Italians. They just do things so right. And when it’s a naked model in question, everything is jaw- droppingly gorgeous. Every line, every curve is in perfect place to make for one utterly desirable form that by no means gets priority over function. They both work together, hand in hand, to deliver an experience that matches those looks.
Their latest naked street- fighter is a larger-hearted, more powerful and even wilder Tuono V4 1100. The Tuono story began 14 years ago when Aprilia stripped their dressed-up flagship and added a handlebar. There was still the amazing chassis and it could handle road and track with aplomb, and be fun in either application. That’s important, isn’t it?
Styling is simple. Take the RSV4 factory superbike and strip the fairing. Well, almost. It still has the three-eyed headlamp cluster and the air intakes staring you in the face. The exposed bit reveals the gem of a barking mad V4 engine and bits of the cooling system. Most of the four-into-two-into-one exhaust plumbing is also visible and it culminates into a shapely and rather vocal Euro 3-compliant end-can. The red wheel rims wrapped in Pirelli Diablo Corsa rubber (200-sec at the rear), golden Öhlins front fork and exposed welds on the aluminium beam frame with ‘aprilia’ racing livery round off the stand-out elements.
So the old Tuono V4 R had 999.6 cc. This new 1100 gets 81 millimetres of bore diameter for each pot in the V4 motor — three more than earlier, paired to the same 52.3-mm stroke — taking displacement up to 1,077 cc. That also releases eight more horses with a peak 175 PS coming in at 11,000 RPM. Torque also sees a bump of almost 10 Nm, with a peak 121 Nm now available at 9,000 RPM. Peak output figures arrive 500 revs earlier than its predecessor too. There’s more. Aprilia say that they’ve changed the headstock angle to 24.7° from 25.1° with trail going down to 99.7 mm from 107.4. That, together with the six-mm longer aluminium swing-arm, makes it just as solid but even more agile. The Factory also gets an Öhlins 43-mm USD front fork instead of the Sachs unit on the 1100 RR. All good news, then.
Fighting the early morning slumber- pangs, I was handed the keys, having to keep my eyes open and focused on what Aprilia man had to tell me about the eight-level traction control, three-level ABS, and launch control — I listened intently, eyes and ears wide open now. This bike was wired! I was also ‘informed’ that the Tuono 1100 was best- suited to riders moving up from a 600 or an 800. Right, then, my 390 experience should come in somewhat handy.
Jacket zipped, gloves and helmet on, half of both feet on the ground — thanks to the 825-mm saddle height — I thumb the starter. The V4 barks to life in two stages within less than a second before it’s rumbling away at a 1,500- RPM idle. Off we go, clutch action quite light for a big bike. First gear picks up faster than I’d have liked, second makes things better: it is quite a close-ratio ’box. The TC exclamation mark also didn’t light up after that. Quite a feeling of accomplishment. One hint of the quarter-turn of the throttle and the Tuono 1100 goes from 50 to 80 km/h in a blink.
It does take some getting used to, the Tuono, and 175 PS is a lot of power for an upright street-bike. That said, once you get familiar with the throttle response and levels of grip, it’s a breeze; a breeze at reasonable speeds and revs, of course. Whack the throttle open and all hell breaks loose: 100 km/h comes up before you can blink twice and in a few seconds the Tuono was doing 150. Even so, the suspension felt very reassuring and the brakes were über-responsive: three-level ABS not really needing to kick in also speaks volumes.
Heading to the hills, the speed humps en route made no contact with the underside and as the corners got faster, any questions about the Tuono’s agility were obliterated. Even for a 190-kg bike, it simply flows into the bends with the slightest of inputs, almost telepathic in response. The stiff-ish rear suspension holds well and over broken patches of road the throttle sound broke off with the TC lights flickering in split- second intervals every single time the wheel lost contact with whatever tarmac
The Tuono simply flows into the bends with the slightest of inputs, almost telepathic in response was on offer. Still there were hardly any anxious moments. When riding on Indian roads, visibility is a key factor, directly proportional to anxiety in the experience. Tight hairpins dealt with at 40-50 km/h, yes, but when the next pair of esses showed themselves devoid of any activity, it was hard on the throttle, the Tuono snaking through the bends with ease.
Many choose the sleek looks of a supersport motorcycle, but the committed riding position is something I can’t live with every day. A naked street bike with a precisely calculated handlebar position, such as this, can be wonderful. It’s comfortable and capable, and there are only a few big street-bikes that can be taken to the track and feel just as exciting. Aprilia also tell me the service interval is 10,000 km after the mandatory 1,000-km first service. Take to the track and they say 5,000 rather than 10. At Rs 21,05 lakh (OTR, Pune), it costs a bit more than other naked fours available, but the Tuono V4 1100 Factory is the Italian brute to choose if you want the one from Rossi’s original backyard. It’s a lean, mean, bonkers machine, tamed only by electronics and the experienced rider.