2010 Aprilia RSV4R First Ride

MotorcycleUSA Staff | November 3, 2009

Near maximum lean the RSV4R is planted with zero ground clearance woes.
Is the 2010 Aprilia RSV4R truly a Race Replica? Leave it to the pros at Motorcycle USA to decipher truth from hype.

The term Race Replica is attached to nearly every motorcycle manufacturer’s latest liter-class sportbike. It’s a logical comparison, considering the similarities between the motorcycle you see in the showroom and their World Superbike racing brethren. But quite often in the conversion from racetrack to street, comprises have to be made – sometimes rather large ones. Italian motorcycle manufacturer Aprilia intends to change all that with the introduction of the 2010 Aprilia RSV4R.
The RSV4R is the baseline Superbike in next year’s line-up. Priced at $15,999, it’s a Superbike for the everyday man, a machine that allows riders to experience the wonder that is its purpose-built 999cc liquid-cooled V-Four racing engine and compact GP-inspired rigid aluminum chassis, all wrapped in stunning, aerodynamically functional bodywork. Motorcycle USA was one of only two U.S. magazines invited to test this hotrod at Valentino Rossi’s favorite and beloved Mugello racing circuit near Florence, Italy, to see if the Italian’s succeeded…

Aesthetically, there is no mistaking this bike from anything from Japan, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Like always, Aprilia designers continue to push the boundaries of motorcycle design by creating a futuristic, cutting-edge shape that is equally adept at punching the tiniest hole possible through air at speed. Its design truly is a synergy between form and function.

The 2010 Aprilia RSV4R in Aprilia Black.
Priced at  15 999  the 2010 Aprilia RSV4R is an incredible value. You can find it at your local Aprilia dealership this November.
The RSV4R is an absolutely stunning motorcycle. Even more amazing is its $15,999 price tag.

If you look close, the RSV4R’s fascia is queued to its early predecessor. It uses two primary head beams as well as an additional center high beam. Above sits the mirrors with integrated turn signals. At the rear of the bike is a triangular-shaped taillight that looks like something you you’d see on a new Audi R-series sports car.

Although it’s difficult to notice in pictures, in person the RSV4’s bodywork is very angular. In fact, the only flat, featureless section of the bike is the upper portion of both side panels. Below that more elegance comes in the form of symmetrical triangular cut-outs used to purge engine heat. Elsewhere on the bike, and especially on the tail section, numerous fins give the bike an unmistakable shark-on-land vibe.

The R shares the same bodywork as used on the Factory except for the carbon fiber front and rear swingarm fender, which is made out of less expensive plastic. Attention to detail and outright build quality is superb and it’s astounding that Aprilia could produce such a well-built and high-tech machine for a price less than a Ducati 1198. Bravo Aprilia!


During initial design, engineers considered many possible engine configurations including a V-Twin, Inline-Triple and both a 90-degree and 65-degree V-Four. Despite being the most expensive to build, they settled upon the latter, as it provides the best compromise between the high rpm performance of a four-cylinder and slim size of a V-Twin, thereby contributing to ideal racetrack dynamics.

The crown jewel of the RSV4R is its ultra-compact V-Four engine. It was designed and built in-house without assistance of Rotax (engine supplier for the RSV1000R). The engine itself is almost identical to the one used in the $5000-more-expensive Factory model, except that it utilizes fixed intake velocity stacks and aluminum engine covers (as opposed to variable-length trumpets and magnesium side and head covers). But the best part: Maximum horsepower is claimed to be the same.

The engine uses a cassette-style 6-speed transmission. Aprilia did not mention if however different gears will be available for purchase.
V-Four, 4-stroke engines don’t come any more compact than the RSV4R’s. A cassette-style 6-speed transmission allows for easy removal and gear ratio change, however, Aprilia did not mention if different gears will be available for purchase.

The crankcase is forged from one solid piece of aluminum and each cylinder utilizes a 78 x 52.3mm internal bore/stroke dimension, squeezing fuel to a compression ratio of 13.1:1. The cylinders are canted at narrow 65-degree angle which allows the engine to remain extremely short front-to-back. The engine’s top-end is comprised of double eight-valve cylinder heads with the intake camshaft driven by a chain and the exhaust cam via gear. A wet-sump lubrication system with an external oil-to-air radiator and twin oil pumps ensures proper engine lubrication. Additionally, one counterbalancer virtually eliminates engine vibration.

