The “other” Italian sportbike has always been a better deal if you’re more interested in expediency than prestige. Since it was superseded by the RSV4, Version 2.0 of Aprilia’s venerable Mille can be a steal if you find a good one. Everything beyond the 998cc, 60-degree V-twin’s basic architecture was new for ’04 and wrapped in a slimmer, more angular plastic skin. But despite the yawning 57mm throttle bodies feeding more efficient four-valve heads with magnesium valve covers—combustibles are ignited with one spark plug rather than the previous version’s two—the RSV1000R comes up short of Ducati’s pricier 999 in terms of power and straight-line performance. In the plus column, plenty of midrange push makes it easy to ride. And there’s a healthy rush above 7500 rpm to keep things interesting. Capable of high 10-second quarter-miles at 130 mph, the Rotax-built twin can feel a bit soft in stock trim, but no worries. Minor airbox/exhaust therapy can add at least a dozen horsepower. Check out the owners’ forum (www.apriliaforum.com) for further enlightenment.
Compact ergonomics are a bit severe for anything beyond day rides, and a better match for equally compact riders, but aside from top-heavy slow-speed steering with a full 4.8 gallons of unleaded, handling is beyond reproach on the street. The factory settings favor stability, but adjustable rear ride-height makes dialing-in quicker, lighter steering easy. A steering damper is a worthy addition for track days. The four-piston, four-pad Brembo front calipers are immensely powerful but unforgiving. There’s a fine line between squeezing the lever just hard enough and too much.
The RSV comes with its share of Italian quirks. Neutral can be elusive and clutch pull is stiff. Air in the attendant hydraulics can worsen both. According to Amauri Nunes, who has been keeping SoCal Aprilias healthy since ’03, the water pump shaft’s seal can leak. Check the right side cover near the starter for oil, coolant or both. Check for oil around the valve-cover gaskets, too. Bad stators are common, so Nunes recommends testing charging system output. A stone-dead battery zeroes the odometer, so if mileage seems too low to be true, it probably is. Aprilia recalled a number of ’05 Milles to replace crack-prone swing-arms, so make sure that’s been addressed. As long as you’re willing to exterminate the occasional bug, a well-sorted RSV1000R does everything that matters as well as its pricier competition for less.
More meat in your marinara for a lot less lire.
Not as much horsepower, panache or resale value as la competizione.
Warped brake rotors, damaged stator/voltage regulator wiring, hard starting, spongy brakes and/or clutch.
Half the cylinders of the World Superbike Champion RSV4 at one-third the price.
2004 | $5475
2008 | $7625
2008 | $5750
Gone but not forgotten by faithful fans of Erik’s innovative, imperfect inventions, the ’08 1125R carries fewer imperfections than plagued Buell’s original 146-horse Helicon V-twin the year before. Parts and service are still available at many Harley dealers.
2004 | $8450
Shopping for a quasi-affordable Italian exotic with desmodromic cache, mildly loopy styling and humane, adjustable ergos? This would be it. The 999 proved that a sexy sporting twin can work brilliantly and be comfortable, even if it does look weird.
2004 | $3500
Maybe you couldn’t care less about Italian charisma. In that case, the RC51 comes with about 120 horses and enough Honda reliability, inspired engineering and general meticulousness to inspire its own cult following, all in an overweight 483-lb. package.