A decade ago, Aprilia unleased the RSV4 and it immediately captured the attention of sportbike riders across the globe. In that time, the RSV4 has built a well-deserved reputation on its stout chassis, massively powerful V4 engine, and predictable handling characteristics. That wasn’t just by chance; the Noale-based factory has revisited the Italian Superbike every two years, teasing out more power, massaging the chassis, and upgrading electronics to keep it at the pointy end of the liter bike class.The 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory marks another step forward with higher power, lower weight, chassis refinements, and an aerodynamics package derived from the Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP machine. The result is the most potent RSV4 ever produced. Luckily, it maintains the qualities that we’ve come to appreciate about it.
I packed my bags and headed off to the legendary Mugello Circuit, where I would put the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory to the test—a circuit that will quickly call the bluff of any rider or machine.1. The 2019 Aprilia RSV4 11000 Factory’s 1078cc 65-degree V4 powerplant isn’t just good—it’s astounding. Aprilia engineers should be cracking the Prosecco open, as they’ve somehow managed to make a claimed 217 horsepower at 13,200 rpm and 90 ft/lbs of torque at 11,000 rpm extremely tractable, while still being just as unfathomably thrilling. Compared to the 1000cc V4 found in the RR version, you’ll immediately pick up on the extra dose of horsepower and torque everywhere in the rev range. This gives the Factory more low-end, mid-range, and top end power with more punch than ever before. From the moment you roll out of the pits, the RSV4 1100 immediately begins pulling, transporting you to triple-digit speeds without a moment of hesitation.2. The design philosophy from the Tuono inspired the RSV4 1100. Aprilia punched the bore out to 81mm from 78mm, while maintaining the 52.3mm stroke. Outside of the engine cases and oil pump, the two motors don’t share much componentry. The 1100 has revised pistons that boast lower operating temperatures thanks to a new high-flow oil pump that makes use of a double oil-jet. To compensate for more gusto from the V4, the intake valve timing needed to be advanced. That isn’t all; the fuel injection system now sees changes to the throttle support valve, giving it a more aerodynamically sound profile to optimize fuel permeability.3. The Aprilia Performance Rider Control (APRC) electronics package received a minor update. The changes come in the form of recalibration to better manage the RSV4 1100’s new muscle—all other aspects remain the same. Still available are three riding modes—Sport, Track and Race—along with eight-level traction control, three-level cornering ABS, three-level wheelie control, an up/down quickshifter, and rear wheel lift mitigation. Other niceties are launch control, cruise control, and a pit limiter so you can feel like your favorite WSBK rider. This is easily one of the most advanced and thorough electronic packages on the market; we’ll get to its full functionality later in the review.4. Get greedy with the throttle; the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is daring you to. One of the most marked improvements I first picked up on is how smooth the fueling and throttle is on the new Aprilia, even though I only rode the machine in Race mode because I was on-track. Sure, the previous generation would be hard pressed to receive criticisms from me in that regard, but this is a cut above. The throttle connection is ridiculously good, which is essential when picking up the bike off the edge of the tire during hard driving exits and when modulating the throttle through nerve-wracking downhill negative camber chicanes like Casanova and Savelli.5. The superb six-speed gearbox has had 5th, and 6th gears lengthened. With greater headroom comes the need for longer ratio gearing when holding the throttle wide open, on the massively long straightaway found at Mugello Circuit. Clicking through the gearbox is sublime, as its incredibly well-sorted thanks to the beautiful up/down quickshifter functions, one of the best I’ve used to date. The kill-times are matched perfectly for hard riding and not once did I find a false neutral. Just click a gear up or down, and you’ll be on your merry way.6. Akrapovič has been tapped to conduct the V4 symphony, and the exhaust was revised. Few things sound better than a V4 raging down the Mugello’s main straight, echoing off the grandstands and pits. It’s auditory bliss for those into motorsports. This year, the 1100 checks another box in the exclusivity department with a titanium Akrapovič slip-on muffler. Also, the entire exhaust system has been optimized, allowing thinner walled tubing to be used, benefiting both performance and weight.7. Minor geometry revisions don’t spoil the RSV4 chassis recipe. The aluminum twin-spar frame has remained the same since the RSV4 was released in 2009. Since then, Aprilia has tweaked other aspects of the 1100 Factory to retain stability while also increasing agility in the face of new firepower. The steering inclination has been steepened using +3mm steering bushings on either end, effectively expanding the rake and shortening the wheelbase a tad. To maintain extremely close trail figures, the triple-tree offset was reduced by 2mm.8. The swing arm has been stiffened. Yes, the aluminum swingarm looks virtually identical to the previous iterations, but it’s what inside that counts. Engineers added greater rigidity to the swingarm to deal with more power. If you’ve noticed a theme with the 1100, it’s this—any change to the frame has been done to counteract greater forces.9. The RSV4 is still the only consumer superbike with this much adjustability. With the updated powerplant, Aprilia didn’t let one of its unique traits go by the wayside. Owners can raise and lower the engine, allowing riders to alter where the center of gravity is, changing the 1100’s handling characteristics. Also, the headstock position and rake can be adjusted, giving you another variable for tuning. Lastly, the swingarm pivot can be changed, too. This bike is a chassis tuner’s dream, giving you plenty of opportunities to