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APRILIA RSV4 RF at the AMCN AUSTest | Bike Tests | Latest Tests

How did the Aprilia RSV4 RF rate at the recent 2017 AMCN AUSTest fair?

APRILIA RSV4 RF

When Aprilia decided to design and manufacture the RSV4 series back in 2008 it was made with one thing in mind: winning the World Superbike title. And win it did, with dominant performances by Max Biaggi and Sylvain Guintoli proving the bike’s worth. The roadbike, however, had always been disappointing, lacking power compared to its souped-up racetrack-modified form.

Aprilia put that right last year with both the standard RSV and the RF version receiving big horsepower gains, transforming the roadbike from a show pony to a real trackday weapon. It’s easy to have a soft spot for these V4 masterpieces, and judging from the crew’s comments about the RSV, it won a lot of hearts with its passionate design and styling. It’s a beautiful bike with the striking Italian-themed paint scheme and high-end Öhlins suspension package giving it an opulent appearance, although it does lack the electronic dynamic damping kit fitted to the Ducati, Yamaha and Honda.

Aprilia has gone down the TFT route for the instrument cluster, modernising the cockpit and allowing the addition of some extra high-tech features unavailable before. There’s a built-in infotainment system to keep you connected to the outside world, much clearer and easier-to-read speedo and tacho with a plethora of settings and information all accessed using the new controls on the left-hand switchblock. That’s a big improvement for the RF, as the previous electronic system was a nightmare to navigate.

Like the others, the bike is now Euro 4 compliant, but thanks to some significant internal engine modifications it’s got slightly more power than the older bike and at the same time is more efficient. Importantly the balance hasn’t been affected in the sense that it still maintains the three Ps: Passion, Pace and Physical attraction.

The thing that stands out with the Aprilia is the way it can just grab your soul – it truly makes you feel like you are racing for the world championship. When we put Shawn Giles behind the handlebars he said it reminded him of the RC30 Honda he raced as a lad. The RC was a special bike, and the fact that the RSV is not only fast but gets people like Shawn excited says a lot.

Some of the riders felt the anti-wheelie was intrusive on the minimum settings. If you are a seriously fast trackday contender looking to break the lap record you will need to turn it off and ride old school – oh, and the Aprilia is capable of that.

Even though the Aprilia is heading towards its 10th birthday it’s still the one bike that can stand out in the crowd, perhaps the Bugatti Veyron of the bunch. It’s fast, it handles and stops on a 10c piece, plus its Italian heritage makes the crowd take note. And when you hear one coming…

Second ops – Shawn Giles

The Aprilia felt like a racebike straight up without doing too much to it. You can ride to Phillip Island and download the settings the World Superbike team would use and load them straight into the ECU. The V4 engine has a very smooth delivery which enables you to get on the power early. You can play with the settings on the fly and the amount of information and feedback you can download would help you understand where you can improve.

Harley from RB Racing says…

The RSV4 is as lively on the dyno as it is on the road. There is short pause in the torque curve at 4000rpm, but after that, the engine builds strong power all the way to the rev-limiter. The response from the ride-by-wire system is sharp, and at no point lags or feels detached, and the quickshifter is smooth and slick going both up and down. The fuelling gets a bit on the rich side above 10,000rpm. That could be easily mapped out, or would suit an aftermarket muffler or full exhaust system.

  1. New TFT dash on the RSV4  is easier to navigate than on the previous model and includes phone connectivity
  2. The right-hand twist grip on the Aprilia is a dial to a lot of pleasure!
  3. Twin 330mm discs at the front with Brembo four-piston radial calipers makes this one of the highest-spec brake packages among the bikes tested

Price $31,990
Power 132.93kW
Torque 105.33Nm

2017 AMCN AUSTest

Once it was the kind of cutting-edge technology you’d find only on MotoGP and WSBK bikes; now electronic assist systems and dynamic suspension are the rule for all big-bore production superbikes, not the exception.

In our last AUSTest, back in 2015, we celebrated the rebirth of the superbike, when the world’s top manufacturers pulled themselves out of the GFC doldrums and got back to work creating proper one-litre speed machines. Bugger the cost, and bugger the practicality they said.

Two years later, the world’s fastest and most desirable machines have morphed once more. With big-bore nakedbikes becoming the machine of choice for the regular rider wanting usable power, handling and looks in a package they can live with day to day, production superbikes have become the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the motorcycling world. Crammed full of power, performance and electronics few will ever fully test, and riding on a suspension package that can adjust itself on the fly, these machines are gorgeous examples of what is possible, yet are impractical for the road – and that’s why we love them.

In another first for AUSTest, every bike tested this year sits well over the $20,000 mark. If your five-figure budget begins with a 1, you are out of luck. All that technology comes at a cost, but as you are about to discover, a higher price mostly offers better value for money.

While the evolution of the superbike has continued unabated, one thing returning to the way of old is how we conduct AUSTest. For 2017, we were back in NSW and invited manufacturers to be hands on, requesting each deliver their bike accompanied by a factory-trained technician to help our test riders find the best possible set-up. Such is the high regard the manufacturers have for the AUSTest title, most sent multiple staff and the show looked more like a round of the ASBK than a shootout. That’s fitting, considering our AUSTest combatants often go head to head on the track.

