A Quartet of Electronically Enhanced Superbikes | MC Comparison

Class of 2011: Divine Intervention

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing, Matt Samples, Joe Neric

Off the Record

Barry Burke
Guest Tester
Best Lap: Aprilia 2:00.4
Age: 50
Height: 6’
Weight: 170 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

This year’s shootout quickly became a technology competition because all the bikes have amazing electronics. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate advancements that make it easier to go faster. However, I sometimes feel this can insulate you from the motorcycle. And I know I still hesitate to snap the throttle open mid-corner. I realize traction control works; it’s just a matter of learning to trust it!

That said, the BMW has the most unbelievable motor. It’s just ballistically fast! The Ducati’s power also felt great and ergonomically it fit me the best, but it suffered from a lack of front-end feedback. The Kawasaki has smooth power delivery and is stealthily quiet compared to the others, but it’s long, low, cramped and needs help to change direction. There’s no quick-shifter, either.

The Aprilia has it all: superb power delivery, TC, a quick-shifter and a slipper clutch. It’s very easy to go fast on. It just comes at too high a price.

Matt Samples
Guest Tester
Best Lap: Aprilia 1:56.1
Age: 35
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

Ducati’s 1198SP oozes sexuality with its classic color, lines and sounds, but this brute is overdue for an update. The competition has been gunning for it for years and has finally equaled its excellence. Kawasaki’s ZX-10R felt planted with next-generation, MotoGP-inspired traction control predicting my every move. The BMW S1000RR’s motor rips your arms out like the All-Drug Olympic Dead-Lift competition! Pure power, and the best brakes, but its chassis needs sorting. Stuff a badass V4 in a GQ-good-looks scalpel, dial it in with on-the-fly adjustable TC and cue Aprilia’s RSV4. Winner!

Want to go faster on the Aprilia? Just gas it sooner and the superior traction control takes care of the rest. So what if your self-preservation mechanism is screaming, “Don’t you dare open the throttle that far!” Just ignore that little voice—APRC has got your back. Who needs throttle control with electronics as good as this?

Ari Henning
Associate Editor
Best Lap: Aprilia 1:52.5
Age: 26
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 175 lbs.
Inseam: 33 in..

These bikes’ traction-control systems work so well, it’s like cheating. If I were racing I’d be all about it, but for track days I think it diminishes the fun. I enjoy riding motorcycles fast because it’s challenging, and with TC one of the major hurdles—managing rear-tire traction—is effectively removed from the equation. Over the course of this comparo, TC made me complacent.

But I digress…

Once again, Aprilia’s amazing RSV4 blew my mind! I couldn’t find anything wrong with it, and the only complaints I heard from my taller peers was that the bike was too small and too easily upset. It fit me perfectly and felt nimble, planted and powerful. It’s the ultimate track tool and a bona fide Superbike for the street. And on top of all that, you can turn off the TC on the fly.

Aaron Frank
Best Lap: Aprilia 1:57.1
Age: 36
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 155 lbs.
Inseam: 31 in.

Going fast on a motorcycle has always been an act of faith, trusting two tiny contact patches to keep you upright. Traction control makes riding an even more submissive act, demanding you purposefully exceed the limits of control and then rely completely on electronic overrides to keep you upright. But once you learn to stop worrying and love TC, you feel as invincible as a wheeled god. This power is addictive: The more electronic assistance you use, the more you want. TC puts down power so well that wheelie abatement becomes mandatory. Good drives only elevate corner-entry speeds, making you beg for ABS.

Even though it lacks ABS, Aprilia’s sophisticated, perfectly integrated and intuitive APRC system stands head and shoulders above the rest. It was the easiest to trust and delivered the fastest, most consistent laps, making the charismatic RSV4 my runaway choice for the second year in a row. Heaven help us if Aprilia comes out with ABS!

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