The thunderous, large-capacity V-twin engine provides incredible forward thrust in any gear. The acceleration is instant and relentless, tamed only by the unobtrusive traction and wheelie-control software. Be prepared to have your arms pulled from their sockets as the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200’s front wheel reaches for the sky; this bike is seriously torquey.

Aprilia calls this wild machine a maxi-motard. The terms supermoto and motard came into existence when a new type of racing was conceived in the 1970s. Dirt bikes were fitted with street tyres and raced on tracks consisting mostly of tarmac and some dirt sections. The Dorsoduro finds itself in this category of off-road motorcycles on superbike steroids.

The stance is high and shorter riders should take care when mounting and dismounting. The seat is narrow and, in combination with the smallish 15-litre tank, the bike was clearly not designed with touring in mind. The suspension system consists of highly adjustable Sachs units front and rear that provide softer, longer-travel suspension than on a superbike but much firmer than on an off-road machine. The stopping power is courtesy of twin Brembo four-piston callipers gripping 
320 mm twin discs up front and a single-piston Brembo calliper and disc arrangement at the rear, aided by ABS.

The frame consists of a tubular steel trellis fastened to aluminium castings. Paired with modern body panels, a naked engine and twin exhausts that are reminiscent of a wasp’s tail, the bike looks intimidating and aggressive. The instrument-cluster displays are analogue (rev counter) and LCD (display for speed and a myriad other useful information, including a gear indicator and trip computer). Wide handlebars give the rider absolute control.

Hit the starter button and the twin fires into life with a loud bark before settling into a rhythmic, mechanical idle. Touch the throttle and the response defies the 0,6-litre-per-cylinder capacity. Before setting off, remember to dial in the correct “braveness” setting for the traction and wheelie-control system, as the menu is not available on the move. This is a problem on a bike that encourages the rider to exhibit hooligan antics. Three riding modes, namely sport, touring and rain, adjust the mappings for the engine and throttle, while the slightly notchy six-speed transmission is connected to the rear wheel via a chain drive.

During our test period, it soon became clear this must be the fastest point-to-point bike on the road (or ideal getaway vehicle). Where a superbike would struggle on bumpy roads or in congested traffic, the Dorsoduro powers through unfussed. When the road clears, the bike is no slouch either and will easily visit the naughty side of 200 km/h. The bike’s stance during cornering does take some getting used to, as there are two distinct ways of attacking a mountain pass: knee down in superbike fashion, or inside leg off the foot peg in classic motocross style. Either way, the rider will still be quicker than most through the bends. Windblast at the national speed limit is a concern because of the upright riding position and limited protection. Lastly, the fuel consumption is best kept a secret because this performance machine has a drinking problem when the throttle is used with vigour.

Which type of buyer should consider a Dorsoduro? Disregard it if you are a commuter or want to ride long distances. But, if you yearn for something different without sacrificing superbike pace or the multi-faceted nature of an off-road machine, the Dorsoduro might just be a perfect fit. Just remember to respect those wild horses.

Engine: 1 197 cm3, V-twin, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Power: 96 kW at 8 700 r/min
Torque: 115 N.m at 7 200 r/min
Transmission: six-speed
Fuel capacity: 15 litres
Mass: 186 kg
Price: R119 995
Service: every 15 000 km
Warranty: two years/unlimited km
*Manufacturer’s figures

Thank you to Aprilia South in Cape Town for the use of the test bike. Visit