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ADV NewsTested: Black Dog ‘Ultimate’ Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

Tested: Black Dog ‘Ultimate’ Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

BDCW’s Tuareg skid plate promises heavy-duty protection & quick-removal access.

Published on 04.18.2024
Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

Among the few things on the Aprilia that can be improved, its skid plate is on most people’s shortlist. From the factory, the 660 is separated from sharp points and blunt force by a thin piece of aluminum, one that quickly becomes mangled when the bike is ridden with any degree of aggression.

With dozens of options on the market, filtering through the ever-growing list of winners and losers presents a challenge that worsens with time. We’re left weighing between several factors — installation, crash bar compatibility, material strength, and durability, among many others. This is where the Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate steps in.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

First Look

One of the first things that makes the “Ultimate Skid Plate” stand out is its appearance. The hammered finish gives the illusion that it was hand-forged from wrought iron – perhaps an allusion to how durable Black Dog expects the skid to be. Appearance aside, the protector is made from 3/16″ 5052 aluminum, providing complete coverage of the Aprilia’s soft innards using a combination of OE mounting points and Black Dog’s bracket system that ties into the Tuareg’s frame. This attachment method offers objectively better coverage for the oil sump and exhaust header. On top of that, it still manages to accommodate the factory center stand.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

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There are also no oil drain holes on the bottom. This is by design to ensure a smooth gliding surface with nothing to catch on roots and rocks. However, it does require you to remove the plate from the bike to perform an oil change. I had some initial reservations about how tight the plate fits to the bike, as well as access when it comes to oil changes, but I would soon find these concerns to be non-issues. 

Getting It Installed

Black Dog includes a comprehensive set of instructions for the installation, removing the guesswork from an often painful process. BDCW states that the skid plate is known to be compatible with either Hepco & Becker or OEM crash bars (perhaps there are others). We opted to pair it with the Hepco & Becker crash bar system for our application. 

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660
Left and right side mounting brackets for the skid plate share the same frame bolts with the crash bars. We opted for a set of burly Hepco & Becker bars to pair with our Ultimate Skid Plate.

Depending on your choice of crash protection, Black Dog makes a couple of options for the Ultimate Skid Plate that consider the needs for either the OE crash protection or aftermarket crash bars. That aside, if you’ve ever installed an intricate skid plate system onto an adventure bike with crash bars, you’re probably familiar with the pain of having to force parts into submission; manufactured goods that are otherwise advertised for your application yet somehow fail to fit as expected. Luckily the big hammer would remain stowed away in its designated tool drawer for the duration of the installation process.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

What surprised me the most is how easily everything went together. Opting to use the spacers that ship with the Hepco & Becker crash bars (I later realized this wasn’t necessary since the skid shipped with the correct hardware for use with the crash bars), the BDCW Ultimate Skid Plate fit onto the Tuareg as though it came on the bike from the factory.

Installation is summarized in a few simple steps. Firstly, you need to remove the OE skid plate and charcoal canister bracket. Once done, Black Dog’s replacement charcoal canister bracket and skid plate tie-in need to be installed. After that, you attach the front brackets to the motor mounts, and the plate quickly buttons into place using six M8 Countersunk fasteners, along with some of the included threadlock, followed by a bit of fastener torquing. The countersunk hardware keeps the Ultimate Skid’s bottom completely smooth, aiding in its ability to slide over obstacles easily. Plus a large rubber shok block between the engine and skid plate helps reduce the impact of bigger hits.  

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660
The rear mounting bracket ties into the frame for a strong support, while maintaining a low profile to maximize ground clearance.

Manufacturers make many claims, some of which seem stretched, but there’s little arguing with Black Dog’s claim of a 15-minute install once you remove the OE hardware. I’ve yet to find an aftermarket skid plate that can be uninstalled/reinstalled for oil changes this easily. I timed myself moving casually and removal takes about a minute and a half, with installation taking about the same time.

We also outfitted our Tuareg with a set of Black Dog Traction Footpegs for even more durability and grip in rocky terrain.

