Could this be the only bike you'll ever need?
For once the timing was perfect. Just as our group returned to the Italian castle that was the base for Aprilia's press introduction of the SL 750 Shiver, huge raindrops started plonk-plonking onto my faceshield. From the shelter of an out-building I listened to thunder roll around the Dolomite foothills, grateful that the Shiver had shown just enough speed to complete the route before I got soaked.
In another sense, however, this bike is well overdue. It's been nine years since Aprilia entered the superbike market with the RSV Mille, and five years since the naked Tuono joined the line-up. Yet only now is Aprilia introducing a 750 that fills the gap between those 998cc V-twins and the firm's 650cc singles.
Linkageless shock slots in diagonally, a la Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
The Shiver is intended as an "entry-level big bike," beginner-friendly but with enough performance to attract experienced riders, too. It's also the first large-capacity Aprilia to be powered by an engine of the firm's own design and construction. Another new development is the fly-by-wire fuel-injection system, which follows the likes of Yamaha's R1 and R6 and KTM's 690 SM by using electronics to control throttle opening.
The SL also differs from the RSV in that its cylinders are spaced at 90 degrees instead of 60, and it features a wet-sump lubrication system instead of dry. A cam chain runs up each cylinder to a central shaft geared to the twin cams. Oversquare cylinders suggest the engine is designed to rev higher than the Shiver's 9800-rpm maximum, and to make more power than the current 95 bhp. That's no coincidence, given that there are sport and supermoto versions in the pipeline.
There's more than a hint of MV Brutale in the Shiver's sharp styling, and there's some neat engineering in the hybrid steel/aluminum frame with cantilevered shock. At a claimed 416 pounds dry, the bike is respectably light, and its reasonably low and slim seat makes it manageable at a standstill. The gold-anodized one-piece handlebar is wide and slightly raised. When I went to put my foot on the peg for the first time, I came up with air because it was farther back than expected. The neat, multi-function instrument panel added a further sporty touch, as did the deep V-twin rumble from the twin underseat mufflers.
The Shiver lived up to that sporty first impression, feeling lively on a route that climbed and wound in a succession of tight bends. Midrange power was all-important here and the V-twin had plenty, along with a very crisp feel from that fly-by-wire system. It pulled smartly from down low, kicked harder at about 5000 rpm and stayed smooth enough to encourage plenty of revs through the gears. The wide bar offered ample leverage on these twisty roads, and while the steering wasn't particularly quick, the bike held its line well and was easy to correct when I needed to change direction.
The Shiver felt pretty good when the road opened up, too, rumbling to an indicated 125 mph before running out of breath. High-speed stability was good, though triple-digit blasts were limited by the wind rushing over the instrument console.
V-shaped underseat mufflers recall the sort of things you've seen on Suzuki's B-King, only
Surprisingly, the least impressive aspect of the Shiver's engine performance came at lower revs. The motor pulled effortlessly from a standstill and displayed glitch-free response around town, but there was a distinct lack of oomph below 5000 rpm. The six-speed gearbox was less precise than it should have been, too.
There were few complaints about the chassis. The non-adjustable Showa inverted fork allowed a few minor twitches when pushed hard, but the ride was generally a good compromise between comfort and control. The same was true of the Sachs shock, which is adjustable but worked well on the standard settings. The twin-disc front brake enabled powerful stopping, justifying Aprilia's decision to use an unspecified alternative to Brembo for the radial-mount four-piston calipers. And the slim machine had enough cornering clearance to use all the grip its tires could provide.
So the SL750 works well as a sportbike, and it does a good job of living up to the all-rounder naked-bike part of its job description, too. As such, it should appeal both to riders graduating from smaller bikes and to more experienced types attracted by its Italian styling and technical sophistication. Aprilia's new V-twin family is off to a promising start.
An all-new motorcycle powered by an actual Aprilia V-twin instead of a bought-in Rotax engine.
BMW F800S, Ducati Monster 695 and S2R 800 and Moto Guzzi Breva 750/850, not to mention various down-market Japanese models.
Engine type: l-c 90-degree V-twin
Valve train: DOHC, 8
Bore x stroke: 92.0 x 56.4mm
Fuel system: Fly-by-wire EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Claimed horsepower: 95 bhp @ 9000 rpm
Claimed torque: 60 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis with cast-aluminum pivot plates and aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: Showa 43mm inverted fork
Rear suspension: Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual four-piston radial calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 245mm disc
Front tire: 120/70-ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Rear tire: 180/55-ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Rake/trail: 25.7o/4.3 in.
Seat height: 31.9 in.
Wheelbase: 56.7 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.9 gal.
Claimed dry weight: 416 lbs.
Colors: Black, white, blue, orange, silver
Warranty: 2 years, unlimited mi.
Contact: Piaggio Group
140 East 45th Street, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10017
An entry-level exotic that's anything but boring.