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

Different for a reason

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

The RSV4 dominates corner entries, but the exits-especially the ultra-fast left/right sweeper that leads onto the banking-are where the R1 regains lost ground. The traction benefits of the Crossplane crank and the stability of the GP-derived bottom-link shock let you get on the gas sooner and harder. You're intimately aware of what's happening at the rear contact patch, and the engine's midrange and top-end tractability make it easy to maintain control of the tire-liquefying process. The R1 doesn't cut as tight a line as the RSV, but using the throttle to finish turns is effortless. Once you've got the Yamaha pointed in the right direction and hooked up, it's bye-bye Aprilia.

The R1's fueling foible isn't as pronounced on the track as it is on the street, but the low-rpm abruptness was still problematic in the infield. Further hurting its cause is vague front-end feel, a product of the grabby and somewhat unpredictable six-piston Sumitomo calipers, sensation-robbing rubber hoses and spongy fork. This forces you to brake earlier and tip-toe into corners.

Yet amazingly, the Yamaha's ability to rocket out of corners was enough to make up for its shortcomings at the track. Tester Barry Burke set the fastest lap of the day at 1:37.2, but the Aprilia was just a tenth of a second behind. Had the R1's front end worked better, that gap almost certainly would have been wider. But despite constant tuning, we were never able to reach the front-end clarity and compliance that was so easily achieved on the RSV4.

Considering the difference in price-the Yamaha goes for $13,290 while the Aprilia sells for $15,999-one could argue that the extra $2700 could be put toward fuel mapping, suspension and brake modifications that would eliminate the R1's performance deficit. But for those who prefer plug-and-play simplicity coupled with exotic looks and the raucous roar of a V4, the RSV4R is the way to go.

Off The Record

James Toohey
Age: 42 Height: 6'
Weight: 210 lbs. Inseam: 32 in.

Riding these two superbikes at an unfamiliar racetrack was a daunting proposition, but they both worked so well that it made learning the track easy. The Yamaha's engine is so strong, I was able to short-shift exiting corners. Even with the tach needle down in the single digits, it pulled like a twin. With the right front-end set-up, the R1 would be quite a weapon-just look at what Ben Spies did with it!

As for the Aprilia ... wow! It feels like a 600 with the power of a 1000 and the torque of a twin. It felt instantly familiar and was completely comfortable. The suspension was firm but not harsh, and I could trail-brake all the way to the apex. Once in the corner it would hold whatever line I wanted, and if I made a mistake and needed to change my line, it did so easily. You could probably race this thing right out of the box and do very well.

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