2015 Aprilia Caponord Rally: Finding the Right Mix

Text: Uwe Krauss • Photography: Kevin Wing, Uwe Krauss

The Caponord (English translation is the North Cape) is the northernmost point in Europe that can be reached by motorcycle (or car if you have to). It is situated in Norway at 71 degrees north latitude, similar to Prudhoe Bay, AK. The North Cape is basically a barren, storm chased rock at the edge of the Atlantic. The name and details make it sound like the most adventurous destination on the continent, but in fact, there is an asphalt road all the way up.

Considering these facts, Aprilia’s name for the adventure bike in their lineup fits very well. The Caponord sounds like pure adventure, but it is basically a sport-touring bike, which can be taken on mild off-road adventures. The newly-introduced Caponord Rally takes a slightly different approach. Off-road paths can now be conquered with much more certainty. The main reasons for the improved handling on the loose stuff are the 19-inch spoked front wheel (instead of 17 on the non-Rally), an adjusted front end geometry, and different tire dimensions (front: 120/70-R19; rear: 170/60-R17). In those sizes, a wide range of off-road oriented tires are available. But as long as the rider wants to stay mainly on-road, keep the stock tires. The bike comes with the tubeless Metzeler Tourance Next, a perfect fit. During the press launch in Sardinia, we had dry and wet conditions, and the tires transferred a lot of confidence from the surface to the rider—especially the narrower rear tire with its improved handling on asphalt.

The other obvious improvement toward more off-road capability is the new GIVI luggage system. The aluminum-covered plastic panniers look as if they could take a beating, unlike the nicely painted panniers on the original Caponord where every scratch would hurt the eye. The panniers each hold nine gallons. We like that they don’t stick out very far and keep the width of the bike at 36 inches. The decent engine protection and the metallic tubular side guards help to avoid expensive damage in case of a tip over.

Potent Engine With Addictive Sound

Still, most miles on this Aprilia will be ridden on asphalt and that’s where the bike really shines. The 125 horsepower engine delivers torquey V-twin power up from 2,000 rpm. The highly over square bore/stroke ratio is responsible for a very sporty output. Powerful and vehement, the engine revs quickly. Those who want serious grunt will find a real afterburner up at 9,000 rpm where it’ll stretch the arms. This is a potent and lively engine. The sound is very Italian—no understatement—a bit like a Ferrari with two cylinders and in one word: addictive.

Electronics Galore

These days electronics are almost as important as the engine itself. The engine is connected to the rider with a ride-by-wire system with three different modes: rain (100 hp), touring (125 hp, smooth throttle response), and sport (125 hp, very direct throttle response).

Brakes are managed by electronics as well. The two-way ABS system can be switched off for off-road excursions. The two 320mm discs in the front and single 240mm disc in the rear work inconspicuously. They give powerful, easy to modulate fade-free braking, which means they’re doing a good job.

The semi-active suspension is driven by electronics, too. The Aprilia engineers proudly reported the four patents protecting their ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping) system. The system measures the energy transmitted by bumps on the road surface to the bike and adjusts the hydraulic fork calibration and shock absorber in real time. It recognizes all the rider’s actions: acceleration, throttle release, braking, constant gas, etc. and calculates (via an algorithm) the best setup concerning comfort and safety. The damping is not adjustable by hand. The only thing the rider has to concentrate on is riding. We were slightly in doubt about that feature beforehand, but we have to admit it works—very well. And considering how often someone would usually adjust the damping as an average rider, it probably is a good idea to let the electronics do it all. The only thing the rider can adjust is the spring preload at the rear shock. Four modes can be selected from the display: rider only, rider with passenger, only rider with luggage, and rider and passenger with luggage. Or again, leave the decision to Aprilia’s engineers. There is an automatic mode, which detects the load on the bike and adjusts the preload automatically to keep the bike in perfect balance.

There is an electronic cruise control that disengages by touching brake, clutch, or cruise control commands. Customers these days might want, and even consider it a necessity, to have additional electronic helpers like traction control (it can be switched off for off-road purposes on the Aprilia) on powerful machines.

