Mikko tackles the Aprilia. Be sure to check back over the next few days for the rest of the bikes – Suzuki V-Strom 650, Yamaha Tenere 700 and the Moto Morini X-Cape.
This was the first one to arrive at the lock-up when we picked up the bikes for this test, so I had the first shout about which one to ride before the others got there.
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I had ridden the Suzuki and Yamaha before, so I discounted them. Then it was just between the Moto Morini and the Aprilia. I wish I could tell you that I employed some careful consideration there, but I simply went for the one that I thought looked better: the Aprilia Tuareg 660.
As soon as I had made my choice, I sat on the bike, did a couple of little loops around the unit and was certain I had made the right choice. No matter how good the Morini was, it was not going to be this good!
The same admiration of the bike continued as we rode up to the Dales for the main part of our test.
I couldn’t believe how light the steering was, how quickly and accurately the bike turned, and what a lovely piece of engineering that 660cc parallel twin engine was. Whether zigzagging through towns or attacking A and B roads, the Tuareg was in its element. It was easy and effortless to ride, and the soundtrack from the engine kept a smile on my face all day.
The only time when I noticed a slight dint in the Tuareg’s armour was when we were riding on the motorways. What had felt like lovely light steering at slower speeds, turned into a slightly worrying light and vague feeling. It could be to do with the knobbly AX41 tyres that we had put on the bike because of the trail sections of our ride, but I found myself thinking that a steering damper would be handy. Still, dropping the speeds a bit seemed to help with that. Another speed-related problem I had was the non-adjustable screen that became very noisy at higher speeds. Again, dropping the speed a little, the issue was fixed.
Comfort all the way
Riding around the Yorkshire Dales for three days was the perfect test of bike comfort, and the Aprilia fared a lot better than I had expected.
The riding position is one of the best that I have come across, with the seat, bars and pegs all positioned so perfectly to create a relaxed riding position for me that it felt tailor-made. The seat is much comfier than it looks, and long days in the saddle are easy. The handlebars are nice and wide, helping further with that light steering feel and giving you plenty of leverage for fast turning – you wouldn’t believe that you are turning a 21in front wheel.
The Tuareg’s suspension is fairly soft, which helps with comfort, but can make the bike feel like it’s a little lethargic when ridden hard. For me this is fine as I would always take comfort over razor-sharp accuracy, but if you were going to do a lot of off-roading you might want to make some changes to get the most out of the 240mm travel.
What has it got?
In terms of tech, the Aprilia has a nifty TFT screen that shows you the ride modes, traction control, cruise control, ABS settings (which can be turned off), but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a fuel gauge. Strange.
I didn’t find that the ride modes made a huge difference, so apart from engaging the off-road mode when we left the Tarmac for some lanes, I didn’t feel like I needed to adjust anything. It all worked perfectly well without me fiddling with it.
Cruise control was a nice little bonus, too, making long stints on big roads that little bit more carefree.
From the beginning of our test to the very end, I remained convinced that I was on the best bike of the bunch. Certainly the one best suited to my style and the kind of riding I do.
There are some small niggles with the Tuareg, such as the flimsy bash plate, screen and lack of fuel gauge, but they are by far outweighed by the stonking twin engine with its beautiful soundtrack. It feels and sounds so good that you just want to accelerate, slow down, accelerate again, and repeat until you have a queue of cars behind you.
For me, the Tuareg looks, sounds and rides the best of the bunch.
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