2009 Aprilia SL750 Shiver

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Christa Neuhauser

Italian motorcycles are cool, that's hard to deny. Their sound, style, and performance have long tempted enthusiasts with an undeniable aura of exclusivity. And while riders around the globe have long coveted these qualities, the experience has traditionally come at a price. But in Aprilia's new Shiver, a not so shocking sticker is now a legitimate part of the equation. Now, that is cool.

Though quite well known overseas, Aprilia is still developing their niche here in the States. Their marque boldly emblazoned across the gas tank sparks reactions ranging from awe or head scratching to brutal name butchering. "What's an Appa-rella?" The small company from Noale may presently be a bit player in our domestic motorcycle market, but with the Shiver, it's obvious they are making a play for a share of the burgeoning entry-level segment. This nifty new naked is competitively configured, provocatively priced, and obviously intended to leave the competition out in the cold.

The Punch

Yes, it is a V-twin and, yes, the Shiver's mill couldn't be further from your daddy's cruiser cranker. In fact, the cylinder configuration is about the only traditional thinking associated with this motor. From the moment fire meets piston, the grins begin. And for sound junkies, this is one of the baddest sounding bikes out there - bone stock! Even avowed earpluggers will feel the need to sometimes go sans foam just to hear this two-banger's raspy baritone melody. But before the clutch is even actuated, it's worth a quick rundown of the technology behind the symphonics.

The Shiver features an engine management system employing ride-by-wire technology that electronically links the throttle hand to the throttle bodies. While the twist grip feels and appears conventional, it is anything but. Right wrist feedback is only one parameter that the computerized electronic accelerator uses to optimize the fuel injection. Other factors the bike's brain takes into account range from the obvious engine speed and selected gear to the more esoteric temperature and atmospheric conditions.

The wireless throttle allows for the addition of three manually adjustable fuel-injection mapping modes that produce markedly different performance characteristics. A quick double tap of the starter button with the throttle in the off position enables the rider to toggle between a Touring Mode for smoother, open-road running, the Rain Mode that seriously muzzles the ponies to curtail wheel spin, and Sport Mode for big-time throttle response and lots more fun. This slick standard feature works well and adds a whole new dimension of entertainment to the ride.

Aprilia's claim that the Shiver's 750 twin delivers 95hp at 9000 rpm feels right. There's more than enough juice for enthusiastic sport riding, even two-up. The tractable power is sent to the rear wheel via a slick shifting but sometimes finicky six-speed gearbox. The hydraulic clutch performed flawlessly no matter the chosen power range, and the lever is four-position adjustable. However, I did experience too many false neutrals. Whether I shifted easily or banged hard, the propensity to get caught between gears was definitely there. This aggravating trait is the only scratch on an otherwise excellent powertrain.

The Sway

Handling has always been the sweet spot of Italian rides, and the Shiver is certainly in the zone. For those with dirt-bike backgrounds, the upright and on-top seating position is a pure joy. The fat aluminum handlebars remind one of the larger Tuono. They have a motocross-like bend that offers great leverage, although the steering lock does tend to limit sharp, low-speed maneuvers. But once the bike is under way, that quibble quickly disappears. The modular steel trellis/aluminum frame is very rigid and compact, adding to the nimble yet confident footing displayed in the twisties. Combined with a stout aluminum swingarm and a single, side-mounted preload and rebound adjustable Sachs shock, this is a chassis that can be flogged mercilessly with no sign of flex. Up front, a set of stout, 43mm upside down forks complete the suspension system and strike a fine balance despite their lack of adjustability. Whether pinning the wheel to winding mountain tarmac or cruising the route to work, these tubes didn't dish out any surprises or harsh reactions.

There's great news in the braking department, too. Dual 320mm rotors up front are pinched by four-piston, radial-mounted calipers actuated by a four-position adjustable lever. Out back, a single piston caliper grabs a 240mm disc. The added benefit of stock, steel braided lines all the way around top off this impressive binder package. The slightest pressure allows easy modulation in traffic and through the curves; and a vigorous fistful may easily result in deceleration of the one-wheeled variety if care is not exercised. The Shiver's stop is every bit as competent as its go.

The End of the Day

With an anemic dry weight listed at 416 pounds, this bike simply begs for mountain duty. The impressive array of sport-inspired components not only looks first-rate on paper, they perform that way as well, especially under aggressive conditions. While some might consider a 31.9-in. seat height to be on the tall side, an almost dual-sport level of ground clearance is a benefit that merges with the nimble steering to make curve carving a breeze. No matter the situation, the Shiver always feels light on its feet and able to adopt any line deemed necessary. The seat is firm and surprisingly comfortable. Long days are well within the Shiver's capabilities and sport-touring forays are more than doable - they're highly encouraged. But do keep in mind that highway stints can become a little wearisome due to the absence of any wind protection. But, hey, that gives you a perfect excuse for sticking to the road less traveled.

Complementing the nifty engine electrics, the Shiver also features a truly modern gauge arrangement. A large, easy-to-read analog tachometer is offset by a digital instrument panel that receives all its information via CAN line. It actually has a memory and is an integral part of the overall diagnostics system. The readout is LED backlit and all functions can be toggled through a handlebar-mounted control.

From the passenger's seat, the Aprilia received mixed reviews. The pillion, like the driver's seat, is quite comfortable despite its somewhat skinny appearance. Longer rides are easy propositions and the higher perch offers excellent visibility. One major problem, though: the pipes. The styling and routing of the under-seat dual mufflers is visually stunning, but the heat that envelops the passenger, especially on warmer days, was deemed a potential "deal breaker".

Overall, the Shiver is one heck of a fun motorcycle. The 750 V-twin has the top end to run the open roads with comparably sized fours and the oomph to show them a thing or two in the tight stuff. The rigid chassis and swingarm instill the kind of confidence that brings out the best in almost any rider. The tranny is a bit on the annoying side, but quirky just happens to be a word often used to describe bikes from the land of the lire. While there are a few early-model issues to iron out, the overall potential of the Shiver is formidable.

It remains to be seen whether the $ 8,999 MSRP will attract an American audience. But judging from our set of overly scuffed tires, this Aprilia should get its fair share of attention and is undoubtedly worth a long hard look from riders of any experience level.