Aprilia’s RSV-4RF: Epic adventures on track
The tech-laden superbike is the last one to launch of the current crop of superstar motorcycles – but last most definitely does not mean least. Oh no.
First impressions count in the superbike world. You’ll knowinstantly if you can get on with the bike underneath you while the pair of you hit nearly 200mph. It’s a special sort of bond between machine and rider that just isn’t found anywhere else in the two-wheeled world.
So, in terms of those all-important impressions, here’s the run-down on the RSV4-RF Aprilia, a new Italian entry into the nowawesome, tech-laden modern superbike market.
The seat is fairly low(not like big Aprilia superbikes of old), there’s a lot of room to shuffle about in, the footrests aren’t cramped, the new tank is tucked out of the way… the whole narrowness of the V4 belies its size.
For a first impression, and one at zero miles an hour, this superbike already feels like it’s been thought through for the rider instead of chasing numbers.
The throttle pick-up, from 2000 to 14,000rpm, is instantly amazing. There’s not an engine underneath you but a supersmooth turbine of pure power. Flicking the bike through a few corners it’s clear that you’re riding something crafted by those who know about suspension.
Pick a line and the RSV barks obligingly and hurries along it. The brakes are WSB stoppers on the new front end and hit them hard enough to get the bike just lifting the back wheel and the new chassis (longer, lower centre of gravity, much more stable) isn’t fazed.
The engine, all-new with a host of race-bits as standard, is in the 200bhp club – 16bhp up on the old engine and an absolute gemto use. That motor is luscious to use. Deliberately going into slow corners a gear too high doesn’t worry it, the electronics save your momentumand the engine note drops but it can stand hamfisted abuse.
The power builds rapidly as you stir the pot and it’s so responsive (and gives a great ‘boost’ from about 8000rpm onward) that there’s a real delight in letting the bike rev and holding a gear between corners.
The chassis is all-new with a lower centre of gravity, a longer feel and pulled-in steering angle. It’s super clam and wonderfully easy to flick about. That Sachs rear shock is predictable and tiny in feel. Where a month ago I was dragging the whole of the side of my boot on the floor on the Yamaha R1, on the RSV my toes never touched the track. That gives you some idea of just hownarrow this bike feels. It never dominates the rider, mostly because it’s physically as intimidating as a nice pair of slippers.
The riding position puts you at less of a radical pitch to the bars than on the Tuono sibling. The bars feel wide at first but make sense on the move and that fairing is both easy to get under and absolutely brilliant at keeping the wind off.
Playing around with sub-routines in the digital brain isn’t straightforward however. It’s definitely worth investing time with the RSV4 and learning howto set up the myriad of options that you can dial in for traction control, throttle and anti-wheelie settings. I dropped the traction control over the course of a 20 minute session and from ‘7’ to ‘4’ there wasn’t too much difference in terms of feel, but setting ‘3’ found the bike sliding on the edge of my skillset.
It’s a very sophisticated system in truth and knows your lean angle, throttle aggression and acceleration rates as you ride. You never feel the system butting in to the ride though, it’s seamless in its interaction and never detracts from sheer and repeated joy of cracking the throttle and listening to that V4 howl.
Turn eight at Misano is crucial because, like many turns at the track, of the straight that follows it where you jet along the track, lean into turn nine – but use it as part of the straight – and then fixate on braking for turn 10.
I found that going into turn eight in second was fine but eventually I opted to hit turn eight in first, just so I could
keep the revs high and enjoy a small slide on the exit. This happened after just one session on the RSV and tells you just howat home with the RSV a new rider feels almost straight away.
Aprilia was at pains to ramhome the message during the launch that this bike was built to echo the first RSV4 in 2009: the best, uncompromising superbike and one that comes closest to the real racing bike. Without riding Haslam’s factory RSV4 it’s hard to say howclose to that goal they’ve come with this bike, but what is immediately obvious is that here is a massive step forward for superbikes once again.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this is an immensely brilliant motorcycle which looks, sounds and goes like something you see whizzing around in WSB every other Sunday, but the pricing might be the factor that puts people off the crafted motorcycle missile.
£3000+ more than the Yamaha R1, it might find that it’s roundly beaten in the sales stakes. £18,000+ is a lot to ask for a bike these days and time will tell if enough riders have enough money to sweep up these things for the road. On track however, well, this is arguably the very toppest of the top in the Superbike stakes. Up by 16bhp and tipping the scales 2.5kg less than its predecessor, the motor is largely newalthough it’s a case of evolving the old engine rather than redesigning it – but the tech and parts come from the racing side of things.
The work was done on decreasing internal friction, improving combustion efficiency and fluid-dynamic efficiency as well as on increasing the maximum rotation speed.
Starting from the top, the 65° V4 has a new race-team derived airbox with a new filter. The upper injectors are new, whereas the variable setting intake ducts are redesigned with more travel, as with previous models, each bank has a dedicated servo unit actuating the two throttle bodies of that bank only.
In order to improve the fluid dynamic performance, the heads were redesigned with
| intake and output ducts that have new geometries and contouring on the ends machined by a numerically controlled tool.
The combustion chambers are CNC’d for the first time to make them more precise and to improve reliability.
The heads nowhave a triple layer of gaskets. The timing system uses the mixed chain and gear kinematics of the Aprilia V4 (with the chain camshaft driving only the intake camshaft, which in turn drives the exhaust camshaft via a gear) which allows for extremely compact heads especially beneath the frame spars, much narrower than would otherwise be possible.
In order to increase the maximum rotation speed a painstaking study was conducted on lightening the parts in motion of the elements included in the heads. All four valves are now lightweight titanium (the intake valves are oversized at 33mm); the valve springs are completely new and the relative tappets and caps were lightened.
The camshafts have a brand new profile and were lightened by a whole 600g. The crankshaft now has connecting rod pins reduced to 36mm in diameter with 450g more weight, while the Pankl connecting rods are lighter by a total of 400g. The upper half of the engine case is now made with a new shell fusion and has been lightened (–1.3kg) and reinforced; it also now has a better ventilation system in order to reduce power loss due to air pressure inside the engine crankcase. The lubrication system has also been redesigned and optimised.
A brand new oil sump ensures increased draught no matter what position the engine is in despite the oil level being decreased in order to decrease friction. The ‘rose pipe’ is also new (oil pump intake duct), now equipped with a new overpressure valve and a filter in an optimised position. The piston cooling oil nozzles were also replaced and the gearbox now has a valve regulated direct hydraulic lubrication circuit.
The latter uses lightened drive shafts and gears (–0.35kg), a lightened primary drive (–0.1kg) and takes advantage of new ratios which have been optimised to fully exploit the increased engine power. The entire exhaust system has also been completely redesigned with revamped electronic valve management, now equipped with two oxygen sensors (one per bank), while a new there’s also a more powerful ECU.
Feels like a 600cc bike on the move.