2008 Buell 1125R Versus 2008 Aprilia RSV1000R - Step-Brothers In Arms

It's New Rotax Twin Versus Old When The Buell 1125r And Aprilia RSV1000R Face Off

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing

The Buell is undeniably faster than the Aprilia, and not just because of its 125cc displacement advantage. Both motors share the same 67.5mm stroke, but the Buell's 6mm-larger pistons (103mm versus 97mm for the Aprilia) make room for bigger valves that, in conjunction with a downdraft intake arrangement, make for a freer-breathing motor that delivers lots more power at higher revs. The 1125R's 15.6-horsepower advantage (129.1 bhp at the rear wheel, compared to 113.5 bhp for the RSV) helped during quarter-mile testing, where it ran a stout 10.61 seconds at 135.91 mph against its rival's 10.95/129.91. The 1125R was also helped at the strip by its smooth-shifting, light-action transmission, far better than the Aprilia's stiff, notchy lever action. Admittedly, our RSV had just 600 miles on the clocks at the time of dragstrip testing; hopefully action will improve with more break-in miles.

More power also gave the Buell an advantage at Buttonwillow Raceway, where during a Track Riders (http://www.trackriders.com) track day it consistently lapped a full second quicker. Once we got the suspension dialed-in, that is. During street testing the factory suspension settings exhibited a disturbing lack of front-end feedback and a tendency to run wide at corner exits-the same issues we encountered at the Laguna Seca press intro. With help from Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning (www.feelthetrack.com), we backed fork spring preload out a full five turns to arrive at an acceptable 35mm of sag, and still had to increase rebound damping one turn to slow things down. The shock suffered the opposite problem: Even with rebound backed all the way out, it would pack up on bumpy corner exits and cause the bike to run wide.

The 1125R features a steep 21-degree rake and short 3.3 inches of trail (compared with the RSV's 25 degrees/4 inches), which gives it much quicker steering response. Perhaps to temper this quickness, the 1125R's clip-ons are cantilevered almost 3 inches in front of the fork tubes-an arrangement that seems to create a slight disconnect between steering input and turning action. We frequently found ourselves oversteering to initiate turns, and then having to correct mid-corner once the chassis finally caught up with our intentions.

Surface bumps tend to deflect the Buell off line, and with the oddly mounted handlebars amplifying every input, it took some attention to keep the bike pointed where we wanted to go. Couple this with the high-front/low-back chassis attitude and you're left with slightly vague feedback from the front end. Certainly the Buell can be ridden fast (1125Rs have already won club races in the states and abroad), but it lacks the quicker, confident handling of a conventional sportbike chassis.

The RSV offers more predictable handling. Equipped from the factory with an exotic 43mm Ohlins inverted fork paired with a pedestrian Sachs shock (don't let the gold color fool you), suspension action on the RSV is close to perfect right out of the box. Better suspension or not, though, the RSV's chassis shows its age when ridden back-to-back with the modern, mass-centralized 1125R. The taller, wider and heavier 'Priller takes significantly more effort to turn; riding the RSV hard wears you out fast.

Wonky steering traits aside, the American musclebike simply changes direction more easily than the Italian stallion, which makes it both quicker and less fatiguing to ride-especially at the track. The RSV does, however, offer adjustable rear ride height, which isn't available on the Buell. Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight before we could experiment with this at the track. But jacking up the rear of the RSV a bit might help it tip into corners with less effort.

One element that didn't need improving on the Aprilia was braking, thanks to the excellent Brembo radial-mount front calipers, which offered superior feel and easy modulation.

Barry Burke, Wing-Footed God | Off The Record
"The Aprilia might be 10-year-old technology, but the chassis still works pretty well. The Ohlins fork helps handling through the canyons, the Brembo brakes give good feedback and the Italian styling still looks classic. But the motor is just slow, especially compared to other liter-class sportbikes. However, if you're not looking for the ultimate speed machine, the RSV is still a good motorcycle with a solid chassis and lots of traditional V-twin character.

Buell's 1125R is closer to where it needs to be power-wise, but on every other point it's no comparison. As far as I'm concerned, the Aprilia smokes it in every category except outright acceleration. Beyond that, my mother always told me, 'If you don't have anything nice to say...'"

AGE: 44 HEIGHT: 6' WEIGHT: 165 lb. INSEAM: 33 in.

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