Amazing to think that just 20 years ago, Aprilia hadn’t even built a big-bore multi-cylinder motorcycle…
Two-stroke scooters – yep – single-cylinder thumpers like the Pegaso? Yep! Race-replica 125cc latino-lovlies – oh yes. And – with the Moto 6.5 they’d even got a kettle designer to try his hand at a bike: buyers flocked away!
But it wasn’t until the late 1990s that they finally came up with the Aprilia RSV1000 Mille – a 60-degree 998cc (Rotax based) V-twin sportster with balancer shaft which they hoped would take on Ducati’s L-twin machines.
For a first pop at it in 1998 – it was brilliant – and it also led to this crazy creation which first saw light of day at the end of 1999: the Aprilia SL1000 Falco. Basically, this was a cheaper, de-tuned, half-faired version of the Mille.
The looks come from Martin Longmoore who designed the Audi TT and BMW Z3 and later the second generation Mille itself. It looked different – but that was good at the time and as a result it hasn’t really aged today. Chief designer Klaus Nennewitz began work on the Falco in 1997 and spent time and effort making sure the bike was spot on. This – added to the fact that Aprilia spent lots of Lira on giving their big sports bikes good build quality – meant that the Falco had all of the good bits of the Mille but without the annoying budget bits that the Japs gave their naked bikes.
To a degree it was still built down to a price though. Gone was the lovely Mille’s beam frame and sculptured/banana swingarm and its place came an aluminium twin-rail frame and a more conventional swingarm design. The engine was the same, but with a de-tuned 118 claimed horses, rather than the Mille’s 128 claimed, this was thanks to changes to the fuel-injection system/throttle bodies and a lower 10.8:1 compared to 11.4:1 compression ratio. The slipper clutch remained as did those bewilderingly baffling clocks…
Even as new the suspension was stiff (43mm Showas and a Sachs shock) as were the clutches and the whole plot was less comfy than a – say – VFR800 or Triumph’s Sprint RS/ST…
It was pretty reliable though – like the Mille itself. OK, so that side-stand meant the bike could fall over (many owners fit a GSX-R K-series one) the Brembo discs can warp, but engine-wise they have no real major worries save for blowing oil switches and an electrical issue called ‘brown plug’ syndrome. This is a brown block connector that needs a good look at/replacement if it’s affecting starting… Today suspension would also benefit from a strip down or replacement.
Price-wise what can you find a Falco for now? Well, its peers of the time were the Honda VTR1000 FireStorm and the Suzuki TL1000S and the Falco was £500-£600 more when new. Today the TL is firming up price-wise while the Falco is still strong. The lowest we’ve seen one for is £1000. The Falco was around officially for about four years until 2003, but we have heard that new ones were appearing for a few years after that. Prices start at around £1800, rising to £4500 for the last of the line.
We like the Falco: it’s got the character of the Mille, but it seems that little bit easier to spend hours in the saddle on and it’s a rare machine today on UK roads.