Living with a 2002 Aprilia RSV Mille R

Did Bertie get on with the RSV Mille R, read on for his longterm verdict...

June 2002

On your right is the Aprilia RSV Mille R. Bertie Simmonds not pictured. And why wasn't I? Well, I just couldn't do it...

Sticking my ugly mug in the picture alongside such a thing of great beauty would have been tantamount to Bernard Manning being spotted gurning in the background of the Mona Lisa. From the sublime to the ridiculous. Instead I chose to be on the other side of the camera, contemplating her fate.

Firstly, the running in procedure. Studious observance of the 5,000 revs 500 mile initial period should be done as per the rule book, as Aprilia UK found that RSVs that have been looked after produce more power over ones that a thrashed from the off. A well run in motor gives you 2/3bhp extra, with the best seen yet on the dyno 133bhp from a standard machine. Nice. So, after the shoot I decided I'd better put some miles on her. Nipping about shows that the RSV isn't a Ducati-style torture device. For us six-foot 18-stoners out there, I can state that the Aprilia is a Ducati, while perhaps not for the masses, certainly for the massive, as I found it pretty comfortable. The switchgear, clocks and looks have changed a little bit over the years. There's now an attractive red glow from the clocks (still overcomplicated, five buttons, you do need the manual), there's small carbon add-ons on the fairing by the headlights, the exhaust hanger now has footrests attached (although this is a single-seat machine, you can get a seat for it) and the switchgear now has the horn where the indicators are and vice versa. Meaning that I spent the first few miles indicating my preferred direction of travel with a toot of the horn... With the price of the Mille R coming down to the sub ten thousand mark, I still reckon it's a bit of a bargain to its rivals, especially when you consider you're getting Öhlins suspension front and rear, Öhlins steering damper, Goldline Brembo brakes and trick OZ racing wheels.

Still, all these lovely bits still can't erase the painful memory of running the bike in. Five thou in top still equates to around 80mph so things weren't too bad, but having such a bella machine and only being able to take her to half of the normal rev range is a feeling akin to only being able to stick the tip of your John Thomas in your lovely lady. You know the score - there's fun to be had, but you know there's more fun on tap should you be allowed to push it just a little bit further...

July 2002

The honeymoon period lasted about a thousand miles. I partly blame myself. She was overdue for a service when the oil pressure sensor blew. I was on the M25 at the time and I pooed my pants through the blue smoke and skittered to a halt. Thankfully, I was covered by the Aprilia Breakdown service. Well, I thought I was. A phone call revealed that the company who ran it no longer ran it and the guys at Aprilia weren't home to tell me who the new operators were. So, two hours later and the wonderful AA finally picked me up. I was cheered by the fact that it wasn't anything major, and it was booked in for a service with Motorcycle City in Purley, so I was a bit relieved that any neglect on my part wasn't too blame. In fact, we had a similar problem with the CapoNord last year and our friends at First Bike report that it can be a common problem. Any of you owners out there had a similar problem?

The problem was fixed under warranty, but the part itself took best part of a week to turn up and get fitted! Apparently this is the norm with Aprilia bits. I took the bike to Motorcycle City in Puley (0208 7635703). They also did the first service, which costs a fair bit - £328 - because it takes around four hours as the clearances have to be checked. I have to big up the chaps at City, as they did a great job, and called me to let me know about the delay with the part. They even adjusted the clock to British Summer time and cleaned the oil from the rear tyre. Cheers lads and lasses. Now I'm clear to fit my pipe and chip, which are direct from Aprilia themselves. Let's see what extra power I get from my delectable Italian mistress...

October 2002

I can see the headlines already. "Landmark case as fat bloke sues Aprilia for chronic lumbago". Right now I've got a pain between my shoulder blades that feels like I've been knifed by a tennis fan and a back that feels so compressed I'm depressed. It's 2.30 on Monday, I hate this bike and I'm cursing Gus who's bloody idea it was to ride to Cumbria for this test. I'm all for doing some decent miles on these trips but I'd already done 600 miles in the two days before we left.

