Following the success of the Aprilia RSV Mille, Aprilia released their first sport naked bike, the Tuono. The first generation Tuono was different than most sport naked models; it had an aggressive edge and offered the same power as its fairing swaddled counterpart. Its sound audaciously erupted upon start up. The Austrian built Rotax v-twin 997cc power plant made sure there is no shortage of low-end RPM thrust. The Öhlins front forks and rear shock equipment enhanced the ride. The bike sent a fierce message of what was to come from Aprilia.
Few people saw the need for more power. The Tuono is far from mild mannered and riding on the streets was already a handful. Fortunately for me Peter Marshall was one of those few. In 2007, his quest landed him at a niche motorcycle shop carved into the downtown landscape of New Braunfels, Texas. A car dealership turned motorcycle hooligan hangout complete with a showroom, parts, service department and an eddy current dyno. The bike received a 1060 big bore kit, custom made adjustable cam gears, Arrow high mount exhaust and a list of supporting mods.
Throwing a leg over the bike reveals the analog side of motorcycling, years before the digital age took control. There is no TFT dash, no driver aids and nothing to tame the throttle except your own wrist. A mechanical fast idle circuit helps bring life into the cold V-twin as I start the beast. The V-twin pulses similar to a heartbeat as a loud crackle departs from the Arrow high mounts. Shifting into first further reveals just how mechanical the bike is with a clunk. The bike breathes heavy as if it were an aggressive dog chasing a cat. It begins to lurch as my left hand tries to restrain it via clutch control. I enter the freeway corridor and begin to twist the throttle. My hands death grip the Aprilia logo’d grips as my right foot hovers cautiously above the brake lever. I immediately feel the sensation of power from the dominating torque monster. At 3000 RPM with the Öhlins front forks unloaded the tire begins to rise up off the ground and set back down just in time to repeat itself in the following gear. The Aprilia forged wheels lower the reciprocating mass and allow it to be effortlessly propelled forward. I quickly speed through the gears before decelerating into upcoming traffic.
Removing myself from the mundane straight line speedway places me in the prime of Texas hill country. I journey to my favorite series of bituminous filled winding roads. The pavement is coarse and far from perfect, but the upright handle bar position relieves my wrist as I bump over tar strips and small rock debris. Entering into the first corner I tap the clutch pedal down and watch as the tachometer needle jumps up 1200 RPMS. The back tire kicks right with each downshift in a moment of breaking loose despite its pneumatic clutch from the factory. The chassis corrects itself quickly before dipping into the apex. I mentally fight myself from man-handling the bars instead of issuing proper lean angle. Throttling up shows where the bike really shines as the corner exit speed is quickly met. As the front tire lifts the Öhlins damper works overtime to keep the front end stable. Each corner provides me the same feedback as the previous. My humble Texas roads are no match for a bike that was raised on the Futa Pass in Italy.
The Tuono is more than just a bike with soul or character. It is an experience that is just a wrist flick away from taking you through the mind of Ivano Beggio. It will keep pace if you are a proficient rider and embolden you if you are not. It’s was designed during the height of Beggio’s career. It was also one of the last projects to come to fruition under his management. The bike could not have been a better farewell statement if it tried.
2003 Aprilia Tuono R (Yellow Carbon)
AF1 1060 big bore
Acculign machined stock cam sprockets for adjustability 106/109 lobe centers
Factory Pro 1413 EPROM
Arrow true-dual full system
54mm short Evoluzione velocity stacks
Öhlins suspension and damper
Literature and Photography: James Elkins
Edited: Kate Callard