Aprilia’s Shiver 900: The Sensible Hooligan. Sort Of.

By Surj Gish, with Max Klein
Photography: Angelica Rubalcaba & Surj Gish
Rider: Fish

I had big expectations, and even bigger desires for the Shiver. Before the newly-updated, red-framed 900 arrived at World Headquarters, we’d recently enjoyed a profoundly intense and concupiscent month-long love affair with Aprilia’s also-updated Dorsoduro (“Aprilia Dorsoduro 900” – February 2018), and in the visions that haunted my slumber in the nights after our Dorso went away, I dreamt the Shiver would be the Dodo, but better—the ultimate utilitarian-but-fun sporty naked bike, the mutant spawn of a smart standard and supersized supermoto, the unholy love child of a Dorsoduro and Speed Triple, conceived while an R1200R watched.

And $1,600 cheaper!

Did it deliver? In many ways, yes—after all, “It’s basically the same bike with shorter suspension and more fuel capacity.”

That’s in quotes so you can imagine someone with kind of a dumb-sounding voice saying it for effect.

There’s no way we could go straight from the Dorso to the Shiver without comparing each to the other—and the Dorsoduro is a hard act to follow.

The $9,399 Shiver is motivated by the same four-valves-per-cylinder, 896 cc 90-degree V-Twin, with ride by wire and three power modes, putting out a claimed 93 horsepower and 66 foot-pounds of torque, with red, “this is a sexy Italian motorcycle” valve covers. It’s a potent and captivating motor, one that restarts those internal conversation about whether anyone needs more than 90, maybe 100 horses to pull their wagon.

On paper, it looks the same as the Dorso’s engine: peak HP hits at 8,750 RPM, 2,250 RPM past peak torque. We all thought it felt a little different, though: more grunty, surlier. But Aprilia says the tune is the same, meaning the more rambunctious feel is due to the Shiver’s running gear, which imparts a more urgent feel to the bike’s overall mojo.

In short, the Shiver is shorter: the 44 mm Kayaba fork tubes (same as the Dorso) provide 120 mm of travel, 25% less than the Dorsoduro’s 160 mm. The rear gives up a similar amount, with the Shiver getting 130 mm versus the Dorso’s 155 mm.

Objectively speaking, the shorter travel isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You want more long travel to soak up the rocky, rutted trails that pass for roads in much of the Bay Area? Choose the Dorso—hope you have long legs! Want a more reasonable 32” seat height? The Shiver’s got you covered, and as a bonus, it’s tight. Not hella tight like the youngsters used to say in the nineties, but taut, controlled, responsive—compared to the Dorso’s long-legged gait, the Shiver feels like a sportbike.

Fish went as far as initially calling the 900 engine wrong for the Shiver’s chassis—but remember, this is a guy that rode a Buell Ulysses at Bungee Brent’s Backroad Bash last year, so you’ll be forgiven if you doubt his pronouncements on “wrong” as they pertain to motorcycles. He changed his tune after he spent more time on the Shiver, and it’s almost certain that these two Apes have helped fuel his new fixation / appreciation for Italian Vees.

But it’s true that Aprilia’s 900 V-twin feels unrulier in the Shiver. Fueling is good, without much twitchiness in the low revs—even in the sportiest of modes—but the short-ish wheelbase and taut suspension send a lot more signal to the rider, so you feel busier, a bit more harried, always intimately involved.

Fortunately, the rider accommodations place the rider in a good position for the shenanigans that inevitably result from a bike that always feels like it wants to go. Footpegs are in placed a sporting position that doesn’t compress the rider’s legs too much, and bars, while certainly not quite dirtbike wide-n-high, are placed in a neutral position that’s equally effective for ‘round-towning and backroad law-breakin’.

