Tuono 660 – Is it THE sporty bike for Japan’s endless twisties?

Many many moons ago on a week long tour deep in the mountains hunting twisties, our pack got to discussing the ideal bike for lapping up the vast and varied twisties of Japan. I remember having recently ridden and fallen for the HP2 supermotard. It wasn’t powerful, smooth or multifunctional and it had zero protection from the elements. But, it did have oodles of room for arms, legs and throwing yourself all over it while enjoying twisties, which incidently it didn’t need as it had the banking ground clearance and torque out of corners of a startled wharthog! It sounded great, made me grin, woop and laugh, ripped through twisties and was more fun than its tractor-like power delivery had any right to be.

Bikes like that sparked our conversation and lead to a variety of bikes being suggested. There were a few things we all agreed upon though: consistent chassis, torquey power delivery, lightish weight, agility and a relatively upright riding position making it easy to throw around. Oh, and more than 100hp wasn’t exactly necessary.

There have been a few bikes fitting the bill over the years and last year Aprilia’s Tuono 660 hit the tarmac too. It is an uprightish, sporty and compact machine with a torquey twin and the chassis from the RS660 sportsbike. It comes in two specs, Standard or Factory which translates to 95hp or 100hp+gizmos+suspension.

Being a Tuono means it’s the uprightish sibling of the RS660 sportsbike but with wide bars atop the top bridge for pushing and pulling rather than crouching and coaxing through the twisty bits. With decently comfortable seat to handlebar to footpeg ergonomics it doesn’t make you feel like a pretzel, yet is conducive to enjoying the winding and twisty bits right up until the bladder or tank calls a halt to the fun.

The tank, at 15 litres, seemed to be providing 220-260km of enthusiastically devoured twisties Thoughtfully, it has a little breather hole near the top of the filler neck which makes topping the tank right up an unrestricted affair. Well done Aprilia!

The 5 inch TFT is bright and clear and the easy to read fuel gauge made sure I got it to a gas station every time without stress. Speaking of the TFT, that’s where you interact with the rider modes and aides. It has road and track specific facias and 5 riding modes, two of which you can customize and there’s a fair bit to customize with it’s APRC electronic rider aid suite which includes adjustable traction control, wheelie control, cruise control, engine braking and throttle responsiveness.

All that means it can be dialed in to your liking or what the conditions demand. But, even without all those aids, Aprilias typically handle very well and inspire a lot of confidence so all that tech is sprinkles and tickles on top!

It’s got a balanced and predictable chassis which makes for great handling and was only let down by the rear shock at more than eight tenths. It never let go or bottomed out but it did pogo a bit when pushing it on less than stellar roads. I’ve been informed the 660 Tuono Factory has this covered. Regardless, it was fun to ride and never had me hoping for a wider corner or deeper braking zone.

The brakes match the package too. Decent initial bite, nice modulation and very stable when calling on all its stopping traction. I’d call them confidence inspiring, not ultra sharp and they probably aren’t up to endurance racing but for all day fun in the mountainous twisties, they never had me guessing or doubting and showed no signs of fade. Satisfyingly, they weren’t over cautious either. I had to really mash the brake lever to get ABS to intrude at which stage the rear was getting very light.

The Commuter mode is a doodle in town and Dynamic is what you want to dial up when the rubber rounding starts. You’ll want to do that as it rounds rubber well. The pace bike for a couple days was the V4 Factory Tuono and the 660 was like a jackrussel terrier to the alsatian V4 Factory. It was nipping at the big dog’s heals whenever the road tightened up.

That torquey parallel twin is lacking capacity compared to its middleweight adversaries but it has punch when you’re in the right gear and grab a handful of throttle clawing out of a corner. It delivers a predictable wave of power and makes the right sounds too. There seems to be something going on with the intake at around 7000rpm as the note from the airbox changes, getting more aggressive and egging you on! The top end doesn’t escalate to a gear shifting crescendo though and is better short shifted back into the 6-7000rpm zone if engine theater is your thing.