The induction system uses an airbox fed through twin ram-air intakes situated beneath the two primary headlights. Air is then funneled into four 48mm throttle bodies, each powered by twin fuel-injectors. The primary injectors feed the engine through low-to-mid rpm, with the secondary injectors activating near maximum rpm. Spent gases then travel through a 4-2-1 stainless-steel pipe arrangement that terminates in an upswept, trapezoid muffler traditionally mounted on the right-hand side of the bike. The exhaust incorporates an electronically controlled butterfly-valve and a catalytic convertor for both U.S. and Euro 3 emission requirements.

A modular, cassette-style 6-speed transmission delivers power to the rear wheel via a chain final drive. The drivetrain is further manipulated by a cable-actuated, wet multi-plate clutch with true ramp-style mechanical slipper functionality.


Remember the temperamental ride-by-wire system employed on the extinct Aprilia Cube RS3 MotoGP bike – The bike that would mysteriously highside its riders at high speeds without warning? The system has now been completely sorted and is employed on the RSV4R. It removes the physical cable connection between the throttle and engine, instead relying on the Magneti Marelli ECU to automatically manage engine fueling. Say hello to faith in electronics and welcome to the 21st century.

The RSV4Rs instrument display is easy-to-read whether youre cruising in the parking lot or wide-open at 178 mph.
The RSV4R employs a sophisticated ride-by-wire engine management system. It offers three user selectable engine modes (Track, Sport, and Road) that can be selected via a handlebar mounted switch.

The system is further augmented by two independent servo units controlling each bank of throttle bodies for more precise fuel metering. A handlebar switch allows the rider to choose from one of three fuel maps. Track mode provides full power in all six gears. Sport mode restricts engine torque in the first three gears but allows for maximum power in the remaining gears. The Road setting limits engine power to a predetermined amount in all gears. Surprisingly, there is no traction control available even as an up-charge accessory.

Instrumentation is comprised of Aprilia’s signature orange-backlit mixed digital/analog instrument panel. A large swept tachometer is bordered by a sizeable LCD screen that provides time, ambient air temperature, gear position, engine mode setting, speed, shift light, and engine warning lights.


Aprilia continues the tradition of employing light yet rigid chassis with the RSV4R. The frame and swingarm weight just over 33 lbs.
Aprilia continues the tradition of employing light yet rigid chassis’ with the RSV4R. The frame and swingarm weigh just over 33 lbs.

The shape of the engine allowed engineers to utilize a ridiculously slim frame. Comprised from a mixture of both cast and pressed pieces of aluminum, the twin-spar frame weighs just over 22-lbs while retaining a level of rigidity that we’ve come to expect and appreciate from Aprilia sportbikes. The engine is positioned extremely low in the frame which helps to mask its weight while moving. The 4.49-gallon fuel tank has been designed to carry the majority of fuel beneath the seat, thereby centralizing mass and retaining chassis balance regardless of fuel load.

A long, thick swingarm, also machined from both cast and pressed aluminum, extends the bike’s wheelbase to 55.9 inches. In typical Aprilia fashion, both the frame and swingarm feature a brilliantly polished finish that literally gleams like that of a factory race bike. Unlike the Factory model, the R’s chassis does not allow any sort of adjustment in terms of steering head angle, engine position, or swingarm pivot angle. It does however retain the ability to modify ride height by raising or lowering the shock body. Front-to-rear weight distribution is a claimed 52/48.

Accounting for the price savings, the Ohlins suspension pieces on the Factory are swapped out for less expensive components on the R. Up front a 43mm inverted Showa fork is utilized while the rear suspension is comprised of a Sachs gas-charged shock absorber operating through a linkage. The non-adjustable steering damper is also made by Sachs and is transverse-mounted above the lower triple clamp. Both suspension components offer independent tri-way adjustability in the form of spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjustment.

The RSV4Rs front end consist of an inverted Showa 43mm fork carrying a 17-inch cast aluminum 5-spoke wheel with twin 320mm rotors actuated by Brembo 4-piston monobloc calipers.
The RSV4R’s front end consist of an inverted Showa 43mm fork carrying a 17-inch cast aluminum 5-spoke wheel with twin 320mm rotors actuated by Brembo 4-piston monobloc calipers.

Other differences include the composition of the wheels; the R being cast aluminum instead of the lighter forged aluminum rims on the Factory. A switch from Pirelli to Metzeler rubber has also been made as the R gets the Racetec K3 (comparable to Pirelli’s fantastic Diablo Super Corsa SP tire).