In the end, there can be only one winner, and over the next 26 pages we will take you through the exhausting testing process. Then, when you think you have the winner sussed, we will reveal our champion. Enjoy the ride – we certainly did.

Day 1

Sydney Dragway

It’s a known fact that there’s no quicker way to get away from the lights than to use a machine producing in excess of 130kW and weighing just 200kg. Now, imagine a set of traffic lights where you don’t need to shut the throttle before changing to second gear and obliterating the speed limit. Such a place exists at Western Sydney. With a surface as sticky as shit on a blanket, and electronic timing with reaction times and speed traps, it’s a quarter mile of international-standard heaven that hosts some of the fastest drag bikes and cars in the world.

We lined our six AUSTest combatants up two at a time to test their launch and wheelie control, and of course, to see which could cover the quarter mile distance in the quickest time at the fastest speed. Before getting underway, those in the know said that a low 10-second pass would be impressive.

What eventuated left the experts gobsmacked.

Day 2

Wakefield Park Raceway, Goulburn

A regular stop on the ASBK circuit, Wakefield Park is tight and technical – an evil-handling bike will quickly be found out on the undulating 2.2km circuit. Throw in strong winds and unpredictable weather, and you need to be on the ball.

For a full day we rotated the six AUSTest bikes through the hands of the eight track-test riders. As conditions improved, and the technicians fine-tuned the bikes, the lap times began to drop. While there are no AUSTest points on offer for the fastest lap, there are definitely bragging rights, and everyone wanted them.

We won’t spoil the surprise, but we will say that the lap times set would have seen our stock-standard AUSTest entrants line up mid-grid at an ASBK round. Impressive stuff.

Day 3

Road ride,  Goulburn to Sydney

The chosen route was 400km-plus of tight twisty and open country road special stages connected by freeway hops, all packed into a non-stop day. This provided the riders with a chance to sample each bike in the environment where it will be most used. An uncomfortable seating position or snatchy fuelling will always be revealed on a road ride. AUSTest titles have been won and lost in this section of the test.

Day 4

On the dyno

Are the claimed numbers bullshit? There is only one way to find out: with a dyno.

Our final destination for AUSTest 2017 was RB Racing at Caringbah where Harley Borkowski ran each of the bikes on the dynamometer to measure kW and Nm output. Harley was also one of our test riders this year, giving him the unique opportunity to see if the dyno numbers correlated to what the seat of his pants said.

THE METHOD

Who buys a superbike? A snapshot of the current superbike buying public will reveal possibly one of the widest demographics of any genre. Everyone from riders graduating from a restricted licence through to those who have worked long and hard enough to afford a few luxuries in life are buying superbikes. Highly skilled riders and racers buy them, as well as people who just want to look like Messrs Márquez, Rossi and Lorenzo at the local café – and drool over what a production superbike has to offer. AUSTest is as much about real-world performance and looks as it is about race pedigree and lap times, so we assembled a group of riders that represent the broad spectrum of superbike buyers. Daily riders, trackday junkies, endurance champs, national-title winners, professional test riders and young guns presently contesting the national Superbike and Supersport categories all made up the eight-rider test team charged with the task of determining who made the best two-wheeled missile for the best price.

Each rider was given two sessions on each bike on the drag strip, track and the road. Then they were handed an extensive voting form covering everything from how the bike performed and how it made them feel, through to value for money and which bike simply did it for you – regardless
of the cost.

While quarter-mile sprint and track lap times provided an indication of performance as well as plenty of entertainment and all-important bragging rights, it’s the results from the points-based voting sheets that determined the AUSTest 2017 champion.

Tyres

In years past we have experimented with a control tyre for AUSTest. While the idea works in theory, in reality most manufacturers have a commercial agreement with a tyre manufacturer, and the bike is developed using those tyres. If you are a superbike owner keen to cut some serious laps at a trackday, you will be faced with a few brand and rubber compound choices. To simulate a real-world situation, we left tyre choice to the manufacturers. As long as the tyre was DOT approved and available in Australia it was good to go.

Each manufacturer’s choice of tyre for AUSTest is provided on the test results. Most used just the one set of tyres for the drag strip and trackday, reverting to the OEM tyres for the road ride.

Timing

Each bike’s best quarter-mile time and top speed, as well as its fastest lap time on the track, do not form part of the voting criteria for AUSTest 2017, so this information is irrelevant – said no sane motorcycle lover ever. The minute the first bike shot down the quarter mile at Sydney Dragway or turned the first lap at Wakefield Park, everyone had their stopwatch out.

Sydney Dragway has its own timing system, but for Wakefield Park we needed something reliable, easy to install and easy to understand, that provided results instantly. The SpeedAngle lap timer ticked all these boxes. The team from SpeedAngle provided a unit for each bike, and even programmed the name of each model into the system so there could be no mix-ups. All six units performed faultlessly throughout the day, capturing every lap of every session.