Aprilia Tuareg 660 v Aprilia Pegaso 650 – New vs Old

This is a subject I have been thinking of looking at for a while now. I had originally thought I could do multiple examples in the same video, but it got too long and complicated, so I have decided to do a series that will be ongoing.

I will look at newer and older versions of the same, or similar bikes, to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. I will also look at any questions that raises, so get ready with your comments and observations.

Right, I am doing this one first because

A) I own a second gen Rotax powered 650 Pegaso and I think it is the best of the bikes Aprilia made, from the early Tuareg 600 to the last Pegaso. Making it the best bike to compare to the new Tuareg 660


B) I actually think the Tuareg 660 is one of the better examples of the modern concept of Adventure motorcycles.

So, as you can see, before I start I think both the Pegaso and the Tuareg 660 are great bikes, and this isn’t a serious review of either.

I want to compare real world performance and rider experience more than anything. They are different bikes, but are comparable in many ways.

If you consider the end goal is maximum smiles per mile, these bikes are both winners.

Which Pegaso?

First I want to define which Pegaso I am talking about because they were made for 15 years with some major changes. The series 1 Pegaso from 1990 to 93 used the same air cooled 600cc Rotax engine they had used in the early Tuareg 600. It is well proven, and a great tractor, but wouldn’t win any performance battles.

Later generations from 05/06 onwards would be powered by the Yamaha/Minarelli 660 single engine used in the Yamaha Tenere 660 and many others. However, from 94 to 2005, Aprilia used a water cooled Rotax 650 engine. This is the motorcycle I am talking about.

The engine is closely related to the BMW 650 engine used in the early F 650 singles, but the big difference was that Aprilia designed an all new 5 valve head. This engine loved to be revved and although it is great at being a big single “Thumper” it is much better on the road than most singles. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it revved like a twin, but it did rev out really well.

Pegaso Specs

Max power is 50HP at 7000 rpm and max torque is 59Nm at 6500 rpm and there is a smooth, steady surge of power from under 3000 rpm. At low revs the juddering and vibration common with many big singles is remarkably absent. The engine is smooth and usable and the slick gearbox gives a great spread so that first is low enough for slow speed technical challenges and top is long which makes highway miles easy.

It will easily reach and hold 100 mph in comfort, which is again rare for a big single. With most big singles, you might get to 100 mph, but by the time you do you certainly don’t want to sit at that speed. Standing quarter mile time is around 13.5 seconds but it reaches around 95 mph at that point so has more than enough for any overtakes even strapped down with luggage

Suspension is fairly basic by today’s standards but it is all really good quality, The front is preload adjustable only but has over 8 inches of travel and the rear which has a remote preload adjuster also has rebound damping adjustment for when you need it.

The single 300mm disc up front provides more than enough stopping power even at speed and both front and rear are really progressive with a strength often missing on bikes with what might appear to be better brakes. The Pegaso will quite happily pull stoppies if that is what you want. It is also quite fond of lifting the front wheel.

The Pegaso weighs in at just 157Kg dry, so even with a full 22 litre fuel tank you are looking at about 180kg, and the fuel tank is hung low with the extra gallons sitting at engine level so it doesn’t feel top heavy at all.

It is a physically small bike though and although the seat is comfortable for two it gets a bit cramped, the bike is just not so happy with a pillion as it is solo.

There were a couple of known problems, but on most bikes these were sorted long ago. The water pump oil seal can go but its an easy job. Early auto decompressor springs weren’t great but the part is fixed, and the carbs can be rather a challenge, especially to get out. There is a small O ring in the carbs that gets missed and can cause a leak but once it is done you are set for a lot of riding.

Don’t expect to be able to find every part on the shelf of a local dealer. All consumables are easy, but some parts can be more challenging. However, a strong community and plenty of Aprilia parts specialists mean most things are still available somewhere. Even if that means a wait for postage. Lets face it, even with new bikes, the days of dealerships keeping a comprehensive stock of parts is long gone.

I have had to wait longer for many new parts than I have had to wait of parts being posted from abroad somewhere.

Rotax and Aprilia do have a tendency to use fairly standard bearing and seal sizes too, so many such parts can be sourced direct from a bearing, bush or seal supplier once you know the sizes.

Just as a note at this point. There is a great video about some of the other Adventure Motorcycles people tend to forget about if you are interested, just click on the link in the video above.

Tuareg Specs

Comparing these basic specs from the Pegaso to the Tuareg 660 you can see straight away that the newer multi cylinder bike will definitely have some advantages. The new Aprilia 660 twin has so far proved pretty reliable in the different platforms it is used in and Aprilia parts availability has improved steadily over the years, just don’t expect a fully stocked dealer in every town.

Power on the twin-cylinder engine is significantly better, with around 80HP at 9250 rpm and over 70 Nm of torque at 6500 rpm giving it a top speed of between 115 and 120 mph. The engine is obviously smoother too, but at legal speeds there is not as much difference as you might think. Although the Tuareg will rev up to 9,000 rpm, it is faster to short shift around 7,500 rpm to take advantage of the torque. It takes a lot longer to get from 8,000 to 9,000 rpm than it does to get from 6,000 to 7,000 rpm.

I have struggled to find an accurate quarter mile time on the Tuareg, but the more powerful Tuono does a quarter mile in just over 11 seconds, so again the difference is less than you might think. However the terminal speed is closer to 120 mph, so translated into the real world, the Pegaso will pull you away from the lights better and faster, for the first 800 metres or so, but then the Tuareg 660 will come flying past and keep going away once you are beyond legal speeds.

What all this extra power means is that even with a pillion and luggage you have performance to spare. There is also more space, increasing comfort for both rider and passenger. The downside is that it is a physically bigger and heavier motorcycle.

The actual weight of the Tuareg oddly still seems very debated. I have seen so many different numbers on spec sheets it gets silly. Aprilia lists a kerb weight only which can mean anything, but is likely to be with a minimal fuel load, so with a full 18 litre tank it is likely to weight over the 210kg mark and that is I would say fairly accurate. That is a full 30kg heavier than the Pegaso which is a lot.

The weight isn’t carried as high as say the Tenere 700, but it is carried higher than the Pegaso. Once you are moving that weight isn’t an issue but the fuel is carried fairly high, so if you do drop it off road with a full tank, it isn’t the easiest bike to lift in difficult conditions.

Having said that, I would rather lift a Tuareg 660 than a GS or an Africa Twin, but I’m not doing that comparison here, I’m comparing it to its older brother. It is just significantly bigger and heavier than the Pegaso. In tight, technical terrain, that extra weight makes everything more difficult.

Suspension is technically better on the Tuareg, it gets more adjustment, and almost 9 and a half inches of travel front and back.

The Tuareg does also come loaded with a big bag of electronic wizardry to help you negotiate the challenges of the world if that is what you want. It gets fully switchable ABS, Traction control, ride by wire, 4 rider modes of which 2 are rider programmable, cruise control, engine brake adjustment and probably more. It can be fitted with a quick-shifter but that doesn’t come as standard.

To put all that in perspective, Aprilia have been working on electronic rider aids longer than most, and even if it isn’t what I particularly want it all works very well. It is all much easier to negotiate than many I could mention like the Triumph Tiger. Some will love the endless menu’s, others less so. The good news, is that for most of us you wont need to use them much. Set it and forget it as they say.

A Major Difference

There is one major difference I would like to highlight here, that is the chassis. The Pegaso had a beautifully designed composite chassis, with steel tubing and cast aluminium side plates. It is well balanced and a great compromise between light weight and rigidity. The Tuareg on the other hand has a completely tubular steel chassis. Yes, it has to handle more power so would need designing differently, but I cant help but feel that cost came into that particular decision.

Real World Riding Experience

So what are they like to ride in the real world I hear you say?

That is very interesting and although totally subjective I do have a personal take and a second opinion on this.

I was and am still quite tempted by the new Tuareg, but I do have reservations. A friend was more impulsive. He bought a Tuareg and we bumped into each other unexpectedly fairly soon after when he was still glowing about his new bike.

After following him for a while we swapped for a short ride and then sat and chatted about our thoughts. One thing was very clear, The Tuareg is a much faster bike to ride and the size difference is almost comical.

It reminded me of the day I sat with another friend looking at his KTM 1290 at the side of my Cagiva Navigator. Both the Cagiva and the Pegaso looked tiny at the side of their more modern counterparts.

Surprisingly enough, when I actually compared the spec sheets the wheelbase of the Tuareg is only 1 inch or 25mm shorter, but it does feel significantly shorter and I guess with the weight and chassis balance the Pegaso just feels more nimble.

Some Conclusions

Anyway, Our conclusions as usual were many, but we agreed on some fairly basic facts. If you were doing a lot of high speed road miles or carrying a passenger and luggage we would both choose the Tuareg hands down with no arguments. The extra power and space make the Tuareg a much better tool for that job.

