2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory first ride

Our man Al got the golden ticket for a ride round Mugello circuit on the new Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory last week. Here’s how he got on.

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
Engine Capacity
Massive performance, high tech, superb track potential
Only comes in black. Dealers can be scarce depending where you live

CHOICE. WE’VE never had more of it. From the 28 different types of garlic mayonnaise on my local supermarket shelf, to the two *million* different apps on the Apple App store, there’s something for everyone out there; assuming you have the cash.

We have it in the bike world too of course. Nowadays, you can go for a sportsbike, a super naked, retro naked, dirt-biased adventure, asphalt-biased adventure, power cruiser, bobber, flat-tracker, scrambler, scrambler or scrambler… Even within some classes, the choice is stunning. Who’d have thought we could end up with seven different four-cylinder litre superbikes? Nine actually if you include the 1100 versions of Ducati’s Panigale V4 and Aprilia’s RSV4. Thirteen if you’re really picky, and include the Honda Fireblade SP, Yamaha R1M, Kawasaki ZX-10RR and Suzuki GSX-R1000R as separate models. Erk.

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I’ve got no choice about the venue for my ride on the new Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory today – but that’s certainly not a bad thing. We’re heading for Mugello, which is without doubt one of the best tracks in the world. If it was a London hotel, it would be Claridges, the Ritz, the Shard Shangri-La and the Langham, all rolled up into one. Nestled in the lush fertile hills between Bologna and Florence, it looks as beautiful as it rides too. It’s a proper bucket list place, and if you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to sort a trip out.

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

We’ve been blessed with proper weather too. Unlike the Deutsch debacle a couple of weeks back, when we rode the BMW S1000RR at a soaked Estoril, Mugello’s basking under a cloudless sky, the slightly chilly asphalt quickly warming up in the sunshine. And it’s not the only thing getting toasty: a row of all-black Aprilia superbikes is lined up in front of the pit garages, engines warming under the techs’ throttle blips, test riders taking them out one by one to scrub in tyres.

The bikes look mean and purposeful – just as the spec list revealed when they were launched at the Milan show last year. Aprilia couldn’t let Ducati be the only billy big-bollocks with an 1100cc superbike, could they? And the Noale firm was halfway there anyway; its super-naked Tuono has used an 1100 V-4 engine since 2015 now, so the engineers already had the 81mm big-bore kits sorted out. Add an extra injector per cylinder, bump up the compression, change the valve timing for more top end power, and bingo: a (nearly) ready-made 1.1 litre four-cylinder motor, making 217 Italian horsepowers and a veritable mountain of torque. There are fewer changes to the rest of the bike: detail mods to steering geometry, new brakes, and some very MotoGP-style aerodynamic winglets on the main fairing. 

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

We get a quick track briefing, some more final technical details, and I’m into my Alpinestars airbag suit and boots, Arai lid plonked onto my skull and ready to go. There’s no messing here: unlike most firms, Aprilia’s not bothering with sighting laps or warmup sessions. First group is out for 15 mins, then we’re up. The techs peel off the tyre warmers, and pop my bike down off its paddock stands. I take a deep breath, and jump on. The seat is tall, and I can only just get one foot down – so best get moving before I topple over. Into first, a bucket of revs and we’re off and down pitlane, my hips strained slightly by the high pegs.

I’ve been round Mugello before – but not for a long time. I have vague flickering memories of where it goes, but my first couple of laps are steady as you like, as my sleepy brain warms up, and I settle into the compact, purposeful superbike below me. The dash and switchgear is a bit more familiar – I last rode the RSV4 at Donington last summer, and that colourful TFT screen plus the useful little joystick take me back to that super-hot July track day.

I’m brought back to the present with a jolt though. I’ve done a couple of steady laps, and decide to give the Aprilia a bit more of a shove. Brake hard at the end of the straight, throw myself round turn one on a random line, and slam the throttle open up the hill towards turn two…

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

Erk. Not for the last time today, I’m shouting big bad swear words inside my Arai, as the RSV4 kicks like a Clydesdale horse on dark-web ketamine. The electronics are working quick-fast to try and keep the front wheel down and the whole plot pointing in the right direction, and I’m at the next braking point before I know it. Slam the anchors on, curse again at the withering deceleration forces, throw the bike onto its side, and I’m through and out, and ready to do it all over again.

The rest of the lap is similarly frantic. I stick to second gear for most of the next series of corners, riding it like you might expect to ride a revvy sportsbike. And it’s giving me a right old hard time. I’m hanging on for dear life, the motor thrashing away below me, and tiring quickly. Is this all too much after all?

Another couple of laps of this, and we’re in for a quick break, some sparkling water and another espresso, then I’m ready to go out again. This time, I’m taking a suggestion from one of the test riders, and trying a higher gear. All the bends I was tackling in second now get third – and the ride is transformed. The bigger engine has all the torque you need to pull that higher ratio through a bend, and using the upper-midrange grunt rather than the screaming top end is much more satisfying. The RSV4 has always been more like an inline-four than a torquey big twin in terms of power delivery, but this larger capacity lump has moved things a little towards the torquey way of riding. 

2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

And it’s working incredibly well. The sound from the new Akrapovic titanium silencer is awesome, the fuelling is precise and predictable, and once you adapt to the super-quick-action throttle, it’s actually really controllable. The quickshifter is ace both up and down (though I do get one or two bad downshifts later in the day), and the APRC electronics package is keeping things in check very nicely indeed. The wheelie control is keeping the front wheel on a near-perfect level of hover out of the slower bends, and while the traction control is clearly doing plenty of work in the background, you’re not feeling any interruption to drive.

Away from the motor, the Pirelli Supercorsas are giving heroic grip levels, Öhlins’ premium track suspension is giving ‘magic carpet’-spec wheel control, and the Brembo Stylema calipers dig me out of a couple of self-inflicted holes with ease. The steering is light and easy – you can put the RSV4 just where you want it with no effort – yet it’s also super-stable down the straights.

I’m gradually working my way through the bends now, and starting to get a hold on them – my favourite section runs from turns 6-9 – Casanova, Savelli, Arrabbiata 1 and Arrabbiata 2. So we have a quick downhill right, into a left, then right back up the hill and finally a blind, slightly off-camber right turn at the top of the crest. It’s a trial of technical ability, track knowledge, and a proper bottle test too. And the RSV4 1100 simply eggs you on each lap to try harder, get on the gas sooner, push all the way through…

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