RSV4 Factory Review
Ever since Aprilia introduced its first motorcycle in 1968, it has been passionate about racing-unsurprisingly, perhaps, as the firm is Italian. But not content with merely competing at the highest levels, Aprilia has also accumulated some 40 world championship titles in the process.
Aprilia’s return to the World Superbike stage in 2009 and its consistent running at the front proved the company’s engineering prowess beyond doubt. The upside for us is that we can now reap the benefit of the lessons learned in that pressure cooker as Aprilia’s new RSV4 Factory street bike hits American showrooms. It is essentially the World Superbike race machine, with lights. Aprilia’s racing DNA clearly shows through in the RSV4 Factory, and when the bike was first delivered I found myself simply studying it in stunned amazement. Futuristically styled with an angular nose and stubby tail section, expensive carbon fiber abounds; the fins and various aero treatments on the machine only add to its aggressive styling. The paint is deep and lustrous, and the striking neon orange offsets the menacing look of the black and metallic highlights that scream purposeful high technology. A large titanium nut atop the triple clamp and the gold Öhlins 43mm forks with sky-blue caps enhance the premium-quality impression. The RSV4’s instrument panel is only easily readable when you are in a racing crouch-no big surprise, of course, but it is the one legacy from the race bike I don’t welcome. Other than that, Aprilia’s attention to detail is striking. For example, precision offset shims enable every aspect of the chassis to be adjusted, including both the position and incline of the headstock, the height of the swing arm pivot, and, uniquely, even the engine position. With a whirring, offbeat exhaust note similar to Yamaha’s crossplane R1, even at idle the RSV4 is throaty enough to make you smile. And hard on the gas with the power flooding in, the growl becomes an electrifying howl that curdles the blood. The 65-degree V-4 motor has a one-piece crankcase and integrated cylinder liners making it extremely rigid, and Aprilia’s unique cam timing allows extremely compact heads, making the RSV4 narrow and therefore aerodynamically efficient. Revving to over 14,000 rpm, the short-stroke motor has been specifically engineered to minimize gyrocscopic inertia, and combined with Aprilia’s careful attention to mass-centralization, gives the RSV4 its spectacular agility. The race-derived cassette-style gearbox is tactile and positive, and the slipper clutch is useful in the canyons. Weber-Marelli supplied the ride-by-wire fueling system, and although it does not have traction control, the throttle connection is perfect. Three power delivery settings-Track, Sport and Road-can be toggled through with the starter button once the motor is running. Road mode limits you to 140 (crankshaft) horsepower-great for the rain, but uninspiring in the dry; the other two settings unleash the full 180 horsepower (claimed at 12,500 rpm). The RSV4 pulls linearly and strongly as soon as you are underway, so Sport mode with its gentler torque delivery in the bottom three gears makes the ride smoother on tight canyon roads. If you are buying an RSV4 Factory, then you are probably as addicted to speed as I am, and that means Track mode is the place to be. With 85 ft/lbs of torque peaking at 10,000 rpm, and a motor that spins up instantly when you blip the throttle, it would be easy to think the RSV4 rides like a peaky two-stroke. Actually, the engine is surprisingly torquey at low revs and the RSV4 is perfectly docile around town, but that docility disappears as the revs wind up and the motor goes into a feeding frenzy. Although it is predictable power, the lack of flywheel inertia builds everything so fast that the front will come up quickly in the lower gears if you are not careful. It doesn’t have quite the shove of Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, yet freeway on-ramps are still a mixture of hanging-on-for-dear-life and a grin that hurts the cheek muscles. Awesome though the motor undoubtedly is, it is the handling of the RSV4 Factory that truly hooked me. Once aboard the RSV4, I was impressed at how compact the bike looks and feels; I sat on a MotoGP bike recently and there is no discernable difference. The riding position is heavily front-end weighted, giving the impression of a direct connection to the front tire. We all know that Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa tires are top notch, but I was shocked by the almost telepathic feedback from the front end. True to its Italian racing genome, the RSV4 Factory naturally comes with Brembo radial brakes. The master-pump and monobloc caliper ratios are well matched, so the initial bite is mild enough for road use. At speed the brakes are progressive, and have enough feel for confident two-finger braking. The Öhlins trinity of forks, steering damper and TTX rear shock are all fully adjustable-there is simply nothing better for the street.With the lightweight forged aluminum wheels, the RSV4 Factory weighs a claimed 395 pounds dry. Unusually, the bike is front end heavy with 52-percent front, 48-percent rear distribution, perhaps explaining why the MotoGP-inspired riding posture makes the machine feel virtually hard-wired to my brain. The RSV4 is so reactive, so agile, so quick, and I had such faith in the front end, that it felt almost uncrashable. Yes, it was that impressively confidence inspiring. The RSV4 factory is that rare breed of motorcycle that is constantly baiting you to go for more. Gauging my entrance speed as I approached a corner, I would force myself to go in a little hotter each time. Try as I might, and pushing harder and harder, the bike just seemed to taunt me. "Is that all you’ve got?" I could almost hear it saying. The Aprilia’s mockery of my riding talent is definitely ego crushing, but the fact of the matter is that the RSV4 Factory has far more capability than I can exploit or would want to explore on the street. Although I never got close to its limit, it sure was fun trying. The Aprilia RSV4 Factory is the perfectly integrated motorcycle; a spectacular paradox that is all race bike, yet somehow simultaneously a fabulous street machine. It is docile and well mannered, but it’s also screamingly fast and despite its incredible handling it also soaks up bumpy road surfaces too. Every component has been seamlessly designed to enhance every other piece with just a single goal in mind-to be at one with the rider.
