Sport-touring isn't the exclusive domain of any single manufacturer. Just about every one of the major brands has, or has had, an ST in its lineup. But while most are well known and still populate the back roads, byways, and interstates, the Aprilia Futura remains a relatively rare bird, spotted infrequently—and briefly as it speeds by—in the wild.
Shrouded by the angular fairing is a 998cc, liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin with a six-speed gearbox, a counterbalancer, wet-sump lubrication, and a hydraulic clutch. The engine was borrowed from the sporty Mille and tuned for less narrowly focused roadwork. Even so, claimed power output was 113 hp, more than enough to get you to the next B&B before they stop serving the wine. The aluminum twin-spar frame and single-sided swingarm, along with a Sachs rear shock and a Showa fork, keep handling drama to a minimum, while an underseat exhaust theoretically leaves more room in the standard panniers for carrying your overnight bag.
Our own test of the Futura back in 2002 declared the ergonomics "so completely transparent that you spend no time at all thinking about your butt or wrists, even if it's your job." The riding position perfectly defines that middle ground between too sporty and too upright. The footpegs are placed in the Goldilocks zone, where straight-line comfort and back road body control happily coexist, and the windscreen, though not up to Gold Wing standards, does a good job of shouldering aside the worst of the turbulence. Any shortcomings in the riding position are further minimized by what many described as the most comfortable seat on any sport-tourer.
The Futura seemed to have what it took to make the grade in the sport-touring segment, especially since it, um, "borrowed" many of the features and characteristics of Honda's successful VFR800. Maybe riders were more inclined to write their checks to Big Red than a company with Aprilia's then-shaky finances, or maybe its angular styling was a bit too futuristic, but the Futura never sold in great numbers and got the axe after only four years in the lineup.
One of the best online Futura resources is apriliafutura.co.uk. The UK-based website outlines a couple of must-do upgrades for anyone buying a used Futura. One is a wiring modification that improves the charging rate, prevents an electrical connector from melting, and makes starting easier. The other replaces the failure-prone plastic fuel hose quick-disconnect. The latter was the subject of a recall in the US, where dealers replaced the plastic fitting with a metal one, but it's worth a look anyway to make sure the previous owner(s) actually responded to the recall notice.
These issues aside, the Futura's Rotax-built engine seems to be close to bulletproof. The chassis is subject to the usual scourges of wet-weather riding and indifferent maintenance, especially around the rear wheel and the shock bearings. Because the Futura never sold in great numbers here, parts can be hard to find, so if you're looking at a used one that's going to need some rehab before you're happy with it, factor this in. A big part of the bike's charm is the panniers, so make sure they're included and free of crash damage. "That'll buff out" is an assertion that needs to be proven before the check is written.
Sporty but not too sporty, hard bags, decent wind protection, unexpectedly comfy seat.
Angular styling reminded some of a jet fighter, others of how much nicer the VFR800 looked.
Missing panniers, overall neglect, skipped recalls. Oh, and where's the nearest dealer?
Quirky but worthy alternative for riders who prefer the road less traveled on a bike less common.
2001 | $3375
2002 | $3725
2003 | $4065
2004 | $4455