When AMA pro roadracer Alex Gobert announced his retirement at the end of the 2005 season, he mentioned he might try his hand next at motorcycle journalism. We were interested, of course, but he went back to his Australia homeland to work for
Retired roadracer, Alex Gobert, tries his hand at writing, as he delivers his recent evaluation of the 2006 Aprilia RSV 1000R in both its standard and Factory versions at the Losail circuit.
Australian Motor Cycle News. But we tracked down the youngest member of the illustrious Gobert racing family to get his report from Aprilia's launch of its RSV 1000R. Read on to find out if Alex can write as well as he can ride. -Ed
Since Aprilia first introduced its RSV1000 Mille back in 1998, there have been plenty of different models of the V-Twin machine, the latest being the most advanced and well handling yet.
Aprilia RSV 1000cc sportsbike models have included standard versions such as various Mille models from 1998-2003, before changing the name from Mille to simply the RSV1000R as the standard model when big design changes were made in 2004.
The special models have included the SBK homologation Mille SP in 2000 - a bike which took eight race wins, eight poles, and 26 podiums in the limited time it spent racing in the World Superbike Championship - the Noriyuki Haga replica in 2002, the Colin Edwards replica in 2003, and in 2004 the first of the RSV1000R Factory model was released.
For 2006 Aprilia has the standard RSV1000R and also the RSV1000R Factory version available. Both are quite similar feeling but the Factory features a few different key component upgrades to justify its $4000 more expensive price tag.
The world launch was held at the Losail Circuit in Qatar, a perfect track with all its flat corners to showcase the torque that the V-Twin engine roars out.
The Gobert name is a familiar one in the world of motorcycle roadracing. Now the youngest member of the Australian clan, Alex, is moving on from his racing career for a stint in the motojourno ranks.
With so much technical evolution over the years, the characteristics that made the original RSV stand out are still there today, including the longitudinal 60-degree V-Twin engine, electronic fuel injection with 57mm throttle bodies (one injector per cylinder), and the 'Air Runner' ram air scoop. The RSV's engine also incorporates the AVDC (Anti vibration double countershaft), and the hydraulic action clutch, which features Aprilia's patented PPC (Pneumatic power clutch) system to control rear wheel chatter under braking.
Italians are passionate about motorcycling, and all of Aprilia's new models display this. Just taking a glimpse at both the RSVs shows how much effort has been put into these beauties. Listening to the Aprilia technicians and press representatives speak about the two bikes tells the story even more. They want the RSV to stand out in a crowd, be different and original. The RSV1000 is definitely an individual.
The standard version of the RSV range is the R model, which retails in the U.S. at $13,999. The new '06 version looks better in every way compared with previous models. A new fairing is introduced with bigger air vents for improved cooling and a more enveloping fairing design near the 'pegs has improved aerodynamics. It has a new ram-air intake with aerodynamically shaped edges for better air flow and less wind resistance. The tail section of the new RSV is now much slimmer and higher, giving it a more aggressive look, much like that of the new Tuono.
Even the windshield is new on the RSV, a little bit lower, but shaped to escalate the wind around your body. The fuel tank and side panels of the bike have been reshaped to give it a narrower feel in the riding position and a more compact feel in general. Another thing to note with the fairing on both RSVs is that it is now easier to remove. The side panels are now made from just two pieces per side to make access and maintenance easier.
The front and rear lights have been updated for '06, with the headlight featuring four separate lights that work in pairs, eliminating the lopsided look of many modern sportsbikes. The tail light is now comprised of 16 LEDs with a clear white lens that fits perfectly into the compact tail section of the bike.
The 2006 Aprilia RSV1000R comes in two different versions, the standard seen above and the RSV1000R Factory, which is equipped with component upgrades to justify the $4000-higher price tag.
The biggest change on the '06 RSV1000R is that it now adopts the 43mm Ohlins racing fork that was only featured on the Factory model in previous years. Ohlins forks are generally more sensitive to adjustments, have a titanium-nitride coating for less friction and radial-mount brake calipers. The rear shock is the same Sachs monoshock as was used on last year's RSV. Both the front and rear suspension are fully adjustable.
On the track the suspension package allows a comfortable ride with reliable, consistent feedback. The fork is excellent, giving plenty of feedback, and is a fine upgrade for those in the market for the R model. I found the set-up on the Sachs shock too soft, or maybe that the rear ride height was a bit low.
The steering rake angle has now increased from 24 to 25 degrees, also giving it a slightly longer trail. The longer trail improves stability but the bike still remains agile in the corners. That alone was the thing I enjoyed most about both the R and the Factory version - they are stable and always give a good sense of where the bike is beneath you.
Pulling up the RSV for the corners is never a problem with the radial-mount Brembo brakes that clamp to the 320mm floating discs. The radial calipers are combined with a radial-mounted master cylinder to form what Aprilia says is the most sophisticated braking system fitted to any current production bike. I must say that the brake lever has the longest reach I have ever felt, even when it is wound fully inwards.
In the 'V 60 Magnesium' engine department of the RSV1000R, the major change is the exhaust valves which are increased from 31mm to 33mm, and it now has larger-diameter collector pipes. This latest engine releases 143 hp (claimed) at the crank at 10,000 rpm (compared with 139 hp in '05) and gives a smooth yet exciting feel out on the race track. The bike pulls nicely from around 7000 rpm, and I chose to upshift the gears just after the 10,000-rpm mark, quite a ways before the 11,000-rpm rev limiter kicks in.
The most noticeable upgrade in the '06 RSV is the use of a 43mm Ohlins fork that offers more feedback and better responsiveness.
