Head-to-head: Aprilia Futura vs Aprilia Falco
Aprilia RST1000 Futura and Aprilia SL1000 Falco: two oddballs that never made it in their time. History, though, will be very kind to them
Two of Noale’s less celebrated (and indeed woefully underrated motorcycles) take each other on
“Those once funky, angular looks now seem about as modern as a Lotus Esprit. With Roger Moore driving it”
THERE ARE FEW better motorcycling ‘rise and fall’ stories than that ofaprilia between 1998 and 2004. During these years the ambitious Italian firm, under the mercurial leadership of Ivano Beggio, son of company founder Cavalierealberto Beggio, attempted the leap from a lightweight scooter and sporting specialist, known for machines such as the Scarabeo scoot and RS125 stroker, into a credible, heavyweight rival for Ducati and Honda via an all-new family of 1000cc, four-stroke,v-twins.
What followed was an amazing assault on the motorcycling establishment.aprilia’s all-new RSV superbike took on the planet’s best INWSB withtroy Corser then Nori Haga. Exciting and glamorous street sportsters and sports-tourers followed, as did an exotic adventure version and the first true super naked – thetuono.the Noale marque also boldly entered Motogp with its amazing ‘Cube’ triple in 2002.While in 2000, it even took over and attempted to revive Moto Guzzi, the ‘grande dame’ of Italian motorcycling, which had been floundering for 20 years.
Perhaps inevitably it all proved too much and by late 2003Aprilia’s ambition was unraveling fast.wsb success proved agonisingly elusive, the GP experiment was expensive and the road 1000s didn’t sell as well as hoped.worst of all, new Italian laws requiring scooter riders to wear helmets devastated domestic sales, pushingaprilia’s finances over the brink. On December 30 2004Aprilia, including Moto Guzzi, was taken over by Piaggio and, although both live on today andaprilia’s latest RSV4 superbike has, finally, proved victorious INWSB, that same brio and ambition is now very much a thing of the past.
Today, no two bikes better typify that bright but all-too-brief era than the brilliant but flawed SL1000 Falco and RST1000 Futura. Both, along with the ETV1000 Caponord adventure, which followed in 2001, were derived from the 60-degree Rotaxv-twin powered RSV1000 superbike which had spearheadedaprilia’s initial burst into the big time in 1998.
But while the RSV was an out-and-out superbike designed to challenge Ducati’s all-conquering 996/8 INWSB, the Falco and Futura were designed very much for the road, as a street-orientated sportster and Vfr-rivalling sports-tourer, respectively, which is why we’re revisiting both today, via a mini-tour of East Northamptonshire.the question is, 17 years on from their impressive but flawed launch, how do they measure up?
The Falco instantly takes me back to a test of the original in 2000. It impressed then for its blend of quality componentry (multiadjustable suspension, gold-line Brembos, comprehensive, part-lcd dash) and subtle, understated style, and that timeless, sober look has matured well.
What’s more, the SL may have been borne out of the RSV superbike, but in virtually every respect was actually subtly different.
The Rotaxv-twin might have been outwardly identical to the RSV’S 128bhp version, but it was detuned to 118bhp with a slightly bolstered bottom and mid-range via re-mapped injection and a new twin exhaust system.the SL’S attractive twin beam alloy frame, meanwhile, was all new and, as its riding position was less extreme than the RSV’S, it’s geometry compensated by being slightly shorter and sharper.the half-faired bodywork and clocks were new, too.
But I also remember the original Falco confounding slightly, as well.although intended to rival ‘soft’ sportsters like Honda’s Firestorm, by having ‘proper’ sports cycle parts the Falco actually rode like a pure sportster: aggressive, involving, with a fairly extreme riding position down to clip-on ’bars and a slightly oversprung, over-firm rear shock.to look at, though handsome, the Falco was also a complete wallflower – quiet and understated.aprilia barely shouting about its arrival at the time, something that surely can’t have helped sales…
Today however, Phil’s SL is as clean as they come and, gleaming in its original wine red metallic, is more handsome than ever. Falcos have always aged well.
They were NOT joking when they called it Futura
They worked out how to do it eventually
“Then to turn right, you lean right, see..”
Comfy and roomy for the bigger rider
These are what’s called very distinctive
Damping gone west (as in west, not Phil)
Brembo Goldlines, top stoppers (back then)