perfectly suit it to any track in the world.10. A gain in displacement didn’t mean more weight—the RSV4 1100 Factory has shed 11 pounds. More power and less weight—that’s the Holy Grail of motorcycling. Between the titanium muffler, revised exhaust system, carbon bodywork, and lithium-ion battery, the 1100 is the leanest it has ever been, coming in at a claimed 439 pounds with the 4.9-gallon fuel tank topped off. The weight reduction and minor changes to the chassis geometry explain the subtle differences in handling on the 1100.11. The 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is ready to dive into the apex, comfortable with life on the edge of the tire, and ready to get on the gas early. The RSV4 has been known to be a more physical machine, requiring riders to give it some input. However, with unparalleled stability, it was a less a gripe and more of a compromise. Those traits are live on with the revised motorcycle, but are altered slightly as the newfound power stresses the chassis more. Now, the Factory seems to have marginally improved side-to-side transitioning capabilities and turn-in rates.12. No expense has been spared with an Ohlins NIX fork and TTX shock. Up front, we’ll find a fully-adjustable 43mm Ohlins NIX fork featuring 4.9 inches of travel—that’s 0.2-inches over the previous generation and meant to deal with greater braking forces. In the rear, a fully-adjustable TTX shock boasting 4.7 inches of travel is at play. Feel from the fork is superb, keeping the chassis in shape when braking hard into turn 1, coming down from 180 mph. The shock was getting quite the work out at Mugello, with the undulating track and wheelie bumps asking everything of it. Still, the 1100 never wallowed or became squirrely for a man of my modest talents.13. Aprilia’s RS-GP inspired the aerodynamics package on the new 1100. Aerodynamics has become the next engineering frontier in MotoGP; looking at Formula 1 makes it seem like the two-wheeled world has been slow on the uptake. Aprilia engineers claim that the aero package provides about 18 pounds of downforce when traveling at or above 186 mph. The purpose of the package is to help with stability when braking and turning at those speeds. It’s difficult to claim what kind of impact this has on the bike as we didn’t test models without it, but I can tell you the Factory was remarkably stable over the hill on the front straight.14. Brembo provides the stopping power and, boy, do they get the job done. Previous RSV4s relied upon the mighty Brembo M50 calipers to slow the beast. Now we see the 2.3-ounce lighter and mightier Brembo Stylema calipers clamping on the sizeable 330mm floating rotors. Greater stopping gains have been found in the more aggressive BRM10H brake pads. In all, Aprilia claims that the Stylema calipers offer greater cooling efficiency, which matters when you’re continually braking from triple-digit Feel at the lever is confident and strong, with a softer initial bite than the RF or RR, making them a bit more approachable.15. Ergonomics remain the same. The RSV4 platform does have one of the taller seat heights in the business, coming in at 33.5 inches. Still, my 32-inch inseam can get boots on the deck. The Aprilia, unsurprisingly, has a more ‘Italian’ riding position with the rider sitting atop the chassis, instead of ‘in’ the chassis like its Japanese competitors. The reach to the bars is amicable, and the tank makes for a great anchor when cornering. Footpeg grip could be better, but I’m splitting hairs.16. The carbon-fiber braking scoops are a $195 option. This is sort of like being charged more for guacamole; yes, I know it’s extra, and no, I don’t care. The RSV4 1100 needs air ducts to complete the look. They have a functional benefit as well, as engineers claim that the scoops reduce heat in the brakes and lever stroke extension (fade) to the tune of 20 percent in comparison to a bike not utilizing them.17. Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3 tires will be found on the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory, though I rode with Diablo Supercorsa SC DOT race tires at Mugello Circuit. Featuring a similar profile to the street-aimed Supercorsa SP, the SCs are significantly softer and provide a massive amount of grip. Still, Aprilia has maintained the 120/70 front and 200/55 tire sizing, and slapped them onto the machined forged aluminum wheels.18. A quick talk on electronics. The eight-level traction control can be switched on-the-fly with the paddles on a left-thumb control. Anything above 5 can be felt reducing power on hard drives, whereas 3 allows some wheelspin and sliding with the trend continuing in that direction. Leaving ABS in 1 was more than acceptable for my pace and didn’t prematurely engage. Even in level 2, my braking wasn’t hindered, though I could feel ABS kick in at times.19. This electronics talk wasn’t as quick as I thought. Leaving wheelie control in level 1 is the way to go at Mugello. With all its elevation changes, Mugello is the perfect place to show it off, as you can loft the wheel when getting on the gas without it slamming the front end down. Level 2 does its best to restrict wheeling, and level 3 will keep it from coming up at all.20. The TFT display shines brighter. The full-color dash is the same as last year’s, save for the fact that it’s now more vivid than before. In direct sunlight, one can easily navigate the menu with the left toggle switch.21. The 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is brilliant—there’s no other way to put it. Considering powertrain loss, we might be looking at 200 horsepower to the rear wheel, which is astonishing as it is delivered in the most velvety, alluring way. With four 15-minute sessions under my belt, I can now identify with Gollum from Lord of the Rings as these past few days have been difficult without the precious 1100. The chassis remains one of the most confidence inspiring in the business, which flies in the face of paint-peeling performance. You’ve had 10 years to see the light, and with the platform being even more radiant, if you aren’t looking now, you might be blind.Photography by Rudy Carezzevoli, Gigi Soldano, and Marco Zamponi RIDING STYLE
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!