2009 Aprilia SMV750 Dorsoduro

Road Test Review

When running late or feeling lazy, instead of my Wheaties I grab a chorizo-and-egg breakfast burrito from a popular Ventura eatery on my way to work. Normally, this indulgence sets me back $4.29. But one recent, harried morning, it cost me $207.29. The difference? Hooligan tax. Avoid mixing caffeine, tardiness and the Aprilia SMV750 Dorsoduro, or else the boys in blue may come for you, too.

Aprilia released three middleweight V-twins in the United States in 2009: the SL 750 Shiver, the CVT-equipped Mana 850 and the Dorsoduro. The Shiver and Dorsoduro are closely related, with the same 749.9cc, 90-degree V-twin engine and hybrid frame, which mates a steel trellis upper section to beefy aluminum side members. To suit its more aggressive supermoto image, the Dorsoduro gets different ECU mapping and shorter gearing for quicker acceleration.

The DOHC, four-valve, oversquare engine (92 x 56.4mm bore/stroke) makes power up high, with a claimed 92 crank horsepower at 8,750 rpm. At 454 pounds soaking wet, the Dorsoduro wheezes in the midrange. The real fun starts at 8,000 rpm and the rev limiter kicks in 2,000 rpm later, so I shifted often to stay in the sweet spot. As with the Shiver and Mana, the Dorsoduro has a Tri-Map ride-by-wire engine management system. Sport mode was unruly and difficult to ride smoothly, and Rain mode was gutless and unnecessary in drought-plagued Ventura, so I left it in the more agreeable Touring mode.

Shifting was notchy and neutral was impossible to find until the transmission was fully broken in, but the hydraulic clutch with adjustable lever is easy to modulate. Aggressive downshifts result in rear wheel hop and popping sounds over and above the satisfying growl that emanates from the Dorsoduro’s stylish dual underseat exhausts. The front dual, four-piston radial calipers provide good power and feel, whereas the single-piston rear caliper is wooden and squeals. Grace notes include steel braided brake lines, wave rotors and an adjustable front lever.

Although sharing rake/trail (25.8 degrees/4.3 inches) figures with the Shiver, the Dorsoduro’s wheelbase (59.3 inches) is 2.5 inches longer. An upright riding position and wide motocross handlebar provide leverage, but steering is heavy. The upshot is stability in corners and at speed with minimal vibration and clear mirrors. The 43mm male-slider fork and rear shock are adjustable for preload and rebound, and each offers a generous 6.3 inches of travel. Dish out the abuse, and the suspension will take it without complaint.

Dirt bike styling—minimal plastic, hand guards, cleated footpegs and a beaklike front fender—and a towering 35.4-inch seat height are pure supermoto. Perhaps Aprilia was referring to the long, stiff saddle when it named the Dorsoduro, which means “hard back” in Italian. If the seat doesn’t tame your Ironbutt ways, the limited range will. Our test bike averaged 32.5 mpg during mixed, aggressive riding. Fuel capacity is a mere 3.2 gallons, yielding only 104 miles between fill-ups. The low-fuel light came on early and often, with 70-80 miles on the tripmeter. As fun as this bike is in the twisties, venture away from civilization at your own risk.

Behind the sporty, functional flyscreen are a large analog tach and digital speedometer that are easy to read on the go. The adjustable shift light flashes red above the threshold rpm, so I set it just below the 10,000 rev limit. The LCD display shows speed, time, Tri-Map, engine temperature and mode (mpg, average mpg, average mph, maximum mph, trip clock, tripmeter or odometer), plus a menu for settings, lap times, service code and language. Alas, no espresso maker.

With sticky tires and nearly limitless cornering clearance, the Dorsoduro loves to lean. But the long, heavy machine requires more effort than a supermoto should. Then again, it’s a street bike; racers will buy Aprilia’s SXV 5.5. The Dorsoduro offers too little range and comfort to earn a spot in my garage, especially with an MSRP of $9,599. Available accessories include a full line of luggage and assorted bolt-on pieces, but not a much-needed softer seat or larger gas tank. Besides, the hooligan tax would bleed me dry.