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First Times Ride: 2014 Aprilia Caponord

The Aprilia Caponord is a worthy, luxurious addition to the growing field of adventure bikes
Aprilia Caponord: cheaper, more comfortable than the BMW GS1200 or Ducati Multistrada, but not more powerful

Once there was only the mighty BMW GS1200. Then there was the KTM 1190. Then came Ducati's Multistrada. And the Triumph Tiger Explorer. And Yamaha's Super Tenere. The big-bore adventure touring bike market was already crowded with excellent machines -- before Aprilia arrived with its own entry.

A deft combination of power and grace, the 2014 Aprilia Caponard 1200 ABS may be the most luxurious adventure touring bike of the batch. With a strong, torquey V-twin engine, soft clutch, buttery transmission, cushy ergonomics and excellent touring components, it's as fine a long distance adventure bike as I've ever ridden.

The motor is a cleaned-up version of the 1200 the elegant Italian company used in its Dorsoduro. It packs a claimed 125 horsepower, and pulls strong from everywhere in the power band. The engine produces very little vibration and very little noise, making for a smooth, silent ride, and delivers the power through a nicely stacked six-speed transmission. First gear, cut quite high, is good for get-around-town riding, whereas sixth is like a freeway overdrive gear.

The engine gets its power through a smart ride-by-wire system, with options for touring, sport and rain modes. The bike is equipped with three levels of traction control, and ABS, and includes a sophisticated semi-active, fully adjustable suspension system.  Changing modes is a one-thumb snap. The dash is generous with information. The bike comes standard with a center stand and cruise control.

The Capo is outfitted with wide, comfortable bars that make its heft feel more manageable. The mirrors are nicely sized and placed, too, and the relatively low vibration means you can actually see things with them. Everything about the bike speaks to fine, top-drawer fit and finish.

The bike also comes standard with two generous side bags, each big enough to hold a full-face helmet and then some.

It's heavier than some of its counterparts -- at 502 pounds, a full 50 pounds heavier than a comparably equipped GS1200 -- and less powerful than others -- the Multistrada kicks out 150 horsepower. And it probably needs a taller windscreen. On the other hand, it sits lower than either of those two bikes, with a seat height of only 33 inches.

And it's cheaper than either of those two, too. With an MSRP of $15,499, about the price of a Triumph Tiger Explorer, the Capo ain't cheap, but it's still $3,000 below a comparable BMW GS1200 and $4,000 below a comparable Multi.

Some reviewers have said the relatively lower foot-peg position caused some scraping in the corners. So it did for me, until I stiffened up the suspension using the easy dash adjustment. No more scraping, though I gave it a good go in the corners -- good enough that a companion behind me said, "You were so far over I thought you were going to scrape the side bags."

I rode two versions, first the standard 1200 ABS Travel Pack, and then a more luxurious model with a gel seat, top box (with passenger back rest) and heated grips. It being May in Lox Angeles, the heated grips were not useful, but the gel seat added comfort to an already comfortable seat, and my passenger found the ride so comfortable that she claimed to have actually dozed off for a second. On the road to Crystal Lake.

One of my riding buddies sat on the Caponord and said, "At last, a sport touring bike for a serious rider."

And that's the way it struck me. This is a magnificent beast, and unlike some of its rowdier, racier competitors, smooth and easy to ride. My only real complaint about the Caponord was that I had to give it back when I was done.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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