Bikes

Up-Close with the Aprilia RS 660 Concept

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I wasn’t going to double-dip on stories for the Aprilia RS 660 concept this week, but well…these photos were too good not to share ASAP. If you haven’t read our report that the Aprilia RS 660 will be showing up for the 2020 model year, well then…started getting excited party-people.

Ahead of our ride time on the new Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory, the folks from Noale invited us to their “Aprilia All Stars” event at the Mugello circuit last week, which is where we spotted the RS 660 on display.

The bike hasn’t changed from its debut in Milan late last year, which is fine by us, as it looks like it could roll right onto the showroom floor already…and apparently from yesterday’s news, that is the point.

Still, spending some time up-close with the Aprilia RS 660 concept provides us with some interesting insights to this machine.

The first thing that struck me about the Aprilia RS 660 concept were the aerodynamic fairings that Noale is showcasing on the machine, calling them its “Aprilia Active Aerodynamics” package.

It isn’t clear from the concept what is “active” about the design that is being shown, but we do see several areas on the RS 660 where the fairings could be made to move and adapt to the riding situation.

As we have seen on the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory, the superbike’s winglets make a noticeable difference with high-speed stability and high-speed braking. Being able to tune that aerodynamic force could create other novel areas of development and use, like increased cornering ability, anti-wheelie, vehicle cooling, and wind protection for the rider.

This is an interesting space, which is just now seeing its surface scratched by OEMs. Aprilia so far has been the most active in pursuing what aerodynamics could mean for motorcycles, and their “A³” development shows their continued commitment to that research.

I made mention in my RSV4 1100 Factory review that I think we are finally really touching on the diminishing returns that come with pursuing more horsepower from superbikes, and that lightweight designs should be the new trend in sport bike design. To that vein, Aprilia seems to be of the same mind, as everything about the RS 660 concept hints to a very light machine.

The Italian company has no shortage of carbon fiber pieces on the machine. The tail section seems to be a completely self-supporting carbon fiber unit (just like the company’s litany of GP bikes), and the swingarm seems to partially employ the composite material as well.

There is an airiness to the design too though, helped by the rear cylinder bank being absent from the engine design. This leaves gaping holes near the rear shock (with its direct mounting structure) and above the crankcase.

That, combined with the cavernous fairing design made of wings, makes for a lot of daylight when viewing the Aprilia RS 660 from various angles. This bike looks like it would be a breeze to flog from side-to-side.

Moving to the motor, there are more than a few elements that seem to be lifted straight from the RSV4 project. The castings themselves appear to be different, but we can see that the stator and crankcase are in the same place as on the superbike.

The oil filter and forward exhaust routing is the same as well, all of which likely helped speed-up the design and development process. This could potentially cut overall costs as well, which hopefully will be the RS 660’s biggest selling point to sport bike enthusiasts.

We are still curious as to what displacement Aprilia has picked for RS 660. The name implies a 660cc engine size, but 650cc would make much more sense, especially from the “Be A Racer” brand. This would make the Aprilia an ideal weapon for classes that already support the Suzuki SV650, Yamaha MT-07, Honda CBR650R, and Kawasaki Ninja 650.

Nudging the displacement another 10cc brings little benefit to the overall package, and greatly reduces the chance that the new Aprilia could be a favorite with amateur racers around the world. Hopefully, Noale already recognizes this.

Our sources keep indicating that the RS 660 is just one of several machines that will use this new parallel-twin platform, and that in addition to a fully faired “RS” model, we can expect a naked version, and possibly even an ADV option.

Let’s take a moment to realize that the biggest misstep Aprilia has made in the past 10 years is not bringing an RSV4-based adventure-tourer to the market. A high-horsepower, long-travel suspension sport bike is exactly what the Aprilia lineup needs right now, and hopefully the folks in Noale have learned that lesson.

The middleweight segments are hot right now across the board, partially because of their cheaper price tags, but also because riders are seeing the benefit of smaller and lighter motorcycles. The 500+ lbs bloat (which is sometimes closer to 600 lbs) from the 1,200cc offerings is becoming passé, and that makes the timing of the Aprilia RS 660 concept perfectly met.

It has taken a while for the Piaggio brands to figure out where they stand in the motorcycle landscape, but if Aprilia can capitalize on the cache that the RSV4 has built for the brand with the RS 660 and its progeny, then real progress could be made for this still relatively obscure motorcycle name. We have high hopes.

Photos: © 2019 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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