2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Street Review | Mere Mortal Meets the Champ

Joe Rocket Speedmaster 5.0 2-Piece Suit

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS Test

The 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS is, for all intents and purposes, a street-legal version of the 2012 World Superbike winning machine. I’m impressed by its diminutive size and stunning good looks, but its reputation has preceded it - the RSV4 Factory has my complete attention.

My guess is that most of these machines will end up sitting in garages awaiting track days. But during my relationship with the RSV4, I intend to find out what it’s like as a defacto daily driver.

First impressions are of a small, slim-waisted race bike with flawless fit and finish. It is angular and abbreviated and not much bigger than some 600s, although its dry weight is claimed to be 398 pounds. With the 4.9-gallon fuel-tank full, the RSV4 Factory ABS should tip the scales at 440 pounds.

Once I climb aboard and get settled, I find that my 6-foot, 185-pound body with 34-inch inseam actually fits. Sure, the pegs are very high, but that’s no surprise on a superbike. Fortunately, my yoga practice gives me the flexibility I need. Reach to the clip-ons is about right, and the seat, albeit thin, is actually comfortable all within the context of what this vehicle is designed to do – which is go very fast, corner on rails and stop with urgency. The mirrors are vibration-free, but get used to looking at your elbows - a small price to pay other than the $18,999 MSRP.

As for going fast, credit goes to 999cc, longitudinal 65°  V-4, which features liquid cooling, DOHC, and four valves per cylinder. The RSV4 also features Aprilia’s advanced APRC System (Aprilia Performance Ride Control), which includes Traction Control (ATC), Wheelie Control (AWC), and Launch Control (ALC), all of which can be configured and deactivated independently. This adds up to a claimed 184 horsepower and 86 ft.-lb. of torque at the crank.

The engine starts easily and barks like a race bike when revved. It settles into a 1600 rpm idle but offers no tantrums. The first ride proves that the RSV4 is not temperamental at all. It is geared very tall so the clutch must be allowed to slip a bit to get things going. Incidentally, gearing is so high that the bike will do 96 mph in first gear before it hits the rev limiter at 14,000 rpm.

I’d imagine this might make it a candidate for a new sprocket as I must ride the bike in first gear only in the tight stuff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the long gear and excellent fuel mapping allow for easy modulation of the throttle, and the post-apex rush is glorious and downright electrifying.

Three fuel maps are available at the press of the starter switch (once the engine is running). They are: Track (but also street approved), Sport (reduced performance in first and second gear) and Rain (torque is limited and smoothed and top speed is lowered). For the most part I kept the bike in the Track mode, which was not overwhelming.

As might be imagined from the gearing and stratospheric redline, the motor struggles slightly getting past 4000 rpm. There are discordant sounds as it spins up but once past 4500 rpm the chorus gets in tune and starts to sing. At 6000-7000 rpm the song is in full bloom and, as this is a common speed range while riding on the street, I find myself sawing back and forth through the revs just to bask in the sounds it makes.

At about 9000 rpm a more determined note is heard within the tune. The tach flings itself upward, and the only saving grace is the quick shifter that launches the next gear when the tach again begins its fast trip to the next shift point. The shifter action is smooth and easy, and one must be accelerating to allow the quick shifter to operate smoothly.

I found that around town it was easier and smoother to use the cable-actuated, multi-plate, wet slipper clutch, which has that occasional, sweet rattle sound. Clutch actuation and operation are excellent, and the slipper mechanism made change-downs as smooth as the best racers do.

There are so many features on this bike that impress, but none more that the handling. Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP tires are utilized in sizes 120/50-17 up front and 200/55-17 in back (190/50 and 190/55 are options) on five-spoke, forged-aluminum alloy rims (front: 3.5” X 17” and rear: 6” X 17”).

The tires are predictable, soft and super sticky. In the canyons they sign the checks that your wrist and the engine write. Predictably, the bike doesn’t flick like a supersport, but that can be attributed to this wide rear tire.

The payoff is the massive grip that allows the rider to dive farther and faster into corners, only to often realize there was even more available. It is stable yet knife-edged in its ability to carve a turn.

It seemed that whatever the situation, all the RSV4 needs is to have the rider hang a knee farther out and shift a bit more weight and the bike goes wherever it’s directed. I often felt the bike urging me to faster speeds upon corner entry, and found it more capable than my abilities (“A good man always knows his limitations.” - Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force).

The chassis is stiff and the ride is the same. The rear suspension has a double-braced, aluminum swing arm with an Ohlins mono-shock. Up front, the RSV4 Factory features an Ohlins racing 43 mm fork with an Öhlins steering damper completing the list. When dialed in for the track or fast street rides, all is near perfect, but freeway travel can be a bit jarring.

On smooth sections it’s fine, but the 10 mile freeway ride home from picking the bike up was a jarring, uncomfortable experience on a certain bumpy state highway I must take and I won’t repeat that unless absolutely necessary. In its favor, the ride up to California's Angeles Crest Highway was about the same as any other tightly sprung sport bike, and Highway 2 on this bike was truly amazing. Living with the RSV4 off the track should be limited to curvy roads, preferably freshly paved.

Corner entry is clean and smooth. Even under extreme braking then turn-in, the bike raised my talent level noticeably. It was probably faster through all my favorite curves than any other bike I have even ridden. Period. And once in a turn this machine can do no wrong. Whether I need to tighten up the line or go wide around an unexpected rock or patch of sand, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory can perform the duty. And with eight levels of traction control (paddle changeable), I felt like I had overdraft protection.

Also in the way of protection are the RSV4’s fabulous brakes. Up front, the Aprlia RSV4 features dual 320mm floating stainless steel discs with lightweight stainless steel rotor squeezed by Brembo M430 monoblock radial mounted calipers. The system also feature sintered pads, a radial master cylinder and metal braided brake lines. In the rear, the RSV4 Factory has a single 220mm diameter disc with Brembo caliper and two isolated pistons, sintered pads, pump with integrated tank and metal braided line.

Included on this model is Bosch ABS with three settings and RLM (Rear wheel Lift-up Mitigation), which can be disabled. Simply stated, the brake system work very well.

Add in a fairly easy-to-use cockpit and comprehensive computer system that can adjust dash modes based upon what information you want displayed. Since I wasn’t headed for the track I didn’t get into much of the more race focused amenities within the system. Suffice it to say that just about everything related to how systems function is switchable.

The Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS is an inspiring motorcycle that is pretty easy to ride fast and raises its rider’s level measurably. It is second-to-none in electronics as well as is ridability. It inspires confidence and is a pleasure to go out and spend the day with.

Obviously, as a daily driver there are some limitations. It would be near impossible to mount bags on the tiny tail section, and the fuel tank is not metal thus ruling out magnetic tank bags. The practical side is to carry little and have many pockets.

The RSV4 Factory may not be the most practical tool in the garage, but it never fails to delight and has an awesome sound. Given all the performance on tap, the biggest challenge may be keeping your driver’s license.

Riding Style:

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