2006 Aprilia Tuono 1000R

Text: Mark Pierce • Photography: Jaclyn Monell

In recent years, the Aprilia product line has been stacked end-to-end with truly inspired bikes such as the Tuono, the Mille, and the no longer domestically available Futura, that dominated the top slots of many an enthusiast's "if money were no object" list. This was no small feat considering many far larger entities fail to produce even one bike belonging to that class. Unfortunately, the company's ownership problems precluded it from providing the sort of marketing and distribution support that their superbly designed motorcycles deserved.

Those days are now behind them. Having taken out the base model designation Tuono from their 2006 lineup in favor of simply offering the Tuono 1000R, Aprilia begins its Piaggio-owned era in fine form. The model already revered by many as a "dream machine," has now been massaged into an even lighter, shorter, more powerful version of its former self.

Concept and Transformation
The Tuono comes perhaps closer than any other factory-produced naked bike to achieving the Platonic ideal of a naked race replica. This results from a blend of racetrack performance, street riding ergonomics, and stylish Italian design. The Aprilians have taken the RSV1000 Mille R, removed the fairing, slightly lengthened the velocity stacks to add more mid-range power and torque, and shaved a mere 6hp off the peak of the Mille R's power curve while still delivering 8hp more than the previous year's Tuono.

A cluster of small but extremely handsome touches of bodywork have been added to improve airflow and smooth over a handful of unsightly rough edges. Aprilia added bars that were higher and wider than the R and refined the ergoes to accommodate the physical needs of an untucked rider. And "Voila!" One naked supersport hooligan bike!

Engine and Transmission
While the original Tuono's forward motion tended to lift the front off the ground, Aprilia does not maintain at any level that it has diminished the Tuono in any way for 2006; although they have in fact lowered the handlebar risers of the Tuono and mounted the engine further forward, thereby redistributing more weight over the front wheel. Hence, there is the same Tuono torque when starting, but less unplanned upward loft. However, for those who enjoyed the Tuono's pre-2006 disposition, Aprilia has included a one-tooth-shorter 15-tooth spare sprocket which, once installed, will transform this dream machine from a bike that wheelies at the will of the rider, into a bike that wheelies with a will of its own.

Ideally suited to its street-fighter aesthetic, the very character of the Italian twin-cylinder design is visceral, mechanical, and raw. Piped through stainless steel dual exhaust cans running a 2-into-1-into-2 configuration, the soundtrack harkens more closely to a chainsaw cutting its way through hardwood than an inline-four's nest of high-revving hornets, and living up to its name - after all, Tuono is Italian for "Thunder."

As for the mechanicals, the redesigned Ram-Air inducted, V60 Magnesium, 998cc V-Twin mill, and close ratio gearbox are taken nearly intact off of the Mille assembly line and received only minor adjustments. Aprilia reworked the cylinder head ports, camshafts, and valvetrain, and milled out the throttle bodies from 51mm to a gaping 57mm in the 2006 version. Additionally, a speedy 16-bit processor now manages new fuel injection maps. These and a multitude of other refinements culminate in a lighter, more powerful engine that really snarls when wound up above 7,000rpm and simply roars its way onward to a peak offering of 133hp at 9,500rpm. It's easy to get carried away with the thrill of the throttle, so I was pleased to find that the Aprilia's hydraulically operated PPC (Pneumatic Power Clutch) does a brilliant job of reducing rear wheel bounce under rapid downshifting when approaching a corner.

Chassis and Brakes
While the Tuono's engine delivers plentiful torque and power, in this age of 1400cc "hypertourers," there are any number of bikes that compare favorably in that regard. What sets the naked Aprilia apart from the crowd is the sweetness of its handling responses. The high and wide gold-tinted bars significantly diminish the physical exertion required to maneuver the stripped superbike through a full day of vigorous exercise, and the accompanying ergonomic adjustments serve to increase rider comfort and reduce fatigue.

Resultantly, the Tuono can be classified as one of the few bikes proffering this kind of track-ready performance and still be ridden comfortably on an 800-mile roundtrip between Santa Monica and Monterey, for example - in one case, two-up with soft saddlebags. Back in Santa Monica, as I urge the Tuono through the side-winding sweepers of Angeles Crest minus passenger and bags, the sticky Dunlop D208RR tires, 43mm fully-adjustable Showa inverted forks, and Sachs monoshock-buffered double-banana-shaped swing arm do my bidding with responsive precision. The bike is tuned stiff for performance, but of course, optimal sag for personal riding style is merely an adjustment away. The new twin-beam aluminum frame is tighter and lighter than the previous year's edition and the wheelbase is shorter as well, for an even crisper, nimbler response. The Tuono comes stock with a steering damper.

The four-pad, four-piston, radial Brembo Gold front brake calipers and 320mm floating steel discs grip strongly and stay gripped while still providing good sensitivity under trail-braking. This quadruple-pad system achieves an increase in braking force and more even wear.

