Aprilia RSV4R vs. Yamaha YZF-R1 – Liter-Bike Outliers

Different for a reason

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

Unfortunately, the R1 has some rough edges that make it a challenge to ride on slower, tighter roads. Abrupt fueling at small throttle openings and touchy brakes require too much attention, and a soft fork sucks the feeling out of the front end, eroding confidence. The Yamaha's weight isn't noticeable during your daily commute, but when a twisting canyon road demands rapid direction changes, it becomes all too apparent. Meanwhile, the RSV4 couples the agility of a 600 with big-bike power. It is instantly familiar and confidence-inspiring; nothing with so much horsepower has ever been so easy to ride. A firmer fork, steeper head angle and the additional leverage afforded by wider clip-ons make direction changes effortless, and a stable chassis and telepathic throttle response let you make last-minute trajectory changes with ease.

Commuting to work and carving up canyons can only reveal so much, so we took these two superbikes to a Fastrack Riders (www.fastrackriders.com) track day at SoCal's Auto Club Speedway, where we could stretch their legs. With so much power on tap, eliminating traction as a limiting factor was essential, so we had Sport Tire Services lever race-spec Dunlop D211GP tires onto both bikes. We also enlisted the aid of the experts at In House Suspension, who helped us set sag and dial-in the suspension between sessions.

The R1 and RSV4 are evenly matched in terms of top speed, with both bikes posting an indicated 165 mph on the banked tri-oval before diving into the Turn 1 chicane. In the infield the Aprilia was able to run away from the slower-turning Yamaha thanks to its lighter handling, telegraphic front-end feel and powerful brakes. The RSV4's Brembo Monobloc calipers are the best in the business, and the braided-steel lines and stout Showa fork leave nothing wanting. The suspension only requires minor tuning before it's race-ready, and the engine, brakes and handling are so good that there's little room for improvement. On the RSV4 you can brake later, harder, deeper and with more confidence than on the R1-and probably any other production superbike. It's easy to see why our testers felt more comfortable on the Italian bike.

Off The Record

Barry Burke
Age: 48 Height: 6'
Weight: 175 lbs. Inseam: 33 in.

The RSV4R was quite a surprise. I've always thought that Aprilias lacked performance, but this bike changes that. The motor, chassis, handling and styling are superb. All we had to do was set the sag, make a few adjustments to the damping and it was ready to rock! The power is excellent and it sounds magnificent. The RSV4 is a pleasure to ride and inspires passion every time you throw a leg over it.

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