In honor of our 2014 Super Streetfighter Smackdown, for this week’s Church of MO feature, we bring you a quick ride on the predecessor to our current Streetfighter king, the 2002 Aprilia Tuono. Penning this piece is none other than our returning duo of MO veterans, the lovable curmudgeon, John Burns and our new Editorial Director, Sean Alexander. Since first writing this piece, Burnsie and Alexander have been around the moto-journo industry. But they’re back now, and their wordsmanship is as sharp as it was all those many moons ago. Sean only got to spend a weekend aboard the Tuono, but it sounds like any longer and he likely would have killed himself from a lack of self-restraint and a nasty bout of pneumonia.  Thanks for making it back, boys! 

Tuono Means Thunder!

One Weekend is Just That, One Weak End

By John Burns and Sean Alexander
Torrance, California, November 2, 2002

We managed to grab a quick spin upon Aprilia’s tasty new Tuono R for the weekend, which of course does not constitute an actual Road Test (not here at MO anyway).A weekend, though, was more than enough to conclude that our man Yossef was not just whistling Dixie in his earlier dispatch from the Old World. This is about the most exciting bike we’ve ridden since, well, last month’s pretty exciting but not nearly so powerful Buell Lightning. (There’s a whole climactic theme happening lately.) We also had an S4 Monster in the hangar and couldn’t help comparing.2002 Aprilia Tuono front profileItem 1: Horsepower. There’s a bunch of it in the Tuono. A slight engine recalibration sees this thing responding even more readily and smoother to the throttle than the other very good 60-degree Italian twins — or maybe it’s just that the Tuono gets a one-tooth smaller countershaft sprocket? All we know is that the Tuono rears up on its hind wheel in second gear the way other bikes of its ilk do in first. Compare its dyno curve to that of the other top-drawer Italian naked-bike — bearing in mind this Tuono has Aprilia’s performance exhaust and chip in place. Also bear in mind that the mundane non-R Tuono will have the identical motor (just not the Ohlins suspension, carbon-fiber bodywork, OZ wheels and four-pad Brembo calipers). No reason why you can’t bolt that stuff on later as finances permit — and cool Mille bits like adjustable footpegs will fit the Tuono too.

2002 Aprilia Tuono detail

Carbon, carbon everywhere and yet, not a steak al carbone to eat.

Italian Shoes. That’s how the Tuono fits. In contrast to the Monster’s ungainly and unchangeable grip presentation, the Tuono’s tubular handlebar makes it a big dirt bike, just like Yossef said. The seat’s fine (the R even comes with a “carbon tissue” covered one), and we think the tank is the same as on the Mille — really skinny between the thighs and and therefore an excellent fit.

The less spectacular Tuono’s Boge rear shock and 43mm Showa fork might not deliver quite the ride the of the Ohlins stuff on the R (which is fantastic over slabby concrete and everywhere else), but for $5,300 fewer dollars we’d be willing to make the sacrifice, personally. And Showa and Boge have not exactly been twiddling their thumbs in recent years either.

2002 Aprilia Tuono exhaust

This is where 998 cubic centimeters of hydro-carbons, carbon-monoxide and other gasses exit every-other revolution of the crank.

The regular Tuono will sell for $11,999, which is not exactly cheap, but if you have that kind of cake what the heck; this bike is worth it. And 12 big ones is about what you’d pay for the highly prized Triumph Speed Triple, considerably less than the discontinued eight-valve Ducati Monster. Tuono R’s are already in dealers, with Tuono regulars supposed to arrive by the end of December.

Watch Sean decode the human genome while riding the Tuono R… Decode, Sean, decode:

I don’t have enough self-restraint to live with a bike like the Tuono R on a daily basis. I didn’t even have the restraint to come home when my nose started running and my hands went numb from an unseasonably cold Saturday afternoon/evening.

2002 Aprilia Tuono rear profile

The Aprilia Tuono R, is it worthy to be parked next to your cinderblock wall?

I was feeling more mellow Sunday morning. I cleaned the bike and drooled over its details until my beautiful ex-girlfriend Victoria showed up for a ride on what I’d touted as the Ferrari of motorcycles–hope springs eternal. Well, I had a nice two-hour ride, but 5’9″ Victoria was less well taken care of by the passenger accommodations (same as a Mille). By our mid-ride stop, she was complaining of a sore lower back and very cramped legs. At least the Tuono’s loud bark didn’t scare her anymore and she seemed to be enjoying the feel of riding and the wind, so I have the satisfaction of knowing I have done a good deed for motorcyclists everywhere.

Droning back down the 405 to MO HQ Monday morning, I passed under L.A.’s Metro Rail commuter track and watched another typically empty train shuffle across the freeway. A little math is in order here. The Metro Blue line cost $877,000,000 to build. The daily passenger load is around 63,000. Since most of those are regular two-way passengers lets call it 35,000 total individual passengers. That means that if the state of California had given every single rider a brand new $17,200 Tuono R instead of building this system, it would have saved $275,000,000 and given natural selection a big shot in the arm. See? Affordable Fun. Did I mention that as I made this observation I was suffering from a 103-degree fever and was rapidly descending into a full-blown case of pneumonia, collapsed lung and 105-degree peaks?