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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 12 June 2008
The urban trailbike is an increasingly popular choice for bikers who want all-round biking fun; something light, agile handling and able to pop the occasional wheelie.
Some machines, like Aprilia’s durable Pegaso, started their life as trail styled bikes, gradually evolving into softer, almost commuter type motorbikes.
The Rotax powered trailie gets more comfortable, and easier to ride, as the years roll by plus the engine gets bigger.
If you’re looking for a great used bargain that can offer a low cost, year round transport solution, check out the early 1990s Pegaso 600, or the mid 1990s Pegaso 650 - both rare models in the UK, but worth a serious look.
For one horrible moment I was in trouble. Sitting astride the gently rumbling Pegaso, I cracked the throttle open confidently to accelerate up the steep, branch-covered side of a natural bowl deep in the Italian countryside.
But the Aprilia’s rear Pirelli MT60 simply span and dug a trench, while the bike and its suddenly nervous rider moved barely a millimetre.
I eased the bike back to get a slight run-up through the undergrowth, and tried again: no good. Once more the big single’s exhaust throbbed with increased urgency; this time the Pegaso climbed a few yards before again losing traction and slithering ungraciously to a tyre-spinning halt in the dust.
Visions of having to abandon the bike at the bottom in humiliation swam before my eyes until, in a third and even more desperate effort, I finally span-and-kicked the Aprilia to safety. That’ll teach me to take Aprilia’s Pegaso 600 where it doesn’t belong, I suppose. For although the Italian firm’s latest sharply-styled offering shares its 562cc powerplant with the desert-replica Tuareg Wind, the Pegaso is far less aimed towards off-road excursions even than the Tuareg and the rest of the current crop of dual-purpose big singles.
Aprilia’s marketing chief places the newcomer’s emphasis at 80 per cent road, 20 per cent off-road -- against the Tuareg’s figures of 40 and 60 per cent respectively. Given that most trail bikes spend at least 80 per cent of their time on tarmac it’s no surprise that the Pegaso is currently outselling the older model in Italy, where it was released early this year.
One other important reason for the Pegaso’s sales success is that Aprilia’s stylists have again designed an outrageously good-looking motorcycle. Until now they’ve normally done it mainly with imaginative graphics and paint schemes, but the Pegaso manages to look good even in simple metallic blue - albeit a blue enlivened by some lettering and a picture of Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek Mythology.
The lines of the bike, like its specification, are roughly similar to those of the Tuareg. Twin headlamps blink out from above the nose of a frame-mounted half-fairing, which blends with the fuel tank to produce a distinctively purposeful front end. The wide handlebars, the broad dual seat and the inverted telescopic forks all echo the desert-replica.
There the visual similarities end, for the Pegaso is a much slimmer lump of horseflesh than its forebear. The fairing is new - its top sharper, its screen more angular and its flanks trimmed to reveal most of the aircooled single-cylinder motor.
There’s much less plastic at the back, too, where cut-down sidepanels lead to new hind-quarters featuring a single grab- rail as well as a luggage rack. The frame is unchanged, a straightforward steel-tube affair with Aprilia’s APS linkage system working a vertical shock, but most of the cycle parts are revised. Forks are slimmer, at 38mm against the current Tuareg’s 41mm diameters, and they lead to a spoked front wheel which at 19 inches is a couple of inches smaller than the Tuaregs.
The front brake is also different, a large single disc replacing the smaller twin rotors with which the latest version of the desert-replica is fitted. Instead of a big dirt-bike type shroud round the disc, there’s just a simple extension of the mudguard to protect the fork lowers from stones.
The disc is gripped by a twin-piston calliper stamped with the name Grimeca although the suspension components, which are made outside the Aprilia factory by firms such as Marzocchi or Sebac, are built to the bike firm’s specification and are listed as Aprilia parts.
Much the same is true of the Pegaso’s motor, which is the familiar four-valve unit, its single cam driven by a toothed belt, that is built by Rotax of Austria to the Italian firm’s specification. The heavily oversquare (bore and stroke are 94 x 81mm) single produces a claimed maximum of 46bhp (1bhp more than the Honda Dominator and Yamaha XT600), breathing in through a 34mm Dellorto carburettor and out through twin downpipes that exit on the right, then curl behind the motor to a high-level silencer on the other side.