The braking system is shared between models and highlighted by a pair of 320mm diameter discs actuated by 4-piston Brembo monobloc calipers and a radial-mount master cylinder. The rear brake consists of a single 220mm disc with a Brembo twin-piston caliper. Metal-lined brake hoses augment each end.

Sixteen Laps in Heaven at Mugello

Built into the foothills of the Apennine Mountains, Mugello offers everything a motorsports junkie could ever dream of. From braking, acceleration, and sheer top-speed; to flickabilty, max-lean cornering, and high-speed bends – the sum of its 15-turns put a real premium on every performance element of a machine. The perfect test track. Thus, it isn’t a surprise that it’s used extensively by its owner and legendary sports car manufacturer, Ferrari. And it was here where we got 16 laps aboard this much-hyped street legal racebike. 

Claimed dry weight (without any fluids or battery) comes in at 405 lbs, which should put fully fueled curb weight right around 450 lbs. (Honda CBR1000RR territory). Its mass feels dense and well-centered. Jump into the seat and it doesn’t feel quite as tall as its 33.3-inch spec would lead you to believe. Reaching to the handlebars reveals just how small of a motorcycle this is, both front-to-back and side-to-side. It’s without a doubt the smallest production liter-class sportbike on the market and sincerely feels like a middleweight class 600 – maybe even smaller than some of the bigger 600s.

The 999cc V-Four engine sounds simply marvelous-especially when you near its claimed power peak at 12 500 revs.
The ergonomics on the RSV4R were spot-on even for Waheeds six-foot-tall frame. Taller riders might feel cramped however.
The ride-by-wire throttle control system employed on the RSV4R provides a direct connection between the rider and rear tire.
(Above) The 999cc V-Four engine sounds marvelous—especially when you near its claimed power peak at 12,500 revs. (Center) The ergonomics on the RSV4R were spot-on even for Waheed’s six-foot frame. Taller riders might feel cramped however. (Bottom) The ride-by-wire system is perfectly calibrated and serves up a ridiculous level of rear tire feel.

From the minute you fire the engine it screams pure unadulterated exhilaration—think Ducati Desmosedici. Motoring out from pitlane and onto the track reveals both how stout the engine’s bottom end power is as well as just how tall first gear is—another clue that this is first and foremost a racing motorcycle. Keep the throttle dialed to the stop and its engine gains speed voraciously in a similar fashion to a 600cc Inline-Four mated to a big V-Twin. In the lower gears the front end gets light yet the wheel always hovers close to the ground, proving the effects of its forward-biased weight distribution and longish 55.9-inch wheelbase. Power evolves seamlessly into a punchy mid-range that just keeps cranking more and more power.

As revs increase, so does the furious roar from the engine and exhaust, eventually crescendoing to a guttural scream as you near the upper reaches of the tach. Here the power plateaus, before tapering off just shy of redline. As you hit the rev-limiter the engine stalls slightly but not nearly as bad as a high-performance V-Twin or Inline-Triple. Grab an upshift and its closely placed transmission gear ratios return you to the fat part of the engine’s midrange just where it likes to be. At any rpm the engine runs smoothly with virtually no vibration being transferred through the handlebars, proof that the internal counterbalance is perfectly calibrated. Overall the engine’s outright power feels somewhat comparable to the new Yamaha R1.

Tipping into the corner proves that the RSV4 responds best with the front brakes trailed on, thereby lowering the front end and giving it a slightly more aggressive steering geometry. When done correctly, it carves into the corner accurately with substantially reduced rider effort. The bike transitions to max lean predictably and stays planted throughout the turn. As you feed on the throttle, the engine responds instantly without being overly sensitive or jerky. Here it becomes immediately apparent just how direct the connection is between rider and rear tire. This gives the pilot the confidence needed to accelerate earlier during corner exit, thereby achieving the thrill of wide-open acceleration sooner aboard the V-Four.

Overall, the suspension offers well-calibrated damping characteristics, giving incredible balance front-to-rear. Whether you’re loading the front end by mashing on the front brakes or trying to get the rear end to squat during acceleration, the bike simply always maintains balance, resisting the urge to see-saw and instead stays solidly level.

Surprisingly, outright traction available from Mugello’s 3.2-mile surface wasn’t that impressive, though at the same time it showed just how adept the chassis is at putting power to the ground. Although the rear end was constantly squirming in search of traction, it manages to attain tremendous drive off the corner while maintaining laser-guided accuracy, tracking exactly where the rider points its nose. Feel from the OE-fitted Metzeler Racetec tires complement the chassis and offered plenty of feedback at an elevated pace around the track. In fact, unless we were full-on road racing, we’d have no problem using this tire during any racetrack outing.

