest of the bunch but very do-able if Jaclyn and Farrah aren't around." Unfortunately, Jaclyn and Farrah just happen to be here. The BMW just didn't excite us enough to be declared the best.
2006 MV Agusta Brutale 910S
$14,495 (2006 model) 121.41hp 65.04 ft-lbs 407.9 pounds (claimed dry weight)
The MV Agusta Brutale reminds us of the reality TV show where Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie had to work on a pig farm in Arkansas* for a week. The Brutale 910S is so exquisitely beautiful that flogging it around like it's a messenger's battered Honda CBR600F2 seems shameful. But hey, it's a living, right? And when you get down to it, the Brutale puts its metaphorical pants on one leg at a time like every other bike. It's an expensive, exclusive bike that stops onlookers dead in their tracks, but just a motorcycle all the same.
The Brutale first appeared as a 750 model, and we tested (Buzz actually donated his personal ride) it back in 2004. Designed by Bimota (which he co-founded), Ducati 916 and MV Agusta F4 genius Massimo Tamburini, the Brutale is a triumph of design, with incredible shapes demanding your eye's attention no matter where you look. From the molded, flowing headlamp to the gorgeous single-sided swingarm, the bike is a rolling illustration of how far Italian designers will go to make everything they shape beautiful.
But that beauty isn't just skin deep. To give it better street performance, displacement was bumped up to 909.1cc by increasing bore and stroke to 76mm and 50.1mm, respectively. Compression in the dual overhead cam four-valve head (with the valves arranged radially in the hemispherical combustion chamber) is a zesty 13.0:1, and although this motor's basic architecture dates back to the early 1990s, it still produces a healthy 121.4hp at 10,600 rpm on the MO Dynojet Dynomometer. It's detuned from the 1000cc F4, but 121hp is 121hp. If that's "tuned for torque", we'll take it. The motor gets a wet clutch, a six-speed cassette-style gearbox and chain final drive, and fuel injection and ignition is the latest in Italian electronics.
If you think Tamburini would use any material but chrome-moly steel tubing for the chassis, you must be crazier than he is. That material forms a sexy trellis frame, with aluminum alloy sideplates and an incredible swingarm that doubles as a chain guard. Doubles as a chain guard! Every part on this bike, it seems, is designed to complement and work perfectly with every other part. The wheels are delicate-looking aluminum affairs with huge hollow axles, and the forks -- 50mm inverted and fully-adjustable Marzocchi cartridge units -- look like surgical instruments. The rear shock is also fully adjustable, with high and low-speed damping circuits and a progressively-wound spring. Wheelbase is a reasonable 55.55 inches.
The brakes are just as unusual and lavish as the rest of the bike. Two six-piston calipers grab full-floating 310mm discs, and when was the last time you rode a bike with a four-pot rear brake caliper? We like to think the Cagiva engineers put it on just because it's cool. Braided-steel brake lines all around are expected and welcome touches.
The bike is finished with all the flair of its basic components. The five-gallon fuel tank has huge cutouts to keep it slim, and there's a big aluminum handlebar perched behind the beautiful digital instrument cluster. A tiny seat for the rider and even smaller one for a passenger ("look honey, we both can ride it!") are impossibly close to the front wheel, and sensuous mufflers jut out behind the passenger footpegs. Every part is embossed with the MV Agusta label and should have a little loop on it so you can wear them as jewelry.
It goes without saying that we all loved the styling and visual presence this bike had. You just want to stare at the thing. Pete thinks the "funky styling will probably turn a few people off", but we never ran into such a person. Al wanted to take it into his studio with one of his sleezy $10 per hour nude models, but we were afraid of stains.
