Up-Close with the 2021 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

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For the 2021 model year, the venerable Aprilia RSV4 gets another update to its 13-year-old platform.

The RSV4 has evolved considerably in that timeframe, and over that period, this production motorcycle lays claim to being the first with an IMU, the first with ride-by-wire, and the first with winglets.

While the differences between the model years of the RSV4 can be subtle at times, the 2021 model sees a revamp of the superbike’s aesthetic, especially in terms of how it handles aerodynamics.

Taking a page from its smaller sibling, the Aprilia RS 660, the 2021 Aprilia RSV4 uses a hidden winglet design between its dual-layer fairing.

The effect is a visual narrowing of the RSV4 from its previous iteration, which had a boxier winglet design on either side of the fairing.

From the top down though, the new Aprilia RSV4 has a noticeable ledge on either side of the nose, which is visually striking, and could probably double as a food tray (or ideal mounting point for a GoPro camera).

The contrast is an interesting one, as it shows how the Italian brand has both hidden and accentuated the RSV4’s aerodynamic goals, depending on what angle you view the machine from.

Of note in the side profile above, we can see the fairing line along the front wheel, which has been reduced and moved further backwards along the bodywork.

This comes from Aprilia’s MotoGP program, and is aimed at aiding side-to-side transition speeds (less fairing means less material pushing through the wind during roll).

There is a new Magneti Marelli 11MP ECU along with a new six-axis IMU, which means a faster and smarter package for the electronics system.

The engineers in Noale can talk at length about how this new electronics package is superior over the previous model’s iteration, but the take-home benefit for riders is a larger TFT dash, the ability to toggle two rider mode settings on the fly.

As before, the left-hand finger triggers remain (and by default control the traction control settings), but now the cruise control toggle can also be used to adjust another rider (we prefer to have this set to the RSV4’s wheelie control), which makes for on-the-fly adjustments while on the race track.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the new Maneti Marelli system also allows for multi-level engine brake control as well as six riding modes (three track and three street).

All-in-all, this is the most tailorable version of the RSV4 to date, and the updated electronics ensure that Aprilia is on par with the most advanced superbikes on the market.

Mechanically, there are few items of note as well. There is a new aluminum swingarm on the superbike, which is an underbraced design and lighter than before. Of course, you can still adjust the pivot point.

Again, this pulls from Aprilia’s experience on the race track with its MotoGP program, and aims to help the RSV4 shed some of the bulk it carries, as one of the heaviest superbikes on the market.

Of course, to help move that mass from Point A to Point B, Noale has increased the 65° V4 engine from 1,077cc to 1,099cc, mainly to help maintain the performance figures lost from the move to Euro5 homologation.

Power is quoted to remain the same, at 214hp (159.5 kW), though one would imagine that the potential of an extra 22cc could bode well in a competent tuner’s hands.

The four-cylinder engine continues to be the highlight of the motorcycle, offering tractable power through the rev range, that can be deceiving at times because of its smooth delivery.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing though, when you get up-close to the Aprilia RSV4, is how much hasn’t changed with this motorcycle – not that it’s a bad thing.

In a segment marked with constant predictable “all new” models and mid-cycle updates, Aprilia has taken a different tack: updates are constantly coming to the RSV4 lineup, sometimes within a single model year.

As such, this 13-year-old motorcycle looks nothings like the machine that debuted 13 years ago, though traces of the 2009 superbike abound in many places.

This has allowed the RSV4 to remain on the top of the pile for over a decade, which is an interesting lesson for other brands to study.

I would wager, the constant perfection of the Aprilia RSV4 has cost considerably less to produce each year than the generational machines we see every few years from the Italian brand’s competitors.

For the consumer too, this has meant that the Aprilia RSV4 has been a strong offering to put in the garage, no matter which model year you find yourself in the market for a new superbike.

There is something to be said about evolution, over revolution.

Photos: © 2021 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved