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2009 Aprilia Mana 850 Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

The Aprilia Mana 850 blends genres well by turning both motorcycle and scooter types of machines to its advantage and adding advanced, almost excessive, electronics to the mix. It stands out first by its welcome ease of use, its distinctive, perhaps overly studied style, and an undeniable exclusivity. The electronically controlled automatic transmission, the real revolution embodied by the Mana, catches the eye, as it is an essential part of the evolution of motorcycle/scooter hybrids (think Honda DN-01) geared towards newbies, often crossing over from the auto world, and not really destined for experienced riders looking for simplicity and comfort.

The Mana 850 projects a "busy" motorcycle look over the heart of a scooter – and that’s just too bad for traditionalists.

Smart scooter powertrain
In the scooter arms race, the Gilera GP800 calls the shots with an 836-cc V-twin. And since Gilera and Aprilia are part of the Piaggio Group, why not share the goods? That’s just what the Mana does, using the same engine as the GP800, which produces 76 hp at 8,000 rpm and 54 ft-lb of torque at 5,000 rpm on the bike – far from breathtaking but more than enough for an urban or light touring ride that also delivers a little sportiness for our greater enjoyment.

On the Mana, the twin-cylinder uses modern electronic injection technology, with three power settings to suit conditions and tastes: the softer Rain mode for slippery conditions, the Touring mode producing more power for a flowing ride and the assertive Sport mode with higher engine revs.

The transmission completely foregoes the clutches, shafts and gears typical of a motorcycle, calling upon a system of two variable-radius pulleys and a belt, dubbed CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission – such as we’ve been seeing for decades in all small vehicles, like scooters, electric bikes, snowmobiles, and increasingly in cars.

CVTs are old news, but advances in electronics have enabled Aprilia to liven things up with a transmission management system instead of depending on rpm and inertia (so called “centrifugal clutches”) to vary pulley diameter like in the old days.

On the Mana, the twin-cylinder uses modern electronic injection technology hidden behind a few different-looking covers.
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