APRILIA RS50 (2006 - 2012) Review
- Racey 50cc sportsbike for learners
- One of the best handling bikes around
- Feels just like its superbike siblings
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£150|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
For 2006, the Aprilia RS50 got a major update, with a new engine, revised styling and components helping to create the ultimate poster bike for aspiring teenage sportsbike fans.
Expensive to buy new and an investment to keep running, few other machines offered spotty 16-year-olds the mouth-watering prospect of 60mph speeds (when derestricted), gorgeous superbike-inspired looks, and credible chassis parts.
Known by their characteristic wasp-like two-stroke whine, the third-generation RS was the sportiest yet, with waves of L-plated teens drawn to its race replica paint jobs and RSV1000R-aping styling.
Not only a first taste of independence and freedom, it was a chance to live out your ultimate racing fantasies – dropping the clutch like Jorge Lorenzo from every traffic light and leaving the surrounding car drivers in a cloud of blue smoke. Glorious.
Shod with grown-up 40mm upside-down forks, a radial front brake caliper and more, the RS50 felt like a 'proper' Aprilia rather than a cheap afterthought, and standing alongside its closest rivals, such as the Derbi GPR50, Yamaha TZR50 and Rieju RS2 Matrix, it was – and remains – the one you really want.
RS50 ownership is a labour of love and those considering a used buy will also need to budget for a continuous thirst for quality two-stroke oil and a hunger for spark plugs. Being a low-capacity two-stroke, owners should also be prepared for the possibility of seizure, with many early bikes of this era likely to have already been re-built by at least one home-grown mechanic.
That said, find a good example – and those are a rare commodity these days – and it will return miles of care-free, hedonistic thrills, whilst also nurturing a level of mechanical sympathy, an understanding of corner speed and an advanced grasp of working a manual gearbox. Not to mention you’ll be the envy of all your biking mates.
There's a dedicated Facebook page for the Aprilia RS 50 here. Between 2011 and 2016 the RS50 was renamed the RS4 50, and then renamed RS50 again for 2017, but we've yet to ride this bike.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Despite its superbike looks, the chassis parts on the RS50 are basic and non-adjustable. This is no bad thing though, as the 40mm upside-down forks and simple cantilever rear shock are more than ample for dealing with the bike’s modest 8.4bhp output.
Fitted with hard-wearing Vee Rubber tyres as standard, at its 2006 launch, MCN contributor Chris Newbigging claimed they were ‘good enough to cope with some sporty knee-down action.’ Although that may have been the case, a more premium set of rubber from an established brand will improve the handling and all-weather performance no end.
Although hardly an extreme supersport riding position, some owners have criticised this model as being uncomfortable over distances, due to its hunched over stance and rock-hard seat. Some taller riders may be put-off by its tiny dimensions and may be better suited to Aprilia’s supermoto equivalent; the SX50. If you’re looking to take your first steps into sportsbike ownership though, few options will compete with the RS model.
Also new for 2006 was a radial front brake caliper. Still a rarity amongst some large-capacity machinery at that time, it again helped establish the Aprilia as the bike to have at 16. That said, although looking beefy it was far from powerful - instead set up to be novice-friendly for clumsy and over-enthusiastic teens.
Despite this, with no ABS or linked braking system fitted, new riders should be careful not to grab a handful of the right lever, as it could result in an unforgiving spill.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Part of the update for 2006 was a new single-cylinder liquid-cooled two-stroke engine, courtesy of the Piaggio group, who had just taken ownership of Aprilia.
Still producing that customary 'ring-a-ding' soundtrack and gentle puff of smoke from its underseat pipe, it was enough to put an aching grin on the face of any teen rider and inject a shot of nostalgia directly into the bloodstream of any biking parent.
Known as the DB50BO, it was developed from an existing Derbi motor - who were also bought out by the Piaggio group some years earlier. As a result, it also featured in the firm’s GPR50, alongside the same chassis, swingarm and more.
Prior to this, all RS50s had featured Minarelli AM series motors, with the later models featuring the AM6 – also fitted to the Yamaha TZR50, Reiju RS2 Matrix, and more. Now becoming quite dated, the Piaggio alteration was a welcome upgrade – considered by some experts as a better engine.
As with all fifties ridden by 16-year-olds post 1977, bikes must be limited to 30mph by law, however derestricted RS50s offer a claimed top speed of between 55mph and 60mph.
