Just 15 months after its debut on the market, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 has received its first upgrade. It’s not a radical evolution by all means, but it certainly is worth a blast up and down the turnpike road to the top of the Etna volcano at an altitude of almost 10,000 feet.
I was lucky. I reached that location on the only good day for a nice ride between two eruptions that dropped a thick layer of ashes on the roads, and right after a fierce storm that washed the roads to adequate grip conditions. This 2012 edition of Aprilia’s maxi-supermoto bike deserved a day of truce from those extremely hostile environmental conditions.
Aside from providing new graphics that extract the best from the bike’s unchanged basic design, the Aprilia specialists have developed a host of bags and other touring accessories. That makes a lot of sense, since they have set the Dorsoduro 1200 on a more-precise mission as an adventure-tourer, putting the previous model’s proven combination of solid power, good handling and superb comfort to its best use.
On the technical side, the new Dorsoduro 1200 officially shed some 7 pounds off its curb weight, bringing it down to 493½. It also unofficially gained about 4 horsepower up to 130. I say unofficially because at the original Dorsoduro’s model introduction in 2010, Aprilia alleged 130 hp at 8700 rpm, but that was an exercise in rounding out the numbers; these latest figures are more realistic.
Most of the weight reduction came from the adoption of new cast aluminum wheels that each feature three very elegant Y-shaped spokes. They’re similar to the Ducati 1199 Panigale S wheels we admired at the unveiling ceremony last November.
The modern and rationally designed 1197cc, dohc, four-valve, 90-degree V-Twin engine has a 106mm bore and 67.8mm stroke. Its added power for 2012 only resulted from the manufacturing process coming to full maturity, thus more accurately keeping the correct tolerances, and from the refinement of the integrated ignition-injection system by Marelli. The electronics on the Dorsoduro 1200 include ABS by Continental, teamed with a top-quality Brembo braking system utilizing twin 320mm front rotors and radial-mount, four piston calipers.
Along with ABS comes a very effective traction-control system that limits rear-wheel spin via three selectable levels. In addition, the software of the ride-by-wire system includes three levels of throttle response: full performance of the 130 hp engine; 130 hp but with milder throttle response and power progression; and a reduction to 100 hp and very mild progression for riding in the rain. All levels are selectable at the touch of a button.
For suspension duties, the Dorsoduro 1200 now uses a 43mm inverted Sachs fork at the front and a cantilevered Sachs gas-charged shock at the rear. Wheel travel is a generous 160mm/155mm, respectively.
With a seat height of 34.3 in., the Dorsoduro is a rather tall bike. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, however, because the seat is well designed to let even a 5-foot-10 rider reach down to the ground comfortably with both feet.
Given the good grip conditions, I set all the electronic systems for my ride up and down Etna on their highest levels. The twisty road to the top of the big volcano served as the perfect breakfast for the new Dorsoduro. The 1.2- liter V-Twin is beautifully responsive, strong and aggressive but never embarrassingly so. Having the traction control set to zero was no problem, as I found that keeping the traction under control only required prudent use of my right wrist.
In just the first 1000 yards of my ride, I realized that the reduced weight of the bike, along with the lessened gyroscopic effect of the new wheels, made a remarkable difference, giving the bike feel livelier than its predecessor. This despite the frame geometry remaining unchanged, and I consider the 27.3-degree steering-head angle somewhat excessive.
Nonetheless, the Dorsoduro is extremely agile and surefooted, and the long-travel Sachs suspension confidently scoops up the bumps on the road, underlining the bike’s great comfort quality. Though I never called on the ABS, the brakes proved strong and precise, always producing effective, reassuring decelerations.
When I started pushing to more-aggressive lean angles, though, the extra loading made the suspension start pumping over sequences of micro-bumps. Both Sachs units are adjustable for compression and rebound as well as spring preload, but on the slopes of the big volcano, there was no possibility for me to make any adjustments.
I should have thought of that prior to setting off on a 150-mile ride, which still was very pleasant, suspension softness notwithstanding. The practical qualities of the revised Dorsoduro 1200 were worth the effort and the investment. It is a very solid and mature motorcycle that offers great potential as an adventure-tourer.