MCN Fleet: Dan looks back fondly at a (largely) brilliant year with the Aprilia RS 660

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I grew up with sportsbikes, one-piece suits, sliders and trackdays, but I’ve started to grow tired of living with the recipe of low clip-ons, high pegs and peaky inline fours.

On a trackday, or when you want to make proper progress, a supersport or superbike won’t be beaten, but they’re often too focused for the daily slog.

That’s why bikes like the Aprilia RS 660 are so important. Part of a new wave of semi-sporty middleweights, they are proof that sportsbike ownership is still possible in 2022 and can be enjoyed without wrist ache or speeding tickets.

More long-term tests

Early impressions

A side view of the Aprilia RS 660

I first met the RS 660 as a pre-production mule at the 2018 Eicma show. It was love at first sight. A heady mix of advanced electronics, RSV4 looks, sticky tyres, and a sensible riding position.

The first 1500 miles were glorious – celebrating the end of lockdown with plenty of back lane blasts and a trackday at Brands Hatch Indy. It was a total attention seeker, with the V-twin soundalike engine and superbike looks getting glances wherever we went.

With 99bhp on tap, I could use big handfuls at legal speeds – something I’d never been able to do on my ZX-6R or GSX-R600. It was frugal, too – returning as much as 61.9mpg.

Rubber round-up

This was all done on the standard Pirelli Rosso Corsa II tyres, which provided superb front-end feedback and enough composure for a day’s knee-skidding around Brands.

Unfortunately they squared at the rear after a disappointingly short 1900 miles, and were quickly replaced with Bridgestone Battlax S22s. Although not as sporty as the previous hoops, they lasted longer and provided ample performance for road use – only lacking the Corsa II’s speedy heating time and rear stability under hard acceleration.

I moved on from the Bridgestones in the final 1000 miles, opting for a set of Metzeler Sportec M9RRs. These were like Baby Bear’s porridge – offering plenty of sporting prowess, with amazingly good wet weather ability.

Build and reliability

Standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres

Away from the tyres, another RS talking point surrounded Aprilia reliability. Some early bikes were recalled for issues with the conrods and work concerning ‘an engine shut-down while the vehicle is stationary’.

None of those issues blighted this particular machine though – only requiring tools to tighten the chain twice and fiddle with the suspension. That said, on our final weekend together, it decided to develop an oil weep. After consulting with Aprilia, I was told sorting the issue would be a very easy fix at a local dealership.

Sad times

I was hooked on the Aprilia RS 660 long before it was a production bike. The mix of advanced tech and circa 100bhp makes perfect sense and now it’s gone I miss it dearly.

Some of the paint finishes could have been better for the price and the oil trickle was a disappointment, but I’m gutted it’s gone. For road-biased thrills, it’ll be tough to beat.

Aprilia RS 660 previous updates:

Update nine: The Aprilia RS 660 is great to ride – but some finishes could be better

Published: 04.01.2022

A rear shot of the Aprilia RS660

I am mechanically inept. I can use hammers and spanners, but feel a sense of pride when I operate an Allen key without rounding anything off.

You can imagine my delight then, that after a year with the Aprilia RS 660 in the garage, the only times I had to pick up a tool was to adjust the chain a fraction twice in 6000 miles of riding.

I’d been told plenty of horror stories about Aprilia reliability in the past and was slightly nervous that I’d be spending 2021 waiting for breakdown vans and cursing faults in the garage. But I needn’t have worried. Our time together was near faultless.

More long-term tests

It started on the button every time and all the electronic gizmos worked all year long. In fact, it’s been one of the most reliable long-term test bikes I’ve been fortunate enough to run.

Other 660 machines were subject to engine recalls for issues like faulty conrods, but this particular bike soldiered on good as gold. I genuinely loved it (and I still do…) but I’d be lying if I said all the trim lived up to its £10,150 price.

Marks appear on the Aprilia RS 660 swingarm

The main area of concern surrounds the rear of the petrol tank, where the purple plastic finish meets the saddle. The finish is very thin and scratches easily against the zip of your jacket and rucksack straps.

It’s not the end of the world, but once it’s there, you can’t help but notice it. What’s more, the optional Aprilia tank pad won’t fix it either – leaving a large gap in the centre of the design that’s open to scuffs.

