Deano’s take on things was simple. “Ralphie, you’re experienced on scooters and automatic bikes, and you know enough about ABS, so it’ll be a piece of piss.”
The “it” he was referring to was the Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS, now the only Mana imported here. The Mana is full of technology and it takes a radical relearning just to take it for a quick spin. The normal get on, kick up the sidestand and press the start button is still eyes-closed stuff. Even the form and feel from the seat and view to the dash, screen and mirrors isn’t out of the ordinary. It looks a looks a pretty decent V-twin motorcycle, too.
But all is not what it seems, so I’ll define it first and then tell you what it’s like to ride. The Mana is a large capacity automatic CVT (constantly variable transmission) driven motorcycle/scooter/commuter that has the ability to be transformed into a manually directed, quasi seven-speed sequential shifting bike. The shift buttons on the handlebar are used to change the quasi gears and there is a gear-selector display on the dash, which is just as well because you can’t feel an actual gear being shifted, because there really are none. There is no clutch lever and in all this trickery there are plenty of modes to play with, such as rain, touring and sport. These modes are directed by a computer which controls parameters between the ignition and the position of the drive belt in the transmission relative to the pulley. Confused? Don’t worry too much because it’s 10 times easier to ride the Mana GT than it is to explain how it works.
The V-twin offers plenty of grunt and the Mana GT belts away from a standstill. Unlike small, cheap scooters out there that shudder and vibrate off the lights, the Mana GT has a feel of classy quality and an amazing turn of speed. I experimented with every permutation with the transmission, be it gear lever, thumb paddles or the automatic modes, and found that the touring mode in automatic is where the GT is at its best. It is smoother, more powerful and less confusing.
The handling and comfort would be on par with any midsized commuter/tourer on the market. Rear suspension adjustment is simple thanks to clearly displayed instructions near the adjuster. The front forks are not adjustable, but given its target market this makes sense. Look no further than the helmet bay where the fuel tank would normally be located – it’s a clever package.
The Mana GT really is an easy bike to ride in traffic. Wide ’bars, high seat height and a feeling of presence gave me ownership of the CBD commute. The ABS adds to the feeling of security and it will kick-in if provoked by a prod of the rear brake. The twin front discs can be applied aggressively before the ABS starts pulsating and all-up there’s plenty of braking power on offer. Given the autumn rains and greasy roads the ABS is definitely a good piece of standard equipment on the Mana GT.
The price of the Mana GT will be the stumbling block for many. At $15,990, it’s way more expensive than, say, its Shiver Sport 750 sibling which retails at $12,990. But if you’re after the ultimate commuter with a trick, hi-tech gearbox that will still offer plenty of fun on weekend rides, then the Mana GT may be the perfect machine.