Army of Darkness

Army of Darkness

Aprilia Pro-Motion
Written by Sam Fleming   

Team Pro-Motion Sportbike Club

by P Jim Williams

The Aprilia event at Summit Point was held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania based Team Pro-Motion Sportbike Club. Pro-Motion is run by Glen Goldman and is a club in the way that WERA and CCS are clubs. Only Pro-Motion does not hold races, it holds track days for folks that want to ride on tracks without taking the plunge into racing.

The whole track day culture has really matured in the last five years. Track days used to be few and far between. Then the “riders schools” started popping up but people wanted to ride on the track without having to sit in the same school session over and over again so we saw the schools start to offer track ride days as well. Pro-Motion has taken this a step further and offer a la carte track experiences which can include: Instruction (of various levels), track days, parts, tire, race license certification and Aprilia bike rentals.

Although I have been to a lot of track days I had never seen anything quite like this Pro-Motion gig. Although there was the usual assortment of duct taped headlights there were a huge number of people with extremely expensive race replica bikes built just for track days. When I say race replica I don’t mean the usual GSXR, I mean bikes with pipes, suspension, clip-ons, rear sets, tires, and race bodywork, stickers, dash mounted lap timers and white numberplates. It was only little clues that gave it away that these were not actually race bikes.

Some expert racers might find the notion of people toddling around the track on a white plated bike a little offensive the way that military veterans get testy about people wearing un-earned medals or writing lies about combat experience in the AMA magazine but I thought it was a complimentary gesture. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that.

The fact that Pro-Motion has either created or tapped into a burgeoning group of die hard enthusiasts cannot be doubted. Pro-Motion currently has 2,200 paid members of its club. It sells out every track event (and has at least 39 such events this year) and many of its members feel so passionate about the club that they festoon their bikes with Pro-Motion stickers and more than a couple have the Pro-Motion bike logo in subcutaneous ink on their body. When was the last time you saw someone with an AMA or WERA tattoo?

The range of services that Pro-Motion offers are pretty comprehensive starting from a basic annual membership and track rides to personalized full day instruction and Aprilia bike rentals. The Aprilia bike rental seems like a particullarly good deal with a full day rental of a Mille being only $325 which, if you think about, should just about cover the tires. The Advanced Rider Training (ART) is a offered in two levels. Level one is taught by club president Glen Goldman and is limited to eight riders. Level Two is instructed by veteran racer Mike Himmelsbach and is limited to three riders for the economical inclusive price of $500 a head.

At the track day we attended the riders were split into four groups based on speed and sent out on the track with control riders in a staggered fashion. The groups were pretty small and the staggered release meant there was not much traffic to contend with on the track.

With no points, trophies or cash on the line the egos of the participants were remarkably subdued. The general attitude in the pits was one of mutual support, that stood in marked contrast to a race weekend.

Since the track day was not held in conjunction with a race weekend the corner working was on the sparse side but this was off set by the time flexibility that having a dedicated day affords. Despite that few of the bikes had oil capturing lowers the only delay of the day was due to a simple crash. The track time was so ample that many of the participants packed up at around 3:00pm despite the fact that the track was open for riding until 6:00pm.

A professional organization, professionally run track time, a tire truck, and a bunch of expensive Ducatis to pass on an old 600. Not a bad way to indulge the speed cravings.

More information is available at (215) 675-5080 or at www.teampromotion.com.

Pro-Motion supporting the sport with an Air Fence donation at Summit Point.

Aprilia test ride at Summit Point during a Team Pro-Motion track day.

by Sam Fleming

Since corporations are basically the aggregation of the endeavors and actions of groups of people it is not entirely inappropriate to resort to anthropomorphism to describe one.

Aprilia is a youthful, playful and extremely talented company that seems to delight in tweaking the noses of it’s older siblings in the industry. Where as Ducati might be crowned prom queen in the latest Bologanese fashion, Aprilia is the impish younger sister who steals the limelight in a vinyl mini-dress and Venetian carnival mask.

Apparently much of this character can be directly linked to Ivano Beggio who is the President, CEO and principal owner of the privately held company. Virtually all other motorcycle companies are publicly held with quarterly financial accountability to shareholders. Decisions made by groups (be that tactics or design) will often be more conservative (tending towards the lowest common denominator) than if an innovative thinker is given free reign.

Aprilia is very well known in Europe due to its deep and wide penetration of the urban scooter market. Since scooters are not nearly as popular in the US (although if DC is any indication they are growing rapidly in popularity) the few motorcyclists that know of Aprilia in the US know of them from their GP and World Superbike success.

Since Aprilia is a small company by world standards they are looking for innovative and inexpensive ways to raise awareness of the marque in the US. Most of these promotions were successful in Europe and are now being imported into the US. The Aprilia Cup series (which seemed to be more popular when run by Zero Gravity for whatever reasons), the Aprilia SFX race team with Batey and Himmelsbach and now, the Aprilia track days and test rides.

Aprilia is sponsoring track days across the country this summer. Interested riders (of any brand bike) can sign up for a track day at any Aprilia dealer. During the course of the day one can sign up to demo ride various models of Aprilia ON THE TRACK. This is an extremely bold program for a number of reasons:

  • 1.Race tracks highlight weak designs
  • 2.Squids can crash the demo bikes
  • 3.Race tracks highlight weak designs
  • 4.Squids can crash the demo bikes

This is the first time I have heard of a manufacturer letting the general public sample their wares on a racetrack. It is impossible to take a late generation sport bike to its limits on the street. It is most decidedly not impossible to find the limits of the same bike on a track. The steering starts to seem sluggish, the brakes start to seem weak, the suspension soft and mushy, transmissions start to hang between gears, clutches overheat. Aprilia is either immensely stupid or supremely confident in their products. And it is a giant razzberry at the other makers who don’t take the dare and set up similar programs.

The models available for test rides are the Falco, the Mille and the RS250. The bikes get new Pirellis every other event and are otherwise pretty stock. I tried out a Mille while Melissa sampled an RS cup bike. We spent the rest of the day on our WERA endurance race bikes.

Hopping off a Tim Gooding prepped race bike and onto any street bike at Summit Point is sort of a cruel comparison. I tried to put the racer out of my mind and focus on the experience of the Mille.

Aprilia’s have an integral shift light. Almost every Aprilia I have ridden has not had that shift light set at anything that is approximately useful and spend most of the time on the track with the little (but bright) red light blinking festively.

The Mille did rise to the challenge of the track. Sure it felt sort of long and steered sort of sluggish and the suspension wasn’t perfect. Yeah the brakes didn’t have that race pad bite and the Aprilia still has those stupid polished pegs which make your feet slide off mid-turn. Yeah my lap times were slower than on my race bike.

The thing is, I was knee down in all the right turns on the second lap. I was passing other riders on the outside, the inside, on the brakes and on the motor. The bike imparted the confidence to ride it hard and take chances without needing time to acclimate to the bike or refinements for the track. Could the bike be better, sure. Did it handle the track admirably? Yes. Would I recommend that you take advantage of this program? Hell yes.

Schedule:

Remaining dates:

  • June 11th - Willow Springs
  • June 12th – Willow Springs
  • June 26th – Thunderhill
  • June 27th – Thunderhill
  • June 28th – Thunderhill
  • July 16th – Gingerman

More info:

1 –877-aprilia or apriliausa.com

Your test bike awaits you.

 
 
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