2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF ‘Factory’

Aprilia RSV4RF on the road…

Words: Jock McLauchlan; Photos: Geoff Osborne


I must confess that for some years now my feelings have been torn concerning the Aprilia RSV4. On the one hand it’s a beautifully engineered and technological power house of Italian design that’s clearly capable of slaying racetracks in the right hands.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF ‘Factory’

On the other, that doesn’t necessarily make it a great road bike for general use. I have wavered between being totally amazed by its capabilities, beyond its obviously stunning looks and heavenly sound track, and wondering whether the RSV4 is a logical or even remotely rational choice as a road bike.

The argument against goes like this – it’s too fast, too uncomfortable and the pillion accommodation is abysmal at best. So, in a nutshell, it’s not at all practical. But, that’s really all the naysayers have.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
The big question when it comes to the RSV4 RF is just how well it stacks up on the road…

Now, for the glass half full guys… a bike can never be too fast, it’s plenty comfortable unless you’re super tall and, well, I bought the bike to enjoy for myself, not potter around two-up. Of course, as with most things, the full truth lays somewhere in the middle and this will be determined by the type of rider you are.

I have to admit that I really do love the 65-degree, V-four engine and everything about it. Well, everything barring the the mechanical clatter it makes just above idling engine speed. It shouldn’t be necessary to say it’s fast, but, I feel it needs to be vocalised. This is phenomenally fast.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
The V-Four powerplant offers copious power, easily lifting the front at 130km/h

The power delivery is strong from the get go and just progressively ramps up until the rev-counter needle buries itself in the red and the limiter stops proceedings. The RSV4 doesn’t have the ultra frenetic top-end rush of, say, a ZX-10R, but it’s still absolute hauling arse.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
The Aprilia’s mid-range is exceptional with linear overall delivery

There is an effortless surge in the midrange where the Aprilia will loft the front wheel beautifully around the 130 km/h mark as you exit flowing turns, but overall it’s really quite linear in the way it pumps out the power.

Then there’s the sound track… a gloriously heady mix of booming baritone and soaring falsetto. It is a fantastic engine note that changes as you flick through the gears on the speed-shifter, unmatched in motorcycling from my experience.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
A glorious soundtrack also offers plenty of aural thrills

Keeping this rather perky motor in check are a host of power/rider modes and even cruise control, all of which are selectable from the handlebar switch blocks via cutting edge Bosch electronics. The rider mode selection process has been tidied up and simplified immensely compared to previous iterations.

Just follow the steps on the dash to adjust traction control, anti-wheelie, ABS sensitivity and power – it’s all very clever and most of the ‘Italian factor’ has been removed, so it’s way more intuitive to operate than in the past – and almost as logical as the four button switch process KTM use – which in my view is the simplest of the lot.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
Switchbar controls have been simplified, making for better usability on the latest iteration

I was very taken with the Ohlins suspension at both ends. Obviously Ohlins is a well-respected quality product and should perform well, but, as they say, it’s all in the set-up.

The set up is firm, quite firm, but never harsh and even when hitting some quite ugly bumps at speed the Aprilia always feels taut and very controlled. It is probably a step too far to say the RSV4 is ‘comfortable riding’ suspension-wise on our rough byways, but it isn’t bad by any means, certainly for a thoroughbred sports bike.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
Top end Ohlins suspension also offers taught and controlled handling

A superbike like this must be firm to cope with all the power and braking forces, so I’d say Aprilia has walked a fine line between comfort and control quite brilliantly. Of course both ends are fully adjustable, so fine tuning to personal requirements is only a few clicks away.

The Aprilia RSV4 handles in a very controlled manner, rock solid and stable in flowing turns, and has a predictable confidence-inspiring stance at fast road speeds.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
Plentiful adjustability is also on offer, with the RSV4 just needing a bit of muscle through the really tight stuff on the road

Mid corner agility is excellent in flowing and faster turns, but it needs a little muscle in the tight going… truth is, this machine is a track bike at heart and it prefers track like corners where you can sweep in on a smooth following line. That’s not to say it can’t be punted up a tight twisting road, it’s just that you’ll have to work a little harder for your fun than in the open stuff.

