It is tough work reviewing two motorcycles in one day, but that is exactly what we did this past week in Ventura, California – as Aprilia USA had us riding the new Dorsoduro 900 and Shiver 900 motorcycles.
Coming to the United States for the 2018 model year, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 gets a much-needed update for its tenth birthday, with Aprilia overhauling the affordable maxi-motard with some needed upgrades and modern touches.
In addition to a revised and bigger engine, which is now Euro4 compliant, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 gets a modest electronics suite added to it, as well as new hardware.
The overall design of the bike hasn’t changed much, which is perhaps a good thing, as the Dorsoduro has always been a visually appealing motorcycle.
The real strength with Aprilia’s 900cc platform though is the pricing, and at $10,999 the Aprilia Dorsoduro is the cheapest motorcycle in the large-displacement supermoto category – giving riders an excellent bang-for-the-buck offering, not to mention a fun motorcycle to ride.
The marquee change to the Dorsoduro 900 is right there in the name, the new 90° v-twin engine that has been stroked out to 896cc in displacement, while the 92mm bore remains the same from the 750 model.
This gives a modest power boost, and substantially more torque over its 750cc predecessor, all while keeping the bike in-line with European emission standards.
Aprilia touts some smart internal engine changes for the 900cc design, namely a new crank with a longer stroke and revised balancing. A new piston coating has also been used for less friction, as well as a reinforced piston pin. The piston design has also been lightened.
The throttle has been changed, as has the lubrication system to the engine internals. The injector system has a new double-jet design, which operates with more pressure and better spray nebulization.
The transmission has also been revised, with a new primary gear ratio (40/69) and better friction properties. This helps contribute to the clutch lever needing 15% less force at the lever to engage.
Other changes include some chassis changes to accommodate the new engine, though the design has been roughly kept the same. Lastly, eagle eyes will note the new tri-spoke wheels, which are significantly lighter than before (~5 lbs).
The new 896cc v-twin is the real highlight of the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, as the Euro4 compliant motor brings a new level of refinement to the Dorsoduro name.
The 94hp machine lacks the top-end punch found on rival machines, and the peak torque figure of 66 lbs•ft is also lacking, but the big selling point for the new 896cc engine is its rideability, which helps you to forget the lack of raw punch that is found on competing hardware.
This is because the engine is smooth at low rpm, and makes good linear power through the rev range. The fun ends quickly though, with the Dorsoduro 900 getting one-less tooth on its countershaft sprocket, and having a redline that ends just north of 9,000 rpm.
Shifting is easy and smooth, with the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 not once giving us a hard time finding neutral when we wanted to, and not finding it for us when we didn’t.
The 750 platform was the first model from Aprilia to have a ride-by-wire throttle, however it was surely one of the weaker points to the Dorsoduro 750 and Shiver 750 when it debuted.
This all changes with the 900 platform though, with the Dorsoduro now sharing the same throttle hardware with Aprilia’s V4 platform.
This means a throttle system without cable (wires only to the throttle body), and a Magneti Marelli 7SM injection system, which reduces not only the overall weight of the motorcycle, but also greatly improves its connection to the rider.
As such, the overall effect from the throttle is quite good, though there is some vagueness to the throttle maps on Dorsoduro 900, which oddly isn’t the case with the Shiver 900.
We are not sure why there is a difference here, but hopefully Aprilia can map the Shiver’s settings to the Dorsoduro at some point in time.
Moving forward, there are three riding modes available, all of which provide a good separation of use, and live up to their names: Sport, Touring, and Rain.
The traction control settings are also quite diverse in their operation, with each of the three-levels offering a pretty sizable step from the previous one. As such, spirited riding will best had at traction control Level 1, casual riding at Level 2, and Level 3 left for rainy days.
While the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 features a dual-channel ABS module from Continental, you have only the option of having the ABS on or off.
This means that there is no way to single out the wheels, allowing ABS up front while still being able to lock the rear – something one likes to do on a supermoto machine.
Overall, the electronics bring the Dorsoduro 900 into the modern state of the art, but don’t really exceed expectations.
Chassis, Brakes, & Suspension
If the engine is the high-point to the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, the chassis is where the bike shines less-bright. The trellis portion of the frame has been modified slightly to accommodate the new engine, and the overall design remains quite robust and heavy at 467 lbs (wet).
The suspension has been changed, with a Sachs rear shock and Kayaba forks doing the work. Both units are fully adjustable, with the forks splitting the compression, rebound, and pre-load duties.
The brakes are the biggest weakness for the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise to followers of the brand.
All is not lost though, while the brakes have weak stopping-power and a vague feel at lower speeds, once the pads warm up with use, thing start getting better. We would surmise that a simple braking pad swap would vastly improve things for Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 owners.
In terms of handling, the Aprilia Dorsoduro feels very rear-wheel biased, especially at lower fuel levels. This can cause the bike to understeer and run-wide on corner exits. Topping off the fuel tank though adds some more weight to the front-end of the bike, and thus helps the feedback greatly.
Transitional changes side-to-side are easy enough though, and while the suspension is a bit soft out of the box for spirited riding, having a fully adjustable suspension setup makes it easy to dial things in (a little more rebound damping in the rear is our recommendation).
The riding position on the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 is very tall and upright, which is what you would expect from a supermoto-styled motorcycle. For taller riders, the position is quite comfortable, but smaller riders should enjoy the Dorsoduro 900 as well.
Despite its supermoto looks, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 is easy to flat-foot at a stop sign (despite what the 34″ seat height suggests), and the bike doesn’t feel overly top-heavy. Believe it or not, the seat is quite comfortable too.
There is some buzzing as the revs climb, but it is not overly harsh, and still tolerable at highway speeds. The dash is easy to read in the daylight, and the information on it is well laid-out.
The controls are right where you would expect them, and they are easy to use – except for Aprilia’s “Menu” button, which can easily be confused for the turn signal switch (and was removed from the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 & Tuono V4 for a better four-way knob).
Our biggest ergonomic complaint might be the adjustment knobs on the clutch and brake levers though, which don’t offer much range of adjustment and lead to some interesting lever-feel.
The 2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 is a smart update to what was once a bland and forgettable motorcycle, and when coupled to the maxi-motard form factor, the new Dorsoduro 900 makes for a great street bike.
The Italian brand has walked a thin line between features and price, and while the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 is a very cheap option for riders, it also feels very basic. Thus, when looking at comparisons, one tends to think more about the Yamaha FJ-09, and not the Ducati Hypermotard 939.
Still, the design and look of the Dorsoduro 900 passes its decade-long test of time. The bike is fun to ride, and with some very basic modifications it could be quite brilliant for both casual and aggressive operations.
Riders looking for a comfortable and competent motorcycle – one in the maxi-motard segment – need to add the Dorsoduro 900 to their consideration. Aprilia’s updates just made this aging motorcycle relevant again.