Three Naked Euros

Aprilia TuonoR :: BMW R1200R :: MVAgusta Brutale 910S

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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 serYou see, every Peep was made in 1961. They keep forever. vicing 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, KyIt doesn't smell like Jenna Jameson... mco 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.

The Conclusions

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 or So what kind of test was this, anyway? hooligan 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.

  •    
  • The Aprilia comes shod with Metzler Rennsport race tires.
  • For 2007 Aprilia also offers the limited-edition Tuono 1000R Factory for $16,999. You get Ohlins suspension and a few more horsepower along with some other goodies .
  • The MV Agusta wears a set of Pirelli Dragon Supercorsas
  • The Brutale's digital display was so confusing to work we simply gave up. We don't know why they made it so complex. Maybe we're just dumb.
  • The choice of Michelin Pilot Roads shows BMW's clear intent of being a more commute/tour-oriented bike.
  • The BMW's driveshaft creates an up-and-down jacking effect that while not exactly pronounced is still noticeable. This bike rewards a smooth hand.
  • Do not trust the range-to-empty readout on the BMW when it's under 10 miles. Do not ask Gabe how he knows this.
"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.

What do you mean, 65 wings per customer? Don't you know who I am? 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

Let's talk about Pete's stability for a moment, shall we? 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.

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.

Not the shrimp, Gabe! Not the shrimp! 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...

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