YOU KNOW what keeps me awake at night? It’s not money worries, an enormous workload or the sound of next door’s amorous adventures coming through the thin walls. No, what keeps me awake is the fact that there are so many bikes out there that I haven’t ridden.
It’s a terrifying and marvelous thought. Terrifying because I probably won’t get to ride all the bikes I want to swing a leg over and marvelous because there’s so much amazing stuff out there (and not even thought of) that I’ve yet to sample.
Until Tuesday, one of the marques I’d never ridden was Aprilia. I’d never even kicked the tyres of a mate’s one (no mates, see). I lusted after an RS125 when I was 17, but could never get together enough cash for a decent one, so the dream went unfulfilled and I had be content with gawping and smelling its sweet perfume whenever one went by, much as I did with girls at the time.
But this week I got to pop my Aprilia cherry when they invited me to sample some of their current models. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and after a super sausage-based breakfast at the Super Sausage Café in Potterspury I got to take my pick of their range.
Having never ridden any Aprilias before, I decided to spend my Tuesday morning recreating my ideal Aprilia ownership journey through a potential lifetime on two wheels – starting with the RS4 125, then moving to the Tuono 1100 Factory before graduating to the RSV4 RF and finishing with the more comfortable Caponord Rally.
I spent up to one hour on each bike, so this is by no means an in-depth review of each model, but an overview of what they’re like. I also wanted to find out if there’s a common thread that links each bike together, irrespective of differences in capacity, power and style of bike. Let’s go…
Having never owned a two-stroke RS125 when I was at my most stupid and reckless, I has to plump for the125cc RS4 first because, well look at it – it looks like the RS4 superbike and if I was 17 again and had the money, I’d be dreaming of this all day long.
But even though it looks like the full-fat superbike, once aboard, I was under no illusion that it’s a small capacity bike – it’s tiny. However, its size comes with some advantages and its full-factory looks are backed up with a sporty riding position and light, swift steering.
Railing it round some of the roads near Silverstone made me wish I was 17 again riding everywhere flat-out with a group of friends, all of us slipstreaming each other wring every last mph out of the bike’s 15hp.
Although the power isn’t huge, it’s still an enjoyable bike to ride because it made me think more about trying to carry speed through corners, although the Mitas Bogart tyres didn’t fill me with confidence, even though the suspension felt good and the brakes were up to the job of retarding my hooning round Northampton’s back roads.
The RS4 125 is undoubtedly a fun bike because it makes 60mph felt more like 90 thanks to the rev counter constantly living above 9,000 rpm with the engine singing it’s heart out and me tucked in to maintain speed and momentum, which makes it feel racy and engaging.
Tuono V4 1100 Factory
OK, in real life people don’t jump from a 125 to a 175hp Tuono but if I’d had the chance, I would have (right before spunking myself into a wall, undoubtedly).
The Tuono V4 is a trouser-tentingly beautiful bike – its shape, lines and proportioning is sublime and it looks perfect from any angle.
As well as looking ready for attack, it feels like a race bike sans-fairings because it put me in a compact and poised position that felt more closely related to a fully-faired sportsbike than any other supernaked I’ve ever ridden.
And Jesus, it’s angry too. The killer looks are matched by a superb engine that delivers 175hp of pure violence and theatre courtesy of a growling exhaust note, with a beautiful scream that crescendos as the revs on the analogue tacho climb and climb.
The package is rounded off by amazing Brembo brakes and sublime Ohlins suspension plus a comprehensive electronics package and Pirelli Diablo Supercorsas.
Simply put, thanks to mammoth power, incredible noise and stunning beautiful looks, Tuono V4 delivered an exotic and completely beguiling ride that I couldn’t get enough of; writing this now makes me want to have another go. (So if you’re listening, Mr Aprilia…).
Getting to ride the big gun, and the most aspirational bike in Aprilias armory was obviously very nice indeed, but riding it on the road was a little frustrating because it’s so awesomely fast and capable that I needed to rein myself in.
There is also absolutely no way I could even begin to get a sense of what the RSV4 RF is really like and capable of because I’d end up dead or arrested. Scratching the surface requires a track and more talent than there’s room for in my feeble body. I can tell you that from the time I spent riding it round Northampton being paranoid about the police and wishing it was mine, I could tell that the front end feels superb – the RSV4 RF turns precisely and with such composure and confidence that on a stretch of road I know quite well, I was able to brake later and turn harder than I’ve ever dared on other bikes I’ve ridden round there.
You’ll likely be expecting this but the engine is phenomenal, the brakes are phenomenal and the suspension is also ‘mazing. What the FSV4 does in a similar style to the Tuono make you feel special through what feels like its unending power, sublime looks and presence and when I gave the keys back, I couldn’t help but whisper a little ‘Ciao bella’ to the RSV4 before, suddenly become a little older and a tiny bit more sensible, I walked over to the next bike, the Caponord Rally.
The Caponord Rally might seem like the sensible choice on this list and to an extent it is – I chose it last because after spending my prime years hooning about on the Tuono and RSV4, I think I’ll be ready for something a bit more comfortable and less uncompromising. However, there’s more to the Caponord than just a comfy seat and upright riding position.
It carries echoes of the family styling present in the RSVs and Tuono and although its 125hp isn’t going on terms with the two previous big power offerings, there was plenty of midrange grunt to shove me down the road, delivered with a nice note from the exhaust.
And it was a bumpy road, but thanks to the ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping), the Caponord Rally felt well connected to the ground and even when I was getting a bit of a move on, it felt stable and controlled, and it handled with a lightness and ease that belies it 238kg weight.
Add in the wide bars and nice riding position, which is supplemented by a wide, comfy seat and tall screen and it made me feel like I could have popped up to Scotland for the afternoon. But I wouldn’t have, even if I had the time, because like so many big adventure bikes, I just didn’t get on with the Caponord Rally as well as I’d hoped. It’s me, not the bike – I was just a bit too short and weedy to really feel like I was properly in charge at very slow speeds.
At the end of the day, I came away scheming about how to finance a Tuono, I loved it; it’s bonkers, fun, gorgeous and feels like it gives you more on the road than the RSV4. I don’t doubt that it would be immense on track and capable of way more than my talent will allow, but that’s a good thing.
The RSV4 RF was awesome too, but felt too scalpel sharp to really exploit on the road – and I’m not saying that I’m the man to do that on track, just that I think I could get a bit more out of it on circuit.
he Caponord Rally, as comfortable and capable as it is, wasn’t for me, although it could be at a later stage.
Finally, the RS4 125 – it’s a sharp fun and tenacious shadow of the 200hp superbike it takes its form from, and exactly the kind of thing I wanted when I was a teenager.
I sounds cliché, but for me, the thing that ties them all together is a sense of drama and emotion – two words frequently bandied about when discussing Italian bikes, and for good reason.
The small RS4 is keen for a ragging. The Tuono is loud and beautiful with a fierce, mad engine, and although the RSV4 has a similar character, I think it’s a bit more clinical. Am I allowed to describe an Italian bike like that? Finally, the Caponord has the punch, personality and a pleasurable ride and felt like a logical, albeit calmer relative to the V4-engined machines. Now I’ve ticked those off my list, I can sleep a little easier tonight.