The seat is firm, with a fairly wide and supportive bumstop—very helpful given the acceleration the bike delivers. I’m 5’10” and found the overall riding position reasonably comfortable for my day-to-day riding: commuting, sneaking out for a run to the closed part of Redwood, and running around town. Fish liked the cockpit as well, calling it very similar to Yamaha’s XSR900, a bike he both loved (for its riding position) and hated (“stupid Triple engine”).

The Shiver shares the Dorsoduro’s easy-to-read TFT display, adjustable riding modes and quirky menus. I say “quirky” because I’m aware I’m a hater and complainer, and I’m trying to be fair. What I really mean is that between the Dorso and the Shiver, I forgot the relatively simple button press combos that get you deeper into the system, and subsequently kicked the Shiver on to its right side in frustration when it took me a whole 2.5 seconds to coax this information from my semi-functional memory banks.

That’s just my imaginative impatience speaking, of course, but I do wish the menus were a little more self-explanatory. Fortunately, Max figured out the nonsense with Aprilia’s optional Bluetooth setup while we had the Dorsoduro, preventing me from spending a good ten minutes swearing at the Shiver. But seriously, the bike has #bearacer hashtags on the wheels—it seems that Bluetooth and dumb-thumb ease of navigation ought to be standard.

Also, what the fuck is a bear acer? These goddamn kids and their pound-signing every other word, I swear…

I didn’t like the Shiver as much as the Dorsoduro in high speed transit—at least in mostly-straight lines. On the freeway, I experienced a surprising amount of turbulence around my noggin, a strange phenomenon, considering it’s actually a little more naked. Apparently the Dorsoduro’s tiny fairing, with suitably middle finger-shaped headlight, is better at shaping the air around the front of the bike—my head was in the most wonderfully clean air I’ve ever experienced on that thing.

There’s a lot of obvious familial resemblance between the two 900s (and even the Caponord). Both bikes highlight their lattice framework in red and expose the shock on the right side of the bike, and hang that bitchin’ V-Twin right out in the wind. The red valve covers complement the red frame for extra hot Italian-ness. It’s a good look, but at the same time, there’s a hint of Camry in the Shiver’s silver tank and air intakes. Fortunately, the tail end of the bike ties things together with a dual-muffler exhaust arrangement that both looks and sounds killer.

Those pipes, while not as uniquely shaped and nowhere near as wide as the Dorso’s spaceship hindquarters, create similar limitations of concern to the Wrecking Crew: namely, luggage. It’s not easy to bolt up racks for sidecases, much less a topcase, standard equipment for us on almost all of our bikes, city or otherwise. There were some limited options for previous generations of both models, and presumably Givi or Shad or someone will cook up something for the Shiver, if not the Dorso, but for now you’re limited to Aprilia’s OEM options: weird stuff like tiny tank panniers for the Dorso and semi-rigid sidecases for the Shiver that are probably perfectly functional but decidedly lacking in Italian design and soul. They look like corporate issue laptop bags from the nineties.

That brings us back to the question of whether the Shiver is a better CityBike-style all-rounder than the double-D.

The Dorsoduro is a phenomenal motorcycle, hampered only by its pathetic fuel range and extremely limited luggage options—basically, you better like riding with a big backpack if you want to travel. Unfortunately, while the Shiver does carry another gallon of gas, ridden hard—what we call “normal riding” round here—it’s still not enough to do Highway 36 from 5 to 101 without a gas stop, meaning you’re gonna put some questionable Regular in the tank in Platina.

End of the world? No. But my pal Kurt put it best, as we sat clutching empty cups outside an Oakland coffee shop that had closed an hour prior, deliberating the virtues of various V-Twin-powered motorcycles, with this simple statement: “I’d rather have shitty range and bitch about it, than…”

I can’t remember what else he said or even how he finished that sentence, although he was probably more eloquent and less profane, but his point of view sums up the “Dorso or Shiver?” question nicely. It’s true that the Shiver is a bit more sensible than the Dorsoduro, but for me, it’s not sensible-er enough to make it a significantly better all-rounder than the Dorsoduro.

