First Ride: Aprilla RSV-R Mille Factory review

The Mille R is dead. It's replacement, the Mille Factory, has moved Bert to proclaim the machine to be the best Italian V-twin sportsbike on the market

Click to read: Aprilla RSV-R Mille Factory owners reviews, Aprilla RSV-R Mille Factory specs and to see the  Aprilla RSV-R Mille Factory image gallery.

Hug the kerb through the long downhill fourth-gear left and you'll come on to the heat haze that is Mugello's main straight.

As you pick the bike upright, stick your head beneath the Mille Factory's fairing. It ain't as easy as on the previous one, thanks to that narrower front end, but with all of Mugello's tortuous twists and turns to come once more you're just happy for the breather, even if all you're breathing is a blast of hot air kicked up in your face as you're sucked into that sculptured tank. Shift light comes on at 10,500 revs. Use the cut in ignition that the rev-limiter provides to snick the next gear while still pinning the throttle.

Flash past the pitwall, hug the pitlane exit and see if you're brave enough to keep it flat-stick over the rise. You won't be, at first, but after a couple of laps as you crest the rise you'll be clicking into top and heading towards the 300, 200 and 100 metre boards beyond which sits the inviting, greedy gravel trap. In a lap of the Gods, Ducati's MotoGP man Loris Capirossi was hitting 204mph down the straight before whacking on the anchors about 150 metres before the first turn. Sod that. I hazard a glance at the speedo and spot 160mph before I decide to chuck out the anchor just as the 200 board approaches.

WHOOOSHH...Those Brembo brake pixies hidden in those calipers work overtime as my arse attempts an overtake on my elbows. You have to be careful with these radial beauties, they'll spit you off into the ad hoardings if you use anything more than two fingers. Off the brakes, into the uphill right and you head back into Mugello's many sunkissed curves...

Memories are made of this. It's hard not to be rose-tinted when you're riding an Italian twin at a track like Mugello, but as I write this the memories are minty-fresh and, rose-tinted visors aside, the new Aprilia RSV1000R Factory is the best Italian V-twin sportsbike you can buy. I'll quantify that now and argue with you later...

Now, I loved the old Mille R. It was a big lad's Italian sportsbike dream. It is now dead, replaced by the Factory, while the old standard model (the RSV1000 Mille) is now replaced by the RSV1000R. Confused? Possibly. The new standard model comes with the same engine and frame as the Factory, although the frame is in an aluminium finish compared to the black of the Factory. The standard R has cheaper Showa forks and a Sachs shock, compared to the Öhlins the Factory gets, and heavier cast alloy wheels compared to the Factory's lightweight forged OZ ones. On the standard model, the Factory's superb Brembo radial brakes are ditched for standard Brembos, although they are the same as on the old Mille and 999S. You pays your money, as they say, and takes your choice, but at £8499, it's about the same as you could get a Suzuki GSX-R1000 for, even if the Suzuki is an insurance group lower (16 compared to 17).


We were only riding the Factory version on our dream day at Mugello, although the major differences between the new Milles and old models are the same, save for the extras you get on the Factory. Firstly, the motor. This is a development of the old faithful 60 degree double balancer shafted lump that has served Aprilia well in the past five years. The new updated motor, called 'V60 Magnesium', is so called thanks to the use of the exotic material on the cylinder head and clutch covers saving a little bit of weight. In those heads there are now only one spark plug per cylinder and compression has been upped slightly.

Power output is a claimed 138.7bhp at 9500 rpm which is more than eight up on the old model, although all of this is at the crank. Slightly taller gearing gets better use out of that little bit of extra oomph. Helping make this extra power is a new 16-bit ECU. The two big changes that also flavour the aesthetics are to the intake and exhaust systems. At the front is a wide open Honda SP-2 style ram-air snout. Aprilia agrees with Honda and Kawasaki in feeling that this is the best place to steal air for its ram-air system. While at the exhaust end of the bike, Aprilia has decided to make this actually look like a V-twin and return to twin upswept exhausts, which in my mind take me back to the old Ducati 851/888 and which are a darn sight more attractive than both Aprilia's old bulky dustbin silencers and the new underseat 999 ones.

The whole look of the bike was designed by a likeable Scot by the name of Martin Longmore. Martin was part of the Audi TT design team as well as working on a number of BMWs and the Aprilia Falco. He also crashed on the launch, which proves he tests what he designs...

And I reckon he's done a damn good job. Despite the slightly SP-2 look of the new Mille, I love it. The front is much more narrow than the older bike. Under that slimmer frontage sit much improved, easier to read clocks (digital speedo, analogue tacho) that are simpler to use The whole mid-section of the bike is narrower too, but still (I'm pleased to say) comfy for us big lads. Overall, it's a return to a more flowing, organic design of other Aprilias rather than the sci-fi looks of the old Mille. Where the old version had Dan Dare ray-gun tail-lights this has a more fluid strip tail light and a rounded rear end. The indicators are also faired into the tail-piece. It's a better rear end than a 999. Have I said that before? But let's get back on track.
While riding the bike and hearing others ride it, there's a real rasp to the Mille now, thanks to that intake noise and those extra bhp and revs to play with.