You can only look at it so much, so we cast a leg over it to see what it's really like. Pete noted the "cramped quarters, ergos and riding position", and Buzz said the "tiny seat and slippery handgrips make the Brutale feel like it's going to shoot out from under you so it can go out alone to find chicks." Gabe was surprised by how tiny it felt -- even to 5'6" him -- but thought it was a perfect fit, even if the seat was just too high for both feet to reach the ground despite the bike's narrow waist. The footpegs are high, but not as high as the Tuono 1000R's, and the bars are at a perfect height for comfortably controlling the bike.
Firing up the motor fills the air with a satisfying symphony of four-cylinder music. It makes a screaming sound that is unique, yet not obnoxious. The instruments are clear and legible, although the tripmeter resetting procedure is so hideously bizarre and complex that you wouldn't believe us if we tried to describe it to you. It involves switching off the key, switching on the key, holding down certain buttons in sequence and possibly the lighting of a candle to Saint Christopher (now officially downgraded to Mr. Christopher). We don't get paid enough to figure this out.
Who cares how far you've gone, anyway? That was in the past. The 910 snicks into gear with a light touch on the small, short-throw shift lever and the sensitive hydraulic clutch engages smoothly. Twist that skinny handgrip and understand why Pete screams "Holy fun bags, Batman!" If ever a bike was built to spend life on the back wheel, this is the one. Pete claims it "performs wheelies telepathically" and it's easy to see why, with the stubby wheelbase, short gearing, powerful motor and high handlebar. The 910 motor may be perfect for this bike, with less of the peaky characteristic that probably made Buzz sell his 750 Brutale. "The 910 Brutale has absolutely explosive acceleration" said the former MV owner. "The torque curve is much fatter at lower revs." That means blasting around town and making the rider behave like an idiot in general. Hey, it's a tiny bike with superbike suspension and a big motor. How can you possibly obey the law with something like this? Don't worry; just stick to big cities and traffic jams if you want to stay off the county work crews.
It's not much fun on the freeway, although it's surprisingly bearable. The seat is hard and places you close to the tank, and while the motor isn't exactly annoyingly buzzy in sixth gear, it's not as nice as a twin. (Buzz did note the vibration was actually more on the bigger motor.) Also, the Wright Brother's first airplane (yes, we know it's the 1903 Wright Flyer) had better windprotection for its pilot. Pete complained that the "seat is a little too slippery; I found myself slipping forward into the tank more than I wanted to" and Gabe made up some lame excuse when it was his turn to ride the Brutale on the freeway.
If you buy this bike for freeway droning there is something wrong with you that not even the finest pharmaceuticals can mitigate. What you need to do is take the bike to a twisty road somewhere, and that's just what we did. Once there we discovered a bike that would be at home in an expert's toolbox. Suspension is taut and infinitely tuneable, the brakes are strong and sensitive, and if you need more cornering clearance than this bike provides you probably have the FIM rules committee on speed dial. As noted above, the Brutale was challenging to ride fast.
Challenging, but fun. It's difficult to find a bike with a razor-sharp chassis and liter-class motor that isn't a fully-faired sportbike with clip-ons. Well, the 910S has the "traditional ballistic power" of a real superbike, according to Pete, but you have to keep the revs up while being smooth: "throttle response was on the touchy side; riding the Brutale on tight and technical roads was a chore at times, due mostly to the abrupt throttle response" The choppy ride from the short wheelbase and taut suspenders didn't help.
What we've got here is a very exotic, demanding bike that also happens to be a blast to ride around town. But it's definitely a bike for connoisseurs, a machine for serious riders to take out on perfect days. We found it to be built very well and had no problems with it during the month or so we abused it, but it would be a shame to rack up miles on a work of art like this. But if you wanted to, you could; it's a practical machine that is almost as affordable as the other bikes in this test.
However, it's just too demanding of its rider for daily use. Also, for 2007 only the 910R is available, which adds a few horsepower, lots of fancy extras and an extra $3,000 to the MSRP. If you like the way this bike looks and can afford it, send us 20 dollars and go buy one right now, but we just couldn't realistically make it our first pick.
