Riding Impression: 2008 Aprilia Mana 850: Aprilia’s Mana 850 goes to seven.

9 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Riding Impression: 2008 Aprilia Mana 850: Aprilia’s Mana 850 goes to seven.
Aprilia Mana 850

Riding Impression: 2008 Aprilia Mana 850 Aprilia’s Mana 850 goes to seven.

Photography By Brian Blades

We won’t tell, if you don’t. Yeah, the reality is that most hardened-in-the-saddle motorcyclists wouldn’t be caught dead on a scooter. Yes, scooters are fun, yes, they are convenient and, yes, they aren’t motorcycles.

So while it is true that the Honda DN-01does blur lines between categories, what if you want the convenience of that bike’s “friendly” transmission without the attention afforded by its unusual paradigm-melting, quasi-scooter appearance?

Then you may want the Aprilia Mana 850. A big part of this Italian bike’s charm is how well it integrates scooter-like features–a high-tech CVT transmission and a large amount of storage–with the conventional attributes and nice styling of a sporty standard motorcycle.

Yes, where the Mana separates itself from the competition is its level of utility: By moving the 4.2-gallon fuel cell under the 31.5-inch-high seat (gas filler under the hinged passenger pad), it was possible to use the vacated conventional “fuel tank” space for an illuminated flip-top compartment large enough to swallow a full-face helmet. There is even a cell-phone slot in there, equipped no less with a 12-volt power outlet to keep it charged. Cool stuff.

On the transmission side, many consumers in the automotive world don’t hesitate to check the box for an optional automatic, even when shopping for a sports car like a Porsche, so why shouldn’t motorcyclists also have that choice?

Now you do with the Mana’s computer-controlled, belt-type continuously variable transmission. Cruising around town, you may wish to select its Autodrive mode, in which the ECU holds engine rpm near peak torque for optimal automatic performance and ease of use. But on a spirited ride, you may want to manually shift through the seven ratios, using the conventional foot lever or handlebar-mounted paddle shifter.

Aprilia Mana 850

The servo mechanism quickly shifts the main pulleys in steps to simulate a good old gearbox. And, just like on a conventional motorcycle, upshifts are only initiated by the rider; yes, we made the mistake of bouncing off the rev-limiter once or twice! If you happen to forget that you’re in a higher ratio approaching a stop, it will downshift automatically at a preset rpm to avoid stalling, and the Mana idles at rest just like an auto-trans car.

A third mode, called Semi-Autodrive, allows manual downshifts for engine-braking effect but executes upshifts for you.

Like the transmission, the 839cc, four-valve-per-cylinder, 90-degree V-Twin engine offers a trio of choices with selectable power modes: Touring, Sport and Rain. We mostly used Sport, and the ample torque coupled with the CVT holding rpm steady provided very respectable acceleration. The measured engagement of the auto clutch means you won’t win any drag races against, say, a Hayabusa, but cars provide no competition whatsoever.

Around town, the Mana excels in its ease of use. On a twisty road, paddle-shifting through the gears is somewhat reminiscent of a video game but far more fun. Steering is a touch heavier than that of Aprilia’s own Shiver, but stability and suspension action were on par with other sporty offerings from this performance-oriented company.

At $9899, the Mana isn’t cheap, but the number of features, available storage and utility make the price a lot easier to swallow than the DN-01′s lofty tag. Plus, it looks cool, has all the attributes of a motorcycle, the convenience of a scooter and no hard-core motorcyclist will turn up his nose at you!

Aprilia Mana 850

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