Common Tread

2018 Aprilia Shiver 900 first ride review

Oct 09, 2017

Almost exactly 10 years ago, I went to Arizona to ride an oddly named new motorcycle called the Aprilia Shiver, just a few years after the Piaggio Group bought the brand. Last week in California, I got a quick ride on the 2018 Aprilia Shiver 900, so the obvious question: What progress has a decade brought us?

In summary, while the old SL750 Shiver was a stylish and innovative bike for its time that was also a little expensive, the Shiver 900 is a more powerful successor that provides several advances we didn’t expect in 2007, such as ABS, traction control, ride modes and a flashy new TFT color instrument panel. And maybe the best part is that despite these upgrades, the price is only $400 more than what Aprilia was asking back in 2007. MSRP is $9,399.

2018 Aprilia Shiver
The Aprilia reps mentioned more than once that the Shiver is an Italian motorcycle that's still built in Italy. Photo by Kevin Wing.

2018 Aprilia Shiver 900: The facts

Aprilia gave us the opportunity to ride the Shiver and its super-size pseudo-supermoto sister (say it three times fast), the Dorsoduro, from Ventura, California, past Ojai, and into the curvy, almost empty roads of Los Padres National Forest. The most central revision of the Shiver is the addition of 11 mm of stroke to the 90-degree V-twin, bumping displacement to 896 cc. Aprilia claims 95 horsepower (at the crankshaft) and 66 foot-pounds of torque.

Ten years ago, the Shiver was the first naked bike you could buy in the United States with ride-by-wire throttle. At the time, I thought the throttle response felt a little different, but it worked OK. For 2018, there’s nothing to complain about at all, in terms of throttle response and fueling. No lurching, no abrupt off-idle transitions. Aprilia credits the new Marelli 7 SM electronic engine management unit that’s also used in the company’s big-bucks V-fours.

The Shiver offers three levels of traction control (plus off) and three ride modes: Sport, Tour and Rain. On some motorcycles, switching to the sportiest riding mode just makes the bike too twitchy and less fun to ride. Not so with the Shiver. Sport provides a little more immediacy to the throttle response, but I could still dawdle around at slow speeds in city traffic and not feel like I had a rodeo bull beneath me just dying to break loose.

Aprilia Shiver 900 engine
The torquey, 90-degree engine benefits from flawless fueling and reliable throttle response. Photo by Kevin Wing.

The friendly nature of the V-twin is no accident, because Aprilia positions the Shiver as the more practical of the two 900 twins. In both bikes, the revised engine provides ample power and an unmistakably V-twin sound and feel, but without any harshness or undue vibration. I’m not always a V-twin kind of guy, but I enjoyed the character of this engine.

Aprilia Shiver 900 exhaust
The small discs in the twin, underseat exhausts double as satellite receiving dishes that accept firmware updates for the ECU beamed from Noale. OK, so they don't. I was just seeing if you were paying attention. Photo by Kevin Wing.

The two bikes part ways in small details that make a significant difference, however. The fuel map is a little different on the Shiver and the sprocket ratio is one tooth more relaxed. As a result, the Shiver feels less caffeinated at highway speeds. The different gearing and the lower seat height of 31.9 inches on the Shiver (compared to 34.25 inches on the Dorsoduro) change the nature of the bike, making it more of an all-around street bike.

Beyond the engine, the other very noticeable upgrade to the Shiver 900 is the TFT full-color dash, which displays a bar graph tachometer across the top, along with speed, gear indicator, engine temperature, odometer, and a reminder of which ride mode and traction control level you’ve selected, among other stats you can scroll through. Across the bottom are some small icons that are used if you choose the optional Aprilia Multimedia Platform, which lets you tie your Bluetooth device into the dash so you can control your phone or helmet communicator through the handlebar-mounted switch.

Aprilia Shiver 900 instrument panel
The TFT dash is one of the most visible upgrades to the Aprilia Shiver 900 for 2018. Photo by Kevin Wing.

The TFT screen looks great and gave me all the information I needed. My one minor complaint is that the tach is small and not easy to read at a glance. That problem is mitigated, however, by the white, yellow and red shift lights Aprilia placed across the top of the panel. When I was trying to up my pace, I shifted gears based on the lights in my peripheral vision and didn’t even try to read the tach.

Other premium touches include metal braided brake lines and adjustable levers on the brake and the hydraulic clutch. Aprilia said clutch effort was reduced 15 percent on the 2018 model. Floating dual 320 mm discs up front are grabbed by radial-mount, four-piston calipers. The brakes don't provide the greatest feel, but they did provide plenty of stopping power. The ABS can be turned off, if you’re so inclined.