Compromising Gadget Is Optional

But with the next feature, we think Aprilia takes it one step too far. The Caponord comes with the option of a multimedia platform. Via a Bluetooth kit, the bike connects to a smartphone through the free Aprilia app. The phone display shows speedometer, rev counter, instantaneous engine power and torque, lean angle, longitudinal acceleration, instant and average fuel consumption, average speed, and battery voltage. All are displayed nicely—albeit it is one more thing to draw attention away from riding and from the environment. But in our opinion this is not the biggest downside. This app also saves all kinds of travel information like breaks, distance covered, speeds, maximum speed, etc. Now imagine a smart policeman wanting to have a look at your smartphone … currently this gadget is optional. Take it or leave it!

To Sum It Up

The new Caponord Rally comes in three matte colors: Giallo Dune (a dark, good looking yellow like on the test bike), Grigio Safari (gray), and Verde Army (dark army-green). Pillion comfort is average for a sporty bike like the Aprilia but definitely is not the reason to choose this bike. Tank capacity is 6.3 gallons. Expect to make about 200 miles at a brisk pace. There is a wide range of accessories that improve travel comfort and off-road capability: heated grips, 14-gallon topcase, and several aluminum covers. Additionally, there are two different anti-theft kits, one is based on satellite tracking and the other has a motion sensor and an engine lock—they might be useful.

The Caponord Rally is quite a desirable toy. It is a highly engineered bike and, in my opinion, a better and much more versatile version compared to the non-Rally Caponord. With the upright seating position, it is best suited for sport-touring with the occasional venture onto gravel. To sum it up: It can be ridden very comfortably and fast to the North Cape but could also manage its way up to Prudhoe Bay.

A Second Opinion: The Rally Is Ready to Lead the Pack
by Alfonse Palaima

Having recently put last year’s Caponord to the test on a long tour of California, little can be said to knock down the machine. It’s drool worthy in many ways. Some argue that the engine heat is an issue, but I found that to be an advantage on my snowy ride through Yosemite National Park—three traction control modes and ABS brakes also helped.

Upright, strong, fast … and it’s got that sexy Italian-twin growl! What’s not to like about the bike? The adventure-styled “street enduro” (as Aprilia calls it) is sold in the U.S. with the Travel Pack as standard and comes fully loaded with touring features like integrated saddlebags (easily fitting a Shoei RF-1200 helmet), a centerstand, cruise control, hand guards, and a manually adjustable windscreen. Plus that high revving liquid-cooled 90-degree 1197cc V-twin, sourced and re-tuned from the Dorsoduro, is hung from a Ducati monster-like trellis frame for touring-weight strength and rolling on the very same 17-inch wheels found on the RSV4. The best of both the racing and touring camps!

But was it everything a rider could want? With 125 horsepower and 84.8 lb-ft of torque at the ready, the Caponord was never intimidating—always flexible, flickable, and responsive—and with more rear wheel power than anyone needs on any given day. But Aprilia found a way to make it even better … that is if one includes dirt roads in his or her routes.

For those few riders that do ride off-pavement, Aprilia developed the Caponord Rally edition for model year 2015. Swapping cast wheels for spoked, replacing the 17-inch front wheel for a more trail-friendly 19 (which slightly alters the rake and trail to a sharper point), and adding only 22 pounds (dry). Swap out color chips, add in some adventure-styled saddlebags, toss on some engine and body guards, and voila! Let’s rally! It’s well worth the 0 price bump.

Engine and Brembo brakes remain the same stock. The Rally also has the same switchable ABS, multimode traction control, and dynamic damping system found on the ‘base’ Caponord. The dry gravel roads of California’s Alabama Hills were no match … even with round tires! Just imagine a suspension system, both front and rear, that can go full hard to full soft in 20 milliseconds (10 each way). Say goodbye to stutter bumps!

Now more in step with the competition, offering two versions of (nearly) the same bike for different buyers, the Caponord Rally is about to lead the pack in any upcoming comparison tests.