Press the starter button and the bike chuffs into life feeling trail-bike tall thanks to its long legs and high seat. Riding position is typical trail bike: handlebars are wide and slightly raised, giving a dim but at least elbow-free view through the tinted mirrors, and the seat and footpegs combine well to provide both pilot and pillion with plenty of room.
If your legs are short you will struggle occasionally, but with a weight of just under 150kg the Pegaso is reasonably manageable. There’s useable torque from about 3000rpm, and at slow speeds the bike floats comfortably along with very little vibration getting through from the very quiet balancer-shaft equipped engine.
In town the big wheels and soft suspension soak up the bumps efficiently. On faster roads there’s enough power to keep the Aprilia moving past the traffic without much need of the five-speed gearbox. Acceleration is crisp and snatch-free, the power building steadily towards the 7500rpm redline without any real steps in its delivery.
Only my concern for a clutch that felt like a victim of previous abuse prevented repeated confirmation that the front wheel, if not the whole Flying Mythos, is eager to take off from the ground. With my head wedged as low as possible behind the tiny dark flyscreen and the foam-mounted clocks the Pegaso rumbled up towards an indicated 180km/h, at which point the single was buzzing noticeably but by no means painfully through the bars and footrests.
Unless hills or headwinds intervened, the bike would happily keep to around 150km/h, and there’s enough wind protection from the stubby screen to make respectable cruising speeds surprisingly comfortable.
Genuine top speed is probably slightly over 160km/h, and even when flat-out the Pegaso was commendably stable, with no weaves or wobbles even when hitting bumps or crossing white lines. Knock the handlebars at speed on purpose, though, and Pegasus flapped his wings in a manner that didn’t approach a tankslapper but which suggested that the bar-mounted mirrors and plastic hand-protectors were disconcerted by the breeze.
My initial slight disappointment at the slow-speed handling was caused mainly by sky-high expectations, because on first sight of the Pegaso I’d noticed the roadster-style fairing, the upside-down forks and the almost road-smooth tyres and imagined that the Aprilia would go round corners like a high-barred FZR600. Mistake.
The Pegaso is biased towards the road but its chassis is still indisputably that of a trail bike. The wide bars mean that steering feels reasonably light despite the unroadster-like width of the front wheel, and when I headed into the hills north of Aprilia’s factory near Venice the bike was ideal for sweeping round the increasingly twisty and often gravel-strewn lanes.
It was great fun to tip it into bends with the suspension swallowing any bumps and divots, then accelerate out with the rear Pirelli gripping tight and the single-cylinder motor delivering plenty of torque whatever the revs.
When pushed harder on smoother roads later on, though, the Pegaso didn’t feel quite as happy. As with the Tuareg there’s over 200mm of suspension travel at each end, and getting too excited in the curves merely resulted firstly in a rather disconcerting vagueness, then in the feeling that the front wheel was trying to tuck-in slightly and that the block-pattern tyres, although hardly knobbly, were still a compromise.
By roadster standards the front brake was a shade spongy, too. And although the Aprilia stopped quite adequately, a hard squeeze of the lever allowed force from the single disc to send the steering slightly to the right. Substituting the Tuareg’s thicker 41mm forks and twin discs would doubtless cure that problem.
Most of the time, of course, the Pegaso’s on-the-limit handling and roadholding are simply not an issue - and to be fair to Aprilia and Pirelli, it’s hard to imagine how a bike that is designed to have at least some off-road capability could be much better tailored for the road.
Perhaps Aprilia would do well to bring out a machine with similar styling, firmer cycle parts and street-sticky tyres; but perhaps that is missing the point. As it stands, the Pegaso is a step towards the tarmac from the already excellent Tuareg.
The smooth, practical and handsome Flying Mythos is a worthy competitor for Honda’s excellent Dominator, until now my favourite big single.
Get Aprilia bike insurance for the aprilia the pegaso.
|Engine||Aircooled sohc 4-valve single|
|Claimed power (bhp)||46bhp (34kW) @ 7100rpm|
|Electrics||12V battery; 190W alternator|
|Front||100/90 x 19in|
|Rear||130/80 x 17in|
|Brakes||Front: 300mm disc, twin-piston caliper. Rear:220mm disc|
|Suspension||front 38mm upside-down fork; 210mm travel. Rear APS monoshock with adjustable preload; 220mm travel Wheelbase 1505mm|