Aprilia RSV 1000 Mille R-Aprili

6 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Aprilia RSV 1000 Mille R-Aprili
Aprilia RSV 4 Max Biaggi Replica

Motorsport it / Motociclismo / Motocorse / RSV – Italy Crash Test / Motorcycle.com / Mototest.be

Exotic R

Aprilia’s RSV-R is one of the world’s most desirable sportsbikes, winning head to head shootouts around the globe. For 2003, the $31,490 RSV-R just got better.

Story: Ken Wootton

Photos: Phil Smith

Things were rapidly going from bad to worse. It was late afternoon and I guess the track temperature was a little cooler than I’d anticipated.

What had started out as an occasional rear-wheel ‘slip’ exiting a couple of the off-camber corners suddenly became a battle for survival as the front-end let go three corners in a row – the last one with my foot flailing off the peg.

Surely Pirelli Super Corsas are supposed to have more grip than this. It was time to pull over and spit the dummy before the mega-dollar RSV-R spat me.

What the f#$% is going on, I blurted. This is a thirty two grand motorcycle and it sure as hell shouldn’t be on a road like this – I’ll get more sense out of those couple of goats over there than I will out of you three idiots!

Hey, it was you who turned right instead of left back there – so who’s the goat, responded one of my three Nakedbike companions. We’re having fun, so stop your whinging and get back on the bike.


They may well have been having fun (see Nakedbike comparo, page 20), but when the hard-packed gravel surface turned into losse marbles and then even worse, wet and slimey clay, the Super Corsas may well have been race slicks. Come to think of it, that’s what they look like anyway! In their element at Phillip Island a week later for our track session, the somewhat interesting detour through the mountains had me wondering how the Super Corsas got road homologation with such minimal tread.

However, they did, and as I survived my unexpected trail-ride on Aprilia’s 2003 RSV-1000R, I guess I have no grounds for complaint. Nor are there any grounds for complaint about the latest version of Aprilia’s range-topping RSV-R.

Well, range-topping if you overlook the limited edition short-stroke RSV1000-SP which formed the basis of Troy Corser’s, then Nori Haga’s, World SBK foray. That model never made it to Oz, nor into many garages worldwide.


When it was released towards the end of 1999 the RSV-R immediately started winning sportsbike shootouts around the globe, including those involving its Latin arch-rival. It was an instant success.

Surprisingly sporting the very same mechanical package as its cheaper RSV Mille cousin, the $6600 more expensive RSV-R justifies its $31,490 pricetag via its up-spec chassis componentry – Ohlins suspension, OZ forged wheels and top-spec Brembo brakes being the major differentiation, with a fair smattering of carbon-fibre as well.

And it’s in these areas that the RSV-R has copped most of its changes for the 2003 model year. Most visible change are the radial-mount Brembo calipers up front, but look closer and you’ll also find new Ohlins forks and a revised front wheel design.

There are new footrest heelguards, a redesigned slimmer rear cowl and lower passenger seat, restyled front guard, new anti-vibration handlebar ends, revised rear suspension and a matt black frame.

Internally there’s a closer-ratio gearbox, with fifth and sixth closer together and first to third taller – the net result being to have first to sixth gear more closely bunched. Otherwise the powerplant remains as is – you’ll need to stump up the $37,490 for the Edwards Replica if you want an RSV-R with a tweaked donk.


Not that the RSV-R is lacking in the donk department. The booming 60 Rotax-built V-twin engine provides deceptive horsepower – don’t be fooled by that peak figure of ‘only’ 119ps at the rear wheel. It may be 20-30ps shy of a big Jap four, but what’s there is all usable. As for torque, at 7000rpm the RSV-R’s got more pulling power than a R1 or Blade, and about the same as Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 rocketship.

And let’s face it, if you’re scratching up your favourite racer road on a Sunday afternoon that’s the zone you’re likely to be operating in.

Rather surprisingly the testbike had an uncharacteristic substantial ‘dip’ that bottomed out around 5200rpm. As long as I accelerated through the 4700-5700rpm ‘dip zone’ it wasn’t all that noticeable, which is what you do on race tracks and twisty backroads anyway. As the testbike sported an optional-fitment Aprilia ‘Race Use Only’ pipe, I can only assume some fiddling with the mapping would eradicate the glitch.

My only other complaint with the engine is that I find RSV throttles to be quite heavy compared to the opposition. Call me limp-wristed (most people do!), but a lighter throttle would allow better feel and control of that impressive powerplant. It’s between 6000rpm and 9500rpm that the RSV-R really gets up and boogies, with a flat and progressive power curve all the way through to its 9500rpm power peak.

There’s no real advantage in revving the V-twin past there (unless you like hitting the revlimiter!), although that usable 500rpm over-rev facilty may be handy in rideday traffic.


I’ve always found the RSV family to be somewhat bulky compared to the Ducati equivalents, with a taller seat height and a more top-heavy feel. However, what the RSV loses in perceived ‘litheness’ it scores with more room for my lanky limbs, and better protection from the elements.