Therefore, if you’re in it purely for the fun, for maniacal cackling inside your helmet, the Dorsoduro is the clear choice.

Max: Cool Story About Bros, Bro

Say twin brothers were born to parents short of the substantial financial resources required to support the product of their three-minute romp under the bleachers at a Molly Hatchet concert. After an examination of their limited means, the parents had no choice but to put their newborn crotchfruit up for adoption. Both boys were scooped up quickly, but by separate couples living on opposite seaboards.

Brother Shiv grew up on the East Coast. He studied hard, got good grades, lettered in track (middle distance runner), and while not the life of the party, he was popular enough to be chosen prom king. He worked weekends at the movie theater to save money for college, applied himself, and graduated.

He now works at an investment firm and hosts a poker night where he pours decent scotch. Shiv is your fun-but-responsible friend, the one you call when you want to grab a drink after work and unwind. Did I mention that Shiv also owns a small pickup and has offered to help you move?

The other brother, Durso, grew up out West. He studied hard, got good grades, lettered in track as a sprinter, and was not only the prom king, he was always the life of the party. He worked at the movie theater on weekends to save money for Natty Ice and a bitchin’ Camaro, and still works there today, although now he “knows a guy if you need a little weed.”

Durso is the friend that everyone has a story about, and they all start with, “Remember that one time when Durso was super high?”

His responsibilities, if you can call them that, are making sure everyone’s got a shot of tequila and hooking you up with the hot blonde at the bar. He will need to borrow a couple bucks to pay for the tequila though.

This probably sounds like the plot of a shitty movie starring Lindsey Lohan’s brother (playing both roles) but it’s the best way for me to explain the differences between the two 900 V-Twin offerings from Aprilia. With the same powerplant and tune, one would think that they’d be damn near identical—but it turns out that the similarities end with the motor.

You already know what I thought about the Dodo (and if you don’t, click your way on over to that article), so on to the Shiver.

My first ride on it was a bitterly cold, nighttime romp up to The Wall, making me fully appreciate Aprilia’s naming of the motorcycle. No wind protection, no heated grips, but the exhaust did keep my rump warm. I didn’t experience the buffeting Surj complained about, but I have about three inches on him.

I’m taller, too.

Everything seems to be a bit crisper on the Shiver. Less suspension travel means less squat on acceleration and less dive under braking. The combination of tighter boingers and sportier riding position is noticeable in the corners too.

From initial turn-in to the inevitable power wheelies on exit, the action arrives just a fraction of a second quicker.

In fact, the only thing that Shiver is less eager to do than the Dodo is lighting up the fuel light. It doesn’t have a life-changing amount of additional range, but I did get to stop one less time on the Berryessa route I ran with the Dodo a couple weeks earlier.

Aprilia offers some basic luggage for the Shiver, making it the more logical machine for whenever space in my garage opens up for a borderline-impractical motorcycle. Of course, logic is not really on the front burner when considering ATFATT (all the fun, all the time) motorcycles.

The Shiver is a little more grown up than the Dodo, and I mean that in the best way possible. Shiv won’t take you to an outright raging, Friday night into Saturday morning kegger like his long lost twin brother. He’s about responsible fun, like a Super Bowl party, or a couple of early-evening beers followed by a reasonable bedtime—got work in the morning, after all.

That workaday description might sound like I still prefer the Dodo, but as a guy who feels his age a bit more every day, I’m starting to appreciate slightly more low-key fun.

This story originally appeared in our March 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.

2 Responses

    • Surj Gish

      I applaud your can-do spirit, Roger, but that doesn’t seem like a viable solution. Even if it mounts up, you’d have to change all the surrounding bits, like the seat. We keep talking about this round Word Headquarters, and it seems the best solution for living with the Dorso is to just accept its limitations and enjoy it.

      And of course, invest in a comfortable backpack. We’ve been digging on Velomacchi’s Speedway backpack, in case you’re looking.

      Reply

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