The Aprilia RSV4 RF is a street legal bike that is scarily close to its SBK avatar. We experienced a fraction of what it’s capable of at the Kari Motor Speedway, and it left us grinning from ear-to-ear.
Ever since the Aprilia RSV4’s debut in 2009, it’s won three rider and four manufacturer titles in the World Superbike championships. After tasting success for six years, the Noale-based company decided to make this mean machine into one of the most advanced track oriented motorcycles on the planet. We got our hands on the RSV4 RF version at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore. No pressure right? The catch wasn’t that I would be riding it on track. No, it was that I’d be riding this 1-litre superbike, with 198 ponies raring to take off, on a tight 2.1-kilometre circuit. Well, as the saying goes, ‘Fortune favours the brave.’ So I decided not to think about the track’s limitation, and suit up instead. After all, I couldn’t wait to find out what this new RSV4 RF was actually capable of.
Before I saddled up, it was time to get acquainted with the RSV4 RF’s electronic wizardry or the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) package. It consists of 8-settings of traction control, 3 levels of ABS, and 3 modes of both Launch Control and Wheelie Control. There are also three engine modes – Sport, Track and Race. These three maps offer different engine response, and in Race mode there’s less engine braking above 6,000rpm. It’s also equipped with a quick-shifter that allows you to up-shift without using the clutch. This way you can build speed without closing the throttle. I decided to stick to Track mode, with all the safety nannies switched on.
I took one last look at our steed, as the forged aluminium wheels and fully adjustable Ohlins suspension glistened in the sun. Plus, of course, it had the awesome SBK “Superpole” graphics that gave it that “bad boy” look. The compactness of the RSV4 surprised me, as it felt like a mid-size motorcycle. My first lap was all about getting a hang of the track. After much calculation, not to mention trepidation, I opened the throttle and the well mannered linear response caught me a little off guard. By comparison, the Tuono V4 1100 Factory – which we rode last month – seemed to have a mind of its own, so-much-so that I was scared to poke the monster. But the RSV4 was kind enough to let me take control, or at least it gave me that impression. Aprilia’s 999.6cc, unlike other V4s, is very smooth at the lower end of the RPM range. As Kari is full of really tight corners, on my first lap, I invariably ended up braking a little later than I should have – but the forgiving razor sharp chassis allowed me to effortlessly reel the RF back in line. Also this track is notorious for its bumpy tarmac, but the Ohlins suspension managed to smooth it out virtually completely.
Starting my second lap, I decided to open the throttle and let the exhaust play some heavy metal tunes on the main straight. The first corner is the slowest in Kari, and as you get hard on the brakes the Brembos show their class. It’s as effortless as pulling the brake lever with two fingers, and the bike slows instantly without any drama. First gear is very tall compared to the other 5 cogs, so you can really get moving right from the get-go.
The RSV4 is the king of swing, as it takes corners with a lot of authority. It gives you the confidence to brake and manage the line while you’re leaning into a corner. It manages this ridiculous feat in part thanks to the aluminium frame that houses the engine. Aprilia have also lowered its centre of gravity, making it more agile. Rear grip and stability has also improved thanks to the 4mm long swing-arm. And let’s not forget the Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa tyres that sink into the asphalt, providing tremendous grip.
I have to say that five laps on this track, on this bike, is sacrilege! We should have got at least 10, but then there were more people lined up – with brave pills in hand – to try the RSV4 on the track. The RSV4 RF is the closest thing you can get to a Superbike racer, baring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. But the kind of ease with which the Aprilia goes about its business, without scaring the life out of you, is a comforting feeling. The RSV4 is also the lightest bike in its segment, despite being fully loaded with virtually every technological gizmo you can think of. And, with a riding position that’s not as aggressive as the ZX-10R, the RSV4 can be ridden in the city as well without having to forgo your spine. Many will say money can’t buy happiness, but clearly they haven’t ridden the Aprilia RSV4 RF – it’s worth every penny!
- Aprilia RSV4 RF Review: First Ride
Engine: 999.6cc / 4 Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC
Transmission: 6-Speed manual
Power: 198bhp @ 13,000rpm
Torque: 115Nm @ 10,500rpm
Price: Rs. 23.46 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Pune)