Scour the motorcycle sites often enough and you’re bound to find the occasional free demo day. It’s rare for dealerships to offer test rides due to the risk involved, but sometimes it’s a good way for the slightly more obscure or expensive brands like Aprilia to draw interest. Get some butts on the seats and inevitably the brains attached to those butts start to think about how they can afford the bikes attached to those seats. It’s also a great idea to bring along one of the most accomplished motorcycle racers in the world, like four time world champ Max Biaggi.
Dainese played host to Max Biaggi and Aprilia at their beautiful D-Store in Costa Mesa, CA last Saturday. Aprilia demo rides in the morning followed by meeting Max in the afternoon, complete with autographs and pictures with Aprilia’s lead racer. Not a bad day. So how do these demo days work, you ask?
For the uninitiated, demo days are typically first come, first serve so it’s a good idea to show up early. We got there 30 minutes ahead of time and slotted ourselves in just fine; those arriving just 90 minutes later were bummed to find out the test rides had filled up. Aprilia rolled out the Tuono 1000R, Mana 850, Mana 850 GT ABS, Dorsuduro 750 and SXV 5.5 for test rides. I was teary eyed to see the RSV4 wasn’t available so I opted for the hooligan-esque SXV 5.5. Let’s just say my tears faded quickly.
This particular test ride had only one proctor. I’ve been on other test rides where rules were clearly stated and enforced, but this one was more of the “try to keep up” variety. Good times for experienced riders and people that wanna tear it up a little, but not for those that are still getting their feet wet or aren’t all that comfortable riding unfamiliar bikes. If you ever do a group test ride and have trouble keeping up, don’t panic or try to ride past your ability. Worst case, you’ll fall behind and have to make your own way back to the start point alone which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just don’t push yourself and risk a crash. One of the riders in my group looked experienced judging by the wear and tear on his jacket but rode so erratically it was worrisome. That guy notwithstanding, it was a great little jaunt.
Compared to my R6, the supermoto class SXV felt like a feather. A tall skinny feather that is, since the seat’s freaking 36.1 inches high. A little intimidating for my 30″ inseam. Typical of supermotos though, the narrowness of the seat combined with the soft suspension allowed me to at least get the balls of my feet down. A few bounces on the seat revealed the soft-ish suspension and I immediately felt reassured.
Powering the SXV 5.5 is a wonderful 549cc v-twin making over 60 hp in a bike weighing just a little over 300 pounds. It’s easy to see why it feels like you can just toss this thing anywhere. The front end was so light it may have come off the ground a few times under hard acceleration (*cough*), something pretty unusual for my typically reserved street riding style. Pair all that with the highly capable Dunlop Qualifiers and you’ve got a scalpel in the corners. The ridiculously cool looking petal-style brakes are no joke either.
The torquey little v-twin engine did take my inline-4 brain some getting used to; I kept hitting the rev limiter and had to learn to shift much earlier than I’m accustomed to. Keep in mind this is typical of supermotos because they’re built for slinging around tight corners, not outright speed. Git ‘er turned and blast out with torque. I only wish my test ride was longer and included track time; of course that may have resulted in a few tickets and higher insurance premiums. But yes, I liked it. A lot. Made my R6 feel like a pig afterwards. The satisfying test ride finished, it was time to head inside the D-Store and wait for Max Biaggi to show up.
If you’re not familiar with Max, he won the 250cc (2 stroke) world championship an unbelievable four times. He has also won multiple races in the 500cc (2 stroke), MotoGP (990cc 4 stroke) and World Superbike (1000cc production 4 stroke) championships on multiple makes (more here and here). He’s currently in 2nd place in the World Superbike championship aboard the Aprilia RSV4. He was very cool, nice, patient and signed for everyone that waited in line. He shook my hand, complimented me on my Dainese suit, signed my leathers, signed a poster (which I freakin’ lost) and took a picture with me. I even got a great tip on where to find authentic Italian food in L.A. when someone asked him where he eats when he spends his off-season here two or three months out of the year. Couldn’t have asked for more.