Perhaps the bravest move in modern motorcycling was allowing crazy kitchenware designer Phillipe Starck carte blanche when it came to designing this urban commuter single.
Featuring a sturdy Rotax 650cc engine, the wacky looking Moto 6.5 turned out to be an expensive gamble for Aprilia, who dedicated a production line to making this model in the mid 1990s.
Starck´s ‘egg shaped´ frame, bizarre inter-connected twin exhausts, lurid paint schemes and post-industrial grey coloured cycle parts, coupled with soggy suspension, all combined to make the Moto 6.5 one of the least popular bikes in UK during the late `90s.
One day, the Moto 6.5 will be a collector´s item. But then again, some people collect train numbers don´t they..?
The ride down the autostrada had been damp, windy and uncomfortable, but the scene at Bologna made the effort worthwhile. Back in Aprilia´s home town of Noale, steady rain had left the highways almost as wet as those of nearby Venice. Two hours and 100 miles south in Bologna the sun was shining, the city streets were dry and the Moto 6.5 could really show its worth. Suddenly the Aprilia´s upright riding position made sense, the single-cylinder engine´s punchy low-rev delivery was ideal, and the bike´s blend of light weight and manoeuvrability made it perfectly at home flicking through the traffic.
Whenever it was parked, too, the Moto 6.5 drew a steady stream of spectators fascinated by – and mostly impressed by – this unusual looking motorbike. That sort of reaction is exactly the one intended by Aprilia, whose hope is that the Moto 6.5´s style, simplicity and ease of use will appeal particularly to scooter riders and car drivers. In the words of the advert running in Italian general-interest magazines, the Moto 6.5 is aimed at those who are spurred by the freedom of a motorcycle but scared by the super-performance of sports bikes.
Anyone still in doubt about the bike´s intended market needs look no further than the pretentious photo album produced for the bike´s launch at the Bologna Show, in which it is pictured with an assortment of singers, models and other trendies including Peter Gabriel and its French star designer Philippe Starck (in whose honour the name Moto 6.5 gains its accent). Starck is a genuinely big name in the design world, having shaped everything from toys and televisions to buildings and even an aeroplane. He´s a keen motorcyclist and has also worked with Aprilia on a prototype scooter called the Lama.
You can make up your own mind about the Moto 6.5´s appearance, but there´s no doubt that Starck has produced a striking machine quite distinct from anything else on two wheels. Mostly coloured grey to match the alloy of parts including its watercooled 649cc engine, the 6.5 has a simple, elemental look. The triangular forms of the petrol tank and seat/sidepanels contrast with curved shapes including the tubular steel frame, the radiator and small bash-plate, the upswept exhaust system and the neatly tapering tail section.
The motor is heavily based on the dohc, radial five-valve unit from Aprilia´s Pegaso 650 trail bike, modified with softer camshafts and a larger oil-pump, necessary because the crankshaft uses some plain bearings instead of needle-rollers, to reduce noise. That allows a little more sound from a stainless steel exhaust that is cunningly disguised to look like a straight-through system, and is mostly hidden below the engine.
With a single 40mm Mikuni in place of the Pegaso´s twin 33mm carbs, the Moto 6.5 produces an undisclosed maximum slightly below the trail bike´s peak of 50bhp at 7000rpm.
Apart from the gracefully curving route of its 32mm diameter twin main rails the frame is conventional, and like the Pegaso´s incorporates a square-section top spine that doubles as an oil tank. Suspension is fairly basic, with 40mm Marzocchi forks up front (aided by a brace beneath the mudguard) and the same firm´s preload-adjustable vertical monoshock operating the oval-section steel swing-arm. Travel is 135mm front, 120mm rear – considerably less than the 180mm/170mm figures of the Pegaso.