APRILIA RSV4 FACTORY: Motorcycle Specifications
Aprilia longitudinal 65° V-4 cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid cooling system, double
overhead camshafts (DOHC), four valves per cylinder
Bore and stroke
78 x 52.3 mm
Total engine capacity
Maximum power at crankshaft
180 CV (132.4 kW) at 12,500 rpm
Maximum torque at crankshaft
115 Nm at 10,000 rpm
Induction and fuel system
Airbox with front dynamic air intakes. Variable length intake ducts controlled via ECU.
4 Weber-Marelli 48-mm throttle bodies with 8 injectors and latest generation Ride-by-Wire engine management.
Choice of three different engine maps selectable by the rider with bike in motion
Magneti Marelli digital electronic ignition system integrated in engine control system, with one spark plug per cylinder
and “stick-coil”-type coils
4 into 2 into 1 layout, single oxygen sensor, lateral single silencer with engine control unit-controlled butterfly valve
and integrated trivalent catalytic converter (Euro 3)
Flywheel mounted 420W alternator with rare earth magnets
Wet sump lubrication system with oil radiator and two oil pumps (lubrication and cooling)
6-speed cassette type gearbox
1st: 39/15 (2.6)
2nd: 33/16 (2,063)
3rd: 34/20 (1.7)
4th: 32/22 (1,455)
5th: 34/26 (1,308)
6th: 33/27 (1,222)
Multi-disc oil-bath, with mechanical slipper system
Straight cut gears and integrated flexible coupling, drive ratio: 73/44 (1,659)
Chain: Drive ratio: 40/16 (2,5)
Twin-spar adjustable aluminium frame, with castings and pressings.
- headstock position and rake
Öhlins adjustable steering dumper
Öhlins Racing upside-down fork, 43-mm stanchions (with Tin surface treatment). Low profile forged aluminium radial
caliper mountings. Completely adjustable spring preload and hydraulic
compression and rebound damping. Wheel travel: 120 mm
Twin sided aluminium swingarm; mixed low thickness and sheet casting technology.
Öhlins Racing monoshock with piggyback with completely adjustable: spring preload, wheelbase and hydraulic compression
and rebound damping. APS progressive linkages. Wheel travel: 130 mm
Front: Dual 320-mm diameter floating stainless steel disc with lightweight stainless steel rotor and aluminium flange with 6
pins. Brembo monobloc radial callipers with 4 34-mm opposite. Sintered pads.
Radial pump and metal braided brake hose
Rear: 220-mm diameter disc; Brembo floating caliper with two 32-mm isolated pistons. Sintered pads. Pump with integrated tank and metal braided hose
Aprilia forged aluminium alloy rims, completely machined, 5 split spokes.
Front: 120/70 ZR 17
Rear: 190/55 ZR 17 (alternative: 190/50 ZR 17)
Dimensions (default settings)
Max. length: 2040 mm
Max. width: 735 mm (at the handlebar)
Max. height: 1120 mm
Min. height from the ground: 130 mm
Saddle height: 845 mm
Centre to centre distance: 1420 mm
Trail: 105 mm
Steering angle: 24.5°
179 kg *
17 litres (4-litre reserve included)
*Dry weight, without battery and fluids.