Thunder & Lightening


More accessible than Aprilia’s screaming Tuono1100, the Tuono 660 offers some of that thunder, and a little lightening in a fun package.

I was fortunate enough to ride Aprilia's new RS660 late last year and had a terrific time putting it through its paces at Hampton Downs racetrack, on one of their HD Moto days.So, when Jock from KiwiRider texted me and said he had its brother, the Tuono 660, sitting in his garage ready for me to take it for a spin, my first question was... "Can I take it to the track?" Permission from the New Zealand Aprilia distributor to take it to the track was sought and granted, I was soon making the journey South to Hampton Downs.

Looks-wise, I think the bike turns heads. The styling is stunning and, for a naked bike, it's sure got a lot of fairing, only a little bit less than the RS - so it's really an upright sports bike. The most notable visual differences are that the windscreen is more upright, as are the handlebars. That all adds up to a more comfortable riding experience, especially on the road, but on the track it makes it a little harder to tuck out of the wind, but not impossibly so.

The rest of the bike shares most of the same equipment, with the same brilliant engine and frame as the RS660, although the engine is tuned differently, delivering less peak horsepower, but more than enough to have you grinning. The electronics are almost identical too and offer more than enough options and adjustability, which are all changeable from the handlebars whilst riding. The only disappointing feature for me was that the forks are a lower spec than the more sports-oriented RS and offer 10mm less travel. more on that later.


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The first task was to let resident suspension technician, Leroy Rich from KSS, tune the suspension to make the bike a bit more track friendly. The front has adjustable preload and rebound in one leg and to be honest we struggled to get enough rebound damping to keep me happy on track, so if you were serious about using the Tuono regularly on track, a few dollars spent on some new fork internals would make a big difference. The rear has adjustable preload and rebound, which are a little hard to access, necessitating the removal of the seat and a side panel. However, the rear shock was a lot more at home on the track than the front.

Suspension sorted, it was time to have a play with the electronics and ensure I had the bike in the right mode to tackle the circuit. Even without the owner's manual, hacking the various mode options was rather intuitive and easy.

All the options are displayed on a large TFT instrument panel, and you can choose from three pre-set road maps; Commute, Dynamic and Individual. I switched the mode from Road to Race and unlocked the additional two modes; Challenge and Time Attack, which allowed me to tailor the electronics to my liking. With Time Attack the speedometer disappears and you get a manual lap timer, and you can select from adjustable Power (Max please), Engine Braking (Med please), Wheelie Control (No thank you), Traction Control (None of that either) and ABS which you can cancel for the rear but only reduce the intervention at the front, but not cancel entirely.


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Despite not being able to completely turn the ABS off, it wasn't that intrusive and with the amazing feel and stopping power of the Brembo four-piston radial calipers combined with twin 320mm discs, I only noticed the ABS light flicker briefly at the hardest braking corners, but couldn't feel its intervention.

Setup sorted, it was off to scrutineering and, after a safety briefing, I was soon out on track, warming myself and the bike up while scrubbing in the OEM Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa Il tyres. Oh, that engine, how I'd missed that throaty growl from the 659cc parallel-twin engine. At 95hp, it's down 5hp on the RS model, but it certainly wasn't that noticeable as the Tuono feels like it has different gearing, which works well with the engine mapping.

This engine produces good torque down low, but it's higher in the rev range where all the fun and noise happens. Keeping the revs up and flicking through the gears has the Tuono making max torque at 8500pm and max power at about 10,500pm Just like the RS, the power delivery is very linear, so no nasty surprises when grabbing a big handful of throttle, it just reacts like a super eager puppy and speeds off in the direction it's pointed.


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On track the ergo's are good, the upright riding position, whilst not ideally suited for the track, sure was comfortable and I still managed to get in a tuck and keep my head relatively out of the wind. There's no vibration through the bike and I rode multiple sessions on the track, back-to-back without tiring. The only session I didn't ride in was the Race Group, as we were missing a few too many ponies to keep up with that lot.

The Tuono is missing a few of those special extras the RS has, namely the quick-shifter/ autoblipper (an optional extra on the Tuono), and I was a tad disappointed as it meant using the clutch and having to see if I could create that satisfying bark on the downshift by blipping the throttle myself. The clutch lever span had no adjustment and with my somewhat meaty paws, could have done with an adjustable lever, however, the pull is light, and I didn't think about it again for the rest of the day. The gearbox is silky smooth, and I was soon upshifting off throttle sans clutch, only engaging the clutch to assist in downshifting.

The lean angle to be had on this bike is amazing. I soon found the edge of the tyres and not a foot peg scrape to be had. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa Il tyres are a perfect balance between road and track tyres, offering great stability under heavy braking and acceleration and amazing grip all the way to the edge. The Tuono is light, flicks easy from side-to-side in changes of direction and is super fun. It was also very economical on fuel, another important consideration in this current economic climate.

After riding the RS, I wasn't expecting as much from the Tuono at the track, but it surprised me.

The engine is superb, the brakes do their job well, the ergo's are comfy. It was even easier to turn than the RS, the only real shortcoming on the track is the front suspension (I later found this wasn't an issue on the road). Top speed feels similar to the RS, topping out at roughly 225km/h, and I managed a 1m 16s around the National Track, which is pretty good considering the stock suspension, gearing and brakes.


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Track Day over, I headed back to my home in South Head, meaning to drop the bike off to Jock on the way, but, somehow, it ended up in my garage. Oops. Sunday dawned and another blue sky day meant it was only appropriate to take the Tuono out for a spin on some rural NZ roads, a good opportunity to test out the standard riding modes. Tackling the twisty tight turns and variable road surfaces of the Rodney District, the Tuono was in its element; its great power to weight ratio and ease of turning let it handle everything in its stride.

Playing with the different modes was fun, I'm sure the Commuter mode has its place on urban streets and in traffic. but flicking it into Dynamic made the throttle response more immediate and urgent and is perfect for spirited back roads rides. played with the cruise control a few times and it worked a treat, but I think that feature is more suited for wide-open American Highways on a large cruiser.


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If you're looking for a middleweight bike that's light, sounds amazing, is easy to ride with some excellent Italian pedigree and performance, and has a great electronics package, both the RS and the Tuono are hard to look past. I'd happily have either one in my garage. For touring and general riding/commuting, the Tuono would get my nod due to the more upright ergonomics.


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