A full factory ride is the goal for any racer, and both Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga have achieved it at the highest possible level—riding in MotoGP for the Aprilia factory team. Their achievement is proudly announced by their monikers scribbled artistically on either side of the fuel tank of the all-new 2004 Aprilia Mille Factory.When Aprilia says all-new, Aprilia really means it. It would actually be easier to tell you what hasn’t changed from the 2003 model, but the pertinent and really impressive changes boil down to 15 pounds less weight, plus an extra 15 horsepower at the rear wheel of the 2004 Aprilia Mille Factory.
The slightly more angular styling and flattering, Tamburini-esque detailing cues worked into the tail section and fairing lowers are gorgeous. Exceptional build quality is evident, especially up close. Coupled with items like the exquisite rear LED light unit and dual blue-anodized mufflers, the 2004 Aprilia Mille Factory has a really tight, integrated look to it.At the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch facility at Pahrump, Nevada, the new 2004 Aprilia Mille Factory behaved flawlessly all day. Coming into Turn One—a long, high-speed right-hand carousel—the Mille Factory changed direction seamlessly and then held its line perfectly. Incidentally, I was very impressed with the Pirelli Super Corsa tires, which didn’t squirm or slide. With the exemplary Öhlins suspension, the Mille gave me the confidence to really trust the front.Although on the street the story remained much the same, the real standout was the superlative all-new V-twin engine. With unending power delivered in a beautifully controllable relentless surge, it was possible to squirt effortlessly between corners and really enjoy the firm torque and wonderful exhaust note.The brakes are now fully radial Brembos and although they work– it’s how they work that’s so impressive. Braking is all about feel, and sensitivity-plus-power is a rare combination, especially in the first few millimeters of lever travel. In an uncertain world, these Brembos will clearly stop you at the edge of the abyss should you need them to.Aprilia superbikes have now clearly come of age. The beauty runs deep though, and with its flawless Öhlins derived handling, exemplary Brembo brakes, relatively comfortable ergonomics, and an engine I could run to three pages waxing lyrical about; this is engineering excellence that really does deliver.Edwards and Haga have inked their approval on the 2004 Aprilia Mille Factory gas tank and even though my signature carries considerably less weight, frankly, I concur.What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate MotorCycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, ed.