Let's rewind.

Saturday, four pm, Hampshire. I'm leaving a mate's house and am off to Margate. The sun is shining and the A272 to Uckfield, the A22 to Hastings and finally the glorious coastal A259 to Thanet are all just too good to resist. Four hours later and I'm tired, but happy as I arrive at my sister's gaff with another 180 miles or so on the odometer. A bit of pottering around visiting rellies ensues - another 50 miles, then come Sunday night it's back in the saddle and back home up North to Kettering (another 160 miles) before a quick kip at home followed by the 300-odd miles up the M6 to Cumbria, accompanied by Daryll on the SilverWing.

So Gus, forgive me if you wondered why I was in such a bad mood. All I can do is thank God I wasn't on a Ducati 998. But that's the point with the Mille for me - it's got some of the kudos of the Duke with only some of the back pain. The whole trip was completed with a bit of back and shoulder pain as a constant backdrop, but on the twisty bits the smile on my face drowned it out completely. It was kind of like walking over hot coals to get to a cold beer at the end.

In total the Mille has now got 7,105 miles on the clock - that's a year and a half's average milage in just three months. With roughly 150 miles to a tankful (reserve comes on at around 90-130 miles depending on how hard you twist the loud handle) that equates to some 46 fill-ups costing around £644. Add in the cost of the two services so far, (around £500), the Aprilia Race pipe (£450) and the extra set of Pirelli Supercorsas (£235, fitted) and the total price of owning this Italian beauty so far comes to £1,829, or 26.5p per mile, not including original price or insurance. Not cheap but not bad given what you get for your cash.

Any other useful information? Build quality is excellent. Hand on heart, I truly find it as good as the Honda FireBlade I had last year.

If it gets dirty a quick spruce up has it looking gorgeous again. That satin finish comes up nicely with a quick squirt of Motrax's Purple Helmet Polish and the bike's only let down by the race pipe. It gets loose quickly thanks to those big power pulses, and worse - you can see the scorch marks where it leaks out of the seals at either end of the can. Not good for all that money. As these are used for racing, Aprilia probably feel this is okay, but I don't. In fact, speaking to some ex Aprilia Mille Challenge series riders I've heard four out of ten of the end cans do the same thing.

The chain has hardly ever needed adjusting though. That's partly due to the fact I don't do wheelies and the GP Products Super Chain Lube I've used for years really seem to work. As it's not sticky it doesn't attract shit to your chain and sprockets. I got more than 16,000 miles from my old ZX-9R chain and sprockets that way. It keeps the chain clean, too. Just make sure you spray it carefully and avoid the tyres.

To try and make the machine more practical, I got hold of a Whoppa bag (stop laughing at the back) which costs £55. You need a fitting kit (£18) but with it all in place you can pack a fair old amount (25 litres) into the space where the pillion seat/seat hump was before. Okay, so it does take away a dash of the Mille's  style, but it helps for those long hauls (like to Cumbria, eh Gus?), saves on osteopath's bills incurred by long distances with rucksacks, and chances are when I swap bikes I can simply change the fitting kit and take the bag with me. Handy, smart and practical. Check out the Baglux range on 01745 338080 or on

Hmm, I've just read this little lot back and now my aches and pains have gone, maybe it is a bloody good bike and not the back-breaker I thought. Best just have another blast down the A686 to make sure...

Actually, scratch that last happy thought. It's two days since I wrote this piece but I've just had a call from Wozza saying me bike's gone pop on him at Donington. Under the Dunlop bridge, midway through a fine trackday, all seemed well when all of a sudden the motor died and our Woz was forced to coast shamefacedly into the pits. My poor bike! I knew I should never have leant it to him - he's got an inverse Midas touch - everything he touches turns to shit...

Bertie's Mille-R

Mileage: 7,105
Good points: comfortable and useful
Bad points: uncomfortable and useless. Eh?