Road Test: RSV-R vs. Tornado TRE vs. 999S vs. F4 – Road Tests – Visordown

3 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Road Test: RSV-R vs. Tornado TRE vs. 999S vs. F4 – Road Tests – Visordown

Road Test: RSV-R vs. Tornado TRE vs. 999S vs. F4

When it comes to beauty nothing can beat the Italians. From the women to the food everything about the country oozes sex appeal, and the bikes are no exception. When it comes to style icons and creating bikes that tug on your heartstrings, the Italians lead the way with the Japanese playing catch up.

So for a test involving four of the most beautiful and exotic bikes Italy produces we decided on a pilgrimage to their home. A tour through the stunning scenery and roads of the Swiss Alps and into Italy for a night out with the beautiful people of Milan.

Surely Ducati’s controversially styled 999S, Benelli’s top of the range Tornado RS (designed by a Brit), Aprilia’s RSV-R Factory (also designed by a Brit) and the new MV Agusta F4-1000 would help us blend in with the locals.

But just in case they don’t there’s always a backup plan. None of these bikes are really designed for touring, and with only a bank holiday free we decided to draw straws and van the bikes through the dull motorways of France so we could enjoy the whole weekend in the Alps. Daryll was nominated van driver as he enjoys his own company while, as there was a chance of a decent cappuccino in the offing, TWO’s editor-in-chief Grant Leonard dragged his road testing leathers out of retirement.

Meanwhile someone prodded a sleeping Evil Jim in the corner of the office who, after a lot of swearing and dusting down of cobwebs, agreed to be the fourth rider as long as there was some decent wine involved somewhere along the route.

A van as back up just in case the old Italian bike curse hit us, three cheap Sleazyjet flights to Geneva sorted and a weekend of fun planned in a country of beautiful women, superb roads, decent weather and exotic machinery. Life is, as they say, good. And anyway, what could possibly go wrong?

We are professionals after all.


I thought the only things Switzerland was known for were cuckoo clocks, an army armed with penknives and being so neutral even the most bland of interior designers would despair. But throughout the weekend Grant would regale us with little gems of information about the country which became more preposterous as the journey progressed. Although he insisted they are all true.

Take the first one. As we landed at Geneva airport Grant told us to listen out for the intercom jingle, which he claimed played the first few notes of How much is that doggie in the window? Needless to say it didn’t.

But it did rain, and that was the first fly in the ointment. After a night in a Geneva hotel, during which we got well and truly fleeced by not checking the price of drinks, it was still raining as we unloaded the bikes. Not a problem; according to the paper it was dry in Milan, so on with the waterproofs and off we went.

Following the group along the motorway I could tell Grant had never ridden a Ducati 999 before because he spent the first five minutes attempting to adjust the mirrors to see anything apart from his elbows in them before giving it up as a bad idea. An Italian bike isn’t truly an Italian bike unless the mirrors are about as much use as mudguards on a tortoise, and true to form none of these four showed anything behind without lifting an elbow and looking under an armpit. Obviously baggy waterproofs didn’t help, but even with race leathers it was only the Aprilia’s mirrors that actually showed something of the world behind, and then only in the outer quarter of mirror.

As the weather was bad we decided to take a detour en route to Milan and call off at Montreux to worship at the statue of Freddie Mercury. The rock legend died in Montreux in 1991 and the statue, which was used as the image on the front of Queen’s ‘Made In Heaven’ album, was finally erected by the locals as a tribute.

Pulling up next to the statue the rain was starting to take its toll on the Benelli. Electrics are a traditional Italian weak spot and some water had got in somewhere on the RS, and it was now refusing to tick over properly. Daryll was having to rev the engine at every set of traffic lights to keep it going. The wet had also highlighted another problem, this time with the Aprilia. The Factory’s back brake had given up the ghost.

It felt like it just needed bleeding, and there was no sign of fluid leaking, but in the wet having a back brake is useful. But at least they were still running.

Benelli Tornado Tre RS
Benelli Tornado Tre RS

There doesn’t appear to be a neutral on the MV, said a sodden Jim.

The Benelli hasn’t got one either, unless you turn the engine off, agreed Daryll. I was struggling to find the green light on the Aprilia. Only the Ducati would actually go into neutral with any degree of certainty while the others generally needed their engines cut before disengaging a gear.

Through town, especially in the wet, this trait becomes a huge pain, not least on your wrists. None of these bikes have very light clutches or comfortable riding positions and at low speed a lot of the rider’s weight is directed on the wrists, so every stop is a chance to massage some life back into them. Which, obviously, you can’t do if there’s a clutch that needs holding in.

In fact through the whole weekend it was the Ducati’s gearbox that impressed the most. Not only did it contain just the one neutral, and in the right place too, but it was smooth, precise and light to use. The Benelli’s felt like the gears were churning themselves through a mixture of oil and sawdust as it was heavy to use and required extra effort to change, while the Aprilia clunked into gear, precise but noisy.

The MV didn’t feel particularly sweet either.

Respects paid to Freddie, we rode past signs to the fantastically named Gland (snigger) and scary Morgue and headed off, up and into the Alps.

With the view of the mountains shrouded by a covering of mist and rain I have to say I wasn’t massively impressed by my first visit to the Alps. The A1 and A9 from Geneva had been mainly dual carriageways and although reasonably sweeping were a bit dull and lifeless. But as we neared Italy the weather dried out and the roads turned into the fast, sweeping corners that I had been led to believe Alpine roads should be all about.

And the bikes were starting to come into their own.

Benelli Tornado Tre RS
Benelli Tornado Tre RS
Benelli Tornado Tre RS

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