2007 Aprilia Tuono 1000R
$12,999 120.8hp 69.73 ft-lbs 407.6 pounds (claimed dry weight)
Start with a hard-core superbike. Take off the fairing. Slap on a superbike-bend handlebar. Leave everything else the way it is.
That's the purest expression of what a "streetfighter" or "naked sportbike" should be, and yet we see precious little of it. Both the BMW and the MV Agusta in this test have been tuned for better low-down and midrange power, at the expense of overall top-end kick. Is Aprilia's formula more successful?
The Tuono 1000R is basically Aprilia's RSV V-twin sportbike stripped of fairings. The only real change, aside from the addition of the handlebar and flyscreen, is the name.
The motor has been heavily revised from the last Tuonos and RSVs we tested. It's still a 60-degree V-twin, but it's got new cylinder heads which use dual overhead cams and a clever combination of gear and chain drive for a compact size. Compression ratio is 11.8:1 and mixture is fed through a pair of 57mm throttle bodies. The conrods are newer and stronger, and much of the dry-sump motor is constructed of magnesium to make it lighter than before. There's a "pneumatic power clutch" and close-ratio gearbox, identical to the superbike's, and final drive is by chain. A 16-bit ECU keeps everything working on time. It's all good for a claimed 133hp at 9,500rpm, which translated into just a tick over 120hp and 69.7 ft-lbs of torque on our MO Dynojet Dyno. We'll take it.
The chassis is pure racer, too. The frame is a big aluminum-alloy twin-spar job that weighs in at under 23 pounds, and it's bolted to an all-new "double banana"-style swingarm. Wheelbase is a stubby 55.51 inches between the 120/70-17 front Metzler Rennsport and 190/50-17 rear. Front suspension is by Showa, a three-way adjustable 43mm inverted fork and the rear shock is a Sachs unit that works through a linkage and is fully adjustable as well. The Brembo Gold brakes are radial-mounted four-piston calipers (with a separate pad for each piston) and 310mm full-floating discs in front, with a two-piston caliper in back. Brake lines are steel braided, of course (are you reading this, Japanese OEM people?). It's serious componentry that wouldn't be out of place on a racebike, because that's exactly where it's from. It weighs in at a claimed 412 pounds dry without the battery.
Aside from a flat, hard seat, a minimalist tail section and a 4.8-gallon tank (with about a gallon of reserve) there isn't much else besides that tiny nose-cone fairing and the instrument cluster. The digital display has immense capacity to store data, with speed, trip meter, fuel remaining, clock diagnostic functions and a lap timer. You can customize the display to your liking right down to language and brightness. We just wish we were bright enough to figure out how to work the thing.
We all agreed this was a good-looking machine, if a bit more industrial and less-integrated looking than the other two. However, it's the best-looking Tuono we've seen, and Pete said it's "hard to compete with visually...no matter what type of bike, naked standard or not. Plain and simple: it's a bad ass!"
The Aprilia has a tall and top-heavy appearance, and despite having compact dimensions, Pete still thought that it felt "like the tallest, biggest bike of the three". Gabe could just barely get his feet flat on the bike, and alsothought it felt bigger than the Brutale. This is good; we all found the bike to be pretty comfortable ergonomically, although Gabe thought the seat was too hard and noticed that the footpegs were very high.
It starts easily enough, filling the air with mechanical sounds and the flat chattering of the stainless-steel exhaust. The 60 degree V-twin doesn't have the sonic harmony of a 90-degree twin but replaces that harmony with an angry beat. It's a bit vibey while rewarding its rider with massive midrange thrust.
It sounds good and goes even better. Snap the transmission into first and let out the smooth hydraulic clutch; we found the gearbox a bit notchy and surprisingly unrefined. Pete even noted some missed shifts if he wasn't careful with the clutch, but at low speeds it feels intuitive and flawless, ready to perform any idiocy you'd care to engage in. The bike is fast and the wide bars let you mix it up with city traffic like a Star Boy, if that's what you want to do. (We do not encourage that behavior. We're just guessing that you could.)
It's surprisingly comfortable and easy to ride in city and freeway situations. The motor, although clearly racer-derived, is still torquey and well-fueled enough for it to be "everyday livable as well as a hooligan's dream" according to Pete; it makes "good power right where you need it." It's also surprisingly comfortable for the former motorcycle messenger; "one of the best seats I've planted my tender tuchis on", and Gabe found that after a few miles, the seat kind of grows on you somehow, becoming more bearable. However, it's no BMW. Still, Pete thought it was good enough for medium-distance touring, and nobody complained about the Aprilia's comfort during the test. Wind protection is noticeable, but still pretty vestigial.
PAGE 3 On twisty roads, the Aprilia makes its racebike roots known. Suspension is excellent; well-calibrated and appropriate to a wide variety of riders and conditions. The chassis is hard to fault, certainly at street speeds, and the brakes are "incredible...a good example of how well a bike can be equipped" if you chose to listen to Pete. That motor is easy to keep in the sweet spot and just burns out of corners, making a wheelie the maraschino cherry of your perfect-apex hot-fudge Sunday. It's not quite as novice-friendly as the BMW, but you don't quite get the sense that it wants to get rid of you and ride away on its own like the Brutale does.
Yes, the TuonoR is top-class kit at a pretty hefty price tag. But it offers a lot for the money; useable, powerful engine, great chassis, suspension and brakes and a cool (if complicated) multi-function display. It's also comfortable enough to ride every day, and Aprilia's products have a reputation for being tough and reliable.
On twisty roads, the Aprilia makes its racebike roots known.
Best of all, the Aprilia gives you the best of three worlds. First, it's an uncompromised sportbike that would do everything at a track day a rider could possibly want. Second, it's a practical and comfortable everyday ride. And finally, the bad-assed-ness of the whole package -- from its industrial-gangster looks to its propensity to wheelie, stoppie and do easy burnouts -- make it inviting to ride for any reason. It's not just a great sport or hoolie bike, it's a terrific motorcycle, and we all liked it a lot.
|Life With the Nudists|
So you think you've achieved moto-nirvana with your shiny new Eurobike, eh? Well, unless you're a dealership principal, you might be in for a rude surprise when it comes to servicing time. We made a few phone calls to find out what servicing these bikes would run us, at least for the first 30,000 miles.
We figured we'd get the bad news first, so we rung up Patrick at Pro Italia's service department. Pro Italia, in Glendale, CA maintains the press fleet for CagivaUSA, so you can bet they know how to keep these beasts running perfectly. What do they charge to do it for you?
The Brutale needs a full service at 600 miles, including a valve check/adjustment and a throttle body synchronization. That's about six hours of labor and you can expect to pay about $570. After that, you'll need a service every 7,500 miles. These 7,500-mile services are a little more comprehensive and also include a valve check/adjustment. They run about $850 including parts.
Next was a call to our friends at Cal BMW in Mountain View, CA. There, Service Manager Patrick Caselli laid it out for me. At 600 miles the R has a break-in service. The heads are re-torqued and the rear drive fluid is renewed. This runs you $406. But after that you get to go 6,000 miles between services, alternating between major and minor services. A minor service is $294 and the major one lightens you $391. The 24,000 mile service includes a gearbox-fluid change, so it runs $446.82, more or less. On top of that are brake services, which are time-based. Based on the complexity of the braking systems on these bikes, a BMW owner might have to refinance his home to pay for it, but Patrick hasn't done one of these yet, as BMW just changed their requirements.