How It Performed

Opting for roads carved out of Sierra Nevada granite, I decided to scrub things on a series of unmaintained mining tracks that run East toward the Pacific Crest. While we lack an abundance of sand in Northern California, there’s no shortage of rock. Rutted from season after season of flood and heavy snowfall, scrubbing the Ultimate Skid Plate in here means clanging, smacking, and banging it against a wide variety of rocky terrain.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

With the new sump protector in place, you’re immediately afforded more confidence in dragging the Tuareg through rugged terrain. Situations that previously may have garnered a second guess are now a go. Rock gardens full of pumpkin-sized rocks? No worries. If there’s any one thing that has rung true, it’s that the thing can take a beating. 

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660
Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

Even through miles of single track with rock steps and ledges that cause the bike to bottom out frequently, the finish has largely remained intact. Because I regularly remove the plate for cleaning and service intervals, I can also boldly claim that the skid shows no sign of deformation in spite of countless miles of abuse. Calling it bomb-proof is a lot closer to fact than it is to fiction. As far as my concerns about clearance, there is just a few millimeters of space separating the side case and the plate. After some prolonged use now, I haven’t seen any witness marks and I’m confident there is enough of a buffer to prevent impacts or rubbing.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660
Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

Who Is It For

There’s a lot of stigma in the industry around skid plates — some arguing that a mobile Fort Knox needs to be fastened to the underside of your bike if you wish to traverse a dusty paved road. The truth is, the OE skid is sufficient enough if all you see yourself riding are graded gravel roads. 

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

With that said, if you frequently find yourself on unmaintained forest roads, or have aspirations to explore any of the BDR routes, or are simply unafraid of wandering off into the unknown where metal crinkling stones, log hops, deep ruts, and rock gardens are commonplace, there may be no better way to protect your investment and potentially preserve your adventure.

Our Verdict

Adventure riding often takes us into situations where type-2 fun is the norm. A large part of why we do what we do is to escape the monotony of scheduled life, as those uncertainties are what make adventure riding exciting. What comes with that, though, are tracks whose conditions are questionable at best, where pushing through to the other side is the only option, save from ending up stranded without fuel in the middle of nowhere. In situations like this, failure is not an option when you’ve got to get back to ‘real life’ on Monday.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

For those looking for a no-compromise skid plate to protect their Tuareg’s sensitive undercarriage, Black Dog’s Ultimate Plate is a great option. With its solid construction and design and additional redundancy in the form of a thick buffer pad, you’ll be hard-pressed to cause catastrophic damage to your engine with it installed.

Some may argue against the lack of an oil drain port or easy access to the oil filter, but the extra minute or two spent simply removing the plate easily counters the hours spent waiting for rescue in the bush. Priced at $475, you’re paying for unparalleled peace of mind and a product that looks as good as it performs.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate for the Aprilia Tuareg 660

What We Liked

  • Solid, durable construction.
  • Complete coverage.
  • Easy initial install & removal/reinstall for maintenance.

What Could Be Improved

  • It’s a bit on the pricey side.

Black Dog Ultimate Skid Plate Specs

Construction: Made of 3/16″ (4.76mm) 5052 Aluminum.
Color: Two-tone Black/Grey powder- and clear-coated finish.
Manufacturing Location: Made In The USA.
Crash Bar Compatibility: Hepco & Becker or OEM.
Price: $475

Shopping Options

Black Dog Cycle Works

Photos by Kenneth Morse

Author: Ken Morse

While Ken’s two-wheeled exploits began only a few years ago, he’s no stranger to adventure. Since 2006, he’s been wandering all over the U.S. in various four-wheel drive toys, exploring as much hidden terrain in the backcountry as possible. Having straddled his first motorcycle in 2019, he quickly became obsessed and made the switch to two wheels. Now he spends most of his free time riding, wrenching and traveling on adventure motorcycles from his base in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Author: Ken Morse
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Kellen
Kellen
April 18, 2024 2:39 pm

Nice photos. Love the look of this skid plate.

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