Living with excess: Aprilia SXV5.5

I've been riding the Aprilia for less than 20 yards, in fact I haven't even made it out of the office car park, and I've already got into trouble.

Aprilia SXV5.5

Special excess: race bike on the road
Lived with: Jon Urry

I've been riding the Aprilia for less than 20 yards, in fact I haven't even made it out of the office car park, and I've already got into trouble. A lady is waggling her finger and shouting something about a speed limit. I choose to ignore her rants. How could I possibly be speeding? Can't she see I'm pulling a stoppie?

There is absolutely nothing sensible about the Aprilia SXV5.5, and there's no sensible way of riding it. You get some bikes that claim to be race-reps, modern 600s for example. Yes, they look like race bikes, but the truth of the matter is that they are only shadows of their race track brethren. The SXV isn't a shadow,
it's a full frontal assault.

This Aprilia is the closest thing to a fully road legal race bike that you can buy. Take off the mirrors, lights and number plate, stick on a race can (£900 from your local dealer) and hit the track. That's all there is to it. Okay, top teams will do a bit with the engine, but not a hell of a lot. This little 549cc V-twin already rips out 75bhp in road trim.

I've been gagging to have a go on this bike since I first saw it at the end of last year. It's beautiful in a way only a race bike can be. Purposeful, aggressive and hard. But as a quote I once heard goes, "no matter how beautiful she is, someone, somewhere, is sick of putting up with her shit."

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And with the SXV you do get some shit. It's a proper race engine, so you just have to accept that it's going to need regular maintenance. That's a given. But new pistons and shims every 60 hours of riding time? That's quite steep. To be fair to Aprilia this is a race-use guideline; road use puts far less strain on an engine and there are rumours of a bike that has done 5000 miles without being rebuilt.

And then there's the actual ride. Where most bikes have a bit of fake carbon fibre here and there, the SXV has a carbon seat. Well, that's what it looks and feels like to me. It's not actually carbon but it's probably the most uncomfortable bit of semi-foam 'padding' I have ever sat on. And did I mention the vibrations? Get the SXV over 65mph and the buzzing from the bars makes both your arms go dead. And the fuel range? Just 46 miles until reserve limits most rides to within striking distance of the nearest garage.

Am I putting you off? Don't be.

Okay, there's no way anyone is going to use this as a day-to-day bike. But as a second machine, ready to unleash on the world when the time is right? Now we're talking.

Throw a leg over the SXV and you'll be amazed at how narrow it is. There really is nothing to it. Pull it upright and there's a clatter as the sidestand flicks up. Ah, the return of the good old 'suicide stand'. Racers don't need sidestands, so the SXV's is only there as a half-hearted concession.

Hit the starter, the Aprilia barks into life. Then stalls almost immediately after. Another prod and it's back into life. You have to be gentle at first, this engine wants to be warm before it'll respond. It only takes a few seconds, so enjoy the harsh 'rap, rap, rap' of the twin as you gently blip some heat into it.

This is also a good time to laugh at the response from the digital display, which operates about half a second behind events. Select neutral, pause, and the green light comes on. Rev the motor, pause, and watch the rev counter climb up the left hand side of the display, hook a 90-degree turn and carry on across the top. One of the strangest tachos I've ever seen.

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But these are just quirks that only serve to endear the SXV to its owner, the start of a love affair that only riding it seals. Provided you are in the mood. The Aprilia isn't a friendly bike, it's all or nothing with this new top dog bad boy.

Anything other than a small throttle input in first gear results in the front viscously rising. Second gear allows some forward momentum, but the front still wants to go light, and it isn't until third that you can open the throttle 100 per cent in confidence. And all the time the exhaust is barking away with a fantastically rough note encouraging you to go faster. Which you inevitably do, until the vibrations get so bad you have to back off.

But its not just the acceleration that's extreme on the Aprilia, stopping is too. The single wavy front brake disc and radial caliper feels like it belongs on a track. It does. Amazing power, huge amounts of feel and all for virtually no lever movement. Probably the strongest and most compliant brake set up I've ever used, and perfect for huge rolling stoppies. Almost made for them, in fact, as the angry lady in the car park will confirm.