First Ride: Aprilia RST1000 Futura

A serious sport tourer from the little company that can.

Fitted to both ends are Brembo's "Gold series" brakes and Freudenburg brake lines that are said to offer the same performance as braided steel lines. The front brakes feature dual floating 300 mm discs and four-pot calipers that use different size pistons (34 and 30 mm). The rear disk is a single 225mm unit with a single two-pot caliper using 28 mm pistons.

Other features include a removable steel sub-frame, center stand, hard luggage and "free-form" headlight that features three H7 55-watt halogen bulbs.

Sporting and TouringOur first impression of the Futura was that it's a larger bike than most photos indicate, looking 15-percent larger than most other sport-tourers. It looks at least 15-percent better, too. Well, we know looks are subjective, but once you've seen the bike in person, it really grows on you. Fast.

The instrument cluster is a far more simple place than the Mille's, devoid of the five or so buttons along the bottom edge that make a simple odometer reset on that bike such a daunting task. It still gives you what you need in a glance, too.Swing a leg over it, and you see why it looks so large from a distance -- it is big, but in a roomy sort of way. The bars and all their controls fall readily to hand and the fairing appears large enough to hide comfortably behind for hours on end.

Once underway, you realize your initial impressions were correct. The bike's front section is large and provides the sort of wind protection only found on full tourers and some sport-tourers whose emphasis is firmly in the touring. Despite the bike's large size, though, the Futura feels good between your legs. The generous cut-outs in the tank give the impression of a bike whose mass is far less than spec sheets would indicate, weighing in some 50 pounds more than the Mille.

On the open road, a quick glance down will tell you all you need to know about your steed. The instrument panel gives you the bike's vitals and offers a few warning lights should the electronics decide to take a nap at some point, though hopefully this will never happen. The instrument cluster is a far more simple place than the Mille's, devoid of the five or so buttons along the bottom edge that make a simple odometer reset on that bike such a daunting task. Instead, there are two buttons here: One that allows you to see the bike's temperature or the ambient temperature, depending on your curiosity at the moment. The other allows you to toggle between odometer and trip meter, and there's a fuel gauge that shows how much fuel remains in both graphic and numerical readouts. About the only thing missing here is a second trip meter, but the cool lighting of the display at night seems to make up for this little oversight.

You'll also notice, while looking down, that the filler cap on the gas tank is offset to the right. Aprilia have done this on purpose so that you can more top off the tank while the bike is laid over on its side-stand, should you be too lazy to properly prop it up on its center-stand.

Mirrors nicely integrated into turn signals and add to the chiseled look of the bike, doing a decent job of providing a rear-ward view, showing minimal amounts of elbow or back-side, depending on your riding position and the width of your riding companion's derriere.

The Futura has almost perfect ergonomics. Top-notch wind protection and one of the best seats ever made don't hurt this sport-tourer, either. Droning along the highway, the Futura has more than enough oomph to squirt past other vehicles with little more than a slight rotation of the throttle. No downshift is needed and the motor's smooth power means you can be as lazy -- or aggressive -- as you want to be. The motor is pretty smooth at constant throttle, but a few testers did mention the motor's vibrations coming through the grips pretty consistently while under heavy acceleration.

Ths suspension works very well at keeping you isolated from the chunked concrete below, yet gives you plenty of feedback as to just what's underneath you. That little knob below your left thigh is a handy thing, too. It allows you to go from straight highways and soft suspension to tight roads and tighter suspension settings without having to stop for a moment.

In the twisties, the Futura is a big bike that makes its heft known, requiring a steady shove to steer through a corner. But if you're willing to commit to a corner, it's absolutely amazing how well this new Aprilia responds.

On one particular ride, we were off helping one of the more substantial print books with a multi-bike comparo of their own -- one that included several of today's fastest and most track-worthy, cutting-edge sport bikes around. We happened to bring the Futura along just for yuks, and the bike ended up surprising everybody who rode it. Though it took some effort, the Futura pilot was able to keep up with the other bikes in just about every condition we encountered on the road.

About the only place the Futura had any problems was in fast sweepers, where the speeds were incriminating and the revs were above 7,000 RPM. It was only here that we experienced any sort of fuel-injection glitch. Mid-corner, through long sweepers where the throttle is used to make minute line changes, the fuel-injection would occasionally glitch, hesitating just enough to momentarily upset the well-balanced chassis. Thankfully, this occurred only in very specific situations and never showed up during the rest of the time we spent on the bike.

