I am World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli. I am Brit hero Leon Haslam. I am Italian racing legend Max Biaggi. Thanks to Aprilia, for today only, my daydreams have come true.
The catalyst for my ridiculous fantasies is the heavily revised Aprilia RSV4. Europe and the US will get the RR and top-spec RF versions of the 1000cc V4 superbike, but in the UK we only buy the top-of-the-range model anyway. Only 500 RFs will be made, 50 for the UK, where 22 are already sold.
The RSV4 looks every millimetre a squat, muscular pitbull, with no excess anywhere. The seat unit has the space for only one backside and the new, more aerodynamic fairing is tightly packed with electronics and mechanicals, like a size 10 dress on a size 12 model. The improvements over the RSV4 launched in 2009 have nearly all come from Aprilia’s racing department.
The engine now produces a claimed 201bhp with 89lb.ft of torque. The crank has smaller crank pins for less friction. A new airbox hides variable inlet trumpets. The combustion chambers are cut on a CNC milling machine for perfectly accurate valve-to-piston clearance. Titanium valves are pummelled by forged, 360g lighter camshafts. The crankcases hold super- strong conrods by top tuners Pankl and a new oil system. The exhaust has gone from 33mm to 36mm and the gearbox has new ratios and thinner, lighter cogs.
The chassis is still completely adjustable but has the engine set lower in the frame to aid stability and the swingarm is 4mm longer, now giving 30mm adjustment. Why? So racers have a greater range of sprockets they can choose to use.
Once the race team had finished their updates, the designers added their touches with wider mirrors, slightly higher bars and a new headlight to fit in the more aerodynamic fairing, for higher top speed.
The RSV4 may look tiny but my slightly portly 6ft frame finds comfort where I wouldn’t expect. Everything about it feels taut, like a super-fit athlete. My usual instinct for self-preservation, feeling my way round the first few laps, lasts until the fifth corner: I know the tyres are warm and everything about the bike just feels right.
A few laps in, Misano is amazing. This 2.6-mile circuit is being squeezed by the RSV4 to feel half that distance. That 201bhp is either Italian exaggeration or the way it is developed is seamless, though those last few thousand revs before the limiter disappear in an instant. On the back straight is a kink – you approach it mid revs in fifth gear, full throttle, dip the power to get a better turn-in, look through and hold your breath. It’s one of those moments you feel really satisfied with, until you realise in four seconds’ time there is a similar corner, after which you have to brake hard before a third corner…
While all my attention is on the circuit the RSV4 is simply doing exactly what I’m asking it to do. “I want to brake without standing up and running wide… I want to downchange three times, losing 60mph, without upsetting the suspension… I want to turn in late… Now get me to that next corner as fast as possible.” I’m sure I hear “yes sir” more than once. Braking, hard, from any speed is totally calm. It is an astonishingly brutal bike made civilised with accuracy – and it’s utterly addictive.
That brutality is tamed and improved by launch control, one of the best quickshifters I’ve ever used and the superb, adjustable-on-the-go traction control and wheelie control. Feel the traction control hindering your progress? Tap one paddle once to lower the setting, or tap the other one to increase the assistance. You can even use your smartphone to program your traction control and wheelie control corner by corner for the circuit you’re riding. At the moment this is only set up for major tracks – you won’t find Snetterton on it yet – but Aprilia plan to grow the number of circuits available.
The RSV4 RF costs £18,135 on the road. We didn’t ride it on the road but I’ll hazard a guess that it’s not going to threaten for the Touring Bike of the Year award. Even so, it’s roomier than it looks. It’s also brilliant to ride, it sounds amazing and has a genuine racing pedigree – and being a numbered limited edition from the year Aprilia are World Superbike champions should help its residual value, or even turn it into a classic of the future. Finance deals will be available, too.
Who is the RSV4 for?
It is for riders who still want to embrace controlling a superbike, with added modern rider aids for even more personalisation. It’s for sportsbike riders who want a bike that is just that little closer to an actual factory race bike, yet with road bike warranty and service intervals. It’s for those not ready to swap their leathers for textiles. It’s for the occasional daydream – it’s for me.