Aprilia Shiver 900 and Dorsoduro 900

Text: Gabe Ets-Hokin • Photography: Kevin Wing, Brian Nelson

You (or your grandad) may have had a UJM—Universal Japanese Motorcycle—in the ’70s or ’80s. It could do it all, and there are plenty of good standard models out there today, but what if you want something with a dollop of Italian panache? Aprilia has offered a middleweight standard in the U.S. market for years, but it’s been overlooked, perhaps because of its lack of arm-stretching literbike power.

Well, here’s something for power-hungry Americans, the standard Shiver and supermoto-styled Dorsoduro, now with beefed-up power output, styling, and suspension. Aprilia showed the North American moto-press the mostly new bikes in Ventura, California, letting us experience these sporty, versatile roadsters on twisty, windy Highway 33. I took a Shiver home with me, too. Mostly because I could, but also to see what it’s like to ride 400 miles in a day and how it handles my local twisties. You’re welcome.

Powertrain and Performance

The Shiver and Dorsoduro retain the same basic engine architecture introduced a decade ago, but that platform was intended to support models up to 1200cc. Aprilia stroked the motor to 67.4mm and made the pistons lighter and dipped them in nitride to reduce friction. Aprilia retained the Shiver’s excellent ride-by-wire throttle and upgraded the fuel-injection with new injectors and the Marelli 7SM ECU that weighs more than a pound less than the old system. There’s also adjustable traction control and three engine-mapping modes to let you tailor power delivery and control. It all adds up to a claimed 93 horsepower at 8,750 rpm and 66 lb-ft of torque at a very realistic 6,500 rpm. 

What I discovered was a really great sport-touring powerplant. Smooth, tractable power is available everywhere in the rev range, precisely metered, though you’ll note some surging at steady throttle around 4,000 rpm at around-town speeds. Torque delivery is entertaining on both models, a blast blasting out of corners: 100 mph arrives in no time at all. I found the lack of top-end power disappointing for a big, sporty V-twin, but this is no Panigale; the Shiver and Dorso will be happier on the streets than the racetrack.

Chassis and Handling

Aprilia wasn’t content leaving the chassis alone and tweaked the hybrid aluminum/steel frame using lessons learned from supermoto and World Superbike competition. Aprilia also added new wheels on both bikes, shaving a few pounds, and has upgraded the suspension—both the fork and direct-action rear monoshock are adjustable for preload and rebound damping. Both bikes weigh in around 480 pounds. 

Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Both the Shiver and Dorso are very entertaining to ride, with a measure of control and agile handling that lets you know you’re on a rider’s bike that’s unintimidating to the less experienced but rewarding for those who want to push the envelope. Of the two, the Dorso is more entertaining on backroads, with faster, more direct steering, and a zany supermoto feel. The Shiver is no slouch, though, with smooth, predictable, light handling. Once leaned over, it holds its line precisely, as if the steering is ride-by-wire as well. I did notice some wallowing in high-speed corners, which you can dial out by adjusting rebound damping. 

The brakes on both bikes are good but not great, despite the Brembo-like looks and radial mounted, four-piston calipers. They don’t deliver the bite, feel, or grip of more expensive components. But they do the job, and the switchable Continental ABS works as smoothly and seamlessly as any high-end ABS should.

Features and Ergonomics

Aprilia has loaded the Shiver and Dorso with amenities. On the Shiver, the accommodations are very comfortable, with a broad, comfy seat for rider and passenger, an info-packed trip computer, and both bikes have provisions for Aprilia’s AMP connectivity system, which lets you pair Bluetooth headsets through the bike to allow the rider to safely manage communications and entertainment. 

I found the controls very easy to use after learning how to use them, and the Shiver made a fine touring companion as well. The ergonomics—seat, bar, and footpegs—are comfortable for all-day trips, but you’ll probably want a windscreen if you do that a lot. The Dorso is predictably more Spartan to suit its supermoto aggressiveness, but still not a bad place to spend an afternoon. 

Maybe the biggest nit I have to pick with these bikes is the fuel range. Aprilia claims four gallons for the Shiver and three for the Dorso, but I have yet to cram more than about 3.5 gallons into the Shiver. I’ve been averaging about 40 mpg on the Shiver (keeping it under 65 improves this), which means you’ll see less than 140 miles before you’re calling Aprilia’s media rep and asking for a gallon of gas to get you on your way (thanks, Shane!). If the Dorso’s tank is a full gallon smaller, carry a gas can, because you may not even get 100 miles from home.

Finishing Touches 

For around $ 9,000, these two bikes deliver very good value, but more importantly, they offer a lot of fun and practicality along with great styling, build quality and attention to detail. The Shiver is an excellent do-it-all machine that will make a lot of riders very happy—imagine Suzuki’s SV650 with 20 more hp and quality suspension! For more occasional riders, the Dorso is also appealing. I think of it as a Ducati Hypermotard that’s comfortable and easy to ride, with suspension that doesn’t bobble under braking or beat you up in bumpy corners. Is it worth the $ 1,700 premium? That’s your call.

The Shiver is heavy for its power, but the midrange oomph and close-to-perfect fuelling, great handling, and throttle response make it really fun to ride; its comfort, pricing, and good fuel economy make it appeal to your frontal lobe, too. The Dorso may be more fun for terrorizing the twisties, but swapping the Shiver’s front sprocket with the Dorso’s 14-tooth and maybe modifying the front suspension a bit would make the Shiver almost as good. It’s a Universal Italian Motorcycle for a new generation and a choice more riders may start making for 2018.