Unlike your modern four-stroke, RS50 ownership is a labour of love. Bikes need to be warmed through before being ridden hard, however it offers performance returns the likes of a modern four-stroke 50, such as the four-speed Lexmoto Hunter 50 E4, could only hope to achieve.
Although neck-jarringly quick compared to the mountain bike you’ve likely just stepped off, don’t expect any standard RS50 to be truly fast. No amount of throttle or clutch-slip will ever get it off the line quickly. And if you’re considering taking a pillion – don’t.
Despite the single-figure power output, the light, well-spaced gearbox helps keep the tacho needle firmly at the top half of the rev counter and whilst it might be more effort to operate than the equivalent twist-and-go scooter, it gives you an education in working a gearbox to maintain momentum – giving you the upper hand on your mates when you graduate to a 125.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Our Aprilia RS50 owners' review on MCN shows an above average mark, with the rider saying the bike was uncomfortable, but a lot of fun.
As with any 50cc dinger, finding a minter on the used market is almost impossible now – with many bikes ragged for a year before being sold on to another throttle-happy 16-year-old. This cycle likely repeats until the bike is discarded as no longer worth the repair bill.
Many will come with cosmetic crash damage and questionable service histories and so any would-be purchaser should spend a long time looking at the listings before committing to a purchase. It’s also important to budget for plenty of quality two-stroke oil, which is needed in regular supply to keep the engine running.
When going to view a bike, keep an eye out for the telltale signs of an off, including scraped pegs, bar ends and plastics. Although an aftermarket paint job may also be appealing – chances are it’s hiding the evidence of a mighty whack.
Purchasing with your head and not your heart is important here, with good examples appearing every so often. However, with the earliest machines in this trim now 14 years old, it’s likely any ownership experience will involve some degree of spanner action.
Being a tiny single-cylinder two-stroke and spending almost all of its time at high RPMs, many of these bikes will also have already needed at least one rebuild. It’s for this reason that many of the bikes on the used market are now no longer 49cc - with official Aprilia parts often being considerably more expensive (and sometimes harder to come by) than the big bore alternatives offered by aftermarket brands, such as Polini.
Those in need of parts or advice for their RS50 should consult PJ Motorcycle Engineers, in Wolverhampton.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
At £2549 new, the 2006 bike was reserved for those with deep pockets and, for many, buying a showroom fresh RS50 was never an option. This trend continues today, with a 2020 model now costing an eye-watering £4099 - £50 more than a brand-new four-stroke Honda CB125R. For many 16-year-olds, that sort of money is simply unobtainable.
Thanks to achieving cult status as the fast 50 to have though, bikes from 20 years ago are still commanding four-figure price tags. This means finding a decent under seat model on the cheap will be difficult, with many online sellers asking for between £1500 and £2000. This is despite the bike still only being in demand by L-plated kids, with very little interest in restoration projects currently being shown.
Today’s used market is lacking, with very few examples available online at any one time. Of those that do appear though, it is important to spend as much as you can afford. Afterall, the cheaper option won’t be quite such the bargain you hoped for if you’re forever rebuilding it. As with any used buy, look for receipts and service history.
Also think about who you’re buying from and look for any signs of neglect. Is there oil in it? Has it been cleaned? Has the chain been maintained? What state are the tyres? All of these things will give you an idea of whether it’s been loved.
Despite the gremlins you may face though, buying an RS doesn’t automatically mean you’re in for a rebuild, with some plodding along reasonably care-free. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen two RS50s pass through my family and neither went pop.
That said, neither were devoid of issues either; with one losing a rear wheel to a collapsed bearing and another needing two replacement starter motors. Besides that though, running costs were digestible, with sound electrics, minimal tyre wear and more. Keep in mind though, if you use it year-round elements of the bike are susceptible to corrosion.
Away from purchasing a bike and running costs, there’s also the question of insurance. Despite its sporty status, insuring the RS50 looks to be quite reasonable and having run a quote through MCNCompare.com for a 16-year-old with no no-claims bonus living rurally, prices came back as low as £350 third party and £560 fully comp.
Although a hefty dent in anyone’s wallet, it’s considerably cheaper than many will pay for car insurance at 17. It is important to note, of course, that premiums will vary dependant on your situation.
