Aprilia RSV4 R

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Ride Motorsports


Aprilia RSV4 R

In racing, anything not expressly prohibited by the rules is allowed

By Pete "the Bookie" Chartrand

This is how I approached the chance to review Aprilia's RSV4 R. No one said I couldn't take it to the track ... so I did.

It looks too small to be a liter bike. This is mostly an illusion due to the shortened front fairing and stubby tail unit. The actual wheelbase is not much off of the previous RSV-R. It is compact; the 999.6 cc 64 degree V-4 allows it to be narrower than a typical inline four. Much engineering effort went into putting as much motorcycle in as little space as possible.

The design seems purposeful with a little flair but a few details jump out. The seat and foot pegs are set high and back allowing for maximum ground clearance. The seat incorporates what can only be interpreted as a bad joke. There's a bump that is referred to as a passenger 'seat' which Aprilia says is "perfectly integrated in the bike's design, this element ... can be easily removed to gain lightness during the use on the track." If you want to save weight, remove the passenger pegs, the aluminum weighs more than the plastic 'seat'.

The other component that catches your eye is the exhaust. It's unfortunate that there doesn't seem to be a way to incorporate the emissions requirements into a more appealing package. There's a proper full Akrapovic race exhaust offered as an accessory, not street legal of course, and probably requires the race ECU as well, but it looks sooo much better.

The RSV4 R is offered in two colors - White (Pearl)- Blanco Glam, and Black - Aprilia Black.

I think Aprilia should have stuck with the Italiano and called it Aprilia Nero.

The day after picking up the Aprilia was a 2Fast track day at Pacific Raceway. By coincidence it turned out I was registered as #3. How cool is that? Max Biaggi is winning in World SuperBike on the Aprilia and we share the same number. While there's a slight resemblance between us (I'm the slower, older, taller, rounder one), I do not bring Massimiliano's style.

I made a point of speaking to JR Reyes of www.juniormonkey.com , a local track day photographer to get a couple of photos. He does a great job from out there in the weeds.


Turn in on the bike seemed slow, but once in the corner it felt stable and tracked well. The suspension worked excellently considering it's under sprung for someone of my ... shall we say ... stature? The RSV4 R (does the R stand for Regular?) comes with adjustable Showa forks and a Sachs rear shock and steering damper. While lacking the clout of the higher-cost Factory version's Ohlins suspension and chassis adjustability, the R's stock suspension and spring rates are more than adequate.

The Ride-by Wire throttle and ECU allow for different fuel maps to be used. There are three different modes: "R," "S" and "T."

Different meanings have been assigned to each mode. Both "Rain" and "Road" for 'R,' "Sport" and "Street" for 'S,' but almost everyone agrees on "Track" for 'T.' I came up with my own definitions as "Rough," "Silky" and "Thread count."

According to Aprilia's literature:

  • R = Road - "use in any condition" and has the "power reduced to 140hp."
  • S = Sport - mode has "smooth electronically controlled delivery."
  • T = Track - "180hp of power when even slightly opening the throttle."

This seems about right. Each mode also changes where, in the torque curve, the power is delivered. The power comes in slowly in 'R' mode with a "punch" in the higher RPMs. This is annoying on the road and exactly wrong for riding in the rain. 'S' mode feels comfortable for street riding; it seemed to have the easiest pull in first gear. On the track, there was a noticeable "thrust" of power once the revs increased. It's very smooth but once there, things start happening fast - quickly, know what I mean? Once underway 'T' mode is just that much smoother everywhere. This is where the throttle is connected directly to the pleasure center of the brain.

Unfortunately you can't continue the rush of acceleration indefinitely. At some point you need to slow down and here the Aprilia does the job with full Brembo, radial, braided magic.

I had a fantastic time at the track with the Aprilia. Even though it's more bike than I could ever need, it's such an amazing track tool, I suspect it would make me a better rider if this was my motorcycle. Granted a liter bike is not the most logical choice for an average level trackday rider, but because there's so much potential in this package, even without all the bells and whistles of the factory accessories, and how it feels emotionally, this could be the sportbike for me.


Let's be clear, the Aprilia RSV4 R is no utilitarian motorcycle. This is an Italian sportbike. It may have a useful headlight but it's simply a platform to build a World SuperBike Racebike from. Saying all that, you can still ride it on the street and it's not half bad.

This motorcycle was on loan from Aprilia USA, but the chance to ride it was arranged by Dave Richardson of Moto International, Seattle's Aprilia and Moto Guzzi dealership. While Dave didn't seem too surprised at my willingness to take someone else's motorcycle to the track, I doubt this was the typical test ride. When we were sorting out the paperwork (you break it, you bought it), Dave handed me the Use Agreement and said "Here, you'll need this when you get pulled over." At first I was offended 'cause I'm like mature and a Motorcycle Safety Instructor and responsible and like blah blah blah. Well, that all changed on the road.

On the freeway it becomes a game to go just that much faster than the traffic around you. You pass everything at will simply because you can. You start looking for every gap and changing lanes just because it's fun. The next thing you know you've become that jackass on a motorcycle everyone hates. Note to prospective buyers: get adept with the mode button, when you see blue lights - clear all readouts.

As far as comfort goes, while I wouldn't say I 'fit' on the Aprilia, the placement of the pegs and the reach to the bars is relaxed for a sportbike. The seat is a sportbike seat so what do you expect? On the road, the suspension seemed pretty good but it is set up stiff for the track. Others may find it a rough ride given the current conditions of our roads.

One thing the stock exhaust offers is a valve that remains closed while in neutral, so on start-up the bike is not all that loud. Once shifted to first gear, the exhaust valve opens and wonderful unique music reverberates off surrounding structures. It doesn't seem very loud on the track and is not all that disturbing when just riding along but if you open it up in a tunnel, it'll make you feel like the herald for the coming apocalypse.

In traffic the bike gives off a lot of heat contributing to that 'need' to ride faster. The radiator fan simply pushes more hot air at the rider. Overall though it's surprisingly stable and civilized at low speeds.

Aprilia's RSV4 R is not a sport touring motorcycle and gets uncomfortable after a couple hundred miles. There is nowhere to stow anything no matter how small. If you ride with a passenger that's just plain mean. It's a great track day bike and an argument could be made that's the true purpose of a road-going sportbike. If you're in the market for a motorcycle that'll deliver pure riding pleasure, you owe it to yourself to test ride one. Although I doubt Dave is giving away free track days.

Thanks to everyone involved in my misadventures, especially the staff at Moto-I. Hope to do it again soon.

Pete Chartrand is a Motorcycle Safety instructor living in Seattle and teaching various classes for several schools. When not teaching, his head is probably in a book.

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