The long-awaited and much-anticipated 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is finally here. Slipping into an under-served niche in the motorcycling world, it is a high-tech mid-size sportbike that appealingly slots in-between genres. We covered the technical aspects of the Aprilia RS 660 less than two weeks ago—now it’s time to go riding.
- Although it is a faired sportbike, the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 does not have a fully committed riding position. The bars are clip-on style, though they mount directly to a raised portion of the upper triple-clamp. You’re leaned more forward than on a pure upright, though not nearly as much as on a dedicated supersport, and the reach is not excessive. The pegs are back, though not so high as to over-bend the knees. The seat is comfortable, and rests a manageable 32.3 inches above the pavement. A narrow feel boosts confidence immediately. The RS 660 is far more comfortable than a supersport motorcycle, and just a tad less accommodating than an upright. Plus, you’ll only notice that around town—it all makes sense in the twisties, which is home soil for the RS.
- Firing up the DOHC parallel twin is a pleasant experience. The 270-degree firing order and counterbalancer weights give the 659cc motor a personality from the moment you push down on the start switch—always a great way to begin a ride. The V-twinish lope to the engine at idle is a pleasant way to spend time at a stoplight. Of course, any sportbike motor has to deliver the power to be fully successful.
- The 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is all about smooth power delivery and torque everywhere. Being a twin, it won’t put out as much power as a four-cylinder 600. Aprilia makes up for that by giving the RS a linear powerband from 3000 rpm to over 10k, and a broad torque curve that delivers 45 ft-lbs or more from 4000 rpm to the 11.5k redline.
- Aprilia went all-in with electronics on the RS 660, so you can tune the motor to your liking. There are two sets of riding modes—three modes for the street and two for the track. A four-way switch and beautiful TFT dash make it easy to switch between the modes, and each mode is customizable. The parameters are power delivery (three levels), engine braking (three levels), traction control (eight levels), wheelie control (on/off), and cornering-aware ABS (three levels). That is more than most people will demand, and the four preset choices are great places to start. If you feel the need to fiddle, you can easily do so. Further, a six-axis IMU makes each setting as effective as possible.
- The three Street modes are Commute, Dynamic, and Individual. The modes do exactly what you’d expect. The Commute mode pads everything down, and is the way to go around town—it makes a smooth motorcycle even smoother. The Dynamic mode loosens the leash on all the parameters, except wheelie control. Going custom allows you to set every parameter to your taste.
- For those who are serious and willing to hang it out a bit, the Track modes have minimum electronic babysitting. In the Track category, you have your choice of Challenge and Time Attack. Challenge moves all the electronic aids to minimum intrusion with the most aggressive engine map, though ABS is ever-present. The Time Attack mode is fully customizable, and ABS can be restricted to front-wheel only. Also, the TFT display for the track modes is entirely different from the Street modes, with a handy lap timer shown prominently.
- Even in Challenge, the most aggressive of all the modes, the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is still an utterly agreeable motorcycle. On a motorcycle such as the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, the most insistent power mode is a challenge on the street—the throttle response is just too instantaneous for most riders when trying to corral 200 horsepower or so. In the case of the 100-horsepower RS 660 with a smooth powerband, this is not a problem. Most riders ready to step up to the RS 660 will not be intimidated by the most direct throttle response.
- Although I’m usually a rider who is satisfied with the preset modes, the RS 660 had me digging into the Time Attack custom mode. While maximum throttle response is to my liking, I also am a fan of strong engine braking and prophylactic traction control. So, I set those to taste. I left wheelie control on, as I have no need for unplanned wheelstands. I tried switching between different ABS levels, but my sure hand on the brakes meant that I wasn’t tripping it often—or at least I didn’t notice if I did. I appreciated the customization options on the RS 660 more than on any other sport motorcycle I’ve ridden.
- While the 660’s motor might not produce race-winning results on the track, it is precisely what you need for successful runs through the canyons. You don’t have to wring the neck of the 660 to make it work. In fact, it’s happy for you to shift relatively early and let the torque do the pulling. You still have the option of revving it out as you please, though it never comes close to the rpm and horsepower peaks of the inline-fours. So, the best strategy, as always, is to play to the 660’s strengths.
- Despite counterbalancers, the 660 motor does vibrate. As the power climbs linearly on the RS, so does the vibration. Just as the buzz is never intolerable, also is it never inescapable—you feel the vibration through the grips, seat, and pegs. You won’t want to spend all your time above 8k due to the vibration. Fortunately, to ride the RS 660 quickly, you don’t have to. Let the motor pull, and save the high rpm blasts for when you really need them.
