Aprilia 2004 RSV
Offset rear shock leaves room for exhaust pipe. Note how the top subframe bolts thread vertically instead of horizontally. This allows for extra tool room to service the rear head, which it will probably never need.
My first session I made the mistake of riding the bike around the big twin engine. I was trying to square off the turns to get the bike up onto the meat of the street Pirelli to use the torque of the motor to get me to the next turn. However, the motor’s delivery of power is so flat and the rear shock is so good that there was really no reason to ride this bike in a point and shoot manner.
In the second session I tried to ride it like a lightweight and dropped about six seconds a lap (the RSV has an integral lap timer). Aprilia’s experience with 250 GP bikes shines through the big twin. Tapping into the stable but light handling offered by the stiff frame and compact weight, not to mention the excellent Ohlins forks, I began entering the corners fast and used the taut chassis to hold lines. Even with the vague feeling street tires this approach worked very well. Only with egregiously late turn in points would the bike ever threaten to run wide at an exit. The suspension is just about perfect in its stock configuration and, since it is all Ohlins, you could economically revalve and respring to your heart’s content.
Carves corners like a lightweight.
The problem with high entrance speeds is it is sometimes difficult to get the bike turned and, therefore, get the throttle back on. With the RSV the limiting factor was just the front tire. The bike would willingly follow any apex I threw at it until the front tire started moving around. The flat power delivery encouraged getting back on the gas even with the bike cranked over on its side.
The radial mounted Brembos are excellent. The brakes are so powerful that they can be modulated with a light touch. There does not seem to be any regard for the “we don’t want to intimidate the riders with powerful brakes” school of thought. The stainless lines and rigid calipers will allow you lift the rear wheel at 145 mph and the Ohlins forks will allow you to carry it a few inches off the ground until it is time to set it down for the turn in.
If you are dropping four gears simultaneously and not blipping the throttle and you accidentally set the rear wheel down a little out of line with the front the vacuum controlled slipper clutch saves the day. The slipper clutch gives you sufficient rear wheel drag to retain a feel for the rear wheel but it completely eliminates downshift induced rear wheel chatter.
The ergonomics of the bike are typical sportbike but with exceptional coverage behind the windscreen bubble. The pegs are still a little slippery for a sportbike but they have more grip than the old ones which were positively polished. All of the controls are adjustable but the hydraulic clutch ran out of adjustment before I could get it where I wanted it. I like to use two fingers on the clutch so I can keep the other two holding onto the bar. For this to work the clutch needs to engage and disengage at the end of the throw. On the Aprilia the clutch disengaged too close to the bar to be able to use anything but a full hand.
The fit and finish of the motorcycle is excellent and the new styling is more evocative than the older RSV.
This is a beautiful and competent sporting motorcycle but it is a bike that is released into a motorcycling limbo. World Superbike created the modern sporting twin by giving Ducati a displacement advantage against four cylinder 750s. Eventually four twins were built to fit this loose paradigm. Now that World Superbike is increasingly irrelevant for the OEM marketing agenda and AMA Superbike has allowed 1000cc fours to race unfettered against twins we may be witnessing the end of the twin era.
With an equal rider this Aprilia would turn faster laps than the RC51, the TL/SVs or probably even the comparable Ducati. However, we are never going to see that happen except at track days since heavyweight twins classes tend to be pretty lightly populated across the country and, where they are popular, few people are going to campaign an $18,000 motorcycle with no contingency money. Given the specification of the components the RSV Factory is a bargain but ultimately the RSV is a beautiful motorcycle to own for Sunday rides (road or track) not for outright racing. The writing on the wall says that the next generation of sport bikes will be taking their styling and performance cues from MotoGP. We are about to enter the era of four-cylinder sixteen-valve street going Ducatis and V5 Hondas.
This RSV took Aprilia three years to bring from paper to Mugello. Aprilia officials informed me that inline triples are less expensive to manufacture, lighter and more powerful, and that Aprilia has already software modeled a road going triple engine (they have not modeled a road going 600cc engine), here’s hoping that in 2007 these pages will be documenting the 180 bhp cube replica. In the meantime these RSVs will delight their owners with their beautiful craftsmanship and stunning handling and brakes.