It is worth noting that, at its rear wheel, the Tuono sports a 220mm steel disc hugged by a Brembo Gold dual-piston caliper. There have been a few complaints about rear brake "sponginess" on an Aprilia forum, and a debate as to its possible cause, but despite intentionally and repeatedly deploying the rear pinchers to elicit this reaction, I was unable to recreate it on my test.

Accessories and Arrangements
It seems an oxymoron to discuss the "accessories and arrangements" of a bike that, by its very definition, is stripped naked of any unnecessary part or component. After all, despite its origin as an unfaired Mille, the Tuono only benefits all the more from its self-defined rawness and intentional roughness.

There are, however, a few new design elements that add to the Tuono's visual appeal, including a sharp-looking LED-lit tailsection, and a smiling-insect-face lighting cluster, both derived from the RSV. For 2006, the seat was dropped by 0.6 inches, the handlebar risers are a touch lower too, and the footpegs were relocated for a slightly more aggressive forward-leaning riding position. For the two-up traveler, there is the added advantage that the Aprilia rolls off the showroom floor with both a tail cap and a sizeable pillion with built-in grab rails.

For those wanting to further optimize the Tuono 1000R's already scorching performance, Akropovic pipes, Ohlins shocks, and a full complement of carbon fiber accessories are available. The Tuono 1000R comes in three color schemes: Silver, Black, and Fluo Red.

You can't really go wrong with any of these, as they all accent the bike's basic design beautifully.

Test Summary
The irresistible allure of the Tuono is that it enables you to relish the performance of a truly uncompromised superbike, while enjoying the comfort and rideability of a standard. Best of all, the fiery Tuono just seems to perform better and better the harder it is ridden. Those who have ridden the bike invariably speak of it with a gleam in their eyes and a grin on their faces.

The $ 13,000 price tag may seem steep to some, but the Tuono offers a riding experience so far beyond that of its naked peers that it truly justifies the premium.

Second Opinion
Tuono, Italian for thunder, is an excellent and precise description of the naked V2-Aprilia. The bike is like a thunderstorm: aggressive, rough, occasionally, ready to bolt at any second. You are dealing with a strong character, not malleable, easily pushed around, or suited to smooth riding: only experienced riders need apply. Handling is on the average very easy, and if you dictate precisely where you want it to go, you will find it responds instantly and will go where you ask - maybe even too quickly or easily for an inexperienced rider.

And if you like to ride on the wild side, if you love hard cornering - on racetracks too - then this is the perfect partner. Note that for twisty back roads, you might be better off with a smaller rear tire (180 instead of 190) resulting in even better agility and easier handling.

The combination of elevated saddle height "the same as the sister RSV1000", with model-like slimness, very well-balanced chassis, and broad handlebars ensures that even shorter riders (under 5'7") will not get into trouble reaching the ground. However, you might encounter some problems if you want to take a passenger on long-distance trips: you can expect complaints, as the rear seat is a most uncomfortable place. Better stay with riding solo!

The Tuono might not be an all-over artful beauty like the MV Agusta Brutale, but it has a lot of muscle power and a very fine finish, as well as high-end accessories such as carbon parts. Or you can choose the all new 1000 R factory model - it has 6 more hp (139 instead of 133) and 13 lbs (6 kilos) less dry weight: 399 lbs (181 kilos) instead of 412 lbs (187 kilos).

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Aprilia Tuono 1000R

+ Superbike performance, ergoes of a standard, fantasy factor of a supermodel date
- Limited dealer network, inability to stop riding a detriment to career and family, approximate cost of a supermodel date

Distributor Aprilia USA

www.apriliausa.com
MSRP $ 12,999
Engine longitudinal 60° V-twin,
DOHC, eight valve
Displacement 997cc
Bore x Stroke 97 x 67.5mm
Carburetion integrated electronic engine
management system,
57mm throttle bodies
Power 133hp @ 9,500rpm
Cooling liquid
Ignition digital electronic ignition
Transmission six-speed
Frame box section sloping twin-spar frame in aluminum alloy
Front Suspension 43mm inverted fork,
fully adjustable,
4.7in (120mm) travel
Rear Suspension single shock, APS
(Aprilia Progressive System),
spring preload and
rebound adjustable,
5.2in (133mm) travel
Rake/Trail 25° / 4.1in (103.7mm)
Brakes Front/Rear twin 320mm discs,
four piston Brembo
calipers/single
220mm disc,
twin piston caliper
Tires Front/Rear 120/70 ZR 17
190/50 ZR 17
(180/55 ZR17 factory
recommended alternative)
Dry Weight 407.9lbs (185kg)
Wheelbase 55.5in (1,410mm)
Seat Height 31.9in (810mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gallons (18 liters)
Fuel Consumption n / a
Colors silver, black, fluo red