‘Pouring cold water down my pants’ – An Italian Love Story and 2007 Aprilia Tuono Review – The Curtis Files Part 3


My GSX-R was an awesome bike and all, but 6 months later I found myself looking for something new. The gixxer was fast and sexy, but it just lacked a certain something, masculinity or brashness if you will. In addition to this the throttle snatch was starting to shit me and to be honest if you were to ride 300-400 km’s in a day your legs would be as stiff as my fat at the Ducati factory. It was actually a Ducati that started it, when I happened to hear some big v-twins one day while riding. What a sound! Was that what I was looking for? Sure enough, as soon as I got home I was on YouTube looking at clips of v-twins. So began my search for another bike.

Reenactment –                                                                                              

Curtis (after looking at videos of v-twins): ‘My God I must have one!’

Sensible Curtis (insert female partners name to get realistic effect): ‘But you already have a perfectly good bike?’

Curtis: ‘No one would question my masculinity if I had a thunderous v-twin…’

Sensible Curtis: ‘What? People aren’t questioning your masculinity?’

Curtis: ‘That’s it; I’m getting one, crisis averted!’

Sensible Curtis: ‘Dickhead…’

I started searching for a twin cylinder that offered greater comfort than the GSX-R, similar performance but retained that bad-ass attitude. I looked at the Kawasaki Z1000, Honda CB1000R, Triumph Speed Triple and none of them appealed to me. They were too conservative, ugly or everyone had one. The SV1000 and VTR1000F simply didn’t have the performance I was after unless you did a bit of work to them.

I kept searching and stumbled across the 1st generation Aprilia Tuono. What an ugly, miss matched looking thing. But it had the credentials. Then I saw the 2nd generation Tuono. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Look at that. Look at it!

So purdy
So purdy

After pouring cold water down my pants and changing my jocks I actually researched the bike. On paper it appeared to tick all the right boxes. Greater comfort, stonking performance, v-twin sound, model looks and that all important masculinity. Journo’s and owners seemed to love the bike to boot. I loved the shape and the loud colour schemes. Onto bikesales.com again…

One of the problems with an exclusive bike is that there aren’t many for sale. On the upside, due to their scarcity you will find that owners are generally meticulous, passionate bike lovers that have a higher tendency to fastidiously maintain their bikes. I took my time searching for this bike and didn’t rush into things (for once!). After searching I finally found the one, an orange number in immaculate condition and perfectly maintained by a bike nut.

Now there have only been a few bikes I have ridden and just instantly fallen in love with. This is one of them. I’m not talking ‘that was a really nice bike’ or ‘that had great power’, I’m talking love *cue Marvin Gaye playing in the background*.  The paint work positively gleams, the stance is sporting and aggressive but still promising comfort with the motocross style handlebars. Oh you naughty little Italian you. I rode it and everything just clicked. The power delivery, riding position and…feel. Sometimes you ride a bike and it just feels ‘right’.

The bike is immediately comfortable, the pegs are high but relaxed. The bars are very wide and the riding position is very euro to begin with – different – but not in a bad way.  This feeling disappears after the initial adjustment period and becomes natural. The seat isn’t horrible either.

Turning the bike on you are greeted by a clear, well displayed dash. Pretty much everything you can think of is on the dash; mileage, analogue tachometer, top speed, average speed, shift light adjustment, lap timer, temperature, kitchen sink…but wait, no fuel guage? While not necessary I just thought considering it has everything else ever created it wouldn’t be a stretch to put one in. I suppose it is basically a sports bike with high handlebars not a tourer after all.