That was particularly handy after my day in the mountains, the fairing helping to keep the evening chills at bay as the sun disappeared and the RSV-R’s headlight was called into play. It’s a good ‘un, too.

I’m not that fussed about the RSV dash though – it’s not the easiest to read, and although progess has been made I reckon the finish of the cockpit can be improved still further.

I was fortunate to sample both a stock 2003 RSV Mille and 2003 RSV-R Edwards Replica at the recent Master Bike shootout (see next issue), and like the RSV-R, it’s hard to fault the handling of one of the best sportsbike chassis round. Predictable and stable, yet precise, the RSV chassis has earned a deserved reputation.

And that perceived bulkiness soon disappears after a few laps, with the RSV-R arguably a quicker steerer than the Duke. Truth be known I’ve generally lapped fractionally quicker on Ducatis at track tests than I have on Aprilias as I seem to adapt to the Duke’s lower racer crouch quicker and better. The RSV is a bike that takes me a few laps to get comfortable with before my aggression and confidence levels rise, probably due to that taller seating position.

However, a few laps in and things begin to flow.

There’s no comparing the two Latins for comfort on the open road though – the RSV accommodates my 187cm frame a lot better.

Not sure how jockey-sized Shaun Geronimi gets by on his RSV-R racebike in Formula Xtreme and the new Supertwin class in the Aussie Superbike Championship though.


There are a couple of engineering touches which make punting a RSV-R quickly an enjoyable experience – be it track or road. And I had ample opportunity to sample both on a variety of tracks and roads. One is Aprilia’s PPC (Pneumatic Power Clutch) system, which limits rear-wheel lock-up on downchanges. The PPC system uses the variation in pressure generated in the intake manifolds when the throttle is closed to relax the load on the clutch springs, thus reducing engine braking at the rear wheel.

Aprilia RSV 4 Max Biaggi Replica

How does it work? A pipe connects the intake manifolds to a reservoir alongside the clutch so that when the throttle is closed the vacuum created in the reservoir reduces the pressure that the springs apply on the clutch plates. When the throttle is opened again the clutch returns to its normal operating conditions, transmitting all available power to the rear wheel.



While the PPC is hidden from view, the radial-mount front calipers certainly aren’t – they stick out like the proverbial canine gonads.

Along with Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 and Kawasaki’s ZX-6R, Aprilia’s RSV-R is using the much-touted radial-mount calipers as a big step forward for 2003.

But it’s not the first time Aprilia has used radial-mount calipers. Way back in 1997 Aprilia was the first manufacturer in the world to fit radial calipers. The bike in question was the RSW250 GP racer, the bike that won the 250 world title for Aprilia with Max Biaggi, Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi.

Truth be known, in ‘normal’ usage by mere mortals there’s probably no great advantage – other than the sheer pose factor. Most sportsbike conventional four-piston calipers these days have ample power.

The advantage of the radial-mount system is a more progressive action at the ‘outer limits’ of operation due to reduced system flexing and a more linear response.

With radially-mounted calipers the pads work in a more precise alignment with the disc, as the caliper is rigidly aligned with its theoretically optimum working position, even during hard braking. That means more constant braking effect with less difference in efficiency between hot and cold.

Does a top rider really notice any difference? They sure do. Not so much in terms of total braking power, but in precision, lever response, braking control, and fatigue resistance.

If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me – and if the top-spec brakes help justify the premium price over the standard RSV Mille, all the better.

Oh, and if you were wondering, the RSV-R’s brakes are simply sensational.


Of the other upgrades for 2003, the fully-adjustable 43mm TIN-coated Ohlins forks have had their outer legs lengthened by 15mm and the stanchions shortened accordingly, with the bottom bushings moved down 15mm to reduce friction.

There’s an Ohlins unit at the rear as well, with revised linkages for 2003.

Like the rest of the chassis package, the suspension is the best you can get – and adjustable for a wide range of weights and riding styles.

Which leaves very little on the RSV-R to fault. But there are some irks. Personally, I don’t like the matt black frame – the polished alloy item is a work or art, and painting it black detracts from the craftmanship.

I’m not a fan of the RSV looks either, even with the slimmer rear-end, and I reckon Aprilia’s graphics leave a bit to be desired. But they’re all subjective assessments, and open to debate. What can’t be disputed is the RSV-R’s dynamic abilities, helped by the best components money can buy.

During its tenure at Horror HQ the RSV-R handled flat-knacker laps at Phillip Island, sporting strops into the mountains, daily commuting – and even that abbreviated trail-riding soiree. Narrow focus it ain’t.

Sure, at $31,490 the RSV-R is expensive – and it won’t lap a race track faster than a top-class rider on a Suzuki GSX-R1000. But what price do you put on exotic excellence?

Aprilia RSV 4 Max Biaggi Replica

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