Supermotos are fun. More often than not, they’re dirt bikes fitted with road-going suspension and tyres. But they’re light, agile and pack enough performance to spread a wide grin whether you are hunting down apexes or scything through traffic. The Dorsoduro 900 though, with all its pretentious supermotoness, borrows its chassis and powertrain from the road-going Aprilia Shiver 900. Not a good start, as the Shiver weighs a portly-for-a-sports-naked 218 kilos, and sports nakeds are supposed to be renowned for their lightness. So, is the plot already lost then? We think not.
For starters, the Dorsoduro 900 looks like nothing else on our roads. Other than the Ducati Hypermotard 939 that is. Supermotos are a rare breed in the Indian bike scene and that's one of the reasons the Dorsoduro commands curious and admiring glances. It looks tall and compact, approachable and intimidating at the same time. You will have curious onlookers gathering around, glancing at the sharp front beak, narrow profile and bright bodywork. Interestingly, the Dorsoduro does not have a paint job per se. Instead, it is covered in plastic panels with bright stickered race livery similar to the Tuono and RSV4, and we would like to think that this contributes a bit to weight reduction. The triangular headlamp gets an odd-looking running light on top.
New for 2017 is a TFT colour instrument console that has an uncluttered display and large fonts. Twin underseat exhausts at the rear narrow down at the end and are separated by an elongated tail lamp. Oddities are present in the form of an awkwardly placed side stand which has your left leg stretch towards the rear wheel hub to reach for it.
Light on its feet
Frame, powertrain and electronics are the only thing the Dorsoduro shares with the Shiver 900. Most of these changes tend towards weight reduction. Its new 41mm adjustable Kayaba forks are lighter than the previous iteration, while the wheels are lifted off the RSV4 RR, further reducing 2.2 kilos. Combined with the lighter bodywork and seats, you have a package that is 6 kilos lighter than the Shiver 900. It's still no lightweight, tipping the scales at 212 kg. However, the Dorsoduro feels surprisingly nimble, but more on that later.
Powering the Dorsoduro is a 986.1cc liquid-cooled V-twin that makes a modest 95.2PS and 90Nm of torque. Performance, though, is available low-down in the rev range, and the addition of ride-by-wire with aggressive maps make this a tractable, albeit gruff, motor. Thanks to its oversquare configuration with a lighter piston, the engine does love to rev, trading in top end whack for more useable low and mid-range punch.
Open the gas and things start to get lively north of 3,000rpm, with a noticeable shove post 4,500rpm. Power delivery gets stronger all the way to 7,500rpm, only tapering off once the tacho needle crosses 8,500rpm. Redline comes up around 9500rpm. The ride-by-wire system offers a smooth and crisp throttle response throughout its rev range, making this motor immensely likeable.
The powertrain is similar to the Shiver 900 except for a small change - the Dorso gets one less tooth on the front sprocket, which gives it better acceleration. 0-100kmph comes up in 4.16 seconds while 0-160kmph is dusted off in 10.15 seconds. That's a smidge faster than the Shiver 900’s 4.36 and 10.78 seconds. Roll-on times are quick as well. It can do 30-70kmph in third in just 2.58 seconds, which is faster than most in the middleweight naked category and bested only by the MV Agusta Brutale 800.
Of the three riding modes available, Sports offers the most aggressive throttle response while Touring and Rain mode offer softer maps. There is no change in power outputs between the three and the modes can be activated on the move via the starter button. The Sports map is the most engaging and isn't as intimidating as some of the middleweight nakeds. Touring mode is best left for heavy city traffic while Rain mode is better left for an actual rainy day. The 3-stage traction control too can be toggled through on the go. ATC 1 is the least intrusive but given the mellow power delivery, doesn't have to work as hard. On a dry, sunny day, the other two modes feel redundant and will be usable only during unfavourable riding conditions.
Gearshifts are notchy but precise and the hydraulic clutch actuation is a tad on the heavier side. In city traffic, the V-twin does not heat up as much thanks to the lack of heat-trapping bodywork. Out on the highway, you can do a relaxed 110kmph in sixth gear with the tacho hovering around the 4000rpm mark. A big upshot of the motor’s relaxed nature is great fuel efficiency, which is 19.1kmpl in city running and 22.7 kmpl in the highway cycle. With its narrow 12-litre fuel tank, expect a range of around 260km.
Living with it
More weight and less power are not a good recipe for a fun motorcycle. The Dorsoduro turns that notion on its head. For starters, that narrow frame, upright seating position and wide handlebars make it unintimidating to ride. It's like sitting on a large dirt bike with its 871mm tall and narrow seat and your feet locked on the bear claw-style footpegs. Sure, the saddle height is rather tall and might put off shorter riders. But most riders with even average heights should find the Dorsoduro 900 manageable.
On the move, the Dorsoduro sheds weight instantly and feels more like a 400cc naked. Taking corners initially feels unnerving due to the long travel suspension and its slightly relaxed 25.9 degree rake causing the bike to run wide on exits. Once you get used to it though, the Dorsoduro is bucketloads of fun. A key reason being the ability to move around freely on the bike and the light and reactive front end. Supermoto style riding is rewarded. The faster you go, the more you have to move around and that makes the riding experience so much more lively.
The fully adjustable front Kayaba forks and the rear Sachs monoshock offer a wide range of adjustability and makes the Dorsoduro versatile for different applications. In the city, the light front backed up by the torquey motor makes it a riot, and will have you clearing gaps in traffic with a grin. It's the same story on the highway though the windblast due to the upright stance will tire you quickly, and post 170kmph the front end starts to weave a bit.
Ride quality is fantastic, as the suspension’s long 160mm travel soaks up bumps and bad roads with aplomb. It is fun off the road too, if you choose to indulge your urge for some fun in the dirt. But the tyres are properly road-biased, which is a severe limiting factor that needs to be taken into consideration if you decide to keep riding after the tarmac ends. On the road though, the Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tyres offer fantastic grip while cornering and even under hard braking.
Braking itself could have been better though. While the radially mounted Brembo brakes offer a progressive feel, they could have done with a sharper bite. Under braking tests, 100-0kmph took 3.93 seconds, covering a distance of 47.72 metres, slowest among the 800-900cc bikes we have tested so far. We reckon the extra weight has a large role to play here. And when you yank the front brake lever with gusto, the front end loads up quite a bit, eliciting a small stoppie.
In a sea of superbikes, cruisers and adventure tourers, a supermoto is a fresh and engaging experience. Almost like a superbike with longer travel suspension, a supermoto can be entertaining, but at the same time be versatile enough to be used over different road conditions. We spent three days with the Dorsoduro and during that time, there was never a dull moment. It might not be the fastest or the most dynamically competent motorcycle in its engine category, but it is undoubtedly fun. It makes you indulge in some hooliganism, but the experience never gets hairy. It’s akin to that mischievous friend who always lands you in trouble, but who has also got your back.
Here’s the catch though. Being a CBU, the Dorsoduro 900, at Rs 12.87 lakh (ex-showroom), is expensive! Especially when the Ducati Hypermotard 939, a lighter and more powerful alternative, can be had at Rs 11.16 lakh (ex-showroom). It might not be the most affordable way to enter the supermoto club, but it definitely is the more approachable one. If you don't mind spending the extra dough, the Dorsoduro 900 is a good-looking, fun and versatile ‘big bike’ that will not intimidate beginners, but still deliver enough to keep them satiated.
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