Favorite driver's magazines

"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013


What’s riding Aprilia’s RSV4 R like? Imagine you’re a flea hanging onto a dog’s bollocks while it charges flat-out across a bumpy field...



• WSB on the road

• Italian beauty

• Best. Noise. Ever...

Compromise isn’t a word that the Italians understand. In fact, rumour has it that if you look up compromise in an Italian dictionary you are in fact presented with a picture of a man shrugging dismissively, rather than any accompanying text. It is in this context that you have to look at the RSV4, because compromise was certainly never in Aprilia’s design criteria when it built the bike.

In a lot of ways you have to applaud Aprilia for what it has done with the ‘basic’ specification RSV4 – as in truth it is anything but basic. Despite a £2,500 saving on the all-singing Factory bike, the R version is essentially identical bar some very minor points. The power is almost the same, the engine the same, the chassis the same (bar the ability to alter the geometry) and apart from the wheels and suspension they are pretty damn similar. Which is kind of the problem...

The RSV4 is not a gentle beast that needs to be stirred into action like a Japanese inline four. It isn’t even a moderately pleasant road bike until you turn up the wick like Ducati’s 1198 or RC8R. Nope, the Aprilia is an axe-wielding maniac that is fired up on crack and ready for a shooting spree. Put simply, the Aprilia is a race bike for the road and if you don’t like that then go and buy another bike as otherwise, owning the RSV4 R will just piss you off.

Even looking at the Aprilia you know what you’re letting yourself in for. For a start there is the frankly ridiculous attempt at a pillion seat. One of the biggest laughs at the bike’s world unveiling was when someone asked its designer, Miguel Galluzzi, about the pillion provisions. “No one believed us that it was a two seat bike, they thought it was a homologation special and complained about it in WSB. It is actually quite comfortable on the back – but that is relative I suppose...” said Galluzzi with a small hint of amusement in his voice. You get the feeling he’s never been on the back (or possibly the front) as it is equally as uncomfortable.

In an effort to make the RSV4 as compact as possible Aprilia has made it the size of a supersport 600. An admirable accomplishment, but not one that is appreciated should you attempt to ride any more than a few miles. Aching wrists, a numb bum and chattering teeth are all part and parcel of owning the RSV4 as it is a demanding bike to ride at slow speeds as the engine is like a scrap yard dog straining at the leash.

The V4 motor has a raucous power delivery that, when combined with the aggressive throttle response, is anything but predictable. You have to be on it to ride the RSV4 R with any degree of enjoyment – and even then it’s still a struggle. The lack of traction control only makes getting the best out of the Aprilia on track even more worrying as you are never 100 per cent sure exactly what will happen when you open the throttle, never a nice feeling. Did we mention the horribly tall first gear? That’s pretty irritating as well, especially in town. The story doesn’t end there...

The thing about the Aprilia, and this is the reason why many will love it, is that if you do manage to master its irritations you are rewarded with a bike that is simply stunning to ride fast. The chassis is right out of Aprilia’s GP department and the confidence and feedback it gives allows levels of commitment you never though possible. It’s a mind bending machine to ride on track and you end up taking the piss lap after lap with the front end, wondering just how you keep getting away with it. Mid-corner the bike begs you to lean over to angles you never thought possible, while braking hard into bends the Brembo Monoblock calipers bury the tyre into the ground with utter ferocity. Yep, when the moons align and the time is right the RSV4 R will knock your socks off, but for the rest of the time it could leave you irritated and frustrated.

So, should you consider buying a used RSV4 R? Not if you are interested in riding the bike day to day or want a relaxed commuter. It’s simply not that kind of machine and you could end up hating it. However, should you fancy a bike that feels, sounds and responds like a true WSB replica and are prepared to put up with all that comes with this then the Aprilia is an amazing machine. It’s a true racer with lights and a bike that no Japanese manufacturer could ever bring themselves to produce. It’s Italian and like so many products from that glorious country, when it is good it’s very good. However, when it’s bad it’s a bloody nightmare!

It’s a shame, really, considering its APRC-shod descendants are all much nicer day to day, but just as barking! Save the extra cash and go for a later APRC model – then get ready to head outside and man up!


The RSV4 Factory comes with forged rather than cast aluminium wheels, Öhlins suspension, an adjustable frame and a small smattering of carbon and magnesium. The engine is identical. However, the Factory has variable length intake trumpets. The upgraded APRC RSV4 has Aprilia’s electronics package which includes traction control and launch control.


