Aprilia’s big-bore dual-sport contender, the Caponord, is yet another brilliant take on the genre – you’ll go places you normally wouldn’t dream of. AMT’s Mark Fattore investigates.
There is a strong pedigree in the dualsport class these days, and Aprilia’s ETV1000 Caponord – named after Scandinavia’s North Cape – is right amongst it. Why, it’s full of cunning, opportunism and daring – melded with just a touch of larrikin. On that premise, you’d think that the Caponord and its dualsport cohorts – the BMW R1150 GS, Triumph Tiger, Suzuki V-Strom and Cagiva Navigator – would be able to infiltrate the Australian psyche just a little more than they have been able to thus far.
Sure, the class is not moribund, but it’s not a cause celebre either, with sales best described as moderate next to their sports bike siblings.
I, for one, hope the relationship between the big trailies and the buying public has reached a nadir, because I reckon the Caponord represents the antithesis of sports bike riding – the ability to head to a rustic pub deep in the bush, complete with compliant suspension, long-haul fuel range, plenty of leg room, weather protection, great ergonomics, 50 Litres of pannier capacity, and adequate accommodation for a beloved. And arriving at a destination without having to repatriate your arse to a local masseuse for attention before you can sit down for dinner.
That’s just the off-road side of the equation too. Offer some blacktop on the riding menu, and the Caponord still continues to be a treat; it sacrifices little in the cause of being an all-rounder.
With its liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 60-degree V-twin, a derivative of the widely-acclaimed RSV Mille powerplant, providing the firepower, it’s possible to gain some serious lean angle on the ‘Nord, certainly enough to start scraping the panniers! That feeling of sideways movement is accentuated by the high and wide handlebars, but the pannier shenanigans do bear testament to just how far the Caponord can be pushed.
Tipping the scales at 265kg fully-fuelled, the Caponord certainly doesn’t fight in a lightweight division, but is thereabouts compared to the opposition. What the bulk means is that it’s a bit top-heavy for performing U-turns, but at speed it’s all ‘can-do’ from the massive aluminium beam frame; just pitch it in and the bike stays where it should, 100 percent of the time.
With the engine (our test unit was fitted with aftermarket Staintune pipes) producing the bulk of its torque between 4000rpm and 6500rpm – up around the 9.1kg-m mark – the V-twin is busy where it counts, which means that tap-dancing through the sweet-shifting six-speed doesn’t have to be a constant grind. Saying that, the bike does rev all the way to the 9000rpm redline.
At 100km/h, the bike purrs over at around 3700rpm, which means that well over 300km is possible from the 25-litre tank at sensible highway speeds. Pillion appointments are top notch on the Caponord, with solid pegs, massive grabrails and a comfy perch. But before the pillion gets comfy, get to work on the preload via the remote adjustment know, especially if off-road work is going to be on the agenda.
All in all, the Caponord is not going win a MotoGP or major desert race, but if you’re after something in time of need, you can’t go past it. Sure, it is a few dollars more than most of its dual-sport contemporaries, but at $18,799 ($19,802 with panniers and tank bag) it still represents a lot of high-quality bike for the buck.
For a company who has managed a name for themselves by producing title-winning racing machines, the last thing anybody expected was a utilitarian sport-tourer.
The more conventional Futura seemed destined from the start, but Aprilia’s new CapoNord has turned some heads. What’s an Aprilia doing this far off the beaten path? Approaching the bike at first, it’s easy to think its allegiance falls along the same lines as BMW’s R1150GS.
Looking much like something out of a Cagney space flick as penned by Hunter S Thompson whilst in the midst of a Jimson Weed escapade, the Aprilia cloaks itself in duds best described as angular. That may be a polite way of saying ugly, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.
It looks every bit the adventure-sport-tourer, though its trump card lies more in the touring than sporting, or even adventure for that matter. That is, unless your idea of adventure means never leaving the paved road. In fact, on Aprilia’s own web site, this bike is listed as a touring bike, right alongside the Futura.
The Pegaso, with its more dirt-oriented nature, finds itself in another slot, far from the CapoNord. In this particular line of street-biased touring work, however, the Aprilia is hard to fault.
From the angular bodywork and frame to the external oil-level tube, it’s easy to see that a lot of thought went into Aprilia’s CapoNord.
Though touring is its thing, the Capo’ lets you know, right from the off, that it has no intentions of replacing your stately Gold Wing. Rather, its stance suggests something a bit less pretentious. Rugged looks aside, the CapoNord’s ergonomics fit the touring template almost perfectly.
