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aprilia tuono v-twin

Future Collectibles - Aprilia Tuono V-twin series

(originally published in MT #350, July 2019)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

aprilia tuono v-twin

Rolling Thunder

Aprilia’s big V-twin proved you could have lunatic performance in a naked bike

While we’re not about to claim the Italians invented the naked sports bike, it’s fair to say they raised the art form to a new level when Aprilia launched the Tuono on an unsuspecting public. The relatively young company, which started with 50cc mopeds in 1968, had, through the 1990s, shown a very real talent for trying new things and making a name for itself as an at times quirky innovator.

In 1998, it signaled its intentions with the big end of the bike market, with the launch of the RSV Mille, a lively and very capable litre class sports machine. That was backed up with the Falco sports tourer.

While both those machines made their mark, and the Mille in particular won fans, neither had quite the same impact as the Tuono, first shown in prototype form at the Bologna Motor Show in December 2001.

This model was a project lead by engineer Klaus Nennewitz, who got his first big break in the industry via short-lived American dirt bike make ATK – remember them? He and in-house stylist Giuseppe Ricciuti set about converting a Mille R into a naked bike, and in record time. The story goes it was production-ready in just five weeks.

You might gather from that short gestation that there were remarkably few changes to the original, and you’d be right. Ditch the full fairing, come up with a bikini version using the firm’s distinctive three-lamp headlight set, fit a big wide set of handlebars and relocate the footpegs. That was it.

Really the key to this was they didn’t change the powerplant. Much to the frustration of horsepower hounds everywhere, standard practice for bike makers when coming up with a naked-class derivative of their premium sports model was to completely revise the engine tuning. That meant more low and midrange, while top-end was sacrificed. All terribly sensible in theory, but of course lots of owners would then spend a fortune reversing the factory mods and returning full horsepower.

Reading between the lines, Aprilia’s decision to leave things alone may have been less inspiration than a reflection of harsh economic reality. It didn’t actually have the budget to mess with an already very capable engine. In fact, they didn’t even change the final gearing, which might have benefited the performance, as a change of sprocket sizes meant redoing all the design approvals for noise and emissions.

Whether driven by a tight budget or clever thinking, or both, the end result was a sensation in the market. A proper full-power naked bike, at last! These days the claimed 126 horses may not seem like a big deal, but you need to remember Honda’s then current premium RC51 superbike replica, aka the VTR1000 SP2, wasn’t far ahead with a claim of 133 horses. So the ’Priller was up there with the big boys.

Initially, Aprilia produced a run of just 200 Tuono R high-spec untis, complete with Ohlins suspension, OZ wheels and upmarket Brembo stoppers – all from the Mille R. The price was steep, topping some $30,000 in Australia.

However, as is often the case with Italian makers, the high-end version was a precursor to the ‘cooking’ model, which sold at a far more reasonable (though still steep) $22,000. While lower spec than its limited-run cousin, it still ran decent gear, such as 43mm Showa USD fork up front and a Boge rear shock.

What was it like? I can’t recall these things ever getting a luke-warm review. They were definitely in the ‘most fun you can have with your pants on’ motorcycle category. Its Rotax twin engine produced oodles of urge at pretty much any engine speed, while being an absolute howler up top. Both the transmission and clutch worked well, though the latter could be a little on the stiff side.

Aided to some extent by the big wide handlebars, they were ridiculously easy to throw around, despite being quite tall in the saddle, while the combination of well-chosen geometry and good suspension meant they were very trustworthy in a turn. Braking was powerful with good feel.

Losing the full fairing wasn’t that big a deal, as the mini version had a fair-sized screen that deflected much of the air stream.

All up, while the Mille was the sexier-looking choice, the Tuono (which is Italian for thunder, by the way) was a better ride in most circumstances.

aprilia tuono v-twin

The first generation twins lasted 2003 to 2005 and the second from 2006 to 2010. Generation two saw the Tuono adopt the upgrades for the Mille, such as a MkII ‘magnesium’ version of the powerplant, which now claimed 131 horses. There had in act been a significant re-engineering of the machine, which had seen the claimed dry weight drop from 194 to 184kg.

That means everything, including the frame, came in for a major overhaul. The company had also gone a little more conventional on the styling, losing the three-eyed look up front for a more conventional twin lamp set-up.

Over the years, Aprilia produced a host of variants on the theme, including assorted R and Factory versions with more exotic suspension and trim, with later versions picking up niceties such as radial mount brakes.

Something the tech heads among you might appreciate is the alloy frames and swingarms on these machines, which were a work of art.

Time has treated them pretty well. Poorly repaired crashes – particularly in the frame and chassis – is something to be alert for. And I’d be particularly thorough if inspecting a machine that had been an insurance write off at some stage. First-generation bikes benefit from upgrading the battery, which makes them less prone to chewing out a sprag clutch on the starter. Also, Ohlins fork seals on the Factory models have a reputation for popping.

Overall, however, they stack up as a pretty robust thing, so long as they’ve been serviced.

A quick scan of the prices in the used market suggests these fast and nimble twins have largely been forgotten. Around $5000-7000 will get you a good one, which really is a performance bargain.
Will they one day be collectible? I would not be at all surprised if, one day a long way into the future, people start looking harder at Aprilia’s early big bike models as something of long-term interest. In the meantime, you could have a hell of a lot of fun in the saddle of one…

aprilia tuono v-twin

SPECS:
Aprilia Tuono V2 2003 model

ENGINE:

TYPE: Liquid-cooled, four valves-per-cylinder, 60-degree V-twin
CAPACITY: 998cc

BORE & STROKE: 97 x 67.5mm

COMPRESSION RATIO: 11.4:1

FUEL SYSTEM: injection, 51mm throttle bodies
TRANSMISSION:

TYPE: Six-speed, constant-mesh, 

FINAL DRIVE: chain
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:

FRAME TYPE: twin spar alloy
FRONT SUSPENSION: Ohlins 43mm inverted forks, 120mm travel
REAR SUSPENSION: alloy swingarm, Boge monoshock with 135mm travel, full adjustment
FRONT BRAKE: 2 x 320 discs with four-piston Brembo calipers
REAR BRAKE: 220mm disc with 2-piston B rembocaliper
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:

DRY WEIGHT: 181kg
SEAT HEIGHT: 820mm

WHEELBASE: 1415mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 18lt

WHEELS & TYRES:
FRONT: 120/70-ZR17
REAR: 180/55-ZR17

PERFORMANCE:

POWER: 94kW (126hp) @ 9500rpm
TORQUE: 101Nm @ 7250rpm
TOP SPEED: 250km/h

PRICE WHEN NEW: $21,900 + ORC

For: Fast & huge fun
Against: Goodbye licence

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