Growing up fast: One morning, four Aprilias

We try to condense a potential lifetime spent riding Aprilias into one morning

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Simon Greenacre's picture
Submitted by Simon Greenacre on Thu, 07/07/2016 - 18:33

Aprilia RS4 125, Aprilia Tuono V4, Aprilia Caponord Rally, Aprilia RSV4 RF

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…

RS4 125

Aprilia RS4 125

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.

Aprilia RS4 125 rear end

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

Aprilia 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.

Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory front fairing

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…).

RSV4 RF

Aprilia RSV4 RF

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.

Aprilia RSV4 RF nose fairing

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.

Caponord Rally

Aprilia 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.

Aprilia Caponord Rally

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.

Comments

I owned an old V2 Tuono for 7 years, and don't get me wrong I loved it more than any Japanese bike I'd had before or since.....but unless I had a huge pot of money and at least one other bike in the garage I'd never buy another Aprilia. The first 2 years of ownership were brilliant but from then on it broke down at least once a year (always electrical failure of some sort). Worse than the breakdowns was the time off road waiting for parts. Aprilia's dealer network in the UK is not great, and if they don't have the part in stock get ready to wait. Griff at Aprilia Performance can work wonders, and he's the only reason I kept my bike as long as I did but overall Aprilia's are great to ride but terrible to own.

I had an '07 Tuono that was reasonably trouble free in the six years and 15k miles I owned it. A broken vacuum line was the biggest problem I had, and that only cost a few bucks to fix.

Mattie, I do agree that parts availability was a little shaky. Once I started buying everything online from af1racing.com, it wasn't a real problem as they generally had everything I ever needed in stock. Of course, I also onwed two or three bikes at all times, so maybe I didn't feel the pain of downtime as acutely.

All in all, I loved my Tuono, and it wasn't bad to own. I really only sold it to buy a Super Duke 1290, and not even someone as weird/dumb as me could own a Tuono and a Super Duke at the same time.

Like you Mattie, I owned a V2 Tuono, plus 3 RSVR V2s and a Tuono, but I never had a problem with any of them.
However I accept that all bikes have problems, but I don't think you can judge current products on the basis of your experience of a bike that has now been out of production for at least 6 years.

You are right motoloco, this is an irrational prejudice based solely on my own historic experience. My dear dad still says "I'll never have another Fiat" because he had one that rusted to dust in 1970. Mine was an 08 V2 and I racked up 25,000 miles so it was well used, and ultimately I'll be the one who loses out if I never try a V4. I guess very little of purchasing a bike is 'rational' but if I ever get permission from the boss to spend money on a bike again I can't afford for it to be stuck in the garage racking up repair bills.

My own experience with 8 years on a Falco were fantastic. The bike was sore on batteries (4 in that time), but apart from usual consumables, that was it! I'm far from good at bike cleaning, but there were two bolts that rusted a bit and that was all. Reliability was just great and the thinkn never needed as much as a bulb.
Contract that with 6 years on a R1200GSAdventure, and you'd think I'd got the stories the wrong way round...

Is the Shiver nor a current model? Seems odd not to have in the test between the 125 and tuono. I've have had mine for 6 years / 15k miles since new. Only part that failed is starter solenoid a simple fix. Starting is weak in cold weather so I may try a better battery this winter. Otherwise it was a bargain....well except 12k valve service pricing.

Interesting fact: none of these bikes are Euro 4 compliant, and Piaggio have promised new "sporty" models by 2017, which means new Aprilias...

I would have liked to have see a comparison between the Shiver and the Capo, though, given the shared platform.

The sparse dealer network is still a problem.

snagzie's picture

Proud 2004 tuono owner here, and agree about Griff @ Aprilia Performance being a legend.

From what I understand, the newer tuonos are nowhere near as reliable as the older ones with a rotax engine.

I returned to biking after a break and with arthritic knuckles in my left hand. I discovered the Aprilia Mana with a CVT drive and auto clutch. Not a current model in the UK now, but still available in some countries in Europe. At 75hp it is never going to set the streets alight, but it's a very capable (and now pretty rare) middle weight sports/tourer and I wouldn't give mine up for anything.

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