With a reasonable seat hight, good location of the foot pegs and decent padding, your butt and feet are happy. The reach to the bars is pretty short, and one long-armed test rider thought the Aprilia could use a bit more room in this area. For most people, however, the ergonomic package is hard to fault — as is the motor.
At the bottom of the too-stiff forks are excellent brakes. Above it all, the fairing’s styling drew mixed reviews, though nobody questioned its effectiveness.
The 996 cc motor is one of, if not the absolute smoothest twins we’ve yet to sample. At freeway speeds, the V-twin lets you know it’s down there, though it never intrudes. Throbbing away, it sends signals to your brain to stimulate various pleasure-sensing nerves while neatly isolating potentially offensive ones.
And as our dyno numbers show, the motor has a decent amount of power tucked neatly between the frame’s not-so-tidy-looking welds. Checking in with 86.2 horses and 57.6 foot-pounds of torque, the bike puts all of its available power to the ground.
From as low as 2,000 RPM, it’s safe to grab a handful of throttle and expect instant acceleration in any gear. The fuel-injection is good and motor never disappoints. Then as the revs rise, things get a bit more frenetic as the motor revs past 5,300 RPM and builds steam as more horses come to the fore.
It’s only when the 9,000 RPM redline nears that things get a bit vibey and the Aprilia urges you to grab another gear, a chore that is easily accomplished thanks to an extremely-slick transmission and smooth clutch.
Using the same basic instrument cluster as the Futura, the CapoNord gives you all the info you need.
Best results were achieved by keeping the motor between 4,500 and 8,000 RPM. As with any good touring rig, there’s no need to rev the motor unless you’re either (wrongly) aggressively passing somebody and can’t afford to grab another gear. Or maybe you’re like us and just like to see what happens if.
Though its looks are quite a departure from the norm’ the CapoNord’s handling traits are pretty much as you’d expect them to be, judging the book by its cover. The upright seating position combines with the leverage afforded by the relatively wide, in-your-lap bars, to allow relatively quick changes in direction. The bike is a tad top-heavy, though this perception rapidly disappears as you lay the bike further on its side, allowing it the chance to settle mid-corner.
It tracks straight and holds a line well, exhibiting a decent mix of agility and stability.
High-mounted twin mufflers make room for the same excellent hard bags as found on the Futura. Passenger accomodations are roomy.
When the road gets a bit choppy, however, the CapoNord’s suspension begins to unsettle the chassis a bit. Even on well-used chunks of freeway, the suspension feels as if one end is working against the other. This is especially true of the front forks which allow no provisions for adjustment.
The rear shock feels more composed and even allows you to season its pre-load and rebound damping to taste. This forces you to further focus on the ill-feeling forks, praying they’ll somehow inherit some lighter-rate springs, though you’d settle for a handful of rebound damping to slow things down for the time being.
Though annoying on the freeway, this trait became a serious disturbance on twisty bits of back roads that are less than cue ball smooth. This is a shame when the rest of the bike — from the excellent brakes to the smooth motor — make the rest of the ride such a pleasant experience. The stiff front end doesn’t allow much weight transfer to the front tire, allowing it to stay light and become skittish when the pace escalates.
A representative from Aprilia reiterated that our machine was a European pre-production unit, and the bike that goes on sale here in the United States may have different springs or damping rates. We can only cross our fingers and hope.
Where the fun usually stops, the CapoNord just keeps on going. All-day comfort combines with all-around usability to make this a serious contender for the adventure-touring crown.
On the other side of the coin, in the CapoNord’s favor, there’s the issue of wind-protection. Aprilia has done their research here as the Capo’ does an admirable job of keeping its rider out of the breeze. The only thing any of the testers wished for was a pair of hand-guards to fight of cold triple-digit breezes, though others admitted they mourned the omission of heated grips on our particular test unit.
In the grand scheme of things, the only other bikes in existence that fill the same odd niche as the Capo’ are Triumph’s Tiger and BMW’s R1150GS. There is, of course, Suzuki’s new V-Strom which takes aim at the same group the CapoNord intends to persuade, but we won’t be seeing that bike until at least March.
In the meantime, this market segment continues to grow, and the new CapoNord from Aprilia is a serious contender in it — a strong effort in a do-it-all touring bike from a company that started out in racing but is ending up in our hearts.
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