Up-Close with the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

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It is hard to believe that the RSV4 superbike from Aprilia is 10 years old now…but then again, maybe it isn’t so hard to believe. The bike hasn’t change that much physically when you look at it (though, changes abound internally), and even the new latest-and-greatest version of the bike can only be really identified by its new aerodynamic aids.

That being said though, the RSV4 is still at the top of the heap, and with the RSV4 1100 Factory, Aprilia is looking to keep its crown in the superbike category. I won’t bore you with riding details now, but feel free to read our exhaustive riding review of this machine.

Getting a chance to snap some photos of the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory after riding it at Mugello, we spent some one-on-one time with this 214hp superbike, winglets and all.

The livery on the RSV4 1100 Factory is a matte carbon, which helps distinguish that bike is at the top of Noale’s lineup. The winglets are also a quick identifying piece, letting you know that under the fairings is a new 1,078cc V4 engine.

The engine is more than just a modified version of the same sized lump in the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100. In fact, other than the engine cases, the two motors share almost no components with each other.

That being said, an intrepid Tuono owner could bolt-in the new RSV4 engine to their street bike, for the ultimate in one-wheeled adventures. Please let us know if such an act occurs.

Other items of note on the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory are the slip-on Akrapovic exhaust, which is homologated for road use, and the optional air scoops for the brake calipers.

One of the interesting technical bits about the Aprilia RSV4 superbike lineup is that its fork legs are very close together (205mm), when compared to other superbikes on the market.

Aprilia says they did this to make the RSV4 a more nimble motorcycle, but the downside is that it means that the front brake calipers aren’t out in the wind as much as they would be on other bikes.

The optional brake scoops help fix this problem, bringing air from beyond the front rim’s width, and channeling it through the new Brembo Stylema calipers.

I am not so sure about Aprilia’s theory on having a narrow fork tube distance – as a wider tube distance would seem to have more mechanical advantage on the front axle – but Aprilia’s math on the brake scoops is that they cool the calipers by 20%, which is an impressive figure.

It is interesting to me that Aprilia chose not to include Öhlins’ electronic semi-active suspension on the RSV4 1100 Factory, but I have a theory on this, and it primarily has to do with weight.

One of the big talking points about the RSV4 1100 Factory is how much weight the machine lost compared to its predecessor: 11 lbs.

The problem with the Öhlins electronic suspension though is that it is quite heavy…and there is the small issue of having to make those pieces talk to Aprilia’s electronics suite, which is no simple task either.

For track riders, which the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is surely aimed at, the benefit of having electronic suspension just isn’t there yet. It is good when you have varying terrain, and want to move from a touring mode to a sport mode for example – but on the track, riders are more at home with their book of setup configurations.

There is that, and the fact that the normal Öhlins pieces are very easy to work on, with the settings easy to adjust with fingers and a wrench, and easily accessible to the rider.

During our time at Mugello, many of my colleagues (and myself included) complained about the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory being a bit too soft out of the box, but it was quite simple to dial in some more feel into the suspension pieces, and we didn’t have to harm any electrons to do it.

I am of the opinion that one day dynamic electronic suspension, especially one that can be user programmed, will be all the rage in the superbike segment, but that day is not here yet. Until then, I am fine with brands that want to save a few pounds by using the “old” suspension design.

I look at the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory and wonder how much longer the Italians will continue to update this machine. As long as it is as at the pointy end of the bunch, there is little incentive to build an all-new superbike, but then again…10 years is a pretty good run.

I do have a feeling that the time for the RSV4 is coming to a close, however. With the advent of the Aprilia RSV4 X limited edition, we are seeing Aprilia pump the last few ounces of worth out of the RSV4 design, and with the Euro5 regulations coming in 2021, that would seem to be a good time to switch horses.

By that point, a 12-year run will be an impressive history, and I firmly believe that the RSV4 will go down as one of the great superbikes in history, with riders talking about it in the same way we revere the Honda RC30, Yamaha R7, and Ducati 916. Time will tell whether I am right or wrong on this account, of course.

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