35 Minutes in Heaven With The 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660
“Hi, I’m Jim Pruner from WebBikeWorld.com and I’m here to ride the uhh… Too-ahh-reg… Tou-regg?… Taaah-reg… Twaah-reg? The new Aprilia!”
While attending the 2022 GET ON! Adventure Fest rally in Mojave, California I was privileged to get a test ride of this exciting new mid-sized adventure bike from Aprilia. Unfortunately, my total ride time only amounted to an enthusiastic 20-minute guided ride followed by 15 minutes of me giving it the beans on and off-road while no one was watching. What I’m saying is there are many aspects I can’t adequately comment about in this review, but I got enough time in the saddle to learn a lot regardless.
Spoiler Alert! There’s very little not to like about this motorcycle itself, but it’s the supporting cast (or lack thereof?) that might be its Achilles Heel.
Narrow, lightweight, flickable, chassis
A full suite of tech features is available with cruise control coming as standard
ABS can be deactivated at both wheels or only the rear
Adjustable engine braking, TC, 4 different power modes
Easy to read display with good information available on it
Excellent sightlines out the front of the bike thanks to the open cockpit
Power delivery (80hp & 50lbs torque) is smooth and well balanced in the low and high rev range
34” Seat height is manageable even for riders under 5’10”
Buttons and controls give good feedback
Adjustable TC and ride mode buttons on the bars
Reasonably comfortable seat, good rider triangle
Tall riders won’t feel cramped, short riders won’t need to reach excessively
Feels similar to a dirt bike off-road thanks to 9.45“ or 240mm travel suspension
Great wind protection at highway speeds, at home on the highway
Brembo brakes are smooth acting with non-intrusive ABS
Competitively priced $11,999-$12,599 MSRP
Rev limiter and higher TC levels cut the power dramatically for a long interval when reached
Fewer traction control settings than some competitors
Long dead space or free travel on the front brake lever of my test bike
Quick-shift is a $250 add-on
Concerns about limited parts supply chain and dealer support network
Will the aftermarket bother selling add-ons for this lesser-known motorcycle?
The display menus aren’t the most intuitive to navigate
OEM factory guards for engine and bars won’t be sufficient for serious riding off-road
As you can see from the list above I couldn’t come up with anything really tangible not to like about the Tuareg… except the name perhaps. This motorcycle is doomed to have its moniker mangled forever by us English-speaking North Americans despite the homage it is to the proud Berber or Hamitic-speaking Tuareg nomads of the Sahara.
Near as I can tell the correct pronunciation is “Twah-reg.” Just FYI.
YouTube Ride Review Video
Shots Fired At Yamaha’s Ténéré 700
Speaking of bikes named after famous desert regions, there’s little doubt in my mind Aprilia’s Tuareg is a blatant “hold my beer” challenge to Yamaha’s ultra-popular middleweight adventure bike.
I haven’t personally ridden a Yamaha Ténéré 700 but I feel like I’ve interviewed enough owners about it to know what it would be like.
The Ténéré (aka T7) is a nimble, lightweight, off-road beast, that excels when ridden in low-speed, technical terrain. It’s also a bargain compared to anything else thanks to its bare-bones build that appears to place priority on reliability and simplicity.
The tube tires, outdated LCD dash, and omission of fancy features (like cruise control, quick-shift, heated grips, adjustable traction control, adjustable engine braking, etc) all speak to the no-nonsense or no-frills approach Yamaha has gone for here. To me, the T7 is the modern, upgraded equivalent of Kawasaki’s KLR650.
If you’re like me and enjoy them-there, highfalutin electronics, rider aids, and comfort features the T7 likely will leave you wanting more and isn’t the bike for you to buy.
The Aprilia Ying to Yamaha Yang: The Tuareg
Enter the Aprilia Tuareg with the opposing ideology of design. It’s all about the “nonsense”, being that it’s loaded with gizmos and even has the exaggerative slogan “be a racer” on the front fender and programmed into the TFT display opening screen
To my thinking, Aprilia has built the T7 most people actually want (or think they do) and stolen Yamaha’s thunder. Further to that, I think this Aprilia beats the T7 in almost every area of performance based on the short romance I had with it in Mojave. Reliability remains to be seen in the long term, of course.
The Tuareg is even competitively priced considering how much more you get in suspension alone for $12,000 – $12,600 US compared to $10,300 US for the Yamaha.
The Tuareg On-Road
The Tuareg’s 80 horsepower with 50 foot lbs of torque is housed in an approximately 450lb fully fueled Tuareg. For a small 659cc engine those are respectable power numbers.
However, they don’t match up with some more well-endowed middleweight bikes boasting around 100hp like the Husqvarna Norden 901 or KTM 790/890 adventure. Those bikes weigh the same (790 adventure) or are within 22lbs of the Aprilia but, there’s almost a 250cc difference in engine displacement to consider making it an unfair comparison on the asphalt when it comes to brute acceleration and speed.
The Tuareg will hold its own on the blacktop, but again, it matches up best against the Yamaha Ténéré’s smaller 72hp engine.
Tuareg Acceleration and Power
On-road I had the Tuareg in “Explore” mode which is the peppiest map to have it in of the 4 available (Urban, Off-Road, Rain, Explore). The rev-happy 659cc inline twin engine was smooth at any number of revolutions I took it to.
If you crank on the throttle and bang through the equally slick gearbox with bad intentions, the Tuareg is happy to be an enabler in getting you into trouble with local law enforcement.
My max speed climbed easily over 100 mph on the pavement with a lovely, balanced powerband fueling my disregard for safety and the rule of law. The bike was content and controlled at that speed, but no one will be mistaking it for a race bike, and on the open road, the KTMs will walk away from it.
On-road cornering on the stock Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR promoted enough confidence for leaning over as far as I wanted with a grin on my face. I didn’t feel the need to hold back in any pavement situation whether on the highway, in a crowded parking lot, or somewhere in between.
Tuareg vibration isn’t a big concern on the pavement even at higher revs although any inline twin engine won’t be vibration-free. The mirrors don’t distort as much as I expected and they remained useable even up by the redline.
That Tuareg Rev Limiter
The only remotely negative encounter with the Tuareg on road was the rev limiter shutting the party down as abruptly as your Dad might after catching you as a teenager playing 7 minutes in heaven with your high school crush back in the day.
Most rev limiters I’ve triggered to date make the engine “blip” down then up quickly again in a staccato rhythm to take the edge off the roar of the engine and verbally remind the rider to slow their roll while keeping power delivery static.
This Aprilia falls flat on its face when the max rev is reached with a long drawn out “booooog”. It drops several hundred rpm when it hits and stays there for half a Mississippi. So I guess Aprilia is saying control your revs or they’ll take swift and heavy-handed action to protect the engine’s valvetrain from rider abuse.
The Tuareg Quick Shifter
My demo Tuareg wasn’t equipped with the optional $250 Aprilia Quick Shift feature to my disappointment. I’ve had this feature on my last three motorcycles and use it both on and off-road with reckless abandon.
I found the tall and wide handlebars on the Tuareg give it laser-precise steering… even borderline twitchy. At highway speeds, that degree of sensitivity exposed some poor shifting techniques that I’ve developed perhaps thanks to my excessive quick shift use of late. I jiggled the bars slightly while doing fast manual shifts out of sheer sloppiness making the bike feel like it was going into a wobble even though it was 100% induced by me.
It could also be highlighting a lighter front weight balance on the Tuareg, but I am not sure what the ratio is.
The twin 300mm Brembo front brakes on the Tuareg are predictably excellent, smooth, powerful, and what I look for in an adventure motorcycle. The rear brake can help out when necessary but is largely surplus.
I did note some occasional squeaks from the front calipers even though these were low mileage motorcycles, but I found the same thing in my previous review of the Ducati Multistrada 1260S Brembo brakes so it’s not uncommon nor does it hinder performance.
Too Much Freeplay?
The front brake lever on my demo Tuareg had excessive dead travel on it (about ¾”) before any braking effect began. I didn’t have time to figure out whether this was adjustable or not, but it could be foreshadowing a one-off warranty repair or master cylinder recall as KTM had with their 790 bikes. I’ve sent an inquiry to my Aprilia contact to find out and will update this review when I get more details.
The Tuareg Windshield
The front end of the Tuareg is unique in appearance and stands out in a crowd. Specifically, the large and clear windshield shape reminds me of a transparent miter that Pope Benedict XVI might have worn on special occasions.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia
Despite any odd resemblance to Papal Tiaras, this windshield is the perfect size for a rider of my 5’8” height because incoming airflow is channeled smoothly over my chest to keep my helmet in a flowing airstream. This helped keep me cool but didn’t produce buffeting or excessive roaring noise compared to other adventure bikes I’ve ridden (like the KTM 790 Adventure).
Other taller people had different opinions on the buffeting though.
My friend Lorne who stands 6’3” says he would prefer a taller windshield on the Tuareg to be comfortable with the incoming air, but he typically installs tall windshields on any of his motorcycles as opposed to wanting a more unobstructed incoming airstream.
The Tuareg Off-Road
This Aprilia is good on pavement but really shines in the rough stuff.
One legitimate knock against it off-road is that just like the T7 the subframe is welded to the mainframe instead of being a bolt-on part. This means in the event of certain kinds of crashes the cost of repair will be economically unviable compared to wholesale replacement of the bike. Food for thought.
Getting Down and Dirty
Unlike most motorcycle reviews I’ve done this one began off-road on a mixture of hardpacked and loose sand in the Mojave Desert. For all of that time, I had the Tuareg in Off-Road mode, which dials back the traction control sensitivity, electronic engine braking, and turns off ABS to the rear wheel just like most competitor bikes… except the T7 which doesn’t have ride modes.
This is where the unusually narrow center section of the Tuareg helps a shorter rider like myself feel confident while slip-sliding through piles of sand in corners, uphill, or down. My short 28” inseam is a major disadvantage on bikes that have high ground clearance and long-travel suspension like this one, but I’m able to dab down a foot on either side to keep from toppling over on the Tuareg.
Aprilia Traction Control
There are 3 levels of TC on the Tuareg (4 if you include completely turned off), but I only experienced how the least invasive setting 1 performed in Off-Road mode. In a word: perfectly!
My KTM 790 Adventure has 10 levels of slip to choose from when it’s in Rally Mode and I love it for the flexibility that provides. I can even adjust it on the fly using the arrow keys on the left bar. After the test ride was over I was informed it’s possible to adjust the TC on the fly using the left bar switches on the Tuareg, but I didn’t get to test it.
Despite the Tuareg TC being so limited comparatively, I found Level 1 suited my off-road riding style to a T, but then again that might change if I rode it in deep mud, a rocky riverbed, or in some nasty shale rock. Aprilia would do well to double the number of TC settings on future Tuaregs, in my opinion.
My friend Lorne accidentally managed to briefly get off-road with his Tuareg test bike in Urban mode. It was a complete disaster since Urban has a much more invasive level of TC. According to him and other riders, any level of TC other than 1 kept robbing too much power when they wanted the rear wheel to slip a bit. I experienced the same irritation with a 2017 Honda Africa Twin that I rode to Tuktoyaktuk in 2018. It’s no fun at all.
Watch Where You Rest Your Fingers On The Tuareg
It’s not hard to accidentally switch modes on the Tuareg if you have catcher’s mitt-sized hands. The mode change button is located on the lower section of the right handlebar switch housing near where the rider’s thumb resides.
Tuareg Tip Overs?
