2003 Aprilia Tuono R | Classic Test

Almost too much motor for us mortals

By Marc Cook, Photography by Kevin Wing

Off the Record


Age: 29 | Height: 5 ft. 10 in.

Weight: 135 lb. | Inseam: 30 in.

At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I’m going to declare the emperor is buck naked on this one. I’m sure the Tuono is capable of a high level of performance, but the problem is it’s not easily accessible. Whereas a bike such as the Honda 919 feels small, controllable and even a bit underpowered, the Tuono feels big, tall, unwieldy and simply too powerful. Yes, I said too powerful—this bike wants to wheelie all the time due to the laid-back seating position and massive amounts of torque. One tester said he was able to get it to wheelie off bumps in the road in fourth gear, if you can believe that. Normally I’d be all for mondo-power, but the Tuono’s bars are so tall and you sit so high and far back that there’s almost no weight on the front wheel. This trait makes rapid corner entries practically impossible, forcing you to tiptoe in and then bomb out of corners using the bike’s midrange. That’s not the way I like to ride, and I’d venture to say for someone my weight even the Yamaha FZ1—with its non-Öhlins suspension—delivers a more compliant and confidence-inspiring ride. The Tuono looks and sounds absolutely killer, but for me its beauty is only skin deep.

—Josh Norem


Age: 40 | Height: 6 ft.

Weight: 225 lb. | Inseam: 32 in.

Really, this is the bike I—and a lot of 40-and-over riders—have been looking (and asking) for for a long time. It’s amazing it took an upstart Italian company to do it. Or maybe it isn’t. If the Japanese makers are anything it’s conservative in their thinking. The Italians, with smaller slices of the motorcycle pie, a typically more aggressive outlook and offshore-based CEOs with a less paranoid view of opportunist U.S. trial lawyers, seem a lot less risk-averse these days—the upshot of which are gnarly, in-your-face, outstanding two-wheelers such as the Tuono. You 40-and-over sportbike riders out there, take it from me: The Tuono R is a thrill ride you simply will not believe (Norem’s “it’s so scary” comments notwithstanding). If the standard bike is 85 percent as good as the R-version, we’re all in for a treat.

—Mitch Boehm


Age: 44 | Height: 6 ft. 3 in.

Weight: 209 lb. | Inseam: 35 in.

If you take your pavement in long, twisty stretches rather than a quarter-mile at a time, Aprilia’s Tuono R is what Yamaha’s V-Max was 18 years ago: stunning in every sense. The chassis takes a little getting used to, so use the brakes. But the Öhlins suspension is straight-up magic. This engine kicks the slats out of any other quasi-legal V-twin on the planet, including Honda’s RC51 and any Ducati you can name. I don’t have the heart or the stomach to talk about what it would do to any Buell. Somebody tell me why Milwaukee can’t build an engine like this.

The front wheel’s levitation act during steam-catapult corner exits is a little scary at first. This motorcycle doth not suffer fools. It will hammer the unwary and unwise into the terra like cheap tent pegs. Scarier still, I find myself doing the mental arithmetic necessary to owning a motorcycle that costs only slightly less than the nice, new Ford pickup truck I really need. Irrational machinery inspires irrational thought. And irrational behavior.

Adhering to posted speed limits is always difficult and mostly impossible. Even if I could afford the bike, my driver license couldn’t. Alas, there is no truth to the rumor that every Tuono comes with a matching carbon-fiber and Kevlar attorney.

—Tim Carrithers

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