Piaggio and Chinese motorcycle manufacturer Zongshen have had a long-standing partnership since 2004, wherein the Italian giant outsourced the development and production of some of its models to Zongshen, specifically those for the Chinese domestic market and neighboring Asian countries. In January, the company confirmed the development of a 900cc-powered model.
It was indeed confirmed that the bike would be powered by an iteration of the 896cc V-twin engine found in the Aprilia Shiver naked bike. What’s interesting, though, is the fact that the company has just recently filed patents of a V-twin engine with Gilera branding. In a report published by Cycle World, the nearly forgotten Italian brand is more than likely making a comeback to the big bike world through this engine. What exactly the bike will be is still up for debate, however, the Gilera-branded V-twin engine was showcased at the 2021 CIMA in China.
What we do know, however, is that Zongshen is developing a premium street bike under its Cyclone branding called the RA9. Mechanically speaking, the engine found on the RA9 and the Gilera-branded power unit are both derived from the Aprilia 896cc, 90-degree V-twin. Yes, it’s convoluted, but do note that the common denominator in all of this is Piaggio, so it’s actually really easy for them to shuffle technology between brands. While we do know that the RA9 concept bike is a muscular naked bike, there isn’t any indication just yet as to what form the Gilera will take.
The engine, however, is definitely a performance-oriented powertrain. Similar to what we find in Ducati’s machines, this engine takes the form of a 90-degree DOHC V-twin, albeit sans Desmodromic valves. It puts out pretty respectable power with 95 horsepower at 8,750 RPM and 66 ft-lbs of torque at 6,500 RPM. At present, the engine is no longer found in any current-spec Aprilia machine, other than the Dorsoduro 900, which, in reality, is pretty hard to come by these days. It is, after all, a Euro 4 rated engine, out of date when it comes to European standards, but well within Chinese and other Asian market standards.
Piaggio has owned the Gilera brand since 1969, and seemed to have some high hopes for it, especially in the world of sportbikes. However, following Piaggio’s acquisition of Aprilia in 2004, it seemed that the plans for Gilera were sidetracked, and the Italian brand was relegated for use on scooters and mopeds. Now, it’s really interesting to think that technology from Aprilia could very well be what could bring Gilera back in the game.