- With up/down quickshifting standard, it’s easy to change gears as needed. Much of that is about managing the fatigue caused by vibration. Due to the power delivery of the Aprilia RS 660, you won’t find yourself shifting as often as you might anticipate, unless you are in a serious hurry. The quickshifter is flawless in both directions—never a missed shift or unexpected lag.
- Aprilia matched the predictable motor to an intuitive chassis. With 24 degrees of rake, a wheelbase just short of 54 inches, and a curb weight of just over 400 pounds, it is reasonable to expect a nervous chassis. Instead, the RS 660 is agile when you want it to be, yet as stable as needed. The magic seems to lie in the power delivery, so the RS is never upset. With the chassis unchallenged by the motor, it can convey the various performance capabilities a demanding rider will insist upon. Not once did the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 put a foot wrong for me, even when I pushed it a bit beyond my comfort zone when chasing a few faster, more-skilled riders.
- Superb rubber is always a confidence booster, and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires create that feeling. When you’re looking at a 100-horsepower motor and 400-pound chassis, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires are outstanding. These are tires capable of harnessing twice the power and more weight, so they are working well within their lane. Wherever I wanted to point the RS, the Pirellis took me there without drama. Feel free to step up to Diablo Supercorsa SPs for the track; on the street, the Corsa IIs are outstanding.
- Braking on the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is absolutely outstanding. Again, the RS 660’s lightweight, mid-power chassis puts minimal demands on the braking system, and Aprilia installed a first-class package. The front end has twin 320mm discs with Brembo calipers. With radial mounting for the master cylinder and calipers, plus steel-braided brake lines and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II front tire, deceleration is as hard as you like, as well as highly predictable. The initial bite is agreeably soft and ramps up as you need more slowing. The rear brake pedal is accessible and usable, especially in town.
- The RS 660’s suspension does not draw attention to itself. I am perfectly happy with the stock settings. There are no bad behaviors exhibited at any time, whether running through town or at high speeds in the twisties. If you’re an outlier not satisfied with the Aprilia engineers’ recommendations, the suspension is fully adjustable, save compression damping on the shock. I never found it wanting at any point.
- The RS 660 is ideal for a smooth rider. I’m more of a smooth rider, preferring high corner speed over hard braking and brutal acceleration. That seems to be the RS’s sweet spot, as there isn’t enough motor there for crazy blasts out of corners, and the power delivery doesn’t reward that behavior. If you are longing for that power at 14k as you exit a corner, look into an inline-4 supersport. You will likely do well at the track with that sort of high-revving power, but be prepared for a tussle against an RS-mounted rider in the local canyons, where you don’t enjoy the predictability of the track.
- As agreeable as the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is, it can do double-duty as a commuter. As long as your ride isn’t too long and the semi-committed ergonomics don’t become an issue, the RS 660 is a workable commuter motorcycle. The Commuting riding mode is there for a reason. However, you might want to wait for the upcoming Aprilia Tuono 660 sometime in 2021 if around-town performance is crucial for you.
- Going for a niche market, the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is a hit. This is a motorcycle that had to meet high expectations. Unless you were anticipating unreasonable high peak power, the RS 660 met the challenge in every way. It has a fantastic chassis that enhances the rider’s skill, and the motor is extraordinarily forgiving and undemanding. With ergonomics that encourage outings, the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is a niche motorcycle that enjoys wide appeal.
Photography by Kevin Wing
- Helmet: Arai Signet-X Impulse Yellow
- Jacket: Alpinestars Atem V3
- Back protection: Rev’It Seesoft RV
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Plus R V2
- Jeans: Alpinestars Copper 2
- Boots: Alpinestars SMX Plus V2
2021 Aprilia RS 660 Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 659cc
- Bore x stroke: 81 x 63.9mm
- Maximum power: 100 horsepower at 10,500 rpm
- Maximum torque: 49 ft-lbs @ 8500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 13.5:1
- Intake: EFI w/ two 48mm throttle bodies
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Transmission: 6-speed with up/down quickshifter
- Clutch: Assist-and-slipper
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Twin-spar aluminum w/ aluminum subframe
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Kayaba inverted 41mm fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Cantilevered, linkage-free, rebound-damping and spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.1 inches
- Wheel: Aluminum alloy
- Front wheel: 17 x 3.5
- Rear wheel: 17. X 5.5
- Tires: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 320mm discs w/ 4-piston radially, mounted Brembo calipers, radially mounted master cylinder, and steel-braided line
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ twin-piston Brembo caliper w/ steel-braided line
- ABS: Cornering aware w/ 6-axis IMU
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 53.9 inches
- Rake: 24.1 degrees
- Trail: 4.1 inches
- Seat height: 32.3 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.0 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 48 mpg
- Curb weight: 403 pounds
- Colors: Apex Black; Lava Red; Acid Gold (+$200)
2021 Aprilia RS 660 Price: $11,299 MSRP