Finally, we got on the phone with Scuderia West, San Francisco's hot-to-trot Aprilia, Victory, Kymco and KTM dealership. Dan in service rolled the figures right off the top of his head; the Tuono is a very popular bike in San Francisco, and if you've ever ridden up a steep San Francisco street on a torque-laden sportbike you'd know why. Anyway, the Tuono gets the customary 600-mile service, which takes five hours and will run the customer $440 in labor and about another $60 in parts. After that, the customer will take it like a man every 4,500 miles or so, and even though the book calls for a valve check and adjust every other service -- or about every 10,000 miles -- the price is about the same every time, about $308 for the 3.5 hours of service and $60 for parts.
So after 30,000 miles, our three Euro-mounted riders will have shelled out some serious bread and made very good friends with their local service departments (hint: European motorcycle mechanics like imported beer). The MV Agusta owner will have made $4,000 of payments on Bill Nation's boat, the BMW guy will be $1,831.82 poorer (but figure a couple of hundred to do the brakes, we're guessing), and the TuonoR person will have paid $2,708, or about 50 cents per wheelie.
So what kind of test was this, anyway? We pitted three big naked European roadsters against one another to see which one we'd chose to take home if we had some big naked Euros to spend. We didn't really judge them as sportbikes orhooligan machines; instead we just judged them based on how we ride and how the bikes suited our needs.
The Beemer was a really nicely-designed, easy-to-ride and comfortable motorcycle. It was also fast and good-handling enough for sport riding or even terrorizing the neighborhood with wheelies and what-not (we really don't encourage this kind of thing. Seriously.). But it just didn't inflame the ol' passions enough for us to pick it first. Gabe spent the most time on it and started getting pretty attached, but even he acknowledged it was just too soft and heavy to compete with the Aprilia, especially considering that it was an extra $2,000 as tested, and he would want to add the $800 ESA option as well. For the other guys, although they knew it was easiest to go fast on, it wasn't even in the running for second place.
|Nits and Notes|
The Aprilia hides ram-air intakes under that little chin fairing.
|"For Our Money" Table|
|How the testers would spend their own money. |
We scored the bikes 4 pts. for 1st, 2 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd.
|Buzz "Arthur" Walloch||Pete "Clean-Head" Brissette||Gabe "Satchmo" Ets-Hokin||Totals|
|2007 Aprilia Tuono R||1st||1st||1st||12|
|2006 MV Agusta Brutale 910S||2nd||2nd||3rd||5|
|2007 BMW R1200R||3rd||3rd||2nd||4|
The Brutale might have gone too far in the other direction. Pete remarked that if the MV "were an actor, it would be Jack Nicholson; cool, maniacal, given to fits of rage, genius and a little loony." Buzz of course loved it, but the fact that he doesn't own one speaks to its impractical, third-bike nature. It's just not something you can ride everyday. We of course loved looking at it and love riding it even more; it goes like a scalded cat and handles like a BMX bicycle. But it's not very comfortable and doesn't feel like it would allow much in the way of errors. Demanding? This might be the textbook definition, at least until we ride the F4-1000R.
And that's how we all came to make the Aprilia Tuono 1000R our first choice. It almost lets you have it all at an almost-reasonable price (if the Euro had parity with the dollar it would be cheaper than a Japanese liter-class sportbike) -- exotic styling, stout frame, race-quality suspension and brakes and a burly motor. It's not too nasty and not too nice, and somehow manages to be that way without feeling compromised.
As Gabe said after riding it for the first time: "Bad Ass!"
|What I'd Buy.|
Merging onto the "Five" (as we Californians say) after a delicious lunch of burgers and hula-hoops at Hooters, I realized something about the Brutale 910; it's nearly impossible to pin the throttle on this thing. In second gear with the front wheel off the ground and then again into third, the short-wheelbase MV seems to want to loop at every application of the throttle. Good lord this thing is fast!
Prior to the bike swap, I laughed an evil laugh towards Gabe and Pete when Fonz tossed keys at us and I got the BMW for the first freeway stint. I know first hand how punishing Italian bikes can be on SoCal's choppy freeways and knew the Beemer's magic carpet ride would be perfect for the commute to the twisties.
