A newbie from Noale arrives, and steals everybody’s thunder.
By Bill Heald

It seemed at first glance like any other stylish, Italian urban-sports motorcycle. True, the headlight and front mini-fairing did give it an aspect almost as sinister as H. R. Giger’s alien,but I had no reason to think this would be anything other than just another fine release from Aprilia. This means I expected a typical representative of the brand: a sweet-handling, refined, and well-behaved bike that would do everything it’s designed to do flawlessly. I believed all of this right up to the point where I climbed aboard and hefted the tall machine off its side stand. Then, I punched the starter button and everything changed. My God, what hath Aprilia wrought? Has a Balrog from Middle-earth crawled out of the high, shapely tailpipes mounted under the seat and used this auditory earthquake to preview the fire and violence to follow?

Such was my reaction to the Dorsoduro 1200’s delicious exhaust note, and it was a mere appetizer for the fun I was about to have with this incredibly ripped engine. I’ve ridden many V-twins from America, Italy, Austria, and elsewhere, and none have ever delivered the booming, baritone blast this bike does. According to Aprilia’s spec sheet, it produces “only” 130 horsepower and 85 foot-pounds of torque, but somebody forgot to tell the motorcycle. Even with the threemode engine mapping (adjustable on the fly, by the way) set on Touring, there is a boatload of brawn available from the basement to redline with no flat spots to speak of. Thanks to the perfect primary balance of the 90-degree cylinder configuration, vibration is never punishing, and what’s there lets you share in the thundering throb of those big pistons.

The upright, dual-sport riding position (and lofty ride height) aids maneuverability in tight quarters, whether you’re negotiating around an errant taxi or avoiding a felled tree on the road courtesy of an atmospheric blowhard called Irene. A compliant, easily adjustable suspension handles potholes and bumpy, high-speed corners with equal grace, and the hybrid frame design is both strong and light. Top it off with some of the finest in Brembo brakes, and you have a balanced package that can deal with almost anything the road can throw at you.

And then there’s that amazing V-twin. I mentioned the Touring mode is my setting of choice, but there’s also a Rain mode that helps you maintain traction in the wet, and a Sport mode. I found this last selection to be overkill, especially since the Dorsoduro had more than enough thrust in the more docile Touring setting. Sport mode will only help deplete your fuel too quickly, for feeding this beast’s puny 3.96-gallon tank is like handing a Bud in a shot glass to a thirsty lumberjack. I vote for a larger tank, for nothing must stop that exquisitely deep, rumbly motor music from frightening children and small animals every time you twist the throttle.

Engine type Liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-4
Bore x stroke 106 mm x 67.8 mm
Displacement 1,197 cc
Fuel system Multipoint electronic injection
Ignition Electronic
Transmission Six speed
Front suspension 43-mm male slider forks, damping adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, fully adjustable
Front brakes Dual 320-mm four-piston discs, radial calipers
Rear brake Single 240-mm two-piston disc
Front tire 120/70 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Rear tire 180/55 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Fuel tank 3.96-gallon capacity
Wheelbase 60.16 inches
Seat height 34.25 inches
Dry weight 492 pounds
Base price $11,999
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