Aprilia SL 1000 Falco

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

It's a moment that all of us here at RoadRUNNER hope never happens. Any day now, our friends at Aprilia USA will be ringing us up, making the dreaded call to let us know they want their Falco back. It will be tough to part with it, but we know that this brazen bird of prey is destined to hunt elsewhere.

The SL 1000 Falco has been a favorite here for the past year. No matter what we've thrown its way, the Falco has seen to it that we arrive home smiling. Around town or around a couple of thousand miles, the trusty Aprilia keeps coming back for more.

The Falco is a sport-touring machine in the purest sense of the term. Surprising all-day comfort is mixed with pinpoint handling and a fire breather of an engine. Optional soft luggage and the tank bag offered by Aprilia easily allow for several days on the road The Falco may not be the most ideal mount for two-up touring, but for an extended one-person romp through the mountains, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better ride. If the trip to your favorite mountain playground requires a stint on the super slab, worry not. Somehow the designers have managed to create a sport-inspired riding style that punishes neither wrists nor back. The level of overall comfort offered by the Falco is really amazing. This is a bike that begs to be ridden.

Chassis and Brakes
Simply put, the brakes and chassis have performed flawlessly. The Brembo front brakes feature 320mm discs with four differential 34 and 30mm calipers. They offer both subtle feel and brutal stopping power when needed. When used in conjunction with the 220mm twin-piston rear, reeling the Falco in for the next turn becomes a mere afterthought. The brakes can be a little touchy, but once you get the feel for them, you'll certainly appreciate all they have to offer.

The chassis as well is a thing of beauty. It is difficult to imagine that there could be a more stable motorcycle out there. No matter what type of road you're on or the condition it may happen to be in, the Falco devours it with ease. The 43mm Showa inverted fork is fully adjustable and offers a great feel for the road. Let the front wheel communicate with you through those forks. After a while, you'll easily be able to tell what you can get away with. The Sachs monoshock in the rear is adjustable for preload and rebound dampening and does a fine job of keeping the rear end of the machine in line. But don't expect a plush ride on the Falco, it is after all, a sport-touring machine. You will feel rough roads and those annoying highway joints, but the feedback given in serious riding mode is well worth the tradeoff.

Engine and Transmission
The Falco is powered by a big 997cc Rotax V-twin that infects the rider with a case of perma-grin from the moment the clutch is released. This engine is an absolute riot. There seems to be power everywhere. The areas below 4000rpm give you nice tractable power for easy riding or any of the around-town stuff, but when you wind that baby up, look out. The power at higher rpm hits with a ferocity that leaves you wondering what unholy beast the Aprilia engineers used for inspiration. Keeping the front wheel on the ground is an exercise in restraint when the Falco begins to wail. This power plant is near perfect for sport touring simply because you do have the distinct option of riding at a relaxed gait or going scary-fast; the choice is yours. Oddly enough, the engine seems to be getting stronger as the miles add up. I wish I could say that.

The six-speed transmission is also just right for sport touring. The gears are spaced out just enough to give the rider the perfect choice for just about any road condition. Shifting the six-speed transmission on tight roads is purely optional. Third or fourth gear and twisting the throttle is about all you need to conquer almost any curvy road. Sixth gear is perfect for interstate cruising and allows the bike to purr in a subdued manner. The shifting action is slick, feels good and requires minimal effort. Finding neutral is another story. Despite many hours and miles on the Falco, this is a trick I just can't seem to master. Thankfully, the neutral light lets me know when I'm in the neighborhood. Another transmission oddity is the occasional false neutral. This is annoying but it happens so infrequently that I have yet to decide if it is a product of the transmission or sloppy shifting on my part.

Accessories and Arrangements
Okay, now comes the time for most of you to reach the conclusion that I'm off my rocker. After riding the Falco well over 6,000 miles on every type of road imaginable, I stand before you and declare that the Falco is the most comfortable bike I've ridden. Most people think I'm crazy when I say that, but it's just the truth. Yes, the suspension is stiff and reacts accordingly on rough surfaces, but that small tradeoff for the increased performance is well worth a few small jolts.

The seat is firm yet supple and it has that "just right" width. The riding position is obviously perfect for back-road brawling, but it's also remarkably forgiving out on the interstate. I've ridden the Falco from our NC offices in a straight shot to New York on two different occasions. Honestly, I'd take off for California tomorrow morning with no hesitation. The way the bike is laid out seems to balance the weight of the rider perfectly. No undue stress is put on any particular part of the body, which allows for marathon riding with plenty of energy left over to take in the nightlife.

When you have a bike that begs to be ridden for hours on end, you need space to stow a few days worth of clothes. Aprilia makes optional soft luggage for the Falco that works beautifully. The mounting system is ingenious in its simplicity and allows the attractive bags to be quickly and easily attached and removed from the bike. Packing enough gear for one person to spend a week on the road is no problem. I've done it on three separate occasions. The bags are not waterproof but they do come with rain covers. Short bursts of rain, some fairly heavy, have not caused problems even with the rain covers still packed. If more cargo space is needed, Aprilia offers a tank bag and tail bag.

Other goodies available as factory options include a Sachs adjustable steering damper, a remote monoshock adjustment kit, and a stick-on tank protector kit. The stick-on tank protector kit is a good idea as some zippers and snaps can create problems for the finish on the plastic tank.

Test Summary
We're all going to miss the Falco around here, especially me. I've put in the most seat time on this particular bike and it has been by choice. I'm going to try my best to sneak out for a couple more tours before the Falco has to leave us. If it weren't for the fact that I'm getting ready to build a new house, this bike would be in my old garage. There's a certain something about the Falco that transcends the nuts and bolts. The machine has personality. It looks different, sounds and feels different. You quickly develop a sense for how the machine likes to be ridden and happily join in the dance. All of these aspects are absolutely endearing and almost demand ownership. On top of all the feel-good qualities, lets not forget the reliability factor. Maintenance needs for the Falco when added up include the required first service, oil changes and tires. That's it. The biggest hassle we've had with this machine has been finding more time to ride it.

The combination of sporting attitude, quality touring accessories, and all-day comfort make the Aprilia Falco an absolute winner. I'm beginning to wonder if all this "new house" business is really all its cracked up to be.