Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) Review & Buying Guide


Price: £1700-£3500 | Power: 118bhp | Weight: 190kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 4/5


Aprilia had big plans for the turn of the millennium. Becoming Italy’s largest manufacturer was the prize and in order to do that the Noale firm needed to rapidly and extensively expand its range from lightweight two-strokes and the odd ‘big’ four-stroke single, to manufacturer of credible litre-class machines.

The RSV Mille is Aprilia’s stand-out model – a genuine superbike that took on the might of Ducati and the Japanese at their own game. But there were others. The RST1000 Futura was Aprilia’s answer to Honda’s VFR800; the ETV Caponord an adventure tourer in the guise of Honda’s Varadero, and the SL1000 Falco gave the brand a brilliant half-faired sports tourer.

But while the RSV hit the ground running, winning both WSB races and showroom customers alike, the RST, ETV and SL proved less popular. Of the three, the Falco is the obvious standout and the one that deserves your attention. Average sales aside, the SL remains an excellent all-round road tool, capable of everything from commuting and touring to two-up, weekend blasts and even the odd track day. Best of all, they’re remarkable affordable, with tidy well-maintained examples starting from as little as £1700 – you can barely get a ropey moped project for that kind of money these days!

The good news keeps coming. The Falco has become something of a cult classic. Those who own them know how good they can be, especially with a few cost-effective improvements such as a quality rear shock. Consequently, the SL enjoys a loyal following of knowledgeable stalwarts only too happy to help and advise potential buyers. And they’re the kind of owners who really look after and cherish their bikes too, which is great news for anyone on the hunt for a Falco.

If you’re after an effective, proven, reliable, easy to maintain jack of all trades that’s kind on the wallet and fun to ride, Aprilia’s SL1000 Falco could well be the bike you’re after. Here’s what to look for…


Pros & Cons

  • Strong, characterful motor
  • Light, responsive handling
  • Value for money and decent build quality
  • Not as easy to find as rival machines
  • Poor standard rear shock
  • Styling is very much of its time
1999 Aprilia SL1000 Falco Review Used Price Spec_06


Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) Price

The Falco first appeared at the back end of 1999 as a 2000 model. Although SLs remained on sale in Aprilia dealers until 2004, there are only really two models – the late ’99-2002 and 2003-2005, the latter distinguished by Marzocchi forks and a black frame. Consequently, prices reflect condition and mileage much more than model year.


1999/2000 SL1000 Falco values: Rough £1000-£1500; Tidy £1700-£2500; Mint £2800-£3500

Although the Falco was officially a Y2K machine, the earliest examples went on sale in late 1999. Some within Falco circles refer to the ’99/’00 bikes as 2000.5 models to differentiate them from 2001 bikes. Retuned RSV Rotax engine produces a claimed 118bhp, unique aluminium lattice perimeter frame, half-faired styling. 190kg. Colours: burgundy or black


2001/02 SL1000 Falco values: Rough £1000-£1500; Tidy £1700-£2500; Mint £2800-£3500

Looks identical to the first-year models, but with several subtle changes. Clutch uprated to prevent slippage, handlebars and switchgear updated, plastic side stand switch replaced with stronger metal item. Fairing lowers black. Colours: yellow/black, burgundy/black, blue/black, silver/black.


2002-2004 SL1000 Falco values: Rough £1000-£1500; Tidy £1700-£2500; Mint £2800-£3500

More subtle updates, including the original black Showa forks replaced by gold Marzocchis. Frame/swingarm black, silencers changed to carbon look. Colours: bronze/red, red/black, black/pink/graphite.



Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) Engine and Performance

Unsurprisingly Aprilia used the RSV’s Rotax developed 60° V-twin in all of its litre-sized offerings from the early 2000s – Futura, Caponord and Falco. In SL form the 8v 997.6cc unit is retuned through different fuel mapping and twin pipes to offer a broader spread of power and less top end – peak power is 10bhp down on the RSV at a still healthy 118bhp. A top speed of 155mph is hardly weak either.

Only low rpm running draws complaint. Fuelling can be lumpy at low revs and when filtering slowly through traffic, but get out of town where the SL can stretch its legs above 5000rpm and the engine’s a joy to use, with huge reserves of drive and off-corner stomp never more than a twist of the throttle away. The gearbox is light and precise, too.

Despite a great chassis and a meaty motor, the Falco didn’t sell in the numbers it perhaps deserved to, so it never reached the stage of development where the engine or chassis received significant updates.



Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) Handling & Suspension

Aprilia built its name creating small capacity sports bikes, so it’s little surprise that agile handling was key to the Falco’s sports touring package. The chassis majors around a unique and striking twin-spar perimeter frame, providing agile yet stable steering, confident turning, and sporty enough geometry to make twisty mountain roads a gas to ride.

Like the base RSV Mille, the Falco comes with a blended suspension set-up – Showa upside forks up front and a Sachs shock at the rear. Suspension adjustment is limited to preload only on the forks and preload and rebound at the rear. From 2002 Aprilia changed the forks to Marzocchis, but the change is negligible in terms of handling improvement and more to do with supply at the time.

Rolling stock is standard Italian fare – Brembo discs and calipers take care of braking, although disc warpage up front and poor rear brake performance are common Falco issues. Wheels are five-spoke Brembo.

