Road Test Review
When the Shiver was introduced back in 2007, it carried the distinction of being one of the first Aprilia motorcycles to roll out of the Noale, Italy, factory with its engine designed and built in-house rather than by Rotax. With bold, geometric styling and early adoption of throttle-by-wire with multiple engine modes, the middleweight naked bike was like something from the future. Its hybrid frame combined an upper tubular-steel trellis with aluminum side spars, and its dual-parabola headlight led the way while spent gasses exited through a pair of Jetsons-style underseat pipes. When we tested the Shiver in 2008 (its debut year in the U.S.) and again in 2016, we found its 750cc V-twin to be lively, and though it was generally comfortable and competent, we disliked its twitchy throttle response in Sport mode, poor ride quality over rough pavement and excessive weight.
Except for a minor facelift a few years ago, the Shiver has been trapped in amber for the better part of a decade—nice to look at, but frozen in the past. With its first major update for 2018, Aprilia had an opportunity to take the Shiver to the next level, and it started with the engine, giving the liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin a longer stroke (67.4mm, up from 56.4mm; bore is 92mm), bumping displacement to 896.1cc, as well as lighter, lower-friction pistons, a redesigned crankshaft, high-pressure double-jet fuel injectors and a racing-derived Magneti Marelli 7SM ECU. The Shiver 900 revs up more smoothly than before and the snatchy throttle response is gone. On Jett Tuning’s rear-wheel dyno, it made 80.7 horsepower at 8,200 rpm (up from 77.3 on the 750) and 54.5 lb-ft of torque at 6,300 rpm (up from 46.6) in both Sport and Tour modes, the latter with softer throttle response. In Rain mode, throttle response is dialed back further and the V-twin’s potency was reduced to 60.2 horsepower and 47.4 lb-ft of torque.
Although the Shiver’s engine output is modest by 900 class standards, the bike is very tractable and has a pleasant loping cadence. Rolling on the throttle with each upshift, power pulses can be felt through the bike’s touch points, and the underseat exhausts boom with a deep resonance that’s never too loud. Unfortunately, one of the Shiver’s signature styling elements—those underseat exhausts—were given concave end caps, purportedly to direct exhaust flow out to the sides so it doesn’t get pulled up into the passenger area due to negative air pressure. Seems like a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, and those caps look like metal saucers you’d use to feed milk to kittens.
Aprilia has increased the Shiver’s margin of safety by adding switchable ABS and traction control, the latter with three levels of intervention. Other changes were aimed at improving user-friendliness and reducing weight. A redesigned hydraulic clutch and a wider primary gear ratio reduce clutch lever effort, and the bike’s 6-speed transmission shifts smoothly and easily. Eliminating the throttle-by-wire cables and replacing the adjustable, upside-down 43mm Kayaba fork with a 41mm unit saved 3.1 pounds, and running the same lightweight, three-spoke wheels as the RSV4 RR reduced unsprung weight by 5 pounds. In spite of these weight-saving efforts, the Shiver 900 weighs 497 pounds wet, 7 pounds more than the 750 we tested two years ago. By way of comparison, the Yamaha FZ-09 we tested in 2017 weighed just 426 pounds, and it made 105 horsepower at the rear wheel.
You can feel the Shiver’s excess bulk when lifting it off the sidestand, and even though its wide upright handlebar offers good steering leverage, the bike requires more effort than it should to hustle back and forth through a set of curves. The flipside is that the Shiver is stable and holds a line well, and its Pirelli Angel ST sport-touring tires offer good grip and contribute to its neutral handling. But, as with previous Shivers, the firm suspension reacts harshly to rough pavement, unsettling the chassis and sapping rider confidence. Ergonomics put the rider into a modest crouch, and the wide, flat seat is comfortable enough to go through a full tank of gas before crying “uncle.” With a 3.8-gallon tank and about 150 miles of range, that won’t be too long.
Replacing the monochromatic LCD panel on the old model is a full-color TFT display that’s one of the most attractive instrument panels I’ve ever seen. It automatically switches from a white background during the day to a black background in low light, and its bar graph tachometer and big, bold graphics are easy to read even in bright sunlight. Oddly, in spite of the display’s many functions, including a series of multi-colored shift lights across the top that light up like a Christmas tree, there is no fuel gauge. Depending on how aggressively we rode it, our fuel economy on the Shiver ranged from 36.5 to 48.8 mpg and we saw the low-fuel light come on anywhere from 99 miles to 129 miles, making it tough to use the tripmeter to figure out how much gas might be left in the tank. Not only that but a couple of days ago the clock stopped working.
Although the Shiver 900 is a decent bike with unique styling and a rumbling V-twin, I can’t help but thinking that it could be so much more. For a company that makes a totally bonkers naked bike like the Tuono, Aprilia seems to have phoned it in with this one. The increase in displacement yielded only a modest improvement in performance, and even though the engine is smoother and has better throttle response, the Shiver is still overweight and significantly down on power compared to the competition. Smaller-volume manufacturers like Aprilia need to build bold bikes that grab attention, but the Shiver leaves me cold.