Riding Impression: 2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

Exclusive U.S. first ride of Aprilia’s new V-Four sportbike!

Photography By Jeff Allen

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory - Riding Impression

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory - Riding Impression

There is usually at least one bike each year that really gets my heart racing in anticipation of a first ride. This year, that bike is Aprilia's new RSV4 Factory, the machine the Italians are using as the basis of Max Biaggi's successful 2009 season in World Superbike racing. Further, based on Road Test Editor Don Canet's track impression from our big 1000cc racetrack shootout in Germany ("Supersport Days," CW, August, 2009), where the Aprilia dominated against its liter-class competition, the bike won Best Superbike in this years Ten Best balloting. Talk about building anticipation! So, almost as soon as the exclusively provided pre-production testbike was parked in the Cycle World garage, I was sliding the key into my pocket, ensuring that I would be the first staffer to get a riding impression of our RSV4 Factory on the street.

Firing up the engine unleashes a wonderful cacophony of sound from the large, delta-shaped muffler. If the exhaust provides the bass line, the incredible high notes are played by the hybrid chain/gear cam drive of the 65-degree V-Four. As I later learned, riding without earplugs on occasion is well worth the auditory experience.

After throwing a leg over the RSV4, clicking it into gear and pulling away, I realized that the riding position was nearly ideal for my 5-foot-11 frame. Compact and comfortable, the "working office" the RSV4 Factory provides is top-notch for such a sporting machine. Clutch pull is light and gear-shift action from the six-speed transmission slick, making around-town riding very easy. Even the tall first gear doesn't hinder normal acceleration away from stops, as the engine provides strong low-end torque. But riding around in town isn't what I had in mind for a bike like this, so I immediately headed for a favorite mountain road.

The excellent EFI mapping exhibited in city riding definitely translates well to high speeds on winding roads. In fact, riding quickly is easy because the throttle can be picked up very early in corners without upsetting the chassis. Of the three on-the-fly switchable engine-map options—Track, Sport and Road—I preferred the smooth nature of the Sport setting because it provides less-abrupt initial throttle response than that of Track. The latter was thrilling in its response but was quite edgy and made it more difficult to be smooth when exiting corners. The Road mode reduces overall power and really softens throttle response. Overall, though, the Aprilia RSV4 is one of the best-mapped bikes on the market.

Granted, the top-of-the-line Factory is outfitted with the best-of-the-best in suspension, brake and wheel components, but it was still surprising how light and agile the chassis feels. Whether negotiating a crowded parking lot or tilting the horizon on an empty two-lane ribbon of country asphalt, the 430-pound-dry RSV4 is lithe and quick to respond to rider input. The Öhlins suspension is firm and planted without feeling harsh, while the Brembo Monobloc front brakes are awesome without feeling like overkill on initial bite.

Some of the more basic positives are the well-thought-out dash and handlebar control pods. The switches are easy to operate, and the menus are logical and simple to access. The analog tachometer dominates the under-windscreen rider view, as it should, with the LCD speedometer and information screen set slightly lower. Complaints are few. Riding the bike in jeans on a hot day is punishing, as the engine's heat on the rider's legs is ridiculous in urban traffic. Get up to speed on the highway or out onto a twisty road and airflow solves the problem, but I felt like a pig on a spit in the city. My only other complaint would be that the bike's fuel economy and, therefore, range was less than ideal with a 26-mpg average on the first few tanks. But we're talking about a no-holds-barred racebike platform that has already proved quite competitive in the hands of Biaggi, so we'll have to excuse it in this case.

Pricing for the Factory and lower-cost RSV4 R model (with less-expensive chassis components) has yet to be released, but Aprilia assures us that both models will be competitively priced with Ducati's 1198 models. Did the RSV4 Factory live up to my anticipation? Hell, yes! Can't wait to strap it on the dyno and get full performance testing numbers. I'm definitely going to need more seat time, too!

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory