By Denis Droppa
Aprilia is best known in South Africa for its Mille 1000cc superbike and a troubled financial history but the company was recently taken over by the Piaggio group and seems to be on a more stable footing.
The South African distributorship was passed around like a hot potato but has now been taken up by Kawasaki Motorcycles SA with all the after-sales support that suggests.
Nevetheless, Aprilia is likely to remain a niche brand selling in relatively small numbers.
Even within the Aprilia ranks nothing is more off-mainstream than the SL750 Shiver - middleweight, naked, short on wind protection, big on attitude.
There are no body panels so all the mechanical bits are on display - and a very pretty display it is. The spec sheet says the frame is a combination of aluminium and steel trellis with inverted Marzocchi forks and twin underseat pipes.
The eye of the beholder says it's a very sexy bike with angular lines that give it an insectile, slightly menacing, look.
Braking is provided by Brembo radial-mount callipers and power comes from a very compact 750cc, 90-degree, V-twin with dual-spark ignition and producing a claimed 71kW and 80Nm.
It's not a superbike but offers plenty of useable torque for accessible performance and it's the first Aprilia with an electronic throttle.
New on the 2008 version is a choice of three engine mappings: winter, touring and sport, giving progressively more power. The starter button doubles as the mode selector when the engine is running.
So why bother and not just leave it in Sport? Sure, that's the mode with the most huff-'n-puff, but it induces an unpleasantly snatchy throttle action and makes the bike difficult to ride in city traffic.
Touring mode offers still-decent grunt with less snatch and the power-limited winter setting saves you from yourself when you're silly enough to grab a handful of throttle on a slippery or wet road.
The Shiver is fast enough in Sport mode to be exciting, a good stepping stone to the big-bike league for riders intimidated by 300km/h superbikes.
You settle into it very easily and build confidence quickly thanks to its friendly ergonomics and power delivery. The seating position is upright and relaxed, with relatively high handlebars, but the saddle's a little tall and shorter riders will reach the ground with toes only.
The Shiver gets going smoothly, with little fuss; you can jerk the throttle hard without unintentionally hoiking the front wheel. Torque delivery is at its best in midrange - there's no need to hunt for grunt through the six-speed gearbox because the bike pulls well without a fistful of revs.
It makes great noises too, with a deep-throated roar that sends a shiver down your spine the first few times you hear it - perhaps that explains the name.
Top speed is more than 200km/h but that's largely theoretical as the lack of a windscreen makes cruising above 160km/h feel like you're sitting in a hurricane.
I didn't ride it on a track but it feels suitably nimble on the road, even at boot-scraping lean angles; Aprilia quotes a dry weight of 189kg. The comprehensive instrumentation - an analogue rev counter and a big LCD screen for everything else - includes a gear indicator and air temperature display.
The price of R83 995 is high when there are more powerful V-twin sports bikes such as Suzuki's SV1000 selling for a lot less - which is the main reason why the Shiver will remain a niche bike for fans of Italian style looking for something different. - Star Motoring