A quickshifter is optional for the Tuono 660 but this one didn’t have a one, or a blipper like so many new lightweight bikes do these days, so the riding became a lot more deliberate and more engaging for it. Setting up for the corners by rolling off the throttle while fettling the brake lever and letting the bike settle then blipping the throttle, baap-p-p, for the clutchless downshifts to the right gear for the corner and tipping it in so intuitively. Then, looking through the corner, finding your exit line and winding on that smooth throttle to each blip for the upshift. It has such a sweet gearbox and shifter action, along with a fruity growl-n-pop-pop when you blip the throttle that it complements a great dance of the throttle-hand and shifter-foot. The kind of rewarding engagement that helps you find your rhythm for turn after turn of rubber rounding.

Aprilia has done real well with the stock exhaust too. Not muted or muffled but bassy and pop-pop-poppy. With a short pipe poking out on the chain side and an even shorter one on the other side, the underbelly catalyser box is compact and a great example of how to make a stock exhaust disappear into the design and sound great for the rider. Does it sound as good away from the bike? Maybe not, but that’s of no consequence to the one twisting the throttle and grinning from ear to ear, right?

It almost makes an aftermarket pipe redundant when it sounds and looks this good and should the bike end up on its side, dents and scratches to a protruding exhaust won’t be adding to the heartache.

There are plenty of other things that look and feel great on this package too. The fit, paintwork and finish are quality and just where they should be. There are lots of simple design solutions like the headlights and rearsets. Speaking of headlights, they are LED and symmetrically stylish and work more than adequately in the dark too. It hasn’t always been this way with its predecessors.

Although there’s a little storage under the rider’s seat, removing the rear seat and finding no storage, I mean zero, was confounding. Once the distraction wore off, I looked at the seat itself in my hand and had to laugh. It makes a great reminder to your riding mates to have a well prepped bike as they won’t want to be perched atop that narrow lightly padded table tennis paddle of a seat for the pillion of shame ride home. When attached in its rightful place, as a seat, it does look good though, like the rest of the bike.

The rider’s seat, looking similarly purposeful, is in fact well shaped with plenty of room and although initially firm, didn’t hinder all day riding. The mirrors can see around you, stay where you put them and don’t turn those following you into hazy jelly monets. And when you see something behind you demanding rapid deceleration, the hand controls are just where they should be and have decent feel all the way through to the radial brembo calipers and out to the Pirelli Rosso Corsa II rubbery sticky bits. The concert of those components is a big part of how this bike inspires confidence.

Highwaying to the twisty bits can often be a labour on a naked or sporty bike with all of their ergonomic and aerodynamic compromises..

The Tuono is light, missing the lower half of its fairing and puts some weight on the wrists. But I’d recommend the optional taller screen like this one had as it punches a surprisingly good hole in highway speed air and that half naked front fairing keeps a fair bit of wind blast off. The slight lean forward to the bars pitches you into the air reducing wrist load while bringing clean air around the helmet and less body buffeting.

Don’t go thinking its little 660 twin isn’t speedy enough or struggles to keep up with traffic on the highway either, its got plenty of legs for almost double the speed limit and winds on power well for overtakes. Add its cruise control and it does not bad for such a lightweight.

So, it seduces you to ride with its sound, trundles around the city nicely, gets to the twisties without struggle, puts a big smile on your dial in the twisties, is pleasing on the eye at pitstops and complements the rider. Sounds like a winner.

But is it one of those rare bikes that fit the endless twisties and bountiful but testing riding of Japan we started searching for all those years ago?

Its consistent chassis rewards with cornering and braking confidence. The torquey power delivery makes you grin when jackrusseling through tight bends or traffic lights go green. It’s athletically light, flickable, agile in a pinch and has a tiny turning circle all of which are complemented by its upright riding position making it easy to throw around. Oh, and it has just a smidgen less than a 100hp.

But is it THAT bike? Take one for a test ride and see for yourself how much fun it is!

Aprilia Japan provided this XX edition Tuono 660 for a few days around the Tuono 20th Anniversary event with an agreement to tell fellow riders all about it and have it there on the day, clean and ready to be adored by fans at the Hakone Glass Museum. I’ll save you the suspense there, it made it and was suitably stroked, fiddled with, clambered all over and adored by riders and passers-by alike.

Thank you for letting me get to know this fun bike Aprilia Japan!

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