Firing the Tuono up fitted with aftermarket pipes is glorious. The engine is a 60 degree Rotax v-twin and offers a unique sound. It sounds amazing at full chat yet not obnoxious at idle, almost sophisticated. Torque is immediate off bottom, lifting the front wheel with the slightest amount of assistance. If you can’t wheel stand a Tuono you are either; A) a skirt or B) haven’t learnt to twist a throttle hard enough yet you skirt! The engine builds into a great midrange. It’s like a big, fat meat pie, delicious. Where the Tuono sets itself apart from other nakeds though, is it keeps revving. It doesn’t have the sheer speed of a proper sports bike, but you’re still going to hit $2.60 without any issues. On a bike that has little to no wind protection, that’s moving. In any case, this bike is more about railing turns, powering out of them and going into a wheel stand before putting the front down and doing it again. Sploosh.

Fueling is really good throughout but does hunt when you are holding a constant 3500ish revs. The only other time I had issues was downshifting. When blipping the throttle, the fueling would break up and splutter slightly. While only a minor issue, it’s still there and when you don’t have much else to critique it stands out. Overall though, the engine is a stormer.

The chassis is fantastic too. Its stable at all speeds yet still changes direction well. And man does it hold a corner. Further to this, while tipped over mid corner the bike allows you to adjust and avoid obstacles (rocks, debris). Aprilia certainly know how to build a bike that handles.

The suspension keeps up and has plenty of adjustability but isn’t amazing. It’s good, but not great. The front and rear are firm, but not harsh. I never felt like the suspension held me back per se, but the chassis was definitely superior. I installed an Ohlins rear shock that offered greater feel, a worthwhile investment if you can pick one up for a good price. If you can’t I recommend just getting the shock re-valved along with the forks. I didn’t personally get my forks done, but the general consensus is they respond really well to changes that bring them into line with the expensive Ohlins gear.

The front brakes are really good. These are proper Brembo’s and offer good feel and power. The back brakes however are forgettable, very typical of older Italian bikes. They are neither strong nor terrible, just meh. Something that wasn’t forgettable is how they loved to be bled, a pain in the ass but not the end of the world. This wasn’t just my bike or me being a spanner but a design fault on nearly all 2nd gen Tuono’s.

So the engine and chassis are great, the suspension and brakes good, how’s the build quality and reliability? To start with, the build quality of the frame and swing arm is amazing. The welds look great; they hold their polished look and don’t tarnish. The paint work is also extremely good. There a few places where the build quality isn’t up to the same standard though. The dash will fog up with moisture. The only way to fix this is to mod the screen or replace it (replacements generally do the same thing over time though). The radiator cap is awkward to get on correctly (I learnt this the hard way) and the rear tail light assembly is flimsy and collects moisture.

On the reliability side of things, the engine, gearbox and componentry are great. The engines are universally known to do big miles without any problems. Where you can run into problems (again typical older Italian) is electrics. Most commonly is the brown connector issue, an electrical connection that sits between the v on the engine that gives out. The other potential issues are the regulator rectifier and stator. I personally had these three problems. Still in 2 years of ownership the Tuono only left me stranded the one time and once these issues are sorted, you should get big miles.

Fuel range isn’t terrible but could be better. The fuel light comes on very early (160km) but I generally filled up at about 200-220kms with a bit to spare. Expect around 7.5 l/100kms depending on how much you hate your life that day.

One must-do modification is to change the gearing. Stock gearing is extremely tall and makes the bike lumpy around town. While this might suit the straights of Phillip Island on the RSVR doing 300km/h, this is a naked bike. I dropped the front sprocket one tooth and it was great, improving ridability and acceleration but not sacrificing practicality. Another nit pick is the radiator level is hard to read.

To sum things up, this is a great bike. It has personality, looks, sounds great and rails corners. But like any woman worth keeping, she has some issues. But deal with them and you will be rewarded with a woman that won’t let you down but still consistently delivers the thrills.

So, what happened to my relationship with the Tuono you say? Like all Hollywood couples, after a period of 2 years we decided it was time to divorce and move on. Now I wouldn’t say I have any regrets in life, more decisions I wish I didn’t make and could reverse. 1) Is not buying a 2007 Gas Gas 450 that was in perfect condition and getting a 2007 Husqvarna 450 instead. 2) Is selling this bike.

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