More comfortable than the track-spec Mille and $2500 less expensive, the Aprilia Falco pushed practical Italian style beyond fizzy brochure copy. Still, from its 2000 debut through its 2004 demise, customers shunned the half-faired Falco in droves despite respectable thrust from its Rotax-built 998cc twin, an excellent six-speed gearbox and a nice spread of high-end componentry.
Dual counterbalancers and extra-tall final-drive gearing keep the 60-degree V-twin surprisingly smooth on the freeway. Given a little extra time to warm up on cold mornings, the standard fuel injection mixes air and unleaded with admirable precision. You'll go through a 5.5-gallon tankful every 225 miles or so. Wind protection is above average. The seat is comfortable enough. Aside from a minor shortage of legroom for lanky types, the whole ergonomic equation is quite humane-especially by Italian standards. Midrange power is abundant despite restrictions that reigned U.S.-spec bikes to 88 peak horsepower-enough for low 11-second quarter-miles around 120 mph. Better still, most used Falcos have had the minor surgery necessary to wake things up above 5000 rpm. Cranking out a thoroughly respectable 110 horsepower at 8750 rpm, the uncorked version is a more enjoyable tool in the twisty bits.
An extra 10mm between the axles and different steering geometry make the Falco more stable, if a bit less flickable, than a comparable Mille. Those four-pot Brembos up front are admirable stoppers. And the nicely sorted 43mm Showa fork does a decent job-more than you can say for the flaccid Sachs shock that lets the chassis squat under power, causing it to run wide exiting corners. Other annoyances are few. The temperamental instrument pod looks like what you'd find behind the wheel of a '75 Fiat Mirafiori. The engine itself is essentially bombproof, but some members of its supporting cast are notoriously unreliable. Sidestand switch and oil line recalls should have been handled on any Falco you're considering. According to the collective Falco wisdom assembled at Ken's Site (http://us.geocities.com/sl_mille/), the stock hydraulic clutch can be fragile and short-lived, requiring replacement in as little as 6000 miles. The good news: Installing a new one is cheap and easy. Brembo slave-cylinders are suspect as well. The water-pump shaft oil seal can leak, especially after extended inactivity. "If you find oil behind the coolant reservoir," Ken says, "find another bike or price a water pump reseal job." Still, the bottom line is simple: You won't find this much practical Italian personality anywhere else for around five grand.
Impressive power, especially when it's uncorked, in a sweet-handling chassis.
Limp shock, potentially fragile clutch and limited cornering clearance.
Slipping clutch and/or bad clutch slave cylinder, spasmodic starter, weepy water-pump shaft oil seal.
A drastically undervalued Italian you can live with for years.
|| | $4455
|| | $5115
|| | $5480 (Falco R)
Honda VTR1000 Superhawk
2002 | $4455
Surprisingly strong, reasonably light and refres
2003 | $4785
Stronger on top and smoother than the Honda or the Aprilia,
2003 | $4720
For those who prefer running around half-naked at high rates of