2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Test at Mugello Circuit

Mugello Circuit was almost an ethereal concept for an American racing fan such as me. I’ve seen top MotoGP and WSBK riders put everything on the line countless times, but I had no context of what it’s like to be there, roughly 6000 miles away on my couch in California.

I would see Mugello listed on the calendar and twiddle my thumbs until the broadcast came around, anticipating what was guaranteed to be good racing. It was a name to me, through and through—not because of a lack of interest or lack of desire to ride it, but because it just didn’t seem like a reality. Mugello is there, and I am here.The cameras don’t do the elevation changes justice, nor do they express how terrifying cresting the hill on the front straightaway is. The lens doesn’t illustrate how much speed can be carried through turn one or how watching passes in Arrabbiata 1 and 2 will now make me grit my teeth even harder than before. It is a track that tests anything willing to roll down pit lane in equal uncompromising measures.

Mugello is a circuit steeped in tradition that defies all pretexts for modern track design. Long before the closed course was constructed, road racers took to the streets of Mugello with the hopes of ending up on the top step of the podium, as opposed to someone’s garden. In 1974, the closed course was opened, and since then it has been a fixture—nay, a requirement—on the MotoGP and WSBK calendars.

Perhaps there is a lawn waiting for me to shake my fist and grimace at people who enjoy things, but the adage of “They just don’t make ’em like they used to,” applies. No, it will not be getting the gentrifying touch of a one Hermann Tilke, a man revered in Formula One, while those of the two-wheeled persuasion hold him in a reviled status. Mugello’s 14 fast, flowing, curvaceous turns, was designed by racers for racing. That is the first and only goal with the uninterrupted layout that utilizes the natural terrain.

In 2009, a small factory based in Noale, Italy released its new Superbike platform. After years of dependency on V-twin engine configurations, Aprilia moved to a 65-degree V4 powerplant. It proved to be the best of both worlds—the low-end and mid-range wallop of a twin, with the top-end of the then class-prevalent inline-4. This was at the heart of the Aprilia RSV4.

The Aprilia RSV4 has been a consistent threat in the Superbike class, proving to be a menace to other liter bikes in shootouts, where it tops the charts or stands confidently on the podium. It has always remained within striking distance, sending chills down its competitor’s spines with its ferocious V4 howl.

In its time, the RSV4 has collected three WSBK titles. It acquired its first championship during its sophomore year of existence with Max Biaggi at the helm. Biaggi led a 2010 campaign of utter domination, amassing victories throughout the season and winning the title by 75 points.

Biaggi managed to secure one more championship in 2012 and promptly retired from professional racing afterward. Two years later, Sylvain Guintoli became the last rider to achieve a WSBK title on something other than a Kawasaki piloted by Jonathan Rea.

Looking at it from a narrow view, Superbikes are the vessels in which manufacturers build and maintain bragging rights against the competition through competition—earned by the tireless toil of riders and engineers alike. The RSV4’s contemporaries, in some cases, have been forced to reinvent their Superbike platforms one, two, and sometimes three times to remain relevant in the same period. Meanwhile, the RSV4 has followed a strict upgrade path. Every two years, Aprilia’s Superbike is meticulously scrutinized, extracting more power, adding or refining electronics, and honing the chassis.

Currently, it is the ‘oldest’ bike in the liter bike class, although that wouldn’t be a fair or accurate description. The appearance and frame are close to what was released in 2009, while everything else has been updated to keep it in fighting shape. Still, a more apt description is that it’s the veteran of the class—sporting salt and pepper hair—along with the years of experience that keeps it competitive. So, in this case, they do make ’em like they used to.

Complete with fully adjustable top-spec Öhlins suspension, the RSV4 is more like the grizzled neighbor that inexplicably owns every tool known to man. Its adjustable swingarm pivot, engine height, and headstock angle give it more fine-tuning abilities than any other motorcycle on the market – providing a clear indication to the consumer that this motorcycle is a product of racing.This year, we are witnessing the next evolutionary step with the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory. The task was simple—create the most exclusive, most powerful, most potent version of the RSV4 yet. And that’s precisely what they’ve done. The motor in this version of the RSV4 features a displacement of 1078cc, a no-no in the liter-bike class. Aprilia is aiming squarely at the civilian rider who wants it all. Those looking to enter a WSBK race, or any class with a 1000cc limit, are encouraged to purchase the Aprilia RSV4 RR, as it retains the 1000cc V4 engine.

The fully developed electronics package remains the same. It is one of the best in the business, and has been recalibrated to deal with the 1100’s new firepower. The full-color TFT display is identical to last year’s, except for it being brighter this time around.