The integral front turn signals in the mirrors is a very nice touch.
Under the matte black paint.
The packaging on this bike is extraordinarily clean.
The new RSV is physically smaller and lighter than the original with improved power and running gear. Both versions of the RSV have magnesium valve and clutch covers, new single plug heads (old ones were dual plugged), a front running air inlet, close ratio gear box, new fuel injection with 57mm throttle bodies, a 16bit ECU, a new two into two stainless exhaust with three way catalytic converters and Lambda sensor, the new frame (Factory is black, R is polished aluminum) the double gull wing swingarm and a new suspension linkage.
New heads yield better power on same bottom end.
The dry sump, four valve, dual overhead camshaft motor is extensively counterbalanced with shafts in both the cases and the heads. The engine retains Aprilia’s pneumatic power clutch which adjusts the clutch tension depending on load (either static, accelerating or decelerating). It lightens the clutch pull at idle and provides slip to reduce rear wheel chatter induced by rapid deceleration. The new cylinder heads have redesigned ports and valve angles to improve the burn and reduce the number of spark plugs from two to one while more efficiently distributing coolant through the head. The intake port is redesigned to perfectly match the single injector 57mm throttle body while the exhaust port is now oval. The new cams and valve springs boost the redline of the dual counterbalanced motor up to 11,000 rpm.
The fuel injection is matched to a 10.3 liter airbox which, in turn, is fed through an air runner which routes around the frame headstock (ala ZX-6 and RC51). The runner supports the instruments, the fairing and the headlights. It is also equipped with a flapper, which officially keeps the air velocity high at low speeds and, unofficially, keeps the intake noise down for regulatory compliance. The ram air is claimed to boost top end bhp by 3% at top speed.
The stock pipe is stainless steel (they had a gorgeous Ti system sitting in the garages, it should have come stock on the bike) with catalyzed mufflers for emissions compliance. The black mufflers suffered from discoloration from specs of tire rubber burning onto their surface.
The electronics on the bike have been simplified with the adoption of a controlled area network. This is car technology which we first saw on a motorcycle with the Ducati 999. All sensors feed data into a network which the ECU and gauges and access and process. This system reduces wires and complexity. The RSV uses 15 sensors: air and coolant temperature; oil, airbox, and atmospheric pressure; exhaust gases with a lambda sensor; rear wheel, driveshaft, camshaft, and throttle position/rotation sensors; sidestand and clutch switches; and battery voltage. Siemens worked with Aprilia to create the electrical system. Aside from the usual gauges and idiot lights the instrument panel has a diagnostic center for the onboard electronics and an integral lap timer which comes in very handy on press launches.
The new frame uses a welded together mixture of cast aluminum-silicon and die cast Peraluman 450 parts. The frame is 5% stiffer and 600 grams lighter than the previous RSV. The headstock is positioned lower and the swing arm pivot is moved forward .5mm. The engine has been shifted 4mm to the right to match the new mufflers and perfectly centralize weight distribution. The GP inspired gull wing swingarm is 400 grams lighter than its predecessor.
The R model has 43mm Showa fully adjustable forks with a Sachs adjustable rear shock (including ride height). The R features Brembo four pad, four 34mm piston calipers which are triple bridged to reduce caliper flex and, when coupled with the stainless steel brake lines and the radial master cylinder, give a solid feel at the lever. The calipers squeeze 320mm front rotors.
The Factory model (which is really the one to get) has got radial mounted bridged Brembos, Ohlins forks, Ohlins rear shock, Ohlins steering damper, gorgeous forged aluminum OZ wheels, a nonslip seat, the matte black frame and carbon fiber front fender, rear fender, fairing extractors, windscreen deflectors, upper fairing cover and side fairings. That is a hell of a deal for the extra $4,000 or so.
The RSV-R is available in Aprilia Black/Diablo Black and Red/Lead Grey the RSV-Factory is available in Lead Grey/Magnet Grey and Aprilia Black/Diablo Black. Prices are not confirmed but expect something like $13,500 for the R and $17,500 for the Factory.