The brakes are excellent as you’d expect from Brembo’s finest product and superb Bosch electronics. They have excellent strength and feel at all road-going speeds – they can never be worked as hard on road as they’re designed to be worked on the track – so, for road riding you can always have ultimate confidence in the Aprilia’s stopping performance.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
Top spec Brembo brakes offer excellent strength at all speeds

The ergonomics are pretty comfortable for this style of bike. I’m tall and found the leg room decent and the stretch to the bars great. Only at about the 90-minute mark was the weight on my wrists a discomfort from the low-mounted bars and I’m sure a shorter rider would have no such issues. The seat is firm but quite comfy. All controls are comfortable and of great quality, in fact the overall build quality of this bike is quite simply beautiful.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
Ergonomics are comfortable for a sportsbike, although this will vary person to person

And now to answer the initial question – does the RSV4 stack up as a road bike; the doubtless answer is a definitive yes. Sure, it is capable of tripling speed limits, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone prone to ‘whisky throttle’, but for everyone else it is a stunning motorcycle that delivers smiles for miles.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
The RSV4 certainly delivers as a road going machine, while track performance is exceptional as you’d expect

Despite being extremely fast it is also very manageable in everyday situations. For most, the comfort levels will be acceptable on long rides and with the glorious sound track as accompaniment any slight discomfort will pale in to insignificance.

Aprilla KR RSV RF
Track days are well worth the expense to fully take advantage of the RSV4 as an owner

Then there is the sheer beauty of the thing; it’s a gorgeous machine that anyone would be proud to have in their garage/living room. Do yourself a favour when you buy one though – sign up for a few track days, or you’ll never even scrape the surface of what the RSV4 can do.

  • Plus – Stunning looks and sound track, awesome engine, brakes and suspension.
  • Minus – As a road-going superbike, realistically there is nothing wrong with it.
Aprilla KR RSV RF
2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF

The RSV4 RF retails for $31,990 +ORC. There is currently (Septemmber 2018), a special promotion running which sees the bike selling for $32,590 ride away, with a free genuine Aprilia slip-on carbon muffler thrown in for a bit more bark.

2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF ‘Factory’ Specifications

Engine 999.6cc, 16-valve, DOHC, four-stroke, 65° Vee-four
Bore x stroke 78 x 52.3mm
Compression 13.6:1
Starter Electric
Fuelling  Electronic fuel injection, four 48mm Weber-Marelli throttle bodies, eight injectors, ride-by-wire
Ignition Digital electronic
Power 148kW(201hp)@13,000rpm
Torque 115Nm@10,500rpm
Clutch  Cable-operated, wet multi-plate, slipper-type
Transmission Six-speed, chain drive
Frame Twin-spar aluminium beam, adjustable headstock position and rake, engine height, swingarm pivot height
Swingarm Cast aluminium
Rake/trail n/a
Suspension  – Ohlins NIX 43mm inverted telescopic forks, adjustable rebound and compression damping, spring preload, 120mm travel front; Ohlins TTX single coil damper, spring preload and rebound and compression adjustment, 120mm travel rea
Brakes Twin 330mm floating discs, Brembo M50 monobloc 4-piston radial-mount calipers; 220mm disc, Brembo 2-piston caliper rear; Bosch 9.1MP 3-map ABS
Wheels Forged aluminium alloy, 5 split spoke; 3.5x17in front, 6x17in rear
Tyres  Pirelli Super Corsa SP; 120/70 ZR17 front; 200/55 ZR17 rear
Wheelbase  n/a
Seat height n/a
Weight 180kg (no battery or fluids)
Fuel capacity 18.5 litres
Price $31,900 +ORC
Warranty 24 months, unlimited mileage

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