For touring in general the Tuareg is also just a better bike.

Off road it was much more debated. Despite its smaller size the Pegaso has better ground clearance and its lighter weight made a big difference. To be clear we were both riding solo. The 21 inch front wheel of the Tuareg did make it roll over level changes much easier. With the Pegaso having a 19 inch front we both had to use the throttle more to make the front lighter when going over rocks and bigger bumps.

The Pegaso is a better balanced bike though, and the smaller size and lower weight made it easier to manoeuvrer in tricky situations. You simply had to use a lot more muscle with the Tuareg, which got tiresome for me. The Tuareg is more like having a 650 Vstrom with better off road ability, whereas the Pegaso felt more like a comfortable dirt bike with Supermoto wheels.

On the back roads it got even more interesting. We did a bit of spirted riding and I made the mistake of letting him pull off first. After that, catching the Tuareg was a challenge to say the least. When I did there was no way I was passing him. But the Tuareg struggled to get away from the old Pegaso. We swapped again and as soon as I turned the Tuareg on he had gone, again. By the time the ECU had set and fuel pump had run up to pressure, he was well away. It didn’t take me too long to catch him, but by that time he was hooning around with his chest on the tank and head down. With tight roads again I couldn’t pass him.

When we got off he was grinning from ear to ear saying,”well I needed to get a start on you” then “Its pretty nippy that old thing isn’t it”

Now again let me be clear. This was never a serious test, just two blokes talking about bikes, or “chewing the cud” as we say where I am from.

Fulfilling The Design Criteria

If we take the design criteria as to create a bike with good off road ability, excellent road manners and exciting performance then I would say that both of these bikes fulfil those criteria with ease. They just do it in completely different ways.

The Tuareg you can tell is a middleweight sports touring bike that has been built to make it as off road capable as possible. Whereas the Pegaso feels like a dirt bike that has been built to be more friendly on the roads. The Pegaso is much more like a big, comfortable Supermoto.

Both bikes are more than capable of keeping up with most bikes through the twisties. The Pegaso comes out of the corners better, but the Tuareg soon takes over. You can brake later and harder on the Pegaso too, so cornering becomes effortless when compared to stopping and turning the weight of the Tuareg.

The smaller front wheel and shorter wheelbase on the Pegaso makes for sharper, more precise steering on tarmac too. If anything, it is the Pegaso that is just a bit more of a hooligan than the Tuareg.

What Would I Change

So what are my thoughts after this. Well, its rare that I look at or ride a bike without seeing something I would want to change and this is no different really. I actually think both bikes are sort of better at what the other is trying to do.

With a 21 inch front wheel the Pegaso would be unstoppable off road, and with a 19 inch front wheel the Tuareg would be a better adventure tourer in some ways. Having said that, both of these bikes are great, and will do most things you can ask of them.

They will both sit with luggage on a highway all day, they will both handle most situations off road, they both love twisty back roads and single tracks and they are both reliable steeds.

The major difference is that I would say if you intend carrying a passenger and especially a passenger and luggage, the Tuareg 660 will do it better. If however you always ride solo and do a lot of short stop riding then the Pegaso may well be the better option.

If you do consider the Pegaso it is best to do some research, but the forums are full of helpful folks. Think about extra maintenance and the cost. Then consider that a reasonably good Pegaso can be found in the UK for around £1,500-£2,000 and a Tuareg is around $10,000 new. That means you could buy a second parts bike for the Pegaso and still be left with over £6,000 for any unexpected problems and you would still have a cheaper bike.

Then consider, that in another 5 years the Pegaso will probably be worth around twice as much, i.e., £3,000-£4,000 and the Tuareg probably worth in the region of £6,000 and the sums start to look different again.

Thoughts From The Shed

Finally, what questions does this raise?

Well, I for one question why Aprilia didn’t build a modern version of the Pegaso. A 21 inch front wheel and modern suspension with a modernised 650 single built from half of the 1200cc Dorsaduro engine sounds very inviting to me. It would have filled a missing niche in the market.

Should they offer a Tuareg with a 19 inch front wheel too? With the power map from the Tuono 660? A sort of Tuareg GT?

What are your thoughts?

Leave a comment below to let me know.

I hope you have enjoyed the video and its made you think about the best way to spend your money in the bike world.

Ride Free everyone.

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