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

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Contents - WORDS PHIL WEST PHO­TOG­RA­PHY PAUL BRYANT

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)

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