These three bikes can be enjoyed even when not blazing around corners at triple digits.
Each of the three bikes offer up something the others don't. For the Mille Factory, it is ample amounts of carbon fiber and unmatched aesthetics. Pegs and foot controls are mounted on trick little eccentrics that offer minimal but worthwhile adjustment ranges.
The 999S offers full adjustability on just about every component on the bike, including the seat, and it is one of the most coveted bikes on the sportbike market. Few will argue that, when given the choice between a Ducati and anything else free of charge, the Duc wins. Of course, some of you live in the real world where cash is the only acceptable way to score Italy's most revered superbike.
The RC51 makes riding on public roads a little more comfortable. While the other two are unquestionably race replicas, Honda's racer has been prepped with real world amenities that simply can't be ignored. For starters, the RC51 offers up ample storage space in the rear cowling for a few assorted sundry items that both the Aprilia and Ducati can't. Removal of the plastic lid reveals a space large enough for a tool kit, a camera, license and registration. Moreover, the rear cowling can be removed and a passenger seat can be added so a significant other can enjoy the open road too.
As we found out with the two exotic Italian bikes, performance and exclusivity come at a price, both literally and figuratively. The Mille's rear brake woes are hard to overlook considering the bike retails for $6,300 more than the RC51. Of course, you may choose not to use the rear brake and rely on the Aprilia's stellar front binders.
The 999S is a superb bike, and overall performance is impressive, but we have a hard time seeing an $11,000 difference between it and the RC51, or the Mille Factory for that matter on the street. When maintenance and upkeep are figured into the equation, the fiscal separation between them only grows. However, in fairness to Ducati and its fans, people that buy the Italian marque do so for the same reason people drop the coin for a Lambo or Ferrari. Sure there are equally quick machines out there, but if you have to ask, then you just don't know.
"If money weren't an issue, I'd buy the Ducati," says Hutchison, who can barely afford to pay attention. "I love everything about that bike. It's probably not as road friendly as the RC51, but I can't get over how good it looks from the tail section to the headlight. Everything is so sexy, it's really a work of art."
Neither the Mille Factory or the 999S could match the RC51's real world capabilities. However, the tide could turn dramatically when we head to the track for Part 2
Ducati and Honda got big marks for their attention to detail, while we noticed the Aprilia had a few flaws that would bother us as owners. For one, the body work didn't seem to line up properly. The carbon fiber bodywork didn't line up well where it meets the tank, and it rubbed away a little paint at the base of the fuel cell. The same goes for the junction of the CF and the tail section - not something we'd be stoked about if we owned a Factory.
When the time came to choose a winner we eventually sat down and took everything into consideration. We came up a list of 15 categories that are relevant to the street and allowed our testers to rate them on a scale of 1-5. Check out the individual ratings
. When the scores were tallied, this is how the Twins stacked up.
The Mille Factory ended the street portion of our test in the third position simply because it is unquestionably a racing replica. It's fast, turns quickly, and provides a high level of performance in a tight package. However, it lacks street manners and seems better suited for a racetrack. We have a sneaking suspicion the Mille Factory will do better in the track portion of the test.
Ducati's 999S falls into a similar category as the Mille. It's a racing replica whose strongest characteristics are performance and exclusivity. However, racing replicas don't always function in a manner that makes them fun on the street. Anyone who rides the 999S for more than thirty minutes on a summer day and comes to a stop at a stop light can attest to the fusion-like temperatures that seem to rise up from every portion of the machine.
Don't get us wrong, we'd all take a 999S in a hearbeat, but we'd also likely confine our riding time to the track where it can spread its red wings and perform as it was intended. A street bike, the Duc is not, but like the Mille, we think it has a sporting chance in the track portion of the test.
The RC51 swiped the V-Twin Street title right out from underneath the more expensive Mille and 999S. However, the track awaits, can the 51 match the racing replicas it dusted on the street?
The RC51 has more to offer on the street than its Italian competitors. Boasting the most powerful engine and the most comfortable ergonomics go a long way in making this our choice for the 2004 MotorcycleUSA V-Twin Street Shootout. The 51 offers up a laundry list of amenities the competition can't. Trunk space, reliability, and most importantly, value. At $11,599, the RC51 is a ridiculously good bargain. Such a good value in fact that MCUSA Software engineer, Joe Wallace, went to the local Honda dealer and plopped down his hard earned money for a RC51 after our test.
There you have it. Honda pulls off the upset but can it compete on the track? One would think that a machine with two World Superbike titles and an AMA Superbike title in just three years of competitive existence could hang with the latest crop of competition inspired V-Twins, right? In one week you'll find out when we drop part 2 of our 2004 V-Twin Shootout: Track Test.
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Check out the "Specs." for the 2004 V-Twin Shootout.