The RST Futura takes Aprilia into a market segment few would have predicted just a few years ago. Not only does the Italian company deliver the goods, they deliver them wrapped up in a tasty bit of style and an impeccable finish. For most of that hard-charging time, the Futura was a joy in the twisties. Go down the straight hard on the throttle, accelerating smoothly before up-shifting at about 8,000 RPM -- just above the 7,200 RPM torque peak -- to keep things moving forward. No need to rev this one, boys. Ride the torque and revel in its splendor.

Fast enough? Then grab onto the front brake lever and give her a squeeeeeeze, feeling yourself get promptly hauled down from where you shouldn't have been in the first place. Maybe even drag the excellent rear brake to help settle the chassis, if you feel so inclined. It works just as well as the front.

Shove the bike down into a corner after you've let go of the binders and, if all is well with the world on this day, you'll just touch the center-stand down. After that little scrape, feel free to thwack the throttle the rest of the way open and ride on out of the corner on one of the smoothest, most linear power curves this side of a diesel. Then get on with the next series of beds and the next highway. The Futura has one of the best seats of all time, allowing you to play like this all day in complete comfort.

Another Aprilia WinnerInstead of making a sportbike with bags, it's as though Aprilia used its sportbike parts to build a tourer, and then made sure it didn't feel like a tourer at all. The Futura is so well thought out and so well put together, it's as though a Honda technician jumped ship to help out. The Futura may just be the best sport-tourer we've ever had the chance to swing a leg over. So then what caused our luke-warm initial response?

The Futura works extremely well, maybe even better than we'd ever expected it to. But because it's Italian, you naturally expect some real, honest to goodness eye-tal-yun flair, of take out of which this particular Aprilia lacks. Maybe that's a good thing though, since "flair" and "character" seem all too often interchangeable with the terms "glitch" and "problem" -- two things you definitely do not want on a proper sport-tourer. And this new Aprilia really is a proper sport-tourer.

Engine type : Four-stroke, longitudinal 60° V twin, with anti-vibration double countershaft (AVDC patent)
Cooling : Liquid cooled with three-way pressurized circuit, double radiator
Bore and stroke : 97 x 67.5 mm
Displacement : 997.62 cc
Compression ratio : 11.4:1
Timing : Double cam shaft in cylinder head controlled by mixed gear/chain system, four valves per cylinder
Fuel injection : Integrated electronic engine regulation system. Indirect multi-point electronic injection 51 mm throttle bodies
Ignition : Digital electronic with two spark plugs per cylinder (TSI
Twin Spark Ignition), integrated with injection. Electronic DIAC        
(Dynamic Ignition Advance Control)
Lubrication : Dry crankcase with separate oil reservoir. Double trochoidial pump with oil cooling radiator
Transmission: 6 speed, chain
Clutch : Multiple disk in oil bath with power-assisted hydraulic control (PPC patent)
Frame : aluminum alloy box-type sloping double parallel side beam, removable high tensile steel saddle mount
Max. length : 85.4 inch (2170 mm)
Max. width : 29.1 inch 740 mm (at half-handlebars)
Max. height : 48.0 inch (1220 mm) at front fairing
Saddle height : 32.3 inch (820 mm)
Handlebar height : 37.0 inch (940 mm) at external points
Wheelbase : 56.5 inch (1435 mm)
Trail : 4.0 inch (102 mm)
Steering angle : 26°
Front suspension : Showa upside-down fork, 43 mm diameter sleeves, adjustable in damping, rebound and pre-load.
Wheel travel : 4.7 inches (120 mm)
Rear suspension: Aluminium alloy single swingarm; progressive linkage with APS system (Aprilia Progressive System), Sachs hydraulic shock absorber, adjustable in rebound and preload.
Wheel travel : 4.7 inches 120 mm
Front brake : 300 mm diameter Brembo stainless steel double floating disk.
Floating four-pot calipers with differentiated diameter, 34 and 30 mm Pads in sintered material and Freudenberg brake tubes
Rear brake : 255 mm diameter stainless steel disk; floating two-pot calipers, 28 mm diameter, Freudenberg brake tubes
Rims : Aluminum alloy (cold cast)
    Front:   3.50 X 17"
    Rear:  5.50 X 17"
Tires : Tubeless radial;
    Front: 120 / 70 ZR 17
    Rear: 180 / 55 ZR 17
Alternator : 470W
Dry weight : 462 lbs (210 kg)
Tank : 5.5 Gal (21 liter), 1.25 gal (5 liter) reserve

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