Aprilia Mana 850

Long-Range Leisure

They say: The most complete motorcycle on the market.

We say: Completely different, yes.

They say: The most complete motorcycle on the market. We say: Completely different,

It’s Monday morning on a bright June day in the Italian Dolomites, and if there’s a better place to be riding a motorcycle, then I’m not aware of it. The air is crisp, the mountain views stunning, and the road is twisty, smooth and almost deserted.

The automatic-transmission Mana GT I’m riding is doing a fine job of living up to its surroundings. The Grand Touring version of the more suburban Mana, the GT comes equipped with a half-fairing, readying it for rides that take you far beyond the city limits. The GT’s new fairing does a fine job of deflecting the chilly mountain air off my chest, but just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse, I’ve stashed my waterproof jacket in one of the spacious accessory saddlebags ($913.40).

Arcing through the fantastic curves of these mountain roads, the new Mana feels roomy, comfortable and well equipped-ready to climb mountain passes all the way to Switzerland and beyond.

Performance is pretty good, too. The Mana accelerates out of hairpin bends with a satisfying midrange punch, heading for a top speed of about 120 mph. The 839cc V-twin produces a throaty exhaust note that rises and falls rapidly as I thumb through the seven-speed sequential gearbox.

Alternatively, I could use the foot shift lever, though it feels pretty odd to operate it without a clutch. Switching to automatic mode means the CVT takes care of everything-all I have to do is point the bike where I want it to go. But on these technical roads it’s more fun to take control of the engine.

When it comes to shedding speed, the Mana benefits from a powerful braking package complete with competent ABS circuitry as standard equipment. The GT navigates corners quite well thanks to its well-chosen geometry, well-damped suspension and reasonably sticky Pirelli Angel ST tires.

Aprilia Mana 850

The Mana has a fair share of scooter-style practicality. The 4.2-gallon fuel tank lives under the seat, allowing the dummy tank to act as a lockable storage compartment. Large enough to hold my XL Arai, the compartment features a small dome light as well as a power outlet for charging a cell phone, iPod or GPS unit.

The potential for combining commuting chores with more interesting riding makes the Mana unique, especially with the GT model’s additional wind protection and saddlebags. The windscreen is height-adjustable, though not by much. The seating position is unchanged from that of the standard Mana, offering roomy and comfortable ergonomics suitable for long hauls.

The Mana’s main drawback is the power-robbing influence of its CVT transmission, which reduces output to a claimed 76 horsepower. Despite having nearly a 100cc displacement advantage over Aprilia’s manual-shifted Shiver, it’s not nearly as fast. The good news is that Aprilia has added a fairing and ABS without adding too much to the bottom line.

The previous Mana (which will no longer be sold in the U.S.) sold for $9899, while the 2010 Mana GT will sell for $10,599.

All of which means that the Mana GT, even more than the standard Mana, is likely to appeal to riders who want one bike both for urban commuting and longer trips. If that sounds like you, the GT is worth a look. It can certainly improve Monday mornings-especially if you head for the mountains.

The Mana’s city manners are proven, and it’s surprisingly fun out in the countryside, too. The GT is a fairly quick, respectably sweet-handling all-around ride.

Aprilia Mana 850
Aprilia Mana 850
Aprilia Mana 850
Aprilia Mana 850

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