What do you get when a scooter and a motorcycle mate on a hot Italian night? The 850 Mana—Aprilia’s hybrid love child.
By Bill Heald
When it comes to the elemental nature of motorcycles, usually what you see is what you get. This is especially true when it comes to “naked” street bikes that cruise down the road without any confining bodywork, so the engine and associated mechanicals are exposed for all the world to see. One look at the familiar shape of the fuel tank shows you where the motion lotion is located, and the transmission-aside from the number of gears—is pretty much identical no matter the bike.
The Aprilia 850 Mana, however, is one clever nudist. Despite being unclothed, this crossbreed still manages to hide groundbreaking innovations beneath its stylish lines. Concealed within this middleweight street brawler are features previously found only on high-tech scooters, stealthily housed within a polished, refined chassis that is all motorcycle. This machine integrates elements of both kinds of rides to create something very special, and the fun starts with a robust 839.3-cc, liquidcooled, 90-degree V-twin. Equipped with four-valve heads and the latest in fuel-injection technology, the Mana mill generates 76 horsepower with plenty of low-end torque. The engine is bolted into a stiff, elegant, trellisstyle steel frame with a lightweight aluminum swingarm. Excellent triple-disc brakes and stout inverted front forks give the Mana sporting character, and its light weight makes it easy to maneuver in traffic.
Clearly, this is an excellent middleweight motorcycle that is ideal for those seeking a sporty commuter
machine. But wait—something’s missing. The first thing you notice when you grab the handlebar is that someone has ripped off the clutch lever. Why would someone do such a thing? In this case, Aprilia’s engineers did it because it isn’t needed. The Mana has a very unique motorcycle transmission called a Sportgear, and this is where the scooter genes are expressed. You can opt for Autodrive, a three-mode automatic transmission, or a manual sequential tranny with seven speeds. The Autodrive option offers three different electronic maps to tune your ride for the day, including Touring (for maximum versatility
and minimum consumption), Sport (for maximum performance), and Rain (perfect when the going gets slippery). The manual option lets you select gears by using the conventional foot lever or a handlebar switch. This is a major advance in motorcycle tech, giving you all kinds of shifting options without ever having to bother with a clutch. And it even has a handy, concealed parking brake, too.
The other brilliant scooter-like touch involves the fuel tank, which is located lower in the chassis with a
filler under the rear seat; the “tank” is actually a spacious, lighted trunk that can swallow a full-face helmet, with a 12-volt socket for your cellphone. Like the transmission, it’s the user-friendly engineering from a smaller kind of two-wheeler that makes the Mana a brilliant new hybrid that goes where no street bike has gone before.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled, 90-degree longitudinal V-twin
Bore x stroke: 88 mm x 69 mm
Displacement: 839.3 cc
Fuel system:Weber Marelli electronic fuel injection
Ignition: Digital electronic
Transmission: Sequential, with automatic or sevenspeed manual mode
Front suspension: 43-mm male slider forks
Rear suspension: Single shock, preload, and rebound adjustable
Front brakes: Dual 320-mm discs with radial calipers
Rear brake: Single 260-mm disc
Front tires: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 180/55 ZR17
Fuel tank: 4.2 gallons
Wheelbase: 57.6 inches
Seat height: 31.5 inches
Dry weight: 507 pounds