Metzelers Racetec K3 high-performance street tires complement the chassis nicely and unless you are actually road racing  they provide all the traction a trackday or street rider would ever need.
Priced at $15,999, the 2010 Aprilia RSV4R is an incredible value. You can find it at your local Aprilia dealership this November.

Although the RSV4 gets in-and-out of the corner soundly, when you need to flick it from side-to-side quickly it resists changing direction, instead preferring to remain on its original trajectory. Despite some different reactions from the other journalists invited, I found throwing one’s weight off the bike and dragging the front brakes helped substantially, but it still wasn’t on par with the best middleweight 600s. That said, outright maneuverability is on par with its big displacement competition.

One of the most appreciated features of the RSV4’s chassis is how predicable it is. Whether just cruising and trying to learn which direction the track went during our initial laps, to the final session when we had put the track together and were really going for it, the bike never did anything unexpected and was very easy to discover its attributes: i.e. extreme precision, feel and balance.

Compared to a typical U.S. racetrack, Mugello is bowling ball alley smooth, yet occasionally the front-end had a propensity to wobble off some high-speed corners; fortunately the steering damper always sorted headshake.

Despite the RSV4 offering 600-like dimensions, it is astonishing how well my six-foot-tall frame fit. When I first hopped on the bike, I assumed there was no way I was going to be able to ply my body behind its tiny windscreen. But as I banged up through the gearbox on Mugello’s long front straight, I’d slide my butt all the way to the tail section and tuck my chin into the fuel tank’s cleverly designed helmet cut-out and turbulent air flowed right around my body. It’s like engineers tailored the RSV4 exactly for me. It’s also worth noting how well the fuel tank cut-out positions your helmet upward allowing for a clear, unobstructed view in front, without having to strain neck muscles.

Lean  lean  and more lean. The 2010 Aprilia RSV4R can take all the rider can dish out.
Lean, lean, and more lean. The 2010 Aprilia RSV4R can take all the rider can dish out. This might possibly be the ‘Best Sportbike of 2010.’

During deceleration, the RSV4R doesn’t offer much engine braking, instead relying on its oversized Brembo set-up. The highest speed displayed before braking for Turn 1 was 287 kph (178 mph). Here the brakes provide all the stopping power one could need unless your initials are VR. Power is off the charts and requires only one strong finger pull on the radial-style master cylinder to quickly dissipate speed. The shape of the fuel tank aids the rider in maintaining balance during aggressive braking by allowing a proper surface to squeeze the tank with one’s legs.

As mentioned before, the chassis offers an extraordinary level of stability and nearly completely negates the weight transfer effect. Brake feel isn’t as prevalent as we’ve experienced on other bikes with Brembo monoblocs ala Ducati’s 1098/1198 superbike, but it’s acceptable and most likely could be changed with a simple brake pad swap. The lack of brake feel did, however, make us much more cautious during trail brake maneuvers into the corner.

Riding the RSV4R can best be described as a raw experience. It delivers a visceral excitement that few other liter-class production bikes can offer. It’s hard to tell if it is faster or performs better than its Japanese and Italian competition, but one thing for sure is that when riding, it makes you feel like you’re piloting Max Biaggi’s No. 3 World Superbike.

Max Biaggi is figuring out the all-new 2009 Aprilia RSV4 at Valencia.
The RSV4R delivers a raw, visceral riding experience around the racetrack, making you feel like you’re piloting the same No. 3 World Superbike as Max Biaggi.

It’s relatively light and without a doubt the most compact liter-class projectile on the market, yet the ergos are spot-on perfect for racetrack use even for a larger-than-average rider. The chassis constantly barrages the rider with status updates from each tire and the howl, especially at high rpm from the V-Four engine, is like an addictive drug. Plus, the engine runs smoothly everywhere with zero vibration throughout its 14,000rpm rev range. Outright power is excellent, and if it could just hold onto its top-end power for longer we’d say it could be about perfect. This all considered, Aprilia may have just produced the best Sportbike of 2010. Not only does it look stunning, it sounds even better, is pieced together precisely, plus it simply hauls the mail. Leave it to Aprilia to produce a true Race Replica for the masses.

MotorcycleUSA Staff