Aprilia RSV4 RF

Fast Bikes - - GROUP TEST -

A prilia reck­ons the 2017 bike is one se­cond a lap faster than the pre­vi­ous model. They’re bang on with that claim. For­get the spec’ sheet and press re­leases; for me, this is the big­gest, most sig­nif­i­cant model-to-model improvement since the orig­i­nal APRC was re­leased, with sub­tle but dev­as­tat­ingly ef­fec­tive re­vi­sions. It also helped that we were rid­ing a bike that wasn’t for­merly mal­treated by an­other pub­li­ca­tion, and the RSV4 RF was ut­terly sub­lime at Por­ti­mao. This should be the blue­print for all track-based bikes.

Once again, it set the fastest lap time and ab­so­lutely spanked the rest of the field on Bridge­stone R10s – nearly half-a-se­cond faster than the Suzuki and at least a se­cond quicker than any­thing else, a time that came flu­ently in the heat of the Al­garve. Speed dis­persed into a metro­nomic flow. The whole track slowed down, be­came wider and I soon fig­ured out how to ride Por­ti­mao while nurs­ing a chubby. I can’t even con­jure up any mean­ing­ful neg­a­tives although, once again, ground clear­ance was the is­sue when it came to slick-shod hot laps, as the ex­haust kissed the Tar­mac on right-han­ders. That ain’t fun at 120mph!

While the Gixer was be­ing pam­pered in the search for a bet­ter set-up, the RSV4 RF didn’t need touch­ing. It an­ni­hi­lates ev­ery­thing from brak­ing to apex. Por­ti­mao’s down­hill en­try into turn one can of­ten feel rushed and down­right scary on oc­ca­sion, brak­ing from 170mph, scrub­bing 100mph and los­ing three gears, but the Aprilia was the most sta­ble and de­fined by the prover­bial. The Brembo M50 Monoblocs, for us, are the best brakes on test, un­ruf­fled by ABS in­tru­sion and sup­ply­ing the per­fect blend of power and feel.

And then there’s the engine brak­ing, which is per­fectly matched to blip­per out­puts and al­ways puts the pi­lot in per­fect con­trol of cor­ner en­try. Close your eyes, and you’re al­ready an Aprilia fac­tory racer. Its abil­ity to run stu­pe­fy­ing cor­ner speed is un­ri­valled, as is its ex­trasen­sory pen­chant for sniff­ing out apexes. It’s al­most as if Aprilia had up­loaded a GPS-guided map of Por­ti­mao into the RF’s ECU. If it wasn’t for in­sur­ance, fear of death and gen­eral preser­va­tion, I would have con­tin­ued to push lap after lap, just as the RF en­cour­ages you to do.

Mid-cor­ner, there isn’t a bet­ter, more com­posed bike. The front-end feel brings end­less con­fi­dence to push, trail brake and take off-the-throt­tle lib­er­ties like no other. The RF makes the rest of the SBOTY com­peti­tors feel like mass-pro­duced mon­keys to its prototype racer, and its racy, stiff chas­sis ex­udes pure WorldSBK feed­back. There isn’t the ra­zor sharp change of di­rec­tion of the Suzuki but the RF is hardly slug­gish and com­bines pre­ci­sion with un­wa­ver­ing sta­bil­ity.

Cor­ner exit is its only weak­ness and gets mullered by the R1M, partly through me­chan­i­cal grip, par­tially down to elec­tron­ics. For faster pi­lots, the trac­tion con­trol and an­ti­wheelie will be­come a hin­drance (es­pe­cially over the first wa­ter­fall), yet we still en­dured a few hairy slides when grip lev­els di­min­ished. I’m not a mas­sive fan of the throt­tle and its some­times ar­cade ten­den­cies – a far cry from the de­li­cious ac­tion of a few years ago. There’s less of a con­nec­tion, but ride-by-wire is in­dis­pens­able these days and the sys­tem doesn’t slow you down, not one bit.

Nei­ther does that V4 pow­er­plant, which is now the most pow­er­ful Euro 4 mo­tor for

2017 de­spite the willy-waving claims from man­u­fac­tur­ers. The RSV4 – in pre­vi­ous years – has felt marginally slower than the Beemer et al, but that’s all changed this sea­son. The sound, the thrust, the sheer pace in which it sucks, squeezes, bangs and blows: it’s an engine that just keeps on giv­ing. Whereas some oth­ers suf­fer with long gear­ing, the Aprilia uses it to its ad­van­tage with a de­li­cious spread of power and the seam­less gear­box was a plea­sure to ma­nip­u­late. That said, the V4 makes most sense dur­ing the up­per ech­e­lons of revs and loves to be hov­ered around the red­line. Win­ner!

It feels SO bloody good!

Best dash on test!

Ev­ery exit is an ex­cuse to hear that sub­lime mo­tor fir­ing you out...

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