And then there’s the swingarm. Rather than heel plates as standard, the RS gets a clear plastic strip stuck onto the swingarm to deal with your boot rubbing. It does an OK job of this but wears away over time.

By the time the Devitt MCN Festival rolled around in September, the plastic strip was starting to break up on the right-hand-side and by the time visitors had stopped getting on and off the bike at the end of the two-day celebration, there was a big hole right through the middle. Annoying.

Sadly, this isn’t the end of my criticism and after spending a year telling anyone who would listen just how mechanically sound it was, the parallel-twin engine developed a slight oil weep two days before it was to be returned to Aprilia.

Once returned, it was given a service, with the firm saying it would be a very easy fix in a local garage or Aprilia dealership.

Update eight: Dan’s Aprilia RS 660 gets a full Maxton suspension upgrade

Published: 04.01.2022

Riding an Aprilia RS 660 with Maxton suspension

The Aprilia RS 660 is a road-focused sportsbike, meaning its suspension is set up to be more forgiving – soaking up road bumps rather than chasing lap times.

And that’s fine, but for aggressive riding the soft shock can make changes of direction feel forced. It can also squat under acceleration, causing the occasional shake. Adding some extra preload helps, but it still isn’t perfect and will bounce you out of the seat over big bumps.

More long-term tests

And whilst the front end is good, you do feel harsh imperfections in the tarmac, there’s a slight vibration through the bars at constant throttle and you get noticeable dive under hard braking on track.

Ask the experts

Installing Maxton suspension upgrades to the Aprilia RS 660

You can adjust the standard units, but I was convinced there was the potential to do more. To satisfy my curiosity, I spoke to Maxton Engineering – a British firm who began designing grand prix race bike chassis parts in 1971 before specialising on suspension.

Their kits for the RS are already proving popular with over 20 already sold and multiple finishes and specs available.

Taking the plunge

Maxton rear shock on the Aprilia RS 660

Being a fast road and trackday rider, I opted for the fully adjustable SD25 fork cartridges, with F3 fully-adjustable tops and GP10 shock (£735 and £830 plus VAT). I took the bike to their Cheshire HQ for installation, which adds a further £100, plus VAT.

A further £165 plus VAT is then spent on new seals and a service on the forks as they’ve done more than 3000 miles.

An undeniably expensive upgrade that could buy you an awful lot of servicing, tyres, or even another used bike, I was slightly nervous the standard machine’s plushness would be lost in pursuit of performance composure. I needn’t have worried.

Proof is in the riding

Built to order over two weeks, the beautifully finished units are given a personalised setup based on your size and particular riding requirements.

Rolling away from the workshop, I’m immediately aware of just how much less squat there is at the back end. There’s no protest through the bars no matter how ham fisted I am and the bike drives forwards with more urgency.

And then there’s braking – flipping Nora! Squeeze hard and there’s less dive and buckets more stability. There’s so much less travel that it feels like I’ve been in for a caliper upgrade at the same time.

Cornering on the Aprilia RS 660 with Maxton suspension

Dropping into a corner, there’s no awkward weight transfer or wallowing and you can rail through your favourite set of bends as fast as any 600cc thoroughbred without any of the discomfort. I’m properly in love with it.

But is it worth it?

It’s likely that the standard suspension will be more than adequate for the needs (and wallets) of many riders, but if you’re into chasing corner speed, scratching along back roads, or tackling trackdays then this upgrade will transform your RS into your very own Factory version. It’s the best mod I’ve put on the bike all year.

Other changes: Jumping through hoops

Metzeler Sportec M9RR tyres

When the suspension was swapped, the RS was wearing a set of badly squared, 3000-mile-old Bridgestone Battlax S22s, meaning I couldn’t feel the full effect of the changes.

These were swiftly swapped for a set of Metzeler M9RRs, which have totally transformed the riding experience. They heat up quickly, offer excellent front-end stability and impressed in the wet from as little early as 10 miles old.

They complement the stability of the suspension and encourage the bike to tip in quickly and hold a line as well as any thoroughbred race rep. I’d recommended them over the Bridgestones and only wish I’d installed them earlier.