I managed to keep the Tuareg sticky side down (or shiny side up?), which made the Aprilia reps happy.
The center of gravity feels higher than on my KTM 790 Adventure, and I think the Tuareg would hit the ground at a slightly faster speed as a result when things go sour out on the trails. But, even if it does go down its lightweight chassis should make it easy to pick back up at least.
It would benefit from upper crash bars to protect the radiator, along with better handguards, and a robust belly pan for more serious off-road riding because the OE skid plate is an adequate splash guard, but not much else. Why can’t manufacturers just equip adv bikes with 4mm thick skidplates right from the factory?
I also noted the engine oil filter is located right behind the upper portion of the stock skid plate on the front of the engine and might be vulnerable there. It reminds me of where the Yamaha T7 engine oil filter is located… hmm, I keep drawing a lot of comparisons to the T7 with the Tuareg, eh?
The fully adjustable front and rear KYB suspension on the Tuareg has 240mm or 9.45” of travel. That’s more than an inch (30mm) longer than the Yamaha T7 and the same as the KTM 890 Adventure R. Wow!
Fortunately for me, I weigh 180lbs and just about every motorcycle comes set up for that rider weight from the factory. I wasn’t able to bottom out the Tuareg suspension going over the whoops and bumps surrounding the RawHyde Adventures Zakar location where the test rides were happening. I wasn’t hitting them at ridiculous speeds like a Dakar racer might, but I was regularly riding 40 or 60 mph at times on the larger ones and the bike soaked up everything beautifully.
This is one area where the extra money spent on the Aprilia over buying the T7 makes a lot of sense, although it’s easy to point out you can buy the same level or better aftermarket suspension for the Yamaha and level the playing field in this category.
Tuareg Tall Bars
The bars on the Aprilia sit about 2-4 inches higher than on my usual ride: the KTM 790 adventure giving the bike a very upright riding position.
This added height makes it feel very dirtbike and is right at the limit of my comfort level for reach. My reach is only about 28″ long though, so that explains that. The high bars make it feel a little bit like I’ve borrowed my older brother’s dirt bike for an afternoon ride, but I think given a few hundred miles I’d adapt and feel comfortable with it.
Taller people who feel cramped on the KTM 890 and Norden will finally get the riding position they crave on the Tuareg thanks to these taller bars. I’m unsure about whether the footpegs would need adjusting for taller people, but they worked just fine for me.
The Tuareg Seat Surprises Me
Building a one-piece adventure seat that’s comfortable over long distances, but stiff/narrow/long enough to work in an off-road environment is a huge challenge. Just ask KTM about how many times they’ve given up on making anything comfortable on their bikes to instead prioritize performance while punishing people who like to sit down.
Aprilia seems to have nailed it based on this brief demo ride I had, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to laud its comfort completely until I’ve had the chance to ride it for 3 days straight over varied terrain.
People with larger or plus-sized backsides might feel the narrowness of the front section of the Tuareg seat threatens to become a G-string on them. For my ordinary-sized badonkadonk, it fits without harassing my private parts.
Why Not Buy A Tuareg?
You can buy a Tuareg in Martian Red or Acid Gold for $12,000 US, before PDI, freight, taxes, etc while the more aesthetically appealing Indaco Tagelmust (blue, white, and red) inexplicably costs $600 more.
Supply Chain and The Unknown
This is a first-year motorcycle with only a second-year engine in it, so it conceivably has a slightly higher degree of risk involved in owning it when it comes to getting maintenance/warranty work performed along with predicting the availability of parts and accessories.
I would recommend getting the extended warranty because Aprilia did have some issues (now resolved) with the first batch of RS660 engines they produced.
Rumor has it the problems were related to faulty connecting rods which earned some RS660 owners a complete engine swap out rather than a recall repair. That’s the right way for Aprilia to approach such a problem in my opinion. Repairs take a lot longer and expose the product to too many variables compared to a quick wholesale change out.
The brand has been around since 1945 but hasn’t been mainstream until about 2004 when The Piaggio Group purchased them. From what I notice owners are a bit varied in their reports of reliability from these motorcycles and service from dealerships.
By my completely unscientific reckoning, Aprilia motorcycles strike me as the product of one of the Japanese manufacturers collaborating and building a bike 50/50 with Ducati. There’s some Italian flair to the styling to make them fancier than the average Japanese product, but “Apes” definitely seem to be purpose-built first and showpieces second. Does that translate to the reliability side of things as well? I can’t say for sure.
Factory and Aftermarket Parts
One of my friends who worked as a parts person at an Aprilia dealership several years ago mentioned to me that there were often unreasonable wait times for parts from the Italy-based Mother Ship. I have no idea whether this is the current reality or not… but I have to at least address the obvious elephant in the room anyone reading this review plainly sees.
It’s not just the manufacturer parts that might be hard to get either. Will the aftermarket suppliers bother creating and selling add-ons for this lesser-known, and less common motorcycle?
I’d suggest interrogating your local dealership parts counter to get your own truth before buying a Tuareg. Even that could be challenging since for most people in North America, the nearest Aprilia dealership could be hours away from them.
I’m exceptionally fortunate in that I have a dealership only 20 minutes from my front door.
We Need a Long Term Tuareg Review
The 5 Tuaregs at Zakar were demo-ride favorites while the GET ON! Adventure Fest Rally ran for 4 days straight. There were no mechanical issues of note with any of the bikes during that time even after a GS rider T-boned one of the Aprilias accidentally at low speed. Make your own jokes about that one…
All eyes were on these Tuaregs waiting for the slightest stumble– which never came to be. The demo rides put on by the Aprilia reps were aggressive in nature and the bikes were put to the test in the heat, wind, and dust… but I admit a 4-day fling is far different than 14 years of ownership.
Someone needs to do an independent long-term review of one of these exciting new mid-sized dynamos for the whole world to see, and I’d love to be the guy to do it. I’m currently doing a long-term review of a 2022 Husqvarna Norden 901, but am talking to The Piaggio Group reps about a possible Tuareg experiment later on.
I Predict Consumers Will Likely Wait And See
It pains me to say it, but as fantastic as this Tuareg appears to be it might get a pass more often than not by potential buyers.
Aprilia has shown great nerve and boldness in taking on a giant of reliability in the Yamaha T7 and everyone knows it, but let me further emphasize just how huge this Goliath is.
Whenever a potential mid-sized adv bike buyer (like my friend Lorne) casts their gaze longingly in the direction of the sexier, more powerful, more comfortable, higher-tech, and better-equipped Tuareg predictably they almost immediately go running back to the Yamaha dealership by their perceived fear of the boogieman named “European reliability” and the lack of dealership network support.
Long Term Questions
It’s easy to confidently say that 20 years from now the Yamaha will still be running just fine even with 60,000+ miles on it, but what will the Aprilia be like comparatively?
The hard truth for me to accept is that the smart money still rides on the Yamaha until Aprilia can resolve these short and long-term concerns. They need to show the world through several independent testers that the Tuareg is going to run reliably enough to keep owners on the road more than in the dealership repair shop.
The Yamaha World Raid T7 Is Coming
We know Yamaha will likely release a highly anticipated upscale version of their T7 next year to further hurt Aprilia’s chances of the Tuareg becoming a runaway success story. The World Raid T7 sounds thoughtfully improved over the one we can buy now and should retain its bulletproof reputation of reliability too. That’s going to be very tough to beat for any manufacturer venturing into the 700cc category.
I think the Tuareg is such a great motorcycle that has what it takes to please most riders, but my crystal ball doesn’t say that it will resonate strongly enough with the public to translate into big sales numbers for Aprilia.
That’s a real shame because I think Aprilia has done almost everything right with this one.