Ergonomics lean towards comfort, but a Falco will still boogie without feeling awkward. A suspension upgrade will be a must for any SL by now, if it’s not already been seen to – even the last models are almost 20 years old by now. Overall, the Falco chassis delivers a pleasing balance between sporting potential and long-distance comfort.



Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) What to look for

Starter clutch: An issue with all Aprilia’s running the 997.6cc Rotax V-twin. Do not attempt to start the engine if the battery is in poor health or down on charge. This can cause the sprag clutch to kick back and break. If you hear a clattering from the left side of the engine on start-up, sprag clutch failure won’t be far away. The clutch is made up of three elements – the inner, outer and a bearing – and failure may not require replacement of all three. Aprilia specialists Aprilia Performance (01827 285500) can fix the issue; budget two-and-a-half hours' labour.

Battery: Many owners limit the risk of poor battery performance causing an issue with the sprag clutch by upgrading the battery to a Yuasa TTZ14S which offers a greater number of cranking amps.

Swingarm: Even low speed falls can cause the exhaust cans to bash in to the swingarm, denting or scratching the aluminium unit in the process, so give any potential purchase a thorough inspection of both swingarm and pipes.

Suspension: The standard Sachs shock isn’t a great quality unit and now, 20 years on from original fitment, it’ll require a rebuild at the very least. A better way, according to Griff Wooley from Aprilia Performance, is to fit a early RSV shock (1998-2000). The fit is like for like and the damping characteristics are better than the Falco’s OE unit. Early Showa forks are the preferred option over later Marzocchis on account of them being easier to set up.

Brakes: Front discs can warp, so get a test ride before committing to buy, and check that they don’t judder. Likewise, be mindful of the rear brake which, owners say, is weak and requires regular bleeding if it’s to operate as intended.

Tyres: Don’t be tempted to fit a 190/50 section rear unless you absolutely can’t get hold of an OE-spec 180/55. The slimmer rear boot offers nimbler handling. Owners report excellent results from Pirelli Diablos, Corsa 3s and Dunlop Roadsmarts.

Reliability: Not an issue with Falcos. The engine’s well engineered and, provided previous owners have been diligent with servicing, mechanical problems are few and far between.

Fuel pumps: Modern unleaded is nasty stuff blended with ethanol to make it ‘greener’. Ethanol is hygroscopic, meaning it holds water, and said moisture can cause issues with the fuel system, particularly the fuel pump, so be sure that, a) the bike starts easily, and b) fuelling is smooth and constant on the go.



Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) Rivals


Ducati ST4, 1999 | Approx Price: £1800-£4000

Power/Torque: 107bhp/65.6lb-ft | Weight: 214.5kg

Ducati’s late ’90s sports tourer with a 916 derived motor is a fun package with a great blend of sporty handling, punchy performance, and comfortable ergonomics. Panniers weren’t standard fitment, so look for a bike with them already fitted. Service history is a must, as are fresh cam belts every two years. Hydraulic clutch can be a pain and like the Falco needs a strong battery is needed to avoid sprag clutch issues.


Suzuki SV1000S, 2003 | Approx Price: £1500-£3300

Power/Torque: 124bhp/75.2lb-ft | Weight: 185kg

Underrated V-twin featuring retuned TL1000 motor and a chassis free of the TL’s problematic rotary damper. Tuned for midrange, so plenty of go for road riding. Handling’s good provided the suspension’s still in good fettle. Build quality isn’t the best, but for the money an SV makes an excellent all-rounder.


Triumph Sprint RS 955i, 2000 | Approx Price: £2000-£3500

Power/Torque: 110bhp/71.5lb-ft | Weight: 199kg

Half-faired, sportier looking variant of the excellent Sprint ST. Meaty motor, solid handling and respectable build quality make the RS still worth sniffing out. Not as sharp or rewarding to ride as a Falco, but a reliable workhorse at tempting money, nonetheless. Styling hasn’t aged well, however.



Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) Verdict

The Falco is a forgotten gem. This Italian sports tourer has a belting motor wrapped in a competent chassis that only requires minor tweaks or upgrades to make it really sing. 120bhp is more than enough for the road, and there’s ample torque on tap to make two-up or luggage-laden touring a breeze. Styling is very much a matter of taste; the Falco hasn’t aged as gracefully as the Mille, and its half-digital, half-analogue clocks look as odd today as they did back in 2000. But as a do-pretty-much-anything package a tidy Falco is still hard to beat, especially with tidy examples starting at under two grand.


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1999 Aprilia SL1000 Falco Review Used Price Spec_22


Aprilia SL1000 Falco (1999-2005) – Technical Specification

Original price


Current price range




Bore x Stroke

97mm x 67.5mm

Engine layout

Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8v, 60° V-twin


118bhp (86.7kW) @ 9250rpm


70.5lb-ft (95.6Nm) @ 7000rpm

Top speed



6-speed, wet, multiplate clutch, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption


Tank size

21 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

135 miles

Reserve capacity


Rider aids



Aluminium trellis

Front suspension

43mm Showa usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

Preload adjustable

Rear suspension

Sachs single shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload and rebound adjustable

Front brake

2 x 320mm discs, 4-pot calipers

Rear brake

220mm disc, 2-pot caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17

Rear tyre

180/55 ZR17


24.5°/ 100mm

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2050mm x 736mm x 1210mm



Ground clearance


Seat height


Dry weight



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