About a year and a half ago, we posted a little photo of an Aprilia off-road bike on the cover of Dirt Rider. It had all the exotica flair and attractive properties a cover blurb should. And its then-crazy combination of twin cylinders, dual exhaust and futuristic frame design left us wondering if we’d ever get to ride it. Earlier this year, Aprilia introduced the machines overseas in Italy, where the company is based. We had a correspondent on hand to ride the new bikes and report the findings, but we, as in those of us sitting in the DR home offices here in California, never actually got to ride the bikes. Then, the motorcycle gods smiled upon us as we hit the East Coast for the U.S. stop of the World Enduro Championships. Aprilia would be hosting a ride day, and you can bet we were going to be there!We arrived in the small town of Cuddebackville, New York, primed and ready to ride the Italian marvels. We went through the standard presentation stuff, then immediately headed to the track and trail. Oakland Valley Race Park offered the necessary layout to test both the RXV off-road bikes and the SXV supermoto machines at the same facility. Since Dirt Rider is all about the knobbies, I hit the enduro loop first, and though it was short, I did enough laps to get a good impression of these unique bikes.These bikes are super quiet in stock form, pumping out a responsible 96 decibels from the ultraslick-looking dual exhaust. They have the two-cylinder chatter and higher-toned streetbike sound. Power output is impressive, as the 450 bikes are rated at 55 horsepower with the standard restrictions (like throttle stops) removed. Delivery, however, is something unusual.The bikes rev very quickly, almost like a two-stroke. While this makes for plenty of high-speed fun, it doesn’t exactly inspire traction in the tight stuff. Ideally, these bikes are made for the open trails of the West and have a possible stint through the Baja desert laid down deep in their DNA.The 550 is just plain silly on the dirt. With enough horsepower churning from the bikes’ 13,500-rpm redline to light a small village, the tire has no chance of hooking up. Chassis rigidity also makes the rocket-ship bikes a little much for the tight woods. While super-stable and straight-line happy, the bikes take some effort to dice through woodsy berms and to dodge rocks aggressively. It could be their weight, as both displacements weigh in around the 260-pound mark; disregard the claimed weights, please! But more likely it’s the super-stiff chassis holding the bike upright. The unique aluminum-to-steel trellis frame, stout swingarm and stress-bearing engine design create a bike that is solid, to say the least. Maybe too solid for technical off-road, where some flexibility and feel would be welcome. But as it is, the RXVs may be just right for the wide-open or the asphalt.Where the off-road version falters, the supermoto bike shines. With the 100 percent traction of slick tires, the SXV bikes turn chassis rigidity into supermoto fun. The go-cart track was a blast to rip around on, and the Aprilia seemed more than happy to chug out lap after lap and take the rear-tire abuse a brake-dragging off-road addict like me threw at it. What can I say? I love the sound of squealing tires. If they’ll chirp into the corners, that’s all the better! Unfortunately, I can’t reproduce this feeling on the streets anytime soon. You see, none of the Aprilia off-road models (and this includes the supermoto) are going to be street-legal in the United States. Why? Because Aprilia didn’t want to invest in the smog system and its required three-year warranty from the California DOT. We’re guessing you can get one licensed in some states anyway, but don’t let law enforcement look too closely at the blinkers and taillights because they’re not DOT rated, either.In the end, our day with the Aprilias was way too short and the off-road loop was way too slow. However, we’re now more ready than ever to get one of these off-roaders in the our testing fleet so we can dial them in thoroughly (and hopefully map out some fuel-injection programming to make the power delivery more manageable). They’ll be available by August; check out Aprilia dealers in your area for a firsthand look at these exotic twins from a faraway land.Specifications
Claimed dry weight: 214 lb
Cutting-edge technology and design could be a glimpse into the future.
High-revving twin cylinders make a ton of power.
Race kits (exhaust and programming) available from dealers pump up the performance.
They’re not street-legal? Are you serious?
Traction issues make them a handful in the tight stuff.
What? They’re seriously not street-legal? But they have blinkers!