Can the big-selling Yamaha MT-10 convince an Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory owner to change his mind?
Two bikes exit the corner in first gear. The road is glistening from a recent downpour and now reflecting back the blinding revenge of a low, late-autumn sun. Both riders crack their throttles simultaneously, and both bikes’ front wheels pop into the air like champagne corks, flinging a pair of cheeky wheelies a few yards down the road in satisfying twin parabolas of acceleration. Neither ef- fort nor skills are required to initiate the stunt; it’s a natural reaction to a marginally indelicate wrist action.
But it’s difficult, seriously difficult, to ride either the Tuono or the MT without such occurrences being every-ride regular. Short-shifting as a means of limiting the height of the front wheel quickly becomes second-nature. Blattering though quickshifter-assisted transmission ratios of either bike is like delivering a blistering combination of punches, with the front tyre bouncing up and down with each blow like a punchbag on elastic.
The two riders park up, helmets off, giggling like fools. Kar Lee, Aprilia Tuono 1100 owner and therefore not a man of whom it can be said fails to appreciate the odd vertical moment now and again, steps off the MT-10. It’s the first time he’s ever ridden one and I’m dying to know what he thinks. Will he, like so many others this year, be smitten by the Yamaha’s hopelessly lunatic power delivery; an engine and gearbox that shove so much thrust into the tarmac the bike spends more time on its hind legs than Buckaroo?
“It’s so much bigger than the Tuono!” says Kar. “It’s like sitting on an adventure bike. You could tour on it; it’s less aggressive and everything’s softer. You feel more cossetted.”
There’s a pause while I unfurrow my brow. It’s fair to say this is an unexpected reaction. The MT-10 may be many things, but soft and cossetting are not usually said to be two of them.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. In 2016, Aprilia’s Tuono V4 1100 Factory won two titles: it’s holder of The Longest Name Of Any Bike but, more importantly, the V4 also beat Yamaha’s MT-10 into second place
in MCN’S hypernaked group test. On the road it matches peerless handling with genuine sportsbike performance, slick electronic rider aids and stunning looks. On the track, it’s only half-a-second down on Ducati’s 1299 Panigale S. But the Yamaha’s ace up its sleeve is its price; at £9999, it’s nearly five grand cheaper than the £14,636 Aprilia. Which is why we’re here, with Tuono-owning Kar, to find out if the Yam really is five grand less loopy.
I jump on the Yamaha and we fire off down the road, threading a path through a soggy, but slowly drying, Lincolnshire. The MT-10 is a constant surprise. Its riding position is excellent, even if you’re fussy about weather protection. You sit deep in the bike, behind a generous tank that combats enough wind to cruise at 80mph without discomfort, enjoying the smooth, steady pulsing of its 998cc, 152bhp crossplane inline four – engineered to generate the charismatic throaty burble of a genuine V4. And in this much Kar is right; you could ride a long way on the MT-10. Comfy seat too. Ideally I’d fit Yamaha’s optional flyscreen, and a louder pipe would truly sing alongside the MT-10’S quickshifter.
But open the taps and boy, that motor becomes something else. The Yam leaps into action – pow, pow, pow – lifting the front in any gear at any speed given the slightest lump in the road. It doesn’t feel like power delivery so much as instant torque delivery (too instant in Mode B, where it’s basically a switch). Just like the parent R1, I find the motor an intoxicating, addictive experience I want to keep sampling over and over again. I can’t imagine ever getting blasé about using it. I think it might be the most enjoyable engine I’ve ever used.
The Yamaha’s fully adjustable KYB suspension is no slouch either. It’s compliant; sprung and damped to perform
in all-round conditions rather than excel under sporting extremes. And the Yam certainly feels more solid than the Aprilia – it has a weighty feeling of mass being moved from one direction to another.
We stop for a brew at a truckstop and Kar remembers the thread of our previous conversation. “That’s what the MT-10’S engine is,” he says. “It’s urgent. It feels like it’s saying, ‘Come on, let’s go, let’s go.’ The Aprilia’s engine, on the other hand, has less rush about it;
‘Open the taps and, boy, the Yamaha’s motor becomes something else’
it takes longer to wind itself up. But the Tuono’s chassis is the one demanding you go faster and faster. It’s set up to perform at a pace the Yamaha isn’t comfortable at.”
To find out if Kar is right, I take over the Aprilia. And right away, its riding position is a culture shock. The rider perches on top of the Tuono, bodyweight leaning further forward and lower, putting more kilos over the front end. Its centre of gravity is higher, and there’s less substance between your knees. At first I feel exposed and top heavy, toppling into the damp corners. Gradually, the Aprilia repays the faith, responding with more feedback as the pace picks up – but it still feels as if its envelope of best performance is a speed range far outside that advisable on public roads. Kar is right – the Tuono’s chassis begs to be ridden harder. Its V4 motor, meanwhile, is less electrifying off the bat than the Yamaha; more outright power, but it’s further up the rev range, reserved for the upper echelons of serious speed. The Aprilia feels like a scalpel to the MT-10’S carving knife.
Speaking of which a carving knife may have been used to shape the MT’S looks. Riding it is one experience; looking at it is another altogether. Like so many modern bikes, it looks as if no-one could afford to style a fairing, so they just left it off and added a few random shards of cheap plastic. “It looks kind of sad,” says Kar, staring into the MT-10’S eyes. You would too, if you looked like that. The Aprilia is much prettier; the quality of its castings, plating and finish is better than the Yamaha. You can see where the Tuono’s money has gone. It’s a class act.
YAMAHA MT-10 £9999 152bhp, 210kg R1-based engine, electronics and chassis. Second in 2016 MCN Hypernaked test.
APRILIA TUONO V4 1100 FACTORY £14,636 165bhp, 210kg Chassis and electronics from the RSV4 sportsbike, with bored-out 1077cc V4 motor. MCN 2016 Hypernaked test winner. Tuono owner Kar Lee feeling cossetted on the MT-10 The bike on the left is nearly £5k cheaper than the one on the right November roads aren’t the ideal hunting ground