Spoilt for choice

Maxton fork tops on the Aprilia RS 660

Changing your suspension is an undeniably expensive luxury upgrade, but Maxton will sell you a variety of options to help keep the costs down.

For example, the same SD25 fork cartridges I had are also available without preload adjustment. These are the cheaper F4 tops, which are yours for £570, plus VAT. The original internals can also be re-valved and re-sprung for £465, plus VAT, instead.

A cheaper NR4 shock is also available for £490, plus VAT – with a hydraulic preload adjuster on offer for both shock options too. This will set you back an additional £220, plus VAT.

Update seven: Noisy pipe addict Dan is happier leaving the RS 660’s cans standard

Published: 10.12.2021

A side view of the Aprilia RS 660 with an Akrapovic exhaust

“Nice bike mate, you wanna sort out that standard exhaust pipe, though,” shouts an onlooker as I stop for a coffee outside Stamford McDonalds.

The Aprilia has a two-into-one-into-two system tucked neatly out the way below the engine like a Ducati Panigale 899 and I’m perfectly happy with both the way it looks and sounds, but this stranger wasn’t the first to pass comment.

More long-term tests

In the past, my own bikes have been equipped with rasping bean-tin-sized slip-ons, but in recent years I’ve preferred to slide under the radar – wafting through the backroads without so much as a murmur from the curtain-twitching NIMBYs.

Summertime riding on the Aprilia RS 660

Still, remaining a child at heart, my loud pipe fascination hasn’t fully died off and when another RS 660 rolled into MCN towers for a road test, fitted with the optional £2534 homologated Akrapovic ‘Scarico Completo Omologato’ slip-on exhaust, I jumped at the chance to find out what I was missing out on.

Made from stainless steel and carbon fibre, the pricey unit remains Euro5 compliant and slices a sizeable chunk of metal away from the bike’s underbelly. That said, Aprilia refused to comment on whether it saves weight and it has a side-mounted design that screams mid-00s Japanese 600.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it lacks the tasteful minimalism of the standard underslung cans and leaves a large gap in the bike’s silhouette, where the removed components once sat. Still, none of this is visible when you ride the bike, so what’s it like on the move?

The Akrapovic can adds a slightly bassier tone

Not a lot different, truth be told. Wind on the power and it’s like the 659cc parallel twin has been plugged into a modest amplifier – producing a slightly bassier version of its V4- mimicking yowl as you climb past the middle of the tacho.

The pop is also more pronounced when you are making upshifts with the quickshifter and it does sound distinctly better at tickover.

It’s also well made and will save you a tonne of elbow grease when it’s time to wash it. This is because any sort of chain fling that lands on the left-hand standard exit bakes in place and needs plenty of degreaser and swearwords to remove.

That said, the Akra-clad bike feels no faster and at over £2500 it’s a serious outlay for a slight change in engine tone and an easier time when cleaning. I’d spend your money elsewhere.

Update six: What’s realy worth installing on your Aprilia RS 660

Published: 11.10.2021

Leaning into a corner on the Aprilia RS 660

When I first took the keys to the Aprilia RS 660, my mission was clear: I wanted to turn it into the ultimate arrive-and-ride trackday bike.

I’ve experimented with tyres, fitted accessories and even ridden up to the suspension gurus at Maxton for the works treatment on the springs (more on that soon) but which extras deliver tangible benefits?

More long-term tests

R&G Brake Lever Guard, £38.33

Easy to install and essential for any rider wanting to venture on track, with many circuits now mandating brake lever guards. The R&G unit is well built, hasn’t faded and continues to sit neatly where the bar end once was.

The black finish also means it blends into the looks, which is handy as I have a dislike for lever and clutch guards on road bikes.

R&G Engine Case Covers, £59.99 (each)

R&G engine case covers give added protection

Much like the brake lever guard, the case protection’s black finish blends seamlessly into the factory finish of the bike. I’m seriously impressed and although not installed as a compulsory measure, they do give added peace of mind.

R&G Cotton Reels, £19.16

There’s no centrestand – meaning these R&G bobbins are needed for popping the RS onto a paddock stand. After plenty of use, they remain firmly in place, with no signs of wearing out and they’re a decent size to make locating the paddock stand easy.

