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

Different for a reason

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

One area where these machines differ significantly is their perceived size. Parked next to the R1, the RSV4 appears positively miniscule. Although the bikes' wheelbases are within a quarter-inch (the Aprilia is actually longer), the RSV4's short muzzle and pointy, abbreviated tail make it look MotoGP-tiny. On the other hand, the R1's broad posterior with its pair of massive mufflers, arched frame spars and sloping nose give it a hefty look. And while Yamaha opted to cloak the R1 in vast sheets of swooping bodywork, Aprilia left most of the RSV4's flanks exposed, revealing the delicious details of the bike's mechanics and minimizing its profile. The Yamaha's styling is aggressive and unique, but compared to the radical and refined Aprilia, it comes across as cumbersome and bland.

Surprisingly, both machines are pretty comfortable. The R1's ergonomics do a fine job of balancing body weight between your butt and wrists, and the rearsets are height-adjustable to help tailor the fit. A soft, dished saddle is a welcome change, although the underseat exhaust turns it into a hotplate in slow-moving traffic. The clip-ons are humanely high but are a little too close together, pinching the shoulders of our taller testers. On the other hand, your elbows are well out of the way of the mirrors, so you have an unobstructed view of your six. Peering into the Aprilia's mirrors is pointless unless you want to check out the stitching on the forearms of your jacket.

The Italian bike's riding position is typical of its origin, with a higher, harder seat, higher pegs and lower clip-ons. The entire rider triangle is rotated forward to better weight the front end, but aggressive tank cutouts let you buttress your upper body with your knees, taking weight off your wrists. According to the specs sheets, the Aprilia is only 4 lbs. lighter than the Yamaha, but from the saddle it feels like 10 times that much! Chalk it up to the RSV4's compactness and the fact that it carries its fuel payload-as much as 27 lbs.-below the rider's butt. No wonder Ben Spies' World Superbike R1 had an underseat fuel tank.

At idle, the Yamaha produces a loping, dulcet growl from its twin triangular cans, while a raspy, pulsating tone emanates from the Aprilia's single pentagonal muffler. Someone at Aprilia must have paid off the EPA sound testers, because the RSV4 roars as loud as any racebike, drawing stares of fascination and fear. Power is explosive on either machine, but as expected the RSV4 packs a bigger bottom-end punch thanks to abundant torque and shorter final gearing. Its ride-by-wire throttle is flawless, offering crisp and immediate throttle response at any rpm. The R1 is equally impressive, with an utterly addictive engine feel, broad power curve, smooth gearbox and searing top-end acceleration that lays waste to freeway speed limits in first gear.

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