In the Autoblog Garage: Aprilia SXV550
After having it in our garage for the last few weeks, the Aprilia SXV550 can best be described by the word 'extreme'. From its extremely compact yet very powerful V-Twin engine to its extremely uncomfortable saddle, this is a bike that demands attention from its rider. Also extreme is its ability to wheelie and perform stoppies, so much so that it must be ridden with great respect on the street. The Supermoto category is basically made up of off-road bikes equipped with just the bare essentials to be street-legal. Off go the knobbies and in their places are spooned grippy sportbike tires on 17-inch wheels. This bike fits neatly into that category and was created with maximum fun in mind; but does the SXV's extreme nature take the joy out of riding it on the street? That's what we set to find out when we borrowed one for our garage. Read on to see how it fared.
All photos copyright Jeremy Korzeniewski / Weblogs Inc.
Let's get a few facts out of the way before we continue. Aprilia unfortunately fitted its Supermoto machine with a spring-loaded sui-side-stand that will make contact with your leg every time you remove pressure from it. It would meet a grinder as quickly as possible if it belonged to us. The SXV is not the bike to choose for a 400-mile trek across a few states. Please don't ask us how we know... we don't want to talk about it. While it will maintain highway speeds without complaint, a sixth gear would be a nice touch to keep the revs down a bit. As you would expect, there is no wind protection of which to speak, though the plastic fenders do an excellent job keeping debris off the occupant.
That saddle is just about the only thing keeping this bike from becoming a comfortable mount for normal riding. If you are significantly less than six feet tall, however, you may want to consider another bike altogether. But once our hind-ends were perched atop the rather tall seat, we found the footpegs and handlebars to be a within a comfortable reach. A digital computer displays speed and as well as a bar-graph that actually neglects to list the actual rpm of the motor. A toggle switch on the left bar moves through the available menus. There is no gas gauge at all, and you'll be looking at a warning light after about one-hundred miles.
Calling the SXV cold-blooded would be a misnomer. It's extremely cold-blooded. While it is fuel injected, there is still a separate starting circuit that must be engaged before the 550cc V-Twin will fire. After it warms up a bit, rotate the dial back to normal and the bike will settle into a rather high idle. The clutch is an easy affair, but be careful when first starting out as the bike will stall very easily from a stop. Smooth starts are also hampered by the complete lack of flywheel effect. This bike is a super fast revver, and a bit too much throttle will easily loft the front wheel. On the flip-side, stoppies are a quick grab of the front brake away, so ride carefully out there. Once moving, however, things calm down enough to make the bike livable for day-to-day riding chores. Of course, that sort of life is not at all for what this bike is intended.
Get the SXV's pointy nose directed towards some twisty asphalt and the real fun begins. There is literally limitless cornering clearance, and we found the bike was supremely easy to flick over. It's almost comically easy to slide through the bends with the rear tire smoking from either power or braking forces. This is exactly what the Supermoto genre is all about. The engine feels pretty healthy; we'd guess its putting down 60 horses or so. Its power-to-weight ratio, though, betters such performers as the Ducati Hypermotard. While it may be down on power to your average middleweight sportbike, its high cornering speeds allow it to maintain a lead so long as there aren't many long straight sections.
Being a proper Supermoto machine means the SXV also needs to deal with the dirt. We put it to the test in the desert and found it just a bit twitchy in dusty conditions. The street-bred rubber is likely the main culprit here, though the steering head is at a rather extreme angle, as well. Still, the bike provides nearly criminal amounts of fun in wide-open spaces, as it is more than happy sending the rear tire wide and railing through the turns dirt-track style. We're happy to report that the bike jumps rather well, though we never took it off anything too big. If dirt riding is more your style, the same basic chassis is available with more dirt-oriented hoops as the RXV.
All in all, the SXV, like most any Supermoto-style machine, proves a bit too focused to be the best choice for your daily riding chores. For some, though, a little over-the-top is just right. For those extreme junkies, the SXV is about as perfect a chariot as you can get, except for that seat. We had tons of fun aboard Aprilia's race-winning entry into the motard category and think it's easily the most single-minded machine available from any manufacturer in its category. Treat it with respect and you'll be rewarded with an overly competent tool with which to attack the unsuspecting asphalt surrounding your neighborhood.
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