Sure, the latest open class four-bangers are the current talk of the town but for mere mortals and for most street riders, a Vee will see you faster out of a corner than some mad 150 horsepower bike will.
For the introduction of the 2004 Aprilia we were invited to the Nevada desert in late August. 110 degree late August? Never fear though, the Pahrump track more than made up for the repressive heat. The bike itself more than made up for the weather too. Lashings of fine quality water and vented leathers all round, I say.
Pahrump is a small, small town, some 45 minutes west of Las Vegas, it has as many gas stations as it has brothels, and offers a welcome relief to sportbike riders (the track, not the brothels - you dummy).
Built by a car loving British ex-patriot, Rupert Bragg-Smith, this nicely laid out 2.2-mile road course consisted of 16 turns, containing double apexes, some tricky switchbacks and lots of elevation changes to boot, the asphalt was pretty smooth bordering on manicured. If you fancied a quick shag, you didn\'t have to go far either - what a great venue.
Our first session consisted of a ride on last year\'s 03\' Mille. The bikes weren\'t really set up very well, but for just an initial track sighting session it wasn\'t worth fiddling with and it\'s always nice to get a before and after perspective, with the new bike, verses the old. Just as I fondly remembered, the bike typically preferred to be hard on the throttle on exit to cure its run-wide habits. It has a lovely hit halfway up the rev-range though and pulls silly sized wheelies at will - a proper show-off bike (if you\'re that way inclined).
During this session the track was pretty dirty to start, evidence being the rooster tail being kicked up from the bike in front, traction was good though and no sliding evident, once a racing line was developed.
Next up were the new clothed and freshly massaged 04\'s. Q. When is an R not an R? A. When it\'s a factory. This years bikes are labeled R and R Factory. The base is now called an R and the top of the range bike is now labeled an R Factory. The difference is pretty much the same as last years Mille and Mille R. More R\'s that a drunken pirate, to say the least. Confused? Don\'t be. Just reread this paragraph or go buy a parrot, my Matey.
I was supposed to equally ride both versions, but having expensive tastes, combined with a fools-gold mentality, I was mostly drawn to the shinier gold laden Factory version - I promise to retest the R at a later date... Honest Guv.
Aprilia\'s Press guy, Robert Pandya, kindly reminded us that these were the only nine bikes in the North American press fleet. Dinging one of these would seriously jeopardize our ability to take "ownership" of one for a street test later in the year (Was he looking at me when he said that?) Needless to say we all ignored him and the press GP started, with me looking for at least a podium finish.
The adage for this year\'s supermodel was the stereotypical, less weight and more power. They did very well on both accounts.
The bike has seen a major restyle yet still retains that distinctive and classic Mille "look". The front in particular, now has a bold central air intake and a much slimmer fairing upper. That nose intake is now responsible for a 3% increase in air speed driving through to the airbox. The rear seat has also been "Jenny Craiged" with a slimmer profile and the whole package looks trim and purposeful.
The frame, although similar in design, has also received a major workout. The whole bike lost eight pounds in its dietary makeover (it was never really fat, it just looked fat) with the frame losing just over a pound, yet being 5% stiffer in torsional rigidity. Under the new clothing is a redesigned engine that features that familiar and ultra-reliable 990cc 60º V-Twin motor. That motor now enjoys some swanky (and lighter) magnesium alloy cylinder head covers with revised inlet and exhaust ports. It\'s been moved to the right some 4mm to achieve perfect balance especially with a corresponding 5mm forward positioning of the rear swinger. Power is now a reputed 138 peak gee gee\'s at 9,500 rpm, with maximum torque of 78.9 ft.-lbs. (107 Nm) at 7,500 rpm.
The fairing design is simplified (and better looking for it) with only 14 pieces over the previous renditions 25.
Instrumentation is top notch too with a redesigned digital instrument cluster, which apparently tips the scales at only 220 grams. It\'s a nice "fat" tach too, right where you want it. It also still retains the lap timer facility and also offers top and average speed attained. An ignition immobilizer is standard as an obvious theft deterrent.
By the way, to prove how serious Aprilia were about that weight reduction, the wheels are anodized and not painted. And get this, the technical wheel data is not embossed, but carved into the wheel itself, removing more material as a weight saver. Now that is more quality attention to detail, my lightweight loving 2Dubbers. Later in the day I got to sample one of the RSV R Factory\'s with the base race settings. The forks were raised some 5mm with a couple or four clicks of compression and rebound and with a little more ride height to the rear, again firmed up on compression and rebound. Out on the track this bike absolutely railed.
Some of my better times were achieved on this set-up. The front felt planted with that great feedback that only an Öhlins fork can give. Traction was spot on and I\'d definitely be chasing these settings if I owned this bike. Flickable is too cliché a phrase, but I\'m afraid it\'s all I\'ve got - even Mr Thesaurus couldn\'t help me out - Sorry.
You\'ve probably heard that Aprilia will be getting into the dirt bike field pretty soon. Pretty soon was sooner than expected for me. Chasing another journo (Mr. X) around Pahrump we came across a slower rider (slower than me?) Mr. X went inside and I went outside. With that minor hiccup in concentration, I slipped gracefully into a juicy false neutral and couldn\'t bring myself to turn into a pretty quick left-hander with no drive. I grabbed a good handful of Brembo\'s finest and stoppied to the edge of the track before releasing my grip and taking a ride of my life across the desert. All I could see, was sand, tumbleweed, more sand and Robert Pandya\'s gun collection. Years of supermoto effing around paid off that day, and I managed to return to the pits with an unmarked Factory.
I think I pretty much called it a day after that particular rodeo ride. However, I came away thoroughly impressed with the new Aprilia\'s. These two new models arrive in U.S. dealer showrooms in late September. An early Christmas present - methinks. Well, this top-of-the-line RSV 1000 R Factory bike does still retain the goodies of old, offering those extra lovely Öhlin suspenders, forged OZ wheels (25% lighter than cast, natch) and those currently-ever-so-popular, Brembo radial brakes.
Oh, and there\'s still plenty of Aprilia\'s high quality carbon fiber on board to help you quantify its entry price too, and that price is easy to live with especially as everything worked so well together.
The manufacturer\'s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $13,999 for the 2004 RSV 1000 R and $17,899 for the RSV 1000 R Factory.