Aprilia RSV4-R Ride Review
We take a quick ride on Aprilia’s V4 superbike weapon, the RSV4-R
For years the talk about 1000cc “race replica” sports bikes seemed to centre around whichever one of the Japanese Big 4 had the most horsepower.
Things have been different lately, with a couple of European brands arriving on the scene. Although BMW’s 1000 looks spectacular on paper, on the track the Aprilia RSV4 has grabbed most of the attention. Max Biaggi has put the Italian V4 flagship on the box repeatedly, and at the time of writing this, is comfortably leading the 2010 World Superbike Championship.
A bike that differs markedly from its competitors, Aprilia started with a clean sheet on this one. Available in two models, the up-spec Ohlins suspended “Factory” and this less expensive “R” which we spent some time with.
The most noticeable features of the weapon are it’s stumpy tail, and angular design. Very much a race bike with lights look. The other is the unmistakeable – and beautiful – V4 sound. It is also the loudest bike with a standard exhaust I’ve ridden. And not in a bad way. At idle the V4 lumpy idle is pleasing, but clicking first gear at a standstill opens a flap in the exhaust which lifts – deepens actually -the sound to an even more pleasing level.
The ear massage comes by way of an all new engine design, a compact 65 degree V4 with 8 valve heads, and a chain driven inlet cam, which transfers drive to the exhaust cam via gear. The Aprilia World Superbikes add a kit to convert the gear drive to both cams. The Factory model also gets variable length intake trumpets and some trick magnesium engine covers, but apparently peak horsepower is similar.
The quad 48mm twin injector throttle bodies are controlled by a “ride by wire” throttle control, although you wouldn’t know if the brochure didn’t tell you. Very nicely sorted, unlike some of the early attempts at throttle control that felt like using a computer with a sticking mouse. Listening to the salesman is required when learning the various computer engine modes available. R mode does not stand for Race, it stands for Rain. Or was it Road?. S for Sport and T for Track are accessed by pushing the starter button while the engine is running. Like me, you may wince slightly each time you press it, expecting some grinding.
Despite all that, the modes are actually well sorted, even the Track setting is very rideable on the road. Sitting on the machine reveals much, firm seat, head down stance, and a small, yet accommodating size. The RSV4 is a very slim machine, despite it’s 4 cylinders, it is only 2 cylinders wide.
Like all pure sports bikes, riding slowly will induce potential wrist and back issues, but few will be buying this bike to tour. First ride offered up more details, the mirrors are nearly useless unless you have clear arms, and the sound is enough to make you want to just ride around running it up and down through the gears. No surprises there, as the V4 is usually high on the list of rider’s favourite exhaust melodies.
The six speed gearbox works as it should, light and precise in the shifts, albiet a little tricky to get neutral on occasion. Slowing it back down is easy, the 320mm discs and Brembo monoblocs produce possibly the nicest brakes of any motorcycle I’ve ridden up to this point, hugely powerful, but not at all grabby or over sensitive. A mechanical slipper clutch lessens engine braking, and no rear wheel chatter was found under panic braking episodes.
Back on the throttle again, and the V4 feels like it has a very linear torque curve, there’s no huge hit of power, it just keeps on accelerating, the roar turns to a howl as 180 horsepower flings you at the horizon. By the time red-line arrives it really has a mechanical scream happening that you need to hear to appreciate. Run this through a few gears on the road, and like all litre supersports bikes, you will be deep in the “go directly to gaol” zone.
For the roads we traversed on our several hundred km rides, the suspension was on the firm side comfort-wise, but didn’t provide any frights. Even on the bitumen supercross tracks provided by the government in these parts.
On smooth roads, it is glorious, the steering feels like you are holding it by the front axle. Think, and it turns. But again, it is a very head down stance, and the bigger you are, the more you will feel like you are looking straight down at the road in front of you. The anodised triple clamp bling belongs to the caps on the Showa forks, fully adjustable of course. A Sachs shock keeps the rear wheel in road contact.
A glance up will find the standard Aprilia instrument package, a large round tacho, with an inset LCD display for speed and usual other functions. There is only a low fuel warning though, and combined with a smallish 17 litre tank, and a surprising thirst, the RSV4 offers plenty of opportunities to show it off in service stations.
There was a noticeable build up of heat through the seat on a few occasions, but nothing that required burn cream. If you’ve bought one of these for commuting, well, you’ve already hardened up, so these little comfort issues wont spoil your morning ride of glory to work. The RSV4 offers up a raw superbike like experience, the glorious mechanical symphony which is only approached by Yamaha’s cross plane R1. It lacks the silky smoothness of some of the other competition, and is all the better for it. It is one of those bikes where much restraint is required on public roads, as it pulls you into a superbike racing daydream if you are not careful.
Like all Aprilias, parked in the garage it’s a thing of beauty, all angles and polished alloy. It does command a premium in price over a Japanese supercycle, but it’s not always about the money. In Australia that would be around 24k, over 8k less than the Factory RSV4 version.
For a weekend fun machine, an exquisite garage decoration, an occasional track day, and not the least, to start it up and just listen to it, this has to be near the top of the list.
Type: 65° V-4 cylinder, DOHC 4 valves per cylinder.
Bore and stroke: 78 x 52.3mm
Compression ratio: 13:1
Maximum power at crank: 180 HP (132.4 kW) at 12,500 rpm
Max Torque at crank: 115Nm at 10,000 rpm
Fuel supply: 4 Weber-Marelli 48-mm throttle bodies with 8 injectors
Ride-by-Wire engine management.
Magneti Marelli digital electronic ignition system integrated in engine control system.
Exhaust system: 4-2-1 layout, single oxygen sensor,unit-controlled butterfly valve.
Clutch: Multiplate wet clutch with mechanical slipper system
Lubrication Wet sump lubrication system with oil radiator and two oil pumps (lubrication and cooling)
Type: Aluminium dual beam chassis with pressed and cast sheet elements.
Front suspension: 43mm Upside-down Showa. Adjustable preload, compression, rebound.
Sachs steering damper
Wheel travel: 120 mm
Rear suspension: Twin sided aluminium swingarm; mixed low thickness and sheet casting technology.
Sachs piggy back monoshock Adjustable preload, compression, rebound APS progressive linkage.
Wheel travel: 130mm
Front brakes: Dual 320-mm diameter floating stainless disc
Brembo monobloc radial calipers with 4 34-mm opposite Sintered pads.
Radial Master Cylinder and metal braided brake line.
Rear brake: 220-mm diameter disc, Brembo calliper with two 32 mm separate pistons. Metal braided line.
Front: Aluminium alloy with 6 split spokes, 3.5″X17″
Rear: Aluminium alloy with 5 split spokes, 6″X17″
Width: 735mm (at handlebars)
Height: 1120 mm
Dry weight: 184Kg (Kerb Weight)