2008 Aprilia RXV 4.5 450 | Review

Dirt Bike Review

I took a buddy up to Hungry Valley State Motorcycle Recreation Area in California to test the Aprilia RXV 4.5 on a variety of different types of terrain—motocross, intermediate trails, sand washes, and rough single track.

First off, it revs and hits like a 250 two-stroke, but still has the instantaneous power and grunt of 450 four-stroke. However, it sorely lacks the tractor-like delivery which has made modern four-strokes easy to ride, leaving the rider to constantly concentrate on power delivery to the ground and the endless search for traction. This is especially apparent in tight, gnarly, single-track trails where first gear is nearly impossible to use, but second gear is too high for the rev-happy engine.

Uphill sections necessitated the rider to sit as far back on the bike as possible to weight the rear end, at same time feathering the clutch to keep from looping out. On any other bike, I would charge the section with my butt a few inches off the seat, weight on the pegs, and using the back-end to steer around obstacles. The lack of traction on the Aprilia necessitated a completing different riding style in certain situations.

I was impressed with the stock suspension and it was great for intermediate trail riding, with a plush ride but enough rebound to flick and flow through the rollers. The RXV actually performed decently on the motocross track, but when it came to big whoop sections, the stock rebound is way too slow causing the suspension to pack up and the bike to hobbyhorse across the tops of the whoops. I softened the rebound dampening front and rear and that helped quite a bit, but it still required a pin-it-and-pray strategy to clear the whoop sections at speed.

The RXV 4.5 is light and flickable! For off-road, the flat seat, combined with the very narrow tank-seat junction means that there’s not a lot of mid-section for the rider to grip with the legs. This puts more strain on the upper body to maintain the correct riding position. I raised the handlebar to facilitate a more stand-up riding style and that really opened up the cockpit and made for a better ride. Most importantly, I would bolt on a steering damper to help the Aprilia stay in a straight line and reduce the downhill headshake. With the amount of wheelspin this bike puts out, a damper would benefit the back end of the bike just as much as the front end.

The RXV 4.5 requires additional effort to ride compared to single-cylinder 450s, and will most likely not make someone a faster rider, but it sure looks cool on the trail. And, because a large percentage of motorcycle enthusiasts enjoy looking at the bikes perhaps even more than riding them, there already is a market for a bike like the Aprilia. Plus, there is the pleasure inherent in riding something different and seemingly exclusive.

The  Aprilia RXV 4.5 is a definite contender, but probably a little ahead of its time. It takes an expert hand to apply clutch and throttle to get the rear tire to hook up. But, if you take the time to tailor the setups specifically for one rider, it will be a blast to ride, and you will look super-cool doing it.

Photo riders: Neil Storz and Josh Nielsen

Photography by Don Williams