Horsepower: 120.2 hp @ 9800 rpm
Torque: 66.7 lb-ft @ 8500 rpm
Weight: 476 lbs w/fuel
Best Time: 1:22.11 (Atlas)
Only a few years ago the mighty Aprilia RSV was in the hunt for a World Superbike title in the hands of Troy Corser and Noriyuki Haga, winning plenty of races along the way, and won the prestigious Master Bike competition in 2006. It can be argued that the RSV1000R was at one time considered the best V-Twin sportbike on the planet. Time can be a cruel thing, though.
There isn’t much that gets better with age, sans wine and cheese. And in regards to technology, time is the ultimate enemy. That new computer you just bought? Already old by the time you get it home. How about your latest sports car? Five more will be released from other manufacturers that are lighter, smaller, faster and cheaper by year’s end. The same can be said for motorcycles, especially when it comes to competition-based machines like sportbikes and motocrossers. All things considered, how competitive do you think a decade-old sportbike could possibly be? That’s what we were looking to find out about the Aprilia RSV1000R…
The elder statesman of the group, the RSV1000R has been essentially unchanged for the better part of a decade. In fact, it isn’t too far removed from the original released back in ‘98. For ’04 it received a slight overhaul and presented a real challenge for the other open-class V-Twin motorcycles in its class – which at the time included the Ducati 999 and Honda RC51. You can read about how these three performed in our 2004 V-Twin Sportbike Comparison Review, if you are into nostalgia. Five years later we are looking to find out how it stacks up against a 600 and everyone’s new nemesis the Buell 1125R. The question of the day: Is it really a fair fight?
Despite its racing pedigree the Aprilia is the heaviest of the group, tipping the scales at 476 lbs. Fortunately, the RSV’s mass is most noticeable when simply rolling the bike around the pits as it hides the weight better than expected once under way. Compared to the competition in this test it also exhibits the most-lackluster turning characteristics of this trio. In fact, it feels the most-sluggish in steering, maneuverability and power. So, what’s the trade-off, what’s good about the Aprilia? This is one extremely-composed motorcycle at full-lean with a very race-bred feeling translated to the rider through the chassis. High-end suspension components from Ohlins aid in this cause, as well as a frame and swingarm designed by Troy Corser and the boys during the bike’s World Superbike heyday.
“Without a doubt, the strongest point of the Aprilia is in its chassis,” explains Waheed “It feels very rigid and feels totally solid in the corners. It takes a bit more muscle to turn-in as compared to the Buell and Kawasaki, but it’s easy to tell some racing development went into making this chassis.”
While the stable chassis, makes it feel like a track-weapon the soft engine knocks it down a notch. It’s amazing to think this powerplant was a contender a mere five years ago. But the times they are a changin’ and this Italian stallion is feeling a little gelded. While it is easy to ride, outright grunt from the 60-degree V-Twin is a tad lackluster at 120.2 hp, compared to high-revving Supersport-specific Ninja ZX-6R that pumps out 108.3 hp despite a motor that is almost half its size; less than 10 hp difference from a motorcycle 400cc bigger. Technology can be cruel.
“The Aprilia’s engine makes a lot of noise, and delivers all the right sensations, yet it never really pushes you forward with that same blast of acceleration as the other bikes,” Waheed elucidates. “The torque curve feels flat, which makes it easy to ride, but it has absolutely no top-end power and it spools up very slow, thereby making it necessary to short-shift the engine and keep your corner speed up for optimum acceleration around the racetrack.”
“The biggest disappointment is the engine. Compared to the other two, the motor feels flat and lifeless,” agrees Dhien. “Where is the power?”
When it came to lap times the Aprilia was close but couldn’t quite match either the Kawasaki or the Buell.
Brakes, though looking the part dressed in Brembo’s fine Italian clothes, are another weak point for the RSV. The binders just aren’t up to the task of getting the rather large beast hauled down to speed with anywhere near the quickness or precision of the competition. And it’s not only outright power that eludes these pinchers; feel and feedback are comparably vague and do not inspire much confidence. This may be a result of the units being unchanged for the last several years, pad compound, or the sheer weight they need to get stopped; we’re not totally sure. What we are sure of it that in our experience this is very untypical of clampers from the world-leader in braking technology, making this discovery a bit of a surprise.
“Since the Aprilia is pushing along the most weight, it’s going to need a pretty stout set of brakes,” says Waheed. “And while it makes use of Brembo calipers, they lack the power of the Kawasaki and Buell. They also don’t have very much feel.”
As for the lap times: When it came time to throw down it brought up the rear of the field (1:22.11 best). In its defense it was only half-a-second off the 2009 Supersport Shootout winning Kawasaki, which is nothing to scoff at, but when considering it was a full second off the Buell on a track as short as Streets of Willow, it’s hard not to want to stick the RSV on a diet, and quick. No doubt the lost time is lurking in there somewhere, but the added heft, numb brakes and lackluster power kept it at the back of this pack.
That said, as a whole the RSV is still very capable for a bike that should have fathered grandkids by now, but in this group it is third best on all three test riders’ scorecards. Thus, in this regard, we would have to say the rules surrounding the RSV1000R in DMG seem to be fair, if even a bit conservative. If either of the two Twins should have extra cc’s it’s the Aprilia.
KWS’s factory-backed Aprilia has had a couple top-five finishes at the hands of Chaz Davies, showing it can be competitive with extensive modifications. But considering Davies’ immense talent, if the bike was on par for the class it would undoubtedly be battling for the podium week in and week out. Some of this may come down to teething issues as the team is all new to Aprilia this year – although the same can be said of the Buell squad and it hasn’t stopped them from winning…
On a side note, while we know it’s not relevant to the track test, as far as looks go it’s hard to not pick the Aprilia as top dog. That white color scheme, trick wheels and gold Ohlins suspension has street Superbike written all over it.