The new silver-finish silencers have catalytic converters installed near the collector pipes, bringing the RSV1000R well inside the strict parameters required for Euro 3 homologation. The secondary exhaust section has also been extended by 200mm to boost torque at low revs.
The combined digital/analogue instrument panel is easy to read and features all the same readouts as the '05 model but is now extremely modern and compact in design. It receives data on all engine control parameters over a CAN (Controlled Area Network) line and has enough memory to allow it to act as an integral part of the self-diagnostics system. This makes it easy for an Aprilia service tech to find a problem if the bike has a malfunction.
Everything on the RSV just seems to fit together well. Ergonomics on Aprilias are always comfortable, thanks to the top-of-the-line components used by the Italian manufacturer. The upright but racy seating position of the RSV gives it an all-round excellent feel for the road or the track.
RSV 1000R Factory
The word 'factory' is often used to describe race bikes that are simply unavailable to the public. It's a word that is often used for special bikes, made for equally special riders. Since 2004, Aprilia has applied the name 'Factory' on its top model in the RSV1000R range.
The RSV 1000R Factory is a pretty special bike indeed, and features quality upgrades throughout the bike to make the ride that much more enjoyable. It isn't quite a full-blown factory race bike, but has enough gear to justify its name and the upgrades are mainly an advantage for track use according to Aprilia.
The RSV1000R Factory features the same V60 magnesium engine as the R model, the same exhaust, frame, swingarm and brakes.
The Factory bike comes in one colour; an aggressive looking Gold/Black. It has a gold frame, gold-anodized wheels and, mixed with the black fairing, this bike looks mean. The swingarm is polished instead of painted for greater wear resistance.
The RSV's distinctive silver-finish silencers house catalytic converters to reign in the Italian bike's exhaust emissions to within the stringent Euro 3 requirements.
Now that the Ohlins fork comes on the standard R model ('06 is the first year that both the R and the R Factory come with the same front fork), the number one upgrade from the standard RSV1000R is the fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock. The Ohlins unit is better quality than the Sachs shock used on the R model, and back to back on the race track I could feel a pretty big difference. The Ohlins-equipped Factory bike steered quickly and easily, also providing a much more stable feeling under hard braking.
I say that the Factory seems to steer a lot quicker and change direction easier due to the Ohlins shock, but the quicker steering could also be put down to the use of forged-aluminum wheels. Forged wheels are much lighter, with 'Y' shaped spokes (six spokes on the front, five on the rear) giving the wheels spot-on lateral and torsional rigidity. These wheels look awesome and weigh 25% less than cast-aluminium wheels, helping the Factory slim down to a claimed dry weight of 408 lbs, 9 less than the standard 417-lb RSV 1000R. Another factor to the quicker steering is the taller rear Pirelli SuperCorsa Pro tire (190/55-17 instead of the 190/50-17 used on the R model).
Another extra on the Factory is the adjustable Ohlins steering damper. Personally, I really like steering dampers on the track because they help hugely if something goes wrong. But another good thing is they tend to keep the bike feeling more stable in the front end under heavy acceleration.
Carbon-fibre parts are sprinkled throughout the RSV 1000R Factory, including; front and rear mud guards, fairing air vents, cockpit fairing spoilers and a fairing cover on each side. Topping off the extras on the RSV 1000R Factory is a non-slip racing seat cover.
So what do $4000 worth of upgrades mean on the race track? The R and the Factory feel similar in most ways and I didn't notice a huge difference until I really started to push the envelope. The main feeling, as mentioned before, was the different steering characteristics. Quite a bit different, actually, but both bikes handle extremely well for a big 1000cc V-Twin.
And you can't argue with all that 'bling' that is featured on the Factory. Rolling around the streets is sure to garner plenty of attention with the gold look. Add in the carbon and the RSV 1000R Factory is definitely a one of a kind.
A Different Note...
When your last name is Gobert your chances of a real "factory" bike are dramatically improved. But, as long as you can pony up the $18K asking price, a RSV Factory bike is yours, no questions asked.
Aprilia has had a long association with Slovenian exhaust company Akrapovic, and we had a couple of different pipes to try at the launch in Qatar. When this was announced at the press intro, I was pretty excited; one, because it is good to try the bikes with parts that are available directly from Aprilia, and two, because I have never really had the opportunity to test stock vs aftermarket back-to-back.
An interesting thing to note is that the RSV comes with two separate fuel injection maps ready to go when you buy the bike. There is the stock map which is what is used when you purchase the bike with standard exhausts, or if you buy an aftermarket system there is a map that your dealer can easily switch the bike to that is already programmed in to the ECU.
On the RSV 1000R I had the chance to try the street legal 2-into-2 slip-ons, which offer approximately a 5-hp gain over standard and are also 33% lighter in weight. These titanium silencers feature noise dampers which can be removed for maximum performance on the track, but easily put back in for the public roads.
On the track I feel that the slip-ons really fill up the mid-range power of the bike and gives it that little bit of extra zing off the corners. Not to mention the vast improvement in looks and the roar howling out of the double-canister system.
Next up we tried the complete exhaust kit which was mounted on the RSV R Factory. This thing is loud and if you weren't looking at the track as the big Twin screams past, it could easily be mistaken for a full blown Superbike. The full system offers approximately a 7-hp increase and features a weight reduction of 38% over standard. These pipes are serious and offer more power while also extending the use of power available in the range. The full kit also has the noise dampers.
Riding the RSV R Factory with the full system is really fun. Corners where third gear was kind of lagging were now just a case of opening the throttle and away we go. The bike is stronger throughout the rev-range and feels 'cleaner' overall.
Both systems were an improvement over stock, and just like our test bikes I recommend the full system if you're willing to pay the extra for the Factory, but the slip-ons do a good job and are a big improvement when mounted on the R.
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