Aprilia Shiver seat
The seat on the Shiver is lower and more comfortable (at least for the rider, if not the passenger) than the one on its sister Dorsoduro. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Suspension travel is a shade over five inches (130 mm) front and rear, which is a little more than an inch less than the Dorsoduro. The inverted fork is adjustable for preload and rebound damping and the rear shock is adjustable for preload.

In keeping with its more relaxed, all-purpose positioning, the Shiver comes stock with Pirelli Angel GT sport-touring tires, but because the bike wears common sizes, 120/70R17 front and 180/55R17 rear, when the Pirellis wear out you will have a wide choice of tires if you want to try something different.

Aprilia Dorsoduro and Shiver 900
The 2018 Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 and Shiver 900 share the same V-twin engine but offer different personalities. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Dorsoduro 900 or Shiver 900

Since Aprilia had us ride the 900 twins back to back, a comparison between the hardback and the involuntary reflex (I never was sold on the Shiver’s name) is inevitable. The 15-tooth front sprocket on the Dorsoduro, versus the 16-tooth sprocket on the Shiver, is a very low-tech piece compared to other features on these motorcycles, but along with the additional seat height, longer swingarm and added suspension travel, it makes a significant change in attitude. Which one you’ll prefer really comes down to personal preference and riding style.

If your goal is to attack your morning commute with Lemmy-like fury and maybe hit the occasional track day, especially at a tighter road course, the Dorsoduro will more effectively push your buttons. If you want to throw a tail bag on the back and take off for a 600-mile weekend of minimalist sport-touring, the Shiver would be a friendlier travel companion. The only thing holding you back would be the lack of wind protection and the possibility of those twin underseat exhausts melting your soft luggage straps if you’re not careful with your routing. But then both of those issues would only be worse on the Dorsoduro.

Aprilia Shiver 900 swingarm
The swingarm is one of the parts that differs between the Shiver and the Dorsoduro, and it gives the Shiver a shorter, 57.7-inch wheelbase. Photo by Kevin Wing.

My personal opinion has no bearing on yours, but just for the record, I’d say that while the Dorsoduro looks like more fun and is more fun in certain settings, the Shiver is the bike I’d rather be on in a majority of situations. And that’s before I consider that the Dorsoduro is $1,600 more expensive.

Aprilia Shiver 900
Except for the lack of wind protection, the Aprilia Shiver would make a very competent sport-touring bike for longer rides. Photo by Kevin Wing.

What about the Shiver’s other competition?

For a motorcycle that’s been on the market for a decade, I’ve seen very few Aprilia Shivers on the road. One reason for that is the strong competition it faces. It had some very worthy and less expensive competitors when it was a 750. Things aren’t much easier now that it’s in the 900 class.

The competition starts with the fellow Italian, the Ducati Monster 821, though the Aprilia undercuts it on price. The very appealing Triumph Street Triple R, which unlike the Ducati also matches the Aprilia’s TFT dash, is $1,000 more expensive than the Aprilia but provides more power. The new Kawasaki Z900 we’ve been riding this summer is less sophisticated but is more powerful and less expensive. Then there’s the perennial bang-for-the-buck favorite in the 900 class, the Yamaha FZ-09, with an MSRP of $8,999. I’ve ridden most of those bikes and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. That kind of competition is enough to send a shiver down the Aprilia’s spine, except that the Shiver doesn’t have a spine. Trellis frame, you know.

Aprilia Shiver headlight
Ten years ago, I wrote that the Shiver's headlight looked like it had been designed by Salvador Dalí when he tired of painting melting clocks. Today, it looks a lot more conventional than it did back then. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Of course the other big reason you don’t see a lot of Aprilias on the road, especially Shivers and Dorsoduros, is because the company just doesn’t have as big a footprint in North America as those other manufacturers. While the Piaggio group has been working steadily over this past decade to improve its dealership coverage, you still probably don’t have a neighborhood Aprilia shop, especially if you don’t live in a major market.

With its lower price, bump in power and the TFT dash, the new Shiver 900 makes a compelling case against its direct V-twin competition, the Ducati Monster. Its ergonomics and user-friendly power mean you could easily commute to work through traffic all week and happily burn your entire weekend on a sport-touring blitz through the mountains. This class of bikes is one I’m naturally drawn to, and if you feel the same, I can tell you without hesitation that 10 years after the original Shiver, the upgraded 900 is an even more worthy option to consider.

But I’m still not convinced about the name.