2010 Aprilia RSV4R | Doin' Time

Staffers’ Rides

Aprilia RSV4R

Wrist: Ari Henning
MSRP (2010): $15,999
Miles: 1020
MPG: 24
Mods: Rizoma license-plate bracket and turn signals, Stomp Grip tank pads, Antigravity battery, Motovation axle and frame sliders, SC-Project slip-on exhaust

What’s it like to live with an Aprilia RSV4? It’s been pretty good so far! I was worried that this exotic Italian superbike would be painful to commute on, but it’s acceptably comfortable and fits me far better than its compact size would suggest. Aside from header pipe heat irritating my left ankle in slow-moving traffic and having to slip the clutch to keep the engine from lugging below 15 mph, the RSV4 makes a better streetbike than I imagined.

Although I ride it to work every day, I didn't get the Aprilia to commute on. My long-term testbike selections have been consistently track-biased, and I hadn't had the RSV4 for two weeks before it was tired-and-taped for the track. A no- sessions track day at Chuckwalla Raceway (www.socaltrackdays.com) provided plenty of time to get acquainted with my new ride—at least until a sandstorm forced us off the track after lunch. With 150 horsepower at the rear wheel, traction is at a premium, so I levered on some super-sticky Bridgestone BT-003R race tires, which are only available through trackside vendors. With that much power crashing is also more likely than ever, so I outfitted the RSV4 with a full complement of axle and frame sliders from Motovation ($307; www.motovationusa.com).

The track day revealed that the fork springs are too soft for my weight, as the front end regularly bottomed under braking despite increasing spring preload and compression damping. Beyond that, I had a hard time holding onto the bike as it wheelied off corners, so stuck a set of Stomp Grips ($54.95; www.stompdesign.com) to the tank's flanks. The latest design uses shorter "volcano"-style bumps that are just as grippy but less detrimental to your leathers than the sharp spikes used previously.

The Aprilia is plenty fierce bone-stock, but there's always room for improvement. And as you may recall, my objective with the base R-model is to make it as strong and light as the more expensive Factory version. The quickest and easiest way to lose weight and add power is with an aftermarket exhaust, so I ordered a slip-on from SC-Project ($472; www.motovationusa.com), the Italian parts company that backs the Pramac Ducati MotoGP team.

Considering how thunderous the stock pipe was, I was worried the open-core exhaust was going to be deafening, but it’s no louder and netted a whopping 7.6-lb. weight savings. We took the bike back to the local Aprilia dealer to have the racing map in the ECU unlocked, and then went straight to the dyno. The extra fuel and freer-flowing pipe pushed peak power from 149 to 152.2 bhp and torque from 72.5 to 74.3 lb.-ft., while simultaneously smoothing and improving midrange performance. The downside is gas mileage dropped, from a distressing 26 mpg down to a downright disturbing 22 mpg in city riding. My nose tells me that the race map is rich, so hopefully fine-tuning the fueling with an aftermarket module will improve efficiency while getting closer to the Factory’s 155.4-bhp output. If not, a full race exhaust may be in order—though I shudder to think of the challenge installing V4 headers poses.

Reducing weight is also a concern, as the RSV4's 471-lb. mass is far from svelte. Taking a cue from the Aprilia's underseat fuel tank, I lifted the saddle, removed the stock 7.4-lb. battery and replaced it with a 2.2-lb. lithium-polymer unit from Antigravity Batteries ($249.99; www.antigravitybatteries.com) for an easy 5.2-lb. savings up high. At the same time, I yanked the stock tool kit and took a heat gun to the dozen or so warning labels Aprilia's legal team slapped on the bike. The stickers don't weigh much, but the bike sure looks better without them!

Taking into consideration the various additions and subtractions, my RSV4 now weighs 460.1 lbs., with only 1.1-lbs. to go before reaching the Factory’s 459-lb. wet weight. Cue the Factory’s forged-aluminum wheels and carbon-fiber parts…

The folks at Motovation pride themselves on making sliders that work as good as they look. We applied their protective products to the RSV4’s frame and axles as a first line of defense.
The Rizoma license-plate bracket and slim LED turnsignals are just what the RSV4’s tail needed. The assemblage can be removed for track days in a few minutes by unscrewing three bolts.
SC-Project’s slip-on muffler follows the lines of the tail and lets out a deep, syncopated growl. Imagine two Ducatis revving in unison and you’ll get an idea of what it sounds like!