Originally the plan was to not pick a winner due to the BMW being seriously out-gunned in the power department. However, the steep entry price puts it right in the ballpark with the Italian Stallions. It's a great motorcycle with excellent looks, superb suspension and wonderful midrange oomph. I could ride this bike every day and never get tired of it.
So why am I picking it last?
What the BMW has in practicality it lacks in sex appeal. If I wanted a competent commuter, I'd buy Japanese and save thousands.
That being said, the Brutale is at the other end of the spectrum. It's tiny, uncomfortable and very hard to ride with any measure of sanity. I kept checking my jacket to see if Fonz strapped some JATO rockets to me.
"F%*k yeah!," I scream into my helmet. That leaves the Tuono. It's nearly as fast as the Brutale. It's all-day comfortable. The midrange blast of the V-twin seems to suit this style of bike more than an inline four. The Aprilia seems to nicely split the middle between the Mr. Practical BMW and the Miss Insane MV Agusta. The F%*k Yeah! factor is still intact and you don't have to race for the Advil when you get home.
My wallet says:
First Place: Aprilia Tuono (I thought about driving to GP motorcycles right after the test)
Second Place: MV Agusta (by the thinnest of margins since I've already spent my cash on one)
Third Place: BMW R1200R (great bike if you can only own one but who wants to do that?)
Standards or naked standards are my favorite type of bike. At least they were when I rode these trouble makers. For me they combine the best of both worlds. Sane, everyday rideability with heaps of power and torque to make acting a fool at a moment's notice a cinch. And you'll look cool as heck doing it!
-Buzz Walloch, MOron Extraordinaire
The tough choice for me was really between the Brutale and the Tuono 1000R. The Beemer isn't necessarily out of place in this group but it doesn't have that schizophrenic edge the other two do. The latest boxer platform from BMW simply out-classes the other two with sheer technology. Only the Tuono can compete with the R1200R's stopping prowess courtesy of the improved, more organic-feeling -- what the heck does organic mean, anyway? -- servo-less partial-integral ABS. The system does a great job of returning a more natural feel to the activity of braking without giving up any of the power inherent in BMW ABS systems.
Speaking of things inherent to BMWs, the stability of the R1200R does nothing to shame the BMW name. Though the Telelever front end can get a little unsettled and provide a less-than-plush ride at the upper reaches of freeway speeds, the suspension and handling overall are typical BMW quality. If you own or have ridden a bike with the Telelever/Paralever system, you'll find that confidence-inspiring feeling that you're used to. If you haven't ridden a BMW bike with the unique suspension system, you'll have to experience it for yourself to see what so many people already know and love. Try it, you'll like it. Hey, BMW says it's their all-arounder. And that it does quite well.
So then it's down to the two lunatics. Do you want the Tuono R with its arm-socket-injuring torque or the brute force of the Brutale? Hmm...whatever shall I do? OK, it was a little easier than I'm making it sound, mostly because the Tuono is tailored a little better to everyday operations. However, the simple lunacy of the Brutale is really hard to resist; really, really hard. I'd like to tell you that it has tremendous front-end feel or grip, but truth be told the front wasn't on the ground that much. This thing wheelies with such ease and force that I really didn't care if I ever went around a corner on it again. That kind of power is intoxicating to me at times and brings out the law-breaker in me. Well, at least
This thing wheelies with such ease and force that I really didn't care if I ever went around a corner on it again.
This thing wheelies with such ease and force that I really didn't care if I ever went around a corner on it again.more than usual. Unfortunately, when I was forced to go 'round bends riding the Brutale was far more work than I had expected. The touchy throttle response made minor modulation a chore in the tight and technical sections; and I struggled to stay close behind the other two because of it. I also found riding quarters to be a little cramped, albeit great for quick city street carving and the seat material was a little too slick. Ah, heck! It's still more fun than one person should be allowed to have on any one bike.
