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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twin-spar aluminium beam, adjustable headstock position and rake, engine height, swingarm pivot height
– 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
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