Thing is, it feels a bit flat. Where the old Mille would dip at four thou' and then kick in at six, this one simply tugs more than a teenager in borstal. There's no short, sharp, shock of power or character - just grunt. It all made gear choice for certain corners a bit vague for me as apart from the rev counter you never really know what gear you're in. It vibes a bit, too. Just as a twin should, but it all felt a little less than the previous version's motor, although you can't argue with the stopwatch and Aprilia claim that at Mugello the new Mille is a second faster than the old.

If the motor feels different from the old, the handling sort of does too. Sure, there's the similarly neutral feel to the bike when you're flip-flopping through the big chicanes - the old Mille R was never the quickest direction changer out there - but then it also feels easier to get your knee down on. Doubtless because the bike isn't as tall as the older one.  If you think these are criticisms, they kind of are... but to be honest the way the standard Factory felt, it will be a darn sight more accessible to more people than the first Mille was.
The great thing is that the Öhlins gear on the Factory makes changes actually feel like they're making a difference. Even with these quite basic Öhlins forks, you're getting stuff that works.

Sharing the bike with another journalist of the larger variety meant we also wanted similar things done to the suspension. Four clicks from max on the front compression are dialled in, along with three quarters of a turn preload on the rear adjuster and two clicks on the rear before our second session, which for me made the bike feel a little less upset by my not inconsiderable weight, especially on the brakes. Phenomenal is a word to describe them and the softer and more standard the suspension settings the more the front and rear were hopping about a little when I screwed up and got sucked into Mugello's turns a bit too fast. Not as much as it may on other bikes, I hasten to add. Aprilia still sticks with their version of a racing slipper clutch for the Factory, which means you can be a little bit brutal with the downchanges, the motor will sap the power as you unload the clutch. Word has to be said of the tyres, too.

The Pirelli Supercorsa Diablos were wondrous, hardly showing any signs of wear despite the heat and all the ham-fisted mistakes. And they happen a lot at Mugello. It's a fast, technical circuit, demanding of respect. The numerous fast chicanes deserve an amount of muscle to shift the bike from left to right. This coupled with 32 degrees of heat and 30 minute sessions meant I was giving birth to several sweat babies after each stint on the bike. If only it was easier to flick from side to side...

Better was to come later in the afternoon both for the motor and the handling. First, Walter our personal mechanic was bolting on a pair of track-only pipes which Aprilia will market for the bike. These are very high swept, look the dogs and sound superb. Within two laps the bike was transformed from a very good one into a brilliant one. With that sound came a real pep in power, meaning that holding on to a lower gear into corners was possible so you could simply power through them rather than hang out in too high or too low a gear. Suddenly the Mille has characterful power again... just as it should be with a 5bhp top-end gain and around 12bhp in the midrange! Boy could you feel it... The pipes which in my opinion are a must for this bike will cost around £850.

The final minor bug-bear of the bike - its neutral steering - was transformed by dialling in a bit of ride height at the bottom of the rear Öhlins shock. We were told we could only get a 1mm increase, which was done by actually making a 2mm increase at the bottom of the shock. Either way it worked, you had a bike which was as fine a handler as any I've ridden with enough motor (from the uprated pipes) that you could ask for, all in a really user-friendly, rider-friendly package which looks, well, simply stunning. So why do I think it's the best Italian V-twin? Well, group tests aside, which will obviously happen soon enough, I reckon it's almost as good as a 999S while being about two grand cheaper, better looking and without getting caught in the crack of my arse. Nasty.

The change between the two bikes should easily see you with those exhaust cans, money for a track day to adjust the bike to suit and enough change for a seriously dirty weekend.


1998: Aprilia builds its first V-twin sportsbike. The RSV Mille features a 60 degree motor.
1999: Launch of the first Mille R. Simply add lightweight OZ wheels, Öhlins suspension, steering damper and carbon fibre bits.
2000: Mille SP launched to homologate the WSB racer which Peter Goddard and later Troy Corser rode.
2001: Mille and R gain re-designed tail-pieces, fairings and nice satin black finishes.
2002: Noriyuki Haga rep comes with signed headstock and twin exit Akrapovic pipes.
2003: Mille R gains Brembo radial calipers. And there's now a Colin Edwards replica
with different airbox and pipes.


Ducati 999S: Similarly well equipped with Öhlins and looks much better than the Biposto 999. Pricier mind, at £13,950!

Benelli Tornado Tre: Not as exclusively kitted out, and this is the base model, but let's not forget that there's so few of these £11,500 motorcycles out there, less than there will be Mille Factorys.

Aprilla RSV-R Mille Factory Specs

PRICE NEW - £10,699
POWER - 138.7bhp@9500rpm
TORQUE - 78.9lb.ft@7500rpm   
WEIGHT - 185kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 820mm   
TOP SPEED - 175mph
0-60     - n/a