The Y-spoke design wheels look identical to the Factory versions but are made from cast aluminium rather than forged, increasing their weight slightly. The RSV4 R is 5kg heavier in total than the Factory at a claimed 184kg. More than a big lunch!


The RSV4 R has twin Monoblock Brembo four-piston radial brake calipers with a radial master cylinder. The discs are 320mm and feature a low profile rotor design with asymmetric cross-drilling to save weight. According to Aprilia this design shaves 500g off the discs alone. They use less bolts to save weight. Every gram counts!


The polished aluminium frame (just like the firm’s GP bikes used to run) has a fixed position swingarm pivot point and head angle and is constructed of aluminium mated to cast sections around the headstock and swingarm for extra strength. The frame weighs 10.1kg with the swingarm 5.1kg. The fuel tank is located partially under the seat to allow for a larger capacity airbox.


Designed by Miguel Galluzzi, who also styled the Ducati Monster, the RSV4 has a triple headlight to replicate the RSV-R V-twin bikes which had a distinctive central air scoop. The narrowness of the V4 engine, which is 400mm at its widest point, has allowed Aprilia to reduce the frontal area of the bike while the rear’s pointy design has made it possibly the most uncomfortable pillion bike. Ever...


Showa 43mm fully adjustable inverted forks and a Sachs monoshock replace the Öhlins units on the Factory. The piggyback shock is fully adjustable and also features a length adjustor. A Sachs steering damper sits at the front. You can buy the Factory’s Öhlins shock for the R direct from Aprilia for around £800 or keep an eye on eBay for a second hand unit. An Öhlins TTX36 shock costs £1,095.99, again from Aprilia direct.


The 999cc V4 engine is identical to the Factory version and features a ride-by-wire throttle, cassette gearbox, slipper clutch and three different riding modes (Track, Sport, Road). The R doesn’t get the variable intake trumpets or magnesium engine cases (explaining the 5bhp loss in claimed peak power) but other than that it’s the same 65-degree V4 motor with titanium intake valves, double overhead cams with the exhaust can turning via a gear on the intake cam and a 14,000rpm rev limit.

PRICE GUIDE: £8,795 - £9,999

Cheapest private: 8,795

4,144 miles, racing colours and full electronics package. Bargain.

Our choice private: £10,000

2011 model with 3,300 miles with stacks of bling and FSH. Worth the extra expense.

Cheapest dealer: £7,994

Lacking ABS and DTC and in the horrible lime colour. Best avoided.

Our choice dealer: £8,995

7,500 miles and with the electronics package but in black not racing colours. Nice.

Ex-demo: £11,995

2012 model with just 12 miles in motor sport colours. That’s pretty cheap.


Type | 999.6cc, liquid cooled, 16v, 65-degree V4

Bore x Stroke | 78mm x 52.3mm

Compression | 13:1

Fuelling | Electronic fuel injection

Tested Power | 152bhp @ 13,000rpm

Tested Torque | 101Nm @ 10,250rpm


Frame | Twin spar aluminium with cast sections

F Suspension | Showa 43mm usd forks, fully adjustable

R Suspension | Sachs monoshock, fully adjustable

Front Brakes | Four-piston Brembo monoblock calipers,

Rear Brakes | Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc


Wheelbase | 1,420mm

Seat Height | 845mm

Dry Weight | 184kg

Fuel Capacity | 17L


0-60 | 3.12 sec

0-100 | 5.84 sec

0-140 | 10.76 sec

Stg ¼ Mile | 10.72 sec @ 139.85mph

Standing Mile | 27.66 sec @ 169.18mph

Top Speed | 173mph


RIDER 1 35, 5 yrs NCD, licence 5yrs, 0 points, garaged, BS31 code



COMP £786


RIDER 2 40, 7 yrs NCD, licence 18yrs, 3 points, garaged, BS31 code



COMP £602


Bike: 2010 – £9,000

Call us on 0800 0832299 or go to carolenash.com All policies inc: UK and Euro breakdown cover, inc Homestart, up to £100,000 motorcycle legal protection and Euro travel cover of up to 90days. Carole Nash Insurance Consultants Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.


Service interval:

Minor | 6,000 miles

Major | 12,000 miles

Service cost (main dealer):

Minor | £200.00

Major | £380.00

Right fairing: £255.00

RH Engine casing: £190.00

Brake lever: £65.00

Thanks to Frasers of Gloucester: 01452 306485

Verdict 6/10

If you are committed it’s an amazing machine. If you are not it’s bloody irritating and could drive you bonkers...



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