First Ride: Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

On-bike video: Cycle World rides Aprilia’s amazing V-Four Superbike.

Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4 - First Ride

Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4 - First Ride

On the Monday after the final round of the World Superbike championship in Portugal, I stood in the Aprilia pit ready to ride Max Biaggi's factory RSV4. The Italian's mechanics were in a good mood; they seemed to enjoy preparing the #3 machine—even for journalists! I think this new Aprilia is beautiful. I like its angular shape and black, red and white livery. And the engine sounds remarkable.

Biaggi's riding position is stretched out, far more forward over the gas tank than a stock RSV4. The clutch lever follows suit—adjusted all the way out, with zero slack. Thanks to the latest electronics, Biaggi only has to use the lever for the start of the race and, even then, he has "launch control." That's right, upshifts and downshifts are executed without use of the clutch. Today's Superbikes are so fast and the brakes work so well that eliminating any distractions is a good thing. I tried the system while braking in a straight line, and it worked well. But I have to say that I loved the feel of the clutch, especially transitioning back to the throttle after trail-braking to the apex of a corner.

The Öhlins suspension was really "free" in its movement, with light rebound damping and zero stiction. Algarvé's right-hand Turn 2 has a small, square-edged step in the pavement right before the apex of the corner and is taken at full lean. There's another good-sized bump just before the off-camber entry to Turn 5; this is where Noriyuki Haga crashed in Race 1. The suspension's light rebound resistance helped to keep the Pirelli slicks firmly planted on the pavement in these sections of the racetrack. The only thing I didn't like about the chassis was Biaggi's preference for heavy damping resistance from the Öhlins steering damper.

What I found most amazing about the Aprilia's 65-degree V-Four was its soft, communicative initial throttle response, which was very comforting coming off corners. Below, say, 7000 rpm, the engine made great controllable V-Twin-like torque. Through the rest of the rev range, the engine pulled like an inline-Four, but with exceptional linearity. Max revs? I have no idea. I grabbed another gear whenever the shift light on the dash illuminated.

Worst part? My four laps on Biaggi's RSV4 were over way too soon.

012 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

011 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

010 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

009 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

008 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

007 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

006 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

005 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

004 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

003 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

002 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4

001 Max Biaggi's Factory Aprilia RSV4