Those shorter legs allow an 810mm seat height, 50mm lower than the Pegaso´s, but the roadster still has the fairly tall and slim feel typical of a trail bike. It´s even lighter than most big trailies, at just 150kg dry, and has a similar riding position thanks to handlebars that curve slightly upwards and footrests that are set well forward. But the 6.5 gives a unique and attractive view over the orange-fronted fuel tank (UK tanks will be black) to an instrument panel comprising three different-sized circular housings for speedometer, water temperature and warning lights.
The first thing to make an impression when I pulled away was the low-down grunt of the engine, which was as flexible and responsive as a big single should be. No tacho is provided, and none was needed. Simply winding back the throttle in the lower gears sent the Aprilia scuttling forward very abruptly almost regardless of revs, which made blatting through the villages around Noale fun despite the miserable weather.
The Moto 6.5 does not have the aggressive image of Ducati´s Monster, but it shares a similar ability to provide quick getaways, instant roll-on acceleration and effortless clutchless wheelies.
Engine performance was generally very adequate on the open road, too, and the Aprilia handled the blast down the autostrada as well as most big singles. It had enough torque to nip past traffic from about 50mph without resorting to the five-speed gearbox, and cruised at an indicated 85mph with vibration kept to tolerable levels by the engine´s balancer shaft. There wasn´t much power in hand at that speed, though, and the Moto 6.5 refused to reach the magic ton mark however much I crouched down out of the wind.
The only real engine-related flaw was the slight misfire that one of the two Aprilias I rode occasionally suffered from, particularly at about 75mph in top gear. It wasn´t a major glitch, just a slight hesitation on opening the throttle, and felt like temporary fuel-starvation. The other engine ran crisply all day, which suggests that the fault isn´t a general one. Sadly the clean-running Moto 6.5 had a typical naked-bike tendency to weave above about 85mph, while the other remained stable. Both were pre-production machines, and it´s to be hoped that production versions combine the good parts of the two test-bikes, rather than the bad…
That problem apart, the Aprilia´s chassis did a pretty good job and was more than adequate for the non-aggressive use for which the bike is intended. Suspension was reasonably soft by roadster standards, particularly up front, which gave a pleasant ride in town but meant a fair bit of pitching when braking into some of the bends in the hills outside Bologna. Despite fairly conservative steering geometry, a long 1460mm wheelbase and the 18-inch diameter of its wire-spoked front wheel, the Moto 6.5´s wide bars and light weight meant it could be flicked about fairly easily.
Dunlop´s Arrowmax tyres suited the bike well, and allowed the Aprilia to make use of its generous ground clearance. For hard riding on damp city streets or gravel-strewn hillside hairpins the rubber could have been a little softer, but in normal use the Moto 6.5 cornered well. Brakes were very adequate, too. The front set-up of single 298mm disc and twin-piston Brembo caliper bit hard and gave plenty of feel, while the span-adjustable handlebar lever was an example of a generally good level of finish.
Other practical touches included sensible switchgear, wide and fairly clear mirrors and a two-tone seat that was reasonably comfortable despite the upright and wind-blown riding position. The narrow pillion seat didn´t look too inviting, though at least there are grab-handles. Less clever is that what looks like a huge fuel tank holds only a claimed 16 litres and has its tap set high on the right. That brought range well below 100 miles and made switching to reserve rather awkward.
Get Aprilia bike insurance for the aprilia moto 6.5.
|ENGINE||Watercooled DOHC radial 5-valve single|
|CLAIMED POWER||50bhp @ 7,000|
|TRANSMISSION||Gear primary, 5-speed box, chain final|
|SUSPENSION||Front:40mm Marzocchi telescopic; 135mm wheel travel. Rear: Marzocchi monoshock; 120mm wheel travel|
|BRAKES||Front :298mm disc with 2-piston Brembo calliper. Rear 220mm disc|
|TYRES||Front: 100/90 x 18 Dunlop K625 Arrowmax. Rear: 130/90 x 17 Dunlop K625 Arrowmax|
|WEIGHT||150kg dry, claimed|
|FUEL CAPACITY||16 litres|