If I were plunking down my coin for one of the three here I'd take the Tuono pretty quickly. The ergos are pretty darned cozy -- especially that great saddle -- for everyday use. Whether droning down the freeway or canyon dancing, you can do it from the comfort of upright, streetfighter style bars. Then there's all that luscious V-twin twisting power. Mix great suspension components with the incomparable Brembos and the Tuono is a nicely rounded package. Comfortable ride? Check. V-twin power? Check. Handling to make most sportbikes run and hide? Check. Hydraulic press stopping power? Check. Bad-ass looks like no other bike on the market? Check. I want a Tuono R. Here's my check.
-Pete Brissette, Managing Editor
Some years ago, comedienne Margaret Cho talked about the dynamics of three young girls going out together; there's always the smart one, the nice one, and the 'ho.
Well, I've never seen Cho on a motorcycle, but if she had spent the day with us, she would have seen the parallels with this group. Like three hotties going out to mix it up at the club, these three bikes, while possessing similar weights, power figures (OK, the Beemer is down 18hp, but it's up 15 ft-lbs of torque on the Brutale) and prices, have three very different characters.
The smart one is the BMW. It has sensible written all over it, with high-functioning integrated ABS brakes, precise engine management, new-age suspension that works incredibly well, and a comfortable, practical seating position. Plus, it's ready to accept hard luggage and offers electronic suspension adjustment, traction control, heated grips and all kinds of other techno-trickery as extras. I imagine it's a lot like having a German girlfriend; not glamorous, but she's always wearing sensible shoes and ready to go anywhere with you at a moment's notice.
The nice one is the Tuono, although calling such a highly-strung racetrack weapon "nice" is admittedly a stretch, but bear with me because I'm on a roll here. It looks tough, with its slippery tail section and burly frame, but the upright bar and more-comfortable-than-you'd-think seat combined with a big V-twin's tractability make it both comfortable and easy to ride.
And so we come to the 'ho. We all think we want to date porn actresses, but I wonder what that would be like in real life. I'm guessing the dry-cleaning bill alone could bankrupt you. And like dating Jenna Jameson, owning a 910 Brutale would be a lot of fun, I'm sure, but not for me. It's cramped, has as much wind protection as a pair of mesh briefs and the clock-setting procedure reads like a Chomsky text on French Didacticism. Sure, it's fun with that amputee wheelbase and shrieking motor, but I just couldn't take that It might be the one bike to have if you're having one more than none.kind of protracted excitement, much less shell out $850 every 7,500 miles for maintenance; ow! The Brutale is a fantasy-bike, the kind of machine we can all imagine owning, but in the end, I'm just not man enough to go through with it.
So I have to decide between the BMW and the Aprilia, eh? Well, a week ago it would have been an easy choice; I rode the R1200R from Torrance to Oakland and kept the bike for a while longer, putting about 1,000 miles on it in a month. It's really a great motorcycle, one that fits perfectly into my own style of riding on all kinds of roads. It would make a great backroad-blaster, commuter or tourer, and I think I could hold my own at a trackday on it, if I could afford to bin $15,000 motorcycles (which I cannot). It might be the one bike to have if you're having one more than none.
It will be a cold, grim day when I can only have one bike, even if it is a very nice one. For me, the Tuono is a wonderful blend of crazy and crafty, a bike that has the attitude of an in-your-face Euro-thug with the comfort, ease-of-use and civility of a Japanese standard. Aprilia is brilliant at combining Italian panache with Japanese-esque reliability and build quality. It's like dating a porn queen, except when you take her home she puts her hair up in a bun, dons her glasses and does your tax returns for you.
Does she have a sister?
-Gabe Ets-Hokin, Senior Editor
*Oh, boy, here comes the hate mail. Look, we know Arkansas has plenty of great things in it besides pig farms. It's just that none are coming to mind right now. Don't rush us, it'll come...