Compact-feeling in size, the first thing one notices about the Aprilia is the ease in which the bike steers and it’s mid-corner ability.
Last but not least. We’ve all heard it a million times but if it were ever true in my lifetime this would be it. With only minutes to go in the day I managed to hop on Max Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 and what a revelation it was. Instantly feeling at home due to the super small size, right out of the box I was on pace with the quickest times of the test and only going faster as the laps progressed. This comes as all the more surprise when you consider ’09 was Aprilia’s first year in the series on an all-new machine – one which is only just now available for sale in the United States.
The chassis is tiny and nimble, utterly easy to steer and flicks from side to side with just a feather’s touch. Biaggi’s set-up was a tad on the stiff side for my lightweight frame, skipping over some of the bumps and running ever so slightly wide in areas, but the byproduct was off-the-charts flickability. In fact, before I really opened the taps, it felt more like a 600 than a 1000, only giving its displacement away by the sound of the low rumbling V-Four engine between your legs – and what a beautiful sound it is. But twist the right grip and things quickly went from 600 to well beyond 1000.
Not for the faint of heart, no question the RSV4 packs the most punch of any machine here, especially in the upper portions of the rev range, feeling as if redline would never come. Pinned down the front straight and tucked in the bubble, it felt as if the Aprilia was going to take flight the speed built with such tenacity, never letting down and always begging for more.
(From left) Good looking and fast; Basic stock gauge cluster hide big-money electronics; Custom exhaust and swingarm out back.
At the same time, though, power delivery from down low was quite docile and easy to control, the V-Four making corner-exit a thing a beauty. It really is the perfect combination. Furthermore, the TC worked flawlessly, allowing the bike to spin slightly so as to complete the corner but cutting in just when things got a bit hairy. This allowed one to keep the right grip twisted to the stop with relative ease, especially considering the beast of an engine which lay between one’s legs. Braking was more of the same, the factory-spec Brembos bringing the Aprilia to a halt with absolute precision and truck loads of power.
The V-Four engine delivers one heck of a punch once exiting the corner and stood up, feeling as if the top-end will never end.
The only downfall of the Aprilia, if you even want to call it that, would be the dash. Instead of using some utterly trick LCD unit like most of the paddock, sans Ten Kate, Aprilia opts for the stock gauge cluster. Nothing fancy here, just what you would be looking at on an OE street bike. Now, behind it sits tens of thousands of dollars worth of data equipment, but what the rider sees is anything but trick. Though this is hardly a complaint. And when one considers the staggering overall performance from Aprilia’s first-year WSBK machine, I’d have a tough time betting against them in 2010…
First off, well, I’m still pinching myself that all of this even happened. But once past that and down to business, rating these bikes pretty much falls just where they did on the championship. The Kawasaki handles great but doesn’t have anywhere near the power of the competition, while the Suzuki has the motor needed but it’s big in size and heavy to steer. As for the BMW, well, it’s a great bike that’s plagued by a host of small flaws which add up to a mid-pack machine; but trust me when I say there’s some serious potential in there.
As a whole the Superbike experience was one for the record books, all seven machines awesome as expected. But when it comes down to it, I like a Superbike to be super, so give me that Yamaha!
When it comes down to easy-to-use and utterly amazing overall packages, one would be hard pressed to find any flaws with either the Aprilia or Honda. Both are wickedly fast, yet at the same time mild mannered and extremely easy to ride. And as for the Ducati, it’s got a chassis that gives motorheads wet dreams and an engine that jumps off corners with mind boggling tenacity – though takes some mojo to really ride fast.
But when it comes to back-breaking, spleen-scrambling, eyeball-spinning madness there’s no question one bike stands head and shoulders above the rest: Ben Spies’ Sterilgarda Yamaha R1. Trust me when I say the Texas kid is ‘The Man’ for riding it like he did and winning the world championship. And while it probably wouldn’t be my pick to go racing on – if results mattered, that is – when it came to sheer exhilaration and outright adrenaline-pumping fun-factor, which is why I got into this sport in the first place, there’s no comparison: Give me that Yamaha!