Test Ride: 2009 Aprilia Mana850

?Aprilia?s Mana 850: Tomorrow?s technology today?

The 850 Mana for 2009 from Aprilia is no ordinary motorcycle ? it is, in fact, a couple of motorcycles blended into one, designed from the outset to place safety, versatility and riding ease at the forefront of the total riding experience. The revolutionary Sportgear transmission (called ?Auto Drive? by Aprilia) is electronically controlled to optimally handle all riding conditions at the press of a button.

The transmission management system provides a choice of three Auto Drive mappings (Touring, Sport, Rain) in automatic mode, along with a manual, seven-speed sequential format that may be operated by either a left side handlebar mounted toggle switch (thumb for upshifts ? index finger for downshifts)?or traditional foot control. The rider may switch from automatic to sequential mode instantaneously on-the-fly and back, with no clutch lever to deal with (there isn?t one). The Touring mode is best suited for all around urban or suburban riding scenarios. The Sport mode, which optimizes higher engine revs is the better selection for the spirited carving of one?s favorite canyon, and the Rain mode focuses on achieving the best traction. There is virtually no traditional CVT lag, and the Mana?s CVT is actuated by an electric servo motor with 7 preset positions for a pseudo 7-speed gearbox.

Power for the 850 Mana comes from a compact, sporty and ecologically friendly 839.3 cc 90-degree, SOHC, 8-valve, liquid-cooled, longitudinally mounted V-Twin four stroke featuring Weber Marelli electronic fuel injection with 38 mm throttle body and two-into-one exhaust. The motor delivers 76.1 horsepower @ 8,000 rpm and 73.0 pound feet of torque @ 5,000 rpm at the crank. The motor?s motive force reaches the rear wheel via a primary drive belt and final drive chain.?

The Aprilia definitely displays an Italian design influence in a Naked style. The motor was developed in parallel with the tubular trellis frame, contributing to the? bike?s torsional rigidity. What appears to be a traditional fuel tank is actually a lined and illuminated storage compartment, capable of holding a full-face helmet along with vehicle documents and toolkit ? the 4.2 gallon fuel tank is actually mounted low, in the rear of the bike, with the filler locked beneath the passenger pillion, which results in free access to the battery and fuses. The compartment opens electrically by pressing a button conveniently located on the handlebars, with a manual release lever under the passenger seat in the event of battery failure.?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ??

The single-piece aluminum swingarm is damped by an offset, laterally mounted monoshock making room for the aft positioned exhaust. Inverted, 43 mm front forks makeup the front suspension. Braking componentry consists of dual discs up front and single disc aft.?

My test Aprilia Mana 850 sported a Silver metallic finish and came with a base price of $9,899. The estimated final sticker amounted to $10.049 after dealer prep and handling. Hard bags are optionally available for extra storage needed for extended touring. There is no windscreen as standard.

SUMMARY: The Aprilia Mana 850 makes the riding experience easy. It?s as easy as riding a scooter, but without the stigma that many attach to such activity. Despite its scooter-type CVT transmission, the Mana 850 looks and feels more like a traditional naked sport bike. Admittedly, motorcycles with automatic transmissions are not a new concept ? the ?80s Hondamatics and more recent Yamaha FJR1300 with its auto-clutch system, and now, the new Honda ?crossover? DN-01 all have bucked the traditional stereotypical manually shifted gearboxes. The electric servo motor activation of Aprilia?s CVT differs from scooter style spring and weight mechanical control of belt and pulley CVTs, resulting in the virtual elimination of lag generally experienced by scooter riders.

Scooters can be fun, but the Aprilia Mana 850 delivers a heightened level of grin-producing two-wheeled motoring FUN. It is extremely well-balanced and handles with the aplomb of a sport bike. The seat height may present a bit of an issue for vertically-challenged riders (31.4-inches), but the mid foot controls and raised bars make for an otherwise comfortable riding position. Riders over 6?3? may find the seat length to be a tad on the short side if most of their height happens to be in their legs. My knees didn?t tuck into the sculpted tanks sides due to the abbreviated seat length.

I experimented with all of the transmission?s modes and found them to be as advertised, performing exceptionally well in their respective assigned responsibility area, shifting with both the toggle switch and the foot pedal. Acceleration response is quick and precise, And the left side exhaust delivers a satisfying note which is quite noticeably non-scooter-like. The rear brake seemed a little light, but when used in conjunction with the front binders, reining in the Mana 850 was a piece of cake.

The Aprilia Mana 850 truly delivers tomorrow?s technology today, making the riding experience more relaxed, allowing for greater enjoyment automatically. But hey, shift if you must without hesitation.

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