Riders have the choice of three throttle maps; Sport, Track, and Race, while aides come in the form of lean-angle detecting eight-level traction control, three-level cornering ABS with rear-wheel lift mitigation, and three-level wheelie control. Rounding out the other accouterments is a pit limiter, launch control, and cruise control.To achieve their goals, Aprilia engineers followed a similar design path to the one they walked down with the stellar 2015 Aprilia Tuono. The plan was to bump up the displacement to 1078cc and bore from 78mm to 81mm, while the stroke remains the same at 52.3mm. These increases were done to give it more oomph everywhere in the powerband, roughly a 10 percent improvement when comparing dyno charts to the 1000cc V4.

A revised piston was put in place that now maintains a lower operating temp, thanks to the dual-piston oil jets blasting black gold on its underside. The RSV4 1100 did rob the high-flow oil pump from the Tuono, as well as its fifth and sixth gears; they’re longer ratios and needed to make the most out of more top-end power.

The intake valve timing was advanced, and the exhaust is optimized by utilizing more direct pathing and thinner-walled tubing. To that end, the new Superbike sees an exclusive titanium Akrapovič slip-on exhaust, replete with a carbon heel-guard. Of course, all these changes also called out for a new fuel-map loaded on the trusted Magneti Marelli 7SM ECU.

However, if you think that the new RSV4 1100 engine is just a rebranded Tuono powerplant, you’d be way off the mark. The two engines do have the same 1078cc displacement, and an identical 81mm bore and 52.3mm stroke. The internal componentry is radically different, as they should be since they have two different goals in mind. The Tuono was built for maximum low-end and mid-range power in the street, while the RSV4 needs to keep its lung capacity for long runs down the straights that rely on wringing the top-end out.The out lap of Mugello makes for a unique experience. I’ve ridden plenty of tracks, but there are few circuits in the US that carry the historical weight equal to that of any number of racetracks in Europe. I lapped off-line for my first ride around the track, just then realizing the sheer amount of elevation change that Mugello offers. No, the hours of analyzing video didn’t help much, other than having a vague understanding of when things changed direction.

Rolling down turn 14 (Bucine) is where my experience with the RSV4 truly began. The long carousel down the hill catapulted me directly onto the front straight, where any motorsports enthusiast will naturally feel inclined to whack the throttle wide open. The newfound power within the RSV4 1100 is other-worldly, as the fueling is undeniably impeccable, building 200+ horsepower at the rear wheel in a tractable way that, dare I say it, is almost easy to comprehend without erasing any of its gleefully terrifying charms.

It’s as if Aprilia engineers have bottled the sheer force of an avalanche from the Dolomites, letting the rider administer a preferred dose at leisure. There is no brutal hit of power, which is still stereotypical of inline-4s. From the moment I release the clutch, the RSV4 is willing to put me into the back of the seat. It lulls me into twisting the throttle more until I am wide-eyed and clenching my jaw, realizing that I just blew through every one of my braking markers.

We’ve seen it in WSBK and MotoGP before—exiting turn 14, get on the gas early and let the engine run the motorcycle out towards the entry of pitlane, clicking up to third gear. Head down; you’re behind the bubble. Fourth gear now, fifth, then sixth and swerve over the paint near the exit of pitlane. Each shift as immaculate as the next thanks to the stellar quickshifter.

I had no idea that near the end of the front straight sits a hill—one that makes your entry into turn one completely and utterly blind. I hold the throttle open, cresting over the rise at 180+ mph. My reference points are blurred. I grab too much brake and slam down through the gearbox, hearing the violent burble spit out from the V4 and, thankfully, not a single false neutral while downshifting into turn one.

The truth is, I almost always over-slowed the first turn. We don’t have many tracks in California where hitting 180+ mph is a routine thing, and my mind isn’t adjusted to braking from those speeds. Turn 1 (San Donato) is a long, 180-degree turn with a steep climb to the top. Peeling off into that turn and sitting on the edge of the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC, the familiar, stout RSV4 chassis feel was still here. The bike is planted delivering loads of feel to the rider.

This year, the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory chassis did get some subtle revisions. The steering inclination was adjusted using +3mm bushings in the top and bottom, which has increased the rake slightly and shortened the wheelbase by 4mm. The trail has been kept nearly identical by decreasing the offset from 32mm to 30mm. They’re minor changes, but everything was done in the name of dealing with higher performance. That wasn’t the only change, though, as the swingarm was stiffened up to help reduce flex under hard acceleration.

