Editor’s Note: The 2010 Ultimate MotorCycling Game Changers series will feature our picks and thoughts on the best bikes of 2010, based on design and technical merit, and to some degree looks, build-quality and image. For this series, price is irrelevant.
The Japanese Big Four have dominated the world’s sportbike existence for what seems like forever, but due to the recent economic turmoil in the industry, their 2010 bikes didn’t receive many, if any, major upgrades.
But some folks over in Italy had other plans, releasing a heavyweight contender for 2010 that we think beat out all the competition, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory…our 2010 Ultimate Game Changer in the Sportbike category
The difference over the others? First, unlike most Sportbikes, there’s no inline four on this machine. Aprilia developed the bike with a V-Four, displacing 999cc to stay within the World Superbike regulations. The bike finally delivers the full promise of an all-out V-Four superbike engine configuration, the perfect comprise between the low-end torque and drivability of a V-Twin along with the screaming top-end of an inline four. The narrow, 65-degree V-Four creates 180 horsepower at 12,500 rpm, and is perfectly fitted into the frame for mass centralization.
"There is plenty of power down low, and great fun can be had without even bothering to reach the halfway point to the thin red line on the tach face," said Don Williams, editor of Ultimate Motorcycling magazine. "Power is brisk, even off idle, with a great head of steam developing at around 6000 rpm and lasting until the rev limiter gently does its job. Rest assured that if you’re hitting the rev limiter in any gear, you are risking a ticket."
Power is right there with the Japanese Four and the BMW S1000RR with its whopping 193 horsepower, but where the Aprilia really dominates is in handling.
"The handling of the Aprilia RSV4 is extraordinarily precise, without being fussy," Williams said. "It constantly goaded me into taking turns harder and faster, and I never experienced a single moment of uncertainty. The Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa tires deliver grip that is never relinquished, and the tightest or fastest corners are 100-percent drama-free. This Aprilia is one of those motorcycles that seem to disappear under your body, making you feel as if you’re running down the roads, rather than riding. It’s a spooky feeling, but one that gives unequalled confidence."
One notable feature that creates this "unequalled confidence" is the adjustable chassis built specifically for racetrack, which allows "parameters such as the position and inclination of the headstock, the height of the swingarm pin and even that of the engine to be changed." Added to this frame and swingarm made of aluminum with variable section castings and pressings are racing-derived components: fully adjustable Öhlins Racing fork and rear monoshock, an Öhlins Racing steering damper, Brembo monobloc calipers and forged aluminum rims.
Out of all the 2010 sportbikes, the Aprilia’s suspension is downright trick due to its adjustability and compact design. And although the BMW S1000RR has more sophisticated electronics with racing ABS and traction control, the Aprilia is still a leader in technology.
A quick example is the electronically controlled variable length intake ducts; at low revs the long ducts favor torque, while shortening the ducts frees the engine to spin freely. Also, the throttle bodies are managed independently, allowing the quantity of fuel injected to be electronically controlled per cylinder.
Combine these racing-bred components with three modes (Race, full power; Sport, 25-percent less torque in first three gears; Road, overall power reduced by 25 percent), tripe map Ride-By-Wire throttle technology, and body work that features downright Italian sex appeal, and the Aprilia RSV4 takes the checkered flag for Ultimate Motorcycling’s Game Changer of the Year in the sportbike category.
Ultimate MotorCycling magazine Publisher Arthur Coldwells adds, "The bike feels uncrashable–it’s that ridiculously confidence inspiring. Constantly sucking you into a faster and faster corner entry speed, once you’re through it’s striking that the bike was capable of even more."
Honorable Mention: BMW S1000RR.
Aprilia Side Note: The Noale-based company currently has 40 world championship titles, including 33 in MotoGP. But after a three rounds of competition in the 2010 World Superbike Championship, the RSV4, piloted by the Italian Max Biaggi, already has four podium finishes, which includes back-to-back wins at Portimao.