2015 Aprilia Caponord Rally Edition review | £14,134 | 123bhp @ 8000rpm | 85lb-ft @ 6800rpm | Liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin 1197cc
Tested by: Nathan Millward
Launched in the spring of 2013, the first Caponord was overshadowed by the liquid-cooled BMW R1200 GS and KTM 1190 Adventure., despite not necessarily being a direct rival. That was half the bike’s problem; what was it, and what did it compete with? The bike lacked a clear identity, and that, hopefully, is what Aprilia has rectified with this, the Caponord Rally Edition.
Tell me about the engine
The Rally uses the same 1197cc 90-degree V-twin as the regular Caponord – itself a derivative of the Dorsoduro 1200 engine – producing 123bhp @ 8000rpm. It also retains the handy 690W generator. However, it has been fitted with a new resonator in the exhaust to improve torque at low to medium revs. The resonator is simply an increased expansion chamber before the pipe enters the can, allowing the gases to greater expand. It can be retro-fitted to the regular bike, requiring a remap of the engine at a cost expected to be around £200.
What’s the chassis like?
A new front wheel makes all the difference; he 17” of the standard bike is replaced with a 19”, transforming the machine’s road manners. The wheels are also spoked rather than cast, with a reduction in tyre width at the rear from 180 to 170. Tyres are now dual-sport inspired Metzeler Tourance Next.
The bike also gets tubular engine guards, a bash plate for the sump (albeit plastic), a taller and wider screen, LED spot lights and re-branded aluminium-coated 33 litre Givi Trekkers. The low-slung exhaust also allows both panniers to have the same capacity.
The clever ADD electronic suspension (Aprilia Dynamic Damping) has been kept, employing semi-active technology to automatically adjust preload and damping on the move. You can set the preload manually, between solo rider, rider with luggage, rider with pillion, and rider with pillion and luggage, but the system – unlike on the electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) equipped R1200 GS – doesn’t allow you to tailor the damping for different moods or paces. Leave it in auto and head for the hills; that’s the motto with this bike.
The Rally can be paired with your smartphone, connecting it to the bike’s electronics. An additional dashboard gives lean angle and speed, the amount of power being generated, to what extent the traction control is intervening and can even guide you back to your bike if you lose it in a carpark.
Should I buy one?
In such a competitive market place, Aprilia has a challenge to get the average buyer to walk past the GS, the 1190 Adventure, the Triumph Explorer, the Multistrada and the Super Tenere, but for relaxed riding and when you don’t have a point to prove or an ego to stroke, then the Caponord Rally is as good as all of them – if not better in many ways.
At £14,134 the Rally is a thousand pounds more than the Travel Pack bike Caponord. That’s a lot of money for a bigger front wheel and some adventure trinkets, but the whole in this case is certainly worth greater than the sum of its part. The Rally has more focus, a better aesthetic and a much greater, and much needed, showroom appeal.
So what’s it like to ride?
Much of the test route was along the coastal roads to the south-east of Sardinia. Having rained in the night, the roads were wet and winding, though drying rapidly as the morning progressed. We also took in a seven mile stretch of dirt track, with Aprilia keen to show off the bike’s capabilities.
The bars are generously wide and sat comfortably ahead of you; not elevated as they are on a GS for example. The seat, at just 840mm, makes touching down with both feet a possibility for most people, and apart from a heavy tug to lift it from its side stand – no centre stand for the Rally yet – the bike feels relatively light between your knees. The only grunt needed is in operation of the clutch lever, which is a touch on the firm side, but adaptable to after a short while.
On the right bar are buttons for cruise control, heated grips and a rocker switch for adjustment of riding mode. Cruise control comes as standard but needs further development as dipping the throttle doesn’t de-activate it and there’s not a resume button either. Heated grips cost £138 extra. I found ‘Rain’ mode – which cuts power to 100bhp – a little too unpredictable in its delivery; almost as though there’s lag in the drive-train. ‘Sport’ on the other hand was a touch too sharp, especially on the wet mountain roads. Touring though is just right; ride-by-wire systems often take some getting used to after traditional cables, but this gave good control for the full ride.
Traction control is adjustable from 1 (minimal intrusion), through 2 to 3 (maximum intrusion), with a fourth option to turn it off completely. ABS can also be fully disabled, with the other operation dealt with by these two buttons being the ADD suspension, which, like traction control, requires the bike to be static before allowing adjustment.
As the road climbed up and through a shallow valley, the pace was gentle and tentative on the smooth, wet surface. What I first noticed was just how little pitch there was under braking; in sensing the forks under compression, ADD increases damping to compensate – the same with the rear under acceleration. This gives rise to a strange sensation at first; the piloting of a very flat-riding motorcycle. But once adjusted to, and with no real loss to feel, the pace quickens and the confidence in the Tourance Nexts increases. These really are a surprisingly good tyre, offering plenty of feedback in the corners, and as the roads dried, there was enough grip to scrape the pegs.
It was along these twisting sections of the road that the strengths of the Caponord really shone through. There’s an agility about the bike, mated to a crisp and responsive engine that surprises when the road opens. There’s not immediate punch like on a GS or Multistrada; more a slow build to an almighty speed. And the sound is glorious. Through a tunnel it encourages the mischievous – more so than any other big adventure bike I’ve ridden for a while.
The four-piston Brembo front brakes gripping twin 320mm discs are also keen enough, though with plenty of travel in the lever allowing quite a fair bit of nuance before really kicking in.
What you notice about the new 19” wheel – understandably – is a touch less speed in the change of direction. The upshot is stability and composure in abundance. Mid-corner ripples and bumps don’t trouble the bike (nor on the straights), and with those wide bars you can really push and pull your way around. With the guards, bash plate and panniers less the Rally feels and looks more complete than the standard model.
Off-road, the bike was something of a revelation. Up on the pegs (enduro style pegs are available), the bars are a little too low and angled back, but that could soon be adjusted, and with ADD in auto the system tackled the rocks and lumps of the gully well. With traction control off the temptation to drift the rear only increased. If it was your own £14k bike the pace would arguably be less swift, but it just goes to show that these big bikes will do it if only you dare.
The Caponord Rally travels well, goes hard, corners beautifully, rides well and now looks the part. Book a test rider to make up your mind if it’s the one for you.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin, 1197cc
Power: 123bhp (91.7kW) @ 8000rpm
Torque: 85lb-ft (115Nm) @ 6800rpm
Kerb Weight: 252kg
Seat height: 840mm
Tank size: 24 litres
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