In terms of suspension, Aprilia is still using the gold-laden fully-adjustable Öhlins 43mm NIX fork and TTX shock to keep the bike propped up. The only difference this year is that the travel in the front has been extended from 120mm to 125mm, again, to compensate for higher physical forces. Front end feel is more than commendable, as you might expect from suspension of this caliber. With loads of adjustment, you can set it up as you’d like. Ride height is unchanged, although the travel is a little longer.

You’ll need to set up the suspension, too. During my initial sessions, I was on a bike that was set up for someone radically different from me in terms of style and weight, which resulted in less than confidence inspiring experience. The 1100 felt soft and wallowed—it was not the RSV4 that I knew.

I then jumped on another RSV4 1100 and paired up with a more like-minded colleague who was running settings closer to what I wanted, or rather, settings that factored in the cheeseburger-dictated American physique. That’s the side of the tale you’re reading.

Climbing through San Donato, you’ll find yourself wanting to set up on the far right side of the track in preparation for the first of two big chicanes. Over the hill, you’ll begin to see the paint for the entrance of turn 2 (Luco). Off the gas and just a touch of brakes, I’d roll in, holding onto the corner into order to give myself room for turn 3 (Poggio Secco), which is much tighter.

Since its inception, the RSV4 has maintained a consistent resume that touts an unflappable chassis and a brilliant motor. For me, those characteristics are the high points of the platform. This year, Aprilia managed to lop off 11 pounds from the motorcycle by using a lithium-ion battery, optimizing the exhaust, tossing as much Italian Chrome (carbon fiber) bits at it as you’d like, and using the titanium Akrapovič muffler.Stability has been one of the hallmark traits, but that also meant that the RSV4 is a physical motorcycle—it required rider input and kept the rider engaged. Those traits are very much alive and well, but with subtle revisions.

It’s hard on the gas during the short chute to turn 4 (Materassi), the front end lifting over a small wheelie bump on the exit. With wheelie control set to level 1, you’ll loft the front end. In two and above, electronics will restrict front wheel lift.

It’s in places like this at Mugello where the Öhlins TTX shock begins to get a severe workout. Trying to keep the chassis in shape as I pour on the power and whip the RSV4 1100 Factory mercilessly Up to third gear, I’m hard on the brakes and back to second. I carried more speed through the less sharp turn 4 and turn 5 (Borgo San Lorenzo).

Flip-flopping through Materassi and Borgo San Lorenzo expose a new trait of the RSV4 1100; it has a little more pep in its step when transitioning side to side, though it still takes a bit of effort. My point of reference is that two weeks before riding Mugello, I was at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California’s San Joaquin Valley, riding a 2018 Aprilia RSV4 1100 RR.

With turn 5 in your mirrors, you’ll now be locking the throttle open, clicking up two gears and staring at one of the most treacherous sections of Mugello in the eyes—turns 6 and 7 (Casanova and Savelli). These are two negative camber, downhill, sweeping turns that require the utmost faith in the front end of your steed. It’d be a terrible time to discover that you had misgivings about front grip when turning in to Casanova. Backshift enough to keep the rpm high and the weight on the front end, setting yourself up for the hard drive through Savelli.

From there, you’ll set up wide and roll off on the throttle a hair or touch the brakes and tip into Arrabbiata 1 and Arribiatta 2 (turns 8 and 9), which are wickedly fast right-hand corners. It’s a quick entry, holding your line tight before jumping back on the gas as soon as possible, running out to the outside curbing. Carry as much speed as you dare, but this is one of the most entertaining sections of the track.Blast through turn Arrabbiata 2 and let the V4 do its work, pushing out towards the paint and over the hill, sending me headlong into turn 10 (Scarperia) and 11 (Palagio)—yet another wide chicane. You’ll flip from right to left, drifting back towards the left side of the track in preparation for Turn 12 (Correntaio).

Correntaio was one of the most challenging sections of Mugello for me. It’s a long, double-apex turn that had me floating way out mid-corner, letting me cut back for the second apex at the bottom of the hill. Not only is it a decently steep downhill, but the entry is blind. I suspect that the designers of Mugello may have been moonlighting as rollercoaster engineers on the side or vice versa.

Now, onto one of my favorite sections of the track. I would set up far right on the exit of Correntaio, so I’m able to dive in late and drive straight through an on-the-gas left-right known as turn 13 (Biondetti). There is just something so satisfying of rolling the power on and feeling the 1100 shimmy underneath me on the exit in that section.

