2016 Aprilia Caponord Rally

First Ride Review

Aprilia is on the move and seriously courting the long-range crowd, first with the 2015 Caponord 1200 ABS Travel Pack and now the new Caponord 1200 Rally. Incorporating many of the core components found in the earlier and more basic street-oriented crossover-style Caponord, this new Caponord Rally now ups the ante with many of the elements that more serious adventure types deem necessary for tackling tough terrain—or at least necessary for projecting the impression of Tierra del Fuego readiness.

To that end, the Caponord Rally sports lighter spoked wheels in place of the crossover’s cast items; more specifically, a 3.00 x 19-inch front and 4.50 x 17-inch rear, versus the cast 3.50 x 17 and 6.00 x 17 combo. There’s also a standard skid plate and brush guards, auxiliary LED lights, oversized, manually adjustable windscreen and larger 33-liter hard bags. The tubular-steel frame remains unchanged, but new triple clamps tweak the steering geometry more towards off-road use. A new exhaust system and ECU mapping boost low-end and midrange power while maintaining the claimed peak 125 horsepower from the 1197cc, 90-degree V-twin engine. Like the crossover Caponord, the Caponord Rally also incorporates the full suite of Aprilia electronic rider aids: ride-by-wire, antilock braking, traction control, cruise control, and the real gem of the bunch, Aprilia Dynamic Damping (ADD)—a fully active system that automatically adjusts rear shock spring preload as well as compression and rebound damping in the shock and fork.

An all-too-brief one-day ride covering about 200 miles in Sardinia, Italy, gave us a good taste of what the Caponord Rally has to offer. Upon straddling the bike, it immediately feels quite comfortable, if just a pinch tall—not overly so, considering its adventure-bike target. Thumb the starter and the engine becomes a paragon of V-twin virtue; burly and torquey down low with excellent throttle response, ripping strong through the midrange and eager to rocket to rev-cut at about 9,000 rpm. Take it easy while cruising along to enjoy the scenery or set your hair on fire and charge hard through the tight twisties; the Caponord Rally is fine any way you want it.

Equipped with a handlebar that is only moderately wide by adventure-bike standards, the Caponord Rally steering feels nicely responsive with only a moderate amount of bar input required. Left-right-left transitions come easily and naturally. But it is the ADD semi-active suspension action that left us surprised and delighted. Initially, the suspension action feels deliciously plush—so much so you’re convinced that terminal wallowing will take over once the road starts to curve. Didn’t happen. Suspension action is simply superb through all kinds of hard riding, from tight-tight corners through fast sweepers and Autostrada-fast straightaways. I purposely aimed for every pothole, seam and bump in the roadway to try and fool the ADD suspension, but no such luck; it handled everything exceeding well, including a few miles of off-road work. All in all, a terrific handling package.

At $15,699, the Caponord Rally only costs a couple Benjamins more than the crossover 2015 Caponord. And it’s a very competitive contender—in every respect—in this growing segment of the market. It’s due in dealerships in May 2015.

* A previous version of this post listed the bike as a 2015 model, and said the pricing was tentative.