The 2006-onwards Aprilia RS50 takes styling cues from its much larger, 998cc V-Twin superbike big brother; the RSV1000R – making it the stuff of dreams for any budding biking teen tearaway.
Unlike many other 50s on the market, the dinky RS looks purposeful – with that neat under seat exhaust, 40mm upside-down forks, radially-mounted front caliper and OZ-inspired racing wheels giving the illusion of a bigger bike, which is important when you’re 16.
Although making around 18-times less power than the thumping RSV, Aprilia also used the 50 to help celebrate their racing successes, launching a Max Biaggi replica in July 2009 in recognition of his exploits in World Superbikes.
Despite the racing pedigree, don’t expect any electronic rider aids here (not that it needs them). Although at the premium end of the 50 market, the RS is built to a price and with around 8bhp on tap, there is no need for the likes of traction control.
Away from the styling, the 2006 update also saw bikes gain a part-digital dash, which replaced the previous bike’s three-windowed analogue unit.
With a large, rounded rev counter mounted to the left, the new digi screen housed your speed, temperature, trip and even a lap timer – presumably to record the fastest rotations of the McDonald’s carpark... There’s also a fuel light, which replaced the old machine’s fuel-tap reserve switch.
Not only more up to date, the digital speedo also added greater accuracy and opportunity for bragging rights, with the previous unit’s read out ending at 50mph – meaning once you passed it, the needle would simply keep on going into no man’s land.
Elsewhere, like the model before it, there is also a pillion provision. This is largely pointless for the UK market, as passengers cannot be taken on a provisional licence and almost all 50 riders are on L-plates. What’s more, 8bhp is very little shove for carrying two people, clad in bike kit. It’s something best avoided.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, two-stroke single-cylinder|
|Frame type||Aluminium twin beam|
|Fuel capacity||13 litres|
|Front suspension||40mm upside-down forks|
|Rear suspension||Hydraulic monoshock|
|Front brake||300mm stainless steel disc, radial caliper with two 28mm opposed pistons|
|Rear brake||180mm stainless steel disc, caliper with two 25mm opposed pistons|
|Front tyre size||110/80-17|
|Rear tyre size||130/70-17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||60 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£20|
|Annual service cost||£150|
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How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||8 bhp|
|Max torque||4.7 ft-lb|
|Top speed||60 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||200 miles|
Model history & versions
- 1997: the most sought-after 50cc sportsbike on the market and the bike which all others in this class must measure up against. Powered by a single-cylinder Minarelli AM-series engine up until 2005, bikes from 1995 to 1998 came with a single-sided swingarm.
- 2011-2016: Aprilia renames RS50 the RS4 50 to reflect its position in the Aprilia line-up.
- 2017: Renamed RS50 once again.
- Aprilia SX50 – A supermoto alternative to the RS50, which offers similar performance to its fully-faired counterpart, however, is much comfier for taller riders. A credible chassis and non-adjustable suspension make it great fun along nadgery twisties.
- Aprilia RX50 – Aprilia’s off-road geared 50; offering all the looks of a proper trail bike but lacking the true performance to match. It’ll tackle light trails but is much more at home in the urban jungle. If you don’t fancy off-road, buy the SX50 above.
Owners' reviews for the APRILIA RS50 (2006 - 2012)
1 owner has reviewed their APRILIA RS50 (2006 - 2012) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£150|
Annual servicing cost: £150
Rock hard seat, pillion is comfier, but the bike would not move 2 up! A teenager could last much longer on this bike, I usually have to rest every 30-45 minutes. The bike loves the twisties, and you just think your way around the bends.
For its capacity, it has a good amount of power. No doubt is it the king of the 50cc's, but if mixed with a 70cc kit, exhaust and bigger carb, things really come to life! With the upgrades, it feels like a much larger bike, having no power below 7k or so, and then a violent power band to 12k, make sure you're up to the gear changes to keep it in this small range!
Typical 2 stroke engine, but look after it and it will be much more reliable. Warm it up well before riding, run it off good quality oil, and you should see a few thousand miles per rebuild! Corrosion and rust on exhaust, brake disks.
Could do with a new barrel and piston annually, although you could probably get away with just a piston and rings if the barrel is in good condition.
Good dash, although it would benefit from a fuel gauge, being aimed at teenagers and all.
Buying experience: I bought privately, at £1100 for a 2009 plate.