Hard on the gas again and up through the gears to fourth then equally as hard on the binders. This year, Aprilia put the lusty Brembo M50 cast calipers to rest, and have now gone with Brembo Stylema calipers that save a claimed 2.3 ounces, but who’s counting? The new calipers are clamping onto the same massive 330mm floating rotors as last year. On top of that, a more aggressive Brembo BRM10H brake pad is being used to provide superior stopping power.

Entering the final turn is always a test of faith. It’s a blind entry, falling gently to the left. Setting up towards the middle of the track seemed to work out best, but I’d always hammer on the front brakes and didn’t get that one completely right. There’s no shortage of stopping power at any moment, and if I were to recall the RSV4 RR or the now-defunct RF, I’d say that the 1100’s brakes have a softer initial bite, losing that race-bike edginess. Still, feel is more than adequate.

Never once did I experience brake fade and Aprilia engineers worked to alleviate that with the brake air ducts, which will set you back an extra $195. The scoops aren’t a fashionable MotoGP statement; they serve a function in that they’ll reduce the braking system’s operating temperature and fade by a claimed 20 percent.Down, down, down to turn 14 (Bucine) and back into the echoing halls of Mugello, throttle wide open, gearboxes clicking away with the snarling V4’s tone your only companion beyond wind noise. Tucked in behind the svelte windscreen of the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is a cozy experience. The lofty 33.5-inch seat height remains the same, just like the rest of the cockpit; it’s compact and meant for high performance, and suits my 5’ 10” frame well. The 4.9-gallon fuel tank makes for a perfect brace and anchor when cornering—down the front straight, I was getting near intimate with it.

At speeds where tucking behind the windscreen becomes a necessity is when the aerodynamics package becomes a factor. Pulled directly from their experiences with the Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP machine, the winglets will provide a claimed 18 pounds of downforce, when traveling at 186 mph and above. This isn’t something designed with street riding in mind – as the aerodynamic benefit is negligible at more reasonable speeds. Aprilia wanted to boast stability when at pace, and coming down from it. It’s tough to quantify the impact of the aerodynamics package without a back-to-back comparison on an 1100 that lacks it. What I can attest to is the motorcycle’s stability when deep into the triple digits; it doesn’t flinch, but I probably did.

Aprilia made a wise and quite frankly, a brave decision in letting members of the press test their new machine at Mugello. Not only is the track demanding on machinery, but it is arguably just as demanding on the rider operating it. In the face of that, the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory showed us, once again, why the RSV4 platform has remained relevant for a decade. In respect to Mugello, a man of my modest talents left quite a bit on the table and now I’m scheming to get back there in the name of redemption.

The 1100 will undoubtedly shock and enthrall any rider who turns the key in an additive fashion—once you get a taste of it, there is no going back. Even with all that power looming, the chassis remains steadfast while the electronics impressed once again. Mugello may demand everything, but in the end, it is a rider’s track, just as the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is a rider’s bike.

RIDING STYLE

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: 65° V4
  • Displacement: 1078cc
  • Bore x stroke: 81 x 52.3mm
  • Maximum power: 217 horsepower @ 13,200 rpm
  • Maximum torque: 90 ft/lbs @ 11,000 rpm
  • Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
  • Exhaust: 4-2-1 w/ single muffler
  • Lubrication: Wet sump w/ oil cooler and two oil pumps
  • Transmission: 6-speed cassette-type w/ quickshifter
  • Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ mechanical slipper system
  • Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Twin-spar aluminum w/ pressed and cast-sheet elements
  • Steering damper: Öhlins
  • Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Öhlins NIX; 4.9 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Linkage assisted, fully adjustable Öhlins TTX shock; 4.7 inches
  • Wheels: Machined forged aluminum alloy w/ 5 split-spoke design
  • Front wheel: 3.5 x 17
  • Rear wheel: 6.00 x 17
  • Tires: Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC (tested); Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3 (stock)
  • Front tire: 120/70 x 17
  • Rear tire: 200/55 x 17
  • Front brakes: 330 mm floating discs w/  Brembo Stylema M50 4-piston Monoblock radial calipers. Radial pump and steel-braided brake lines
  • Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ Brembo 2-piston caliper and steel-braided line
  • ABS: C-ABS Bosch 9.1MP w/ cornering function; three maps, plus off; rear wheel lift mitigation

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 57.1 inches
  • Rake: 24.5 degrees
  • Trail: 4.1 inches
  • Seat height: 33.5 inches
  • Tank capacity: 4.9 gallons
  • Estimate fuel consumption: 36 mpg
  • Curb weight: 439 pounds

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Price:

  • $24,499

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Test Photo Gallery