Aprilia SR 50 Factory Review Scooter News and Reviews Scootersales

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Aprilia SR 50 Factory Review

When everything is costed, but nothing valued does the SR 50 Factory make any sense?

When most people think scooter, they think cheap and cheerful commuting or stylish inner-city living. Hip pocket or street style. And, let’s face it, either is a good reason to buy a scooter but and it’s if not big, then a reasonably sized but what about later?

Are you going to be disappointed that your scooter, although cheap to buy and run or sweet and stylish to look at, doesn’t quite live up to the demands you place upon it when it’s most important? When you’re riding it.

Performance comes in many varieties: power and speed are obvious, as is fuel economy. But what about handling? Often it comes third in a manufacturer’s list of desirable attributes. Aprilia, it seems, takes a different tack, not least with its diminutive 50cc SR series.

We looked briefly last issue at the technical developments, but what’s it like to ride?

For those who came in late, the SR 50 Factory is the latest incarnation of the direct-injected two-stroke DiTech engine, developed in part by the Perth-based Orbital Engine Company, and it is an engineering tour de force. Two-stroke engines make more power by capacity than four-strokes because, as the name implies, there is one power stroke for every two engine strokes (or every revolution), whereas four-strokes have one power stroke per four strokes (or two revolutions).

Without getting into the techni- cal nitty-gritty, this is a Good Thing but the way in which this is achieved is a Bad Thing from a fuel economy and pollution standpoint. In a normal two-stroke engine there is a lot of unburned fuel and lubricant pumped straight out of the exhaust pipe in the form of that tell-tale two-stroke puff of blue, smelly smoke. In fact, until Orbital came along, twostrokes had almost been legislated out of existence in developed countries and fairly so because of their failure to meet increasingly stringent emissions control.

Orbital came up with a method of injecting the fuel/oil mix directly into the cylinder head the DiTech system (as opposed to upstream of the valves in a fuel-injected four-stroke) and this breakthrough, combined with some sophisticated electronic engine management has revolutionised two-stroke engines. As an example, when I toured the Perth facility, Orbital engineers demonstrated that a DiTech engine would run quite happily on the emissions of a normal two-stroke.

As an aside, the system also allows engineers easily to tune engines to various power curves to suit different applications. Imagine having a switch on the handlebars which altered the engine from full power to full economy to a setting that’d be good for wet weather, etc, and you’ll get the idea.

Anyway, Aprilia chose engine characteristics that shocked the scootering world when the first model came out. I was lucky enough to ride one and found I could carry a comfortable 110km/h on a freeway from a 50! Later models were detuned a bit to comply with various registration requirements, but the power was lurking, waiting to be released.

The upside of the retune came in fuel economy, with as little as 2L/100km claimed in fuel usage but, more importantly, up to 60 per cent less oil consumption with service intervals of 12,000km. So that keeps the bureaucrats happy and puts more change in your pocket, but it’s still an expensive 50, right?

Yes and no. Sure, the purchase price is high, but the running costs are low and you haven’t even ridden it yet. Aprilia may be big in the scooter game, but the company is also heavily involved in motorcycle manufacture and in motorcycle racing, with numerous world championships under its belt.

So it knows how to screw motorcycles together and that applies to scooters, too. The SR 50 Factory benefits from Aprilia’s race program in more than its name, colour and graphics. Mass centralisation is the new buzzword, and the Factory has had various components moved, or redesigned to bring the centre of gravity closer to the centre of the machine, which helps in creating neutral handling allowing the rider to maximise the engine-chassis combination.

Aprilia SR 50

You can see how seriously Aprilia took the mass centralisation when it comes time to top up the oil reservoir. Most scooters have an oil filler cap under the seat, next to the fuel. Not the SR 50 Factory. In fact, it took us about half an hour to find it. I’ll save prospective owners some time.

It’s just above the headlight! Moving the oil tank there put a little more weight over the front wheel and improved handling, though it may not improve an owner’s temper when you have to undo two screws and ease a panel off to get access to the filler cap. I know Aprilia will say the 1.2-litre tank will last for about 1500km, but for some owners it’ll be a dealer-only operation.

That quibble aside, the mass-centralisation process works. The SR is a joy to ride, with sweet handling and braking far beyond the capacity of the engine. In fact, the handling is so good, it seems that the throttle has only two positions. Shut and wide open. You ride everywhere at full noise because you can ride everywhere at full noise.

The trick L C D dash has a memory for top speed, which maxed out at 78km/h because I ran out of road, but there was 2500-3000rpm left on the clock so theoretical top speed is higher. All it would take would be a few tweaks and you’d have a seriously quick (around 120km/h), yet seriously economical 50. It’s a shame the bike has been restricted because this chassis with the original engine would be a screamer.

Of course, that level of performance is not far away, but it doesn’t come standard. There are other things that don’t come standard, such as screens, a luggage rack and 2 8 -litre top-box, front footrest spoilers, a sidestand and armoured cable lock among other items on the Aprilia accessory list.

The instruments, with the multi-function digital computer and the automatic backlighting, offers hours of fun and games and it is nice to see an immobiliser wired in there too. But you’d expect no less from such a technologically advanced scooter.

And therein lies the rub. It looks brilliant, handles like a dream, is dripping with really good, sensible hi-tech solutions to real problems, but it is still “ only” a 50 and it is still significantly more expensive than the rest. So you’re not going to buy it on price, but you are sure going to get value out of riding it.

As published in TW SCOOTER MAGAZINE – 26/05/2005

Aprilia SR 50
Aprilia SR 50
Aprilia SR 50
Aprilia SR 50

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