It took 6km and I was in love. My eyes were wet from the burning desire. My heart was beating hard with the excitement of the powerful emotions sweeping through me. Bloody hell, after 15 years of riding all kinds of motorcycles, this one had reduced me to a quivering lump of emotionally charged flesh!
500-something kilometres and two days later, I was riding the hardest 150km of my life. I was headed back to the showroom to return the test bike. I was openly crying inside the helmet. Crying because I knew the price was a bridge too far. On a journalist's salary, a Rs25 lakh motorcycle is a dream. Was I cursed in being allowed to know the shape and texture of this dream as intimately as the knowledge that the dream itself was impossible? Or was I blessed in at least being able to know this dream in such intense detail?
I was messed up for days and days after the motorbike went back.
Once I calmed down and looked back at it, I came to the inevitable conclusion. The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory is by far the best motorcycle I've tested since I started out in the year 2000. I've no doubt about it.
But the visceral reaction I had to the motorcycle surprised me. I lay awake all of the three nights we had the bike. I hogged saddle time like I never have before - and promise not to hence. I dreamt up naughty and evil plans to raise the money to buy one too. I've never felt like this before. Not for my two RDs, not for Ferocitas and not for Ferine either. Introspection time.
What I loved about the Tuono most of all are two things. The first was how much control it gave me. The electronics silently had my back while the chassis and suspension allowed me to play unfettered despite our roads being the sort of things that they are. I've never ridden this confidently and that astonished me. I was expecting this fearsome 175PS motorcycle with its reputation for misbehaviour to be a handful. It was, instead, my telepathic partner in crime. As precise as I wanted it to be or as much of a handful as I wanted. I've never felt more in sync with a motorcycle, ever. I've never felt a motorcycle become as naturally an extension of myself as my hands are or my head is.
The other thing was how real the experience was. Despite its spec sheet and Italian origin, the Tuono seemed to be as practical and usable as my KTM. Hell, in many ways it reminded me of Ferocitas but with a lot, lot, lot, lot more power. It felt just as small, almost as nimble and outside of the worry of wearing out the tyres every 3,000km, I'd ride it the same way. That's everyday and everywhere.
But these emotional reactions caused another problem. I was so in love with the motorcycle that I couldn't bring myself to write the road test. What if I couldn't write the correct words? Whether in terms of judging the superlatives or in terms of pointing out flaws when needed. What if the final test didn't express my admiration for the motorcycle correctly? What if my visceral reaction to this most vital of motorcycles coloured my ability to test it objectively? I couldn't wriggle out of it either because no one else had ridden it enough - I'd hogged it thoroughly.
The experience brought home two things, one of which I've touched on before. Motorcycle road tests, as I've said before, are not the final word. They can be for cars, but not for motorcycles. Motorbikes can, and often do, unleash powerful, intensely personal reactions. Of love as well as of revulsion. These reactions should be your barometer for what to do next. If you love it, you should get one. If you hate it, no road test in the world should persuade you to spend your money on it.
Second, I now strongly believe that there is a perfect motorcycle for all of us in the world. A motorcycle that is in mass production, naturally, but it fits you and only you, like your own skin. Until the Tuono I hadn't realised this - I dismissed this idea as Harley-speak for their accessories catalogue. There'd been lots of motorcycles that I deeply enjoyed or liked and by extension wanted to own. But the Tuono raised that to a whole new level. Until my feet came back to Earth, I could almost not imagine life without one.
But when I landed, I'd changed. Now in the list of life goals is an Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory. A Rs25 lakh motorcycle that I am almost entirely certain I won't be able to afford, ever.
And then my wife put it all into perspective. She simply said that she loved me for dreaming impossible dreams. And I promised her that I'd never stop.