First Ride

Aprilia RSV4 Factory versus 2009 Honda Fireblade

After glimpses of brilliance on the bike's wet launch at Misano, Visordown has finally tested the new V4 Aprilia back-to-back with the best 1000cc sportsbike out there, Honda's CBR1000RR Fireblade




Aprilia's RSV4 ... makes the 'Blade feel soft

First, a confession; the RSV4 Factory does it for me in a massive way and, for that reason, the following words aren’t the most objective you’ll read today. It’s simple maths. In my shed sit a V4 Honda NC30, 1991 vintage, and a 2002 Aprilia RSV-R. Were they to mate, the inspired offspring would be the RSV4.

A couple of months ago, James Whitham and Niall Mackenzie were kept from the RSV4 Factory’s world launch at Misano by hectic diaries and I got the gig. Italy’s notoriously slippery Misano circuit may have been rain-lashed but the Aprilia’s class shone through: unbelievable agility; easy, usable power; and the kind of charisma that has your brain thinking £15,000’s actually very reasonable for a plaything. I was smitten.

And now, on dry, sun-baked UK roads, the Aprilia is equally bewitching. Having turned up on the Fireblade, I was all set to praise its effortless handling, silky power and mighty brakes – “What more could you possibly want?” and all that. Then I rode the Aprilia. By contrast the Honda felt soft, a little remote and just a little ordinary. The big-money Italian superbike was the easier of the two machines to go fast on immediately. Told you this thing’s got me in a big way.

The RSV4 Factory is too small and far too firm, both of suspension and of seat, to be road-practical in any rational sense, but when you actually get to the bits of road we ride for, those dry, well-sighted corner-complexes miles from anywhere, the Aprilia experience is pixel-perfect High Definition next to the Blade’s slighty fuzzy cathode-ray alternative. The Italian bike is completely locked down, with no lost movement from either its suspension or its Pirelli Supercorsa tyres.

It reacts to your every input with a shocking immediacy and accuracy, babbling away with priceless feedback that encourages you to attack every corner like Ben Spies’ R1 is on your tail. The brakes are similarly honest – there’s no initial comfort travel, no fuzz, just the kind of stopping power that swells confidence. And then there’s the engine: powerful, drivable, usable and as beautiful to listen to as it is to use. The little things are right, too. The engine may be hugely powerful but the on/off fuelling’s perfect and the few degrees of dead travel in the throttle perfectly judged, the power’s there only when you want it. The gearbox is good too, with a shift action that’s been improved noticeably since the launch bikes.

So yes, if you really do spend hours at a time in the saddle, crossing the Channel to playground Europe every couple of weeks in summer to junk a pair of tyres, go Fireblade – the Aprilia will batter your backside into surrendering long before you reach Dover.

But if you live for those snatched moments of dynamic bliss that elevate riding a motorcycle to something with angels singing and stuff, you worship race bikes as some people do that God chap and you hear race engines in your dreams, whether they belong to Doohan’s Suzuka 8 Hour RVF or Andrea Dovizioso’s RCV on the overrun, the RSV4 is every bit as awesome as you dared dream it would be. That it’s also beautifully built, with detailing you could lose months taking in, is just the cherry on a cake the size of Rome’s Coliseum.

For a full evaluation of the Aprilia RSV4 Factory against both the Fireblade and its exotica rivals – KTM's RC8R, the Ducati 1198S and the MV Agusta F4 312RR – check out the August issue of Two Wheels Only, on sale on June 26

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