Evotech Performance Tail Tidy, £175

The Evotech tail tidy looks great but can be fiddly to instal

It neatens the compact back end, but I could live without it – leaving the rider more exposed to wet weather fling from the back wheel in poorer conditions.

The unit itself is nicely built and the planet-friendly packaging contains no plastics, too.

That said, the photo instructions found online can be hard to follow and did miss the removal of one bolt. With the bike having such a small arse it’s also easier to remove all the’ plastics from the rear end when attempting to reattach everything and stuff in all the electronics. Factor this into your assembly time.

Bridgestone Battlax S22s, £269

I’ve used OE Bridgestone S22s (circa £269 per pair + fitting) on multiple bikes and have always been impressed.

They inspire confidence in low temperatures and are a great road-going performance tyre. But they’re just not quite as good as the standard-fitment Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2s, which offer more front-end feel, greater confidence under braking, and allow the bike to drop in faster and accelerate out of a bend with greater stability. They’ve also squared at the rear after 3000 miles.

Aprilia Tank Pad, £26.99

The Aprilia tank pad leaves lots of exposed plastic

On the face of it, getting all those individual blobs to line up on the tank looks hard, but it couldn’t be easier thanks to the simple-to-follow instructions and sticky back plastic packaging.

It’s great value and suits the bike nicely. I just wish it was a solid unit, as the finish around the rear of the tank is thin and prone to scratching. Large chunks are still exposed with the pad in place.

Update five: High-mileage weekenders demonstrate the Aprilia RS 660’s distance skills

Published: 13.09.2021

Aprilia RS 660 exploring the Peak District

The Aprilia RS 660 is the most versatile sportsbike I have ever ridden. It’s got the attention-grabbing looks, can handle itself on a trackday, and offers endless weekend thrills.

This particular machine has also been mechanically sound – not one of the 700 across the globe requiring an engine swap due to issues with the conrods.

In fact, outside of a slightly soft standard rear end and an unsightly left switchgear housing, I’ve struggled to find fault with it and after a series of recent minibreaks and day trips it’s now also proving its worth over distance, too.

Where have I been?

Parked up on the Aprilia RS 660

After over a year of restrictions, I was determined to make this summer a belter, visiting more places by bike and savouring the amazing routes on my doorstep.

My string of adventures started with a camping weekend in Scarborough, heading towards Bridlington from my Lincolnshire home, before hugging the coast north and snatching a few laps of the Oliver’s Mount circuit between ice creams on the beach.

Outside of this, I have enjoyed two trips to the Peak District – one with the sole intention of having an ice cream (again) by Ladybower Reservoir and another to sample some new routes before continuing to Snake Pass and then back to Matlock for a bag of chips.

More long-term tests

Elsewhere, the RS has been called into action for a 110-mile early morning motorway dash to Teesside Autodrome for the first-ever Freetech Endurance 24 hour race and a 120-mile evening run down to Brands Hatch ahead of a trackday.

Although none of these rides are going to win me an Iron Butt challenge, the Aprilia has excelled every time. With lower pegs and higher bars than a traditional supersport bike, there’s room to move around and remain comfortable without sitting bolt upright.

Then there’s the seat, which squishes below your butt cheeks like a new sofa and the tall screen which deflects most of the wind away from the rider.

With the cruise control activated, covering ground is child’s play, the bike achieving a tested 61.9mpg during a tank of sedate riding to allow a potential 204.2 miles between fills.

A trip to the Peak District for an ice cream

Bad vibes

Not everything works well over distance though and after an hour on constant throttle you’ll start to notice a gentle tingle in your feet from the vibrating engine.

It’s not the end of the world but could get tiresome on a proper tour. What’s more, the mirrors are largely occupied by your elbows, which can be irritating.

Update four: Aprilia RS 660 Brands Hatch bash

Published: 21.06.2021

Cornering on the Aprilia RS660 on track

My Aprilia RS 660 has proved an excellent road-going sportsbike. Comfortable, tractable and bloody good fun… I’ve loved every minute. But there’s only so much performance you can use on the road.

With a claimed 99bhp from its 659cc parallel twin, you can use a damn sight more of its output than a traditional supersport 600, but you can use the whole lot on track.

A quick look at showed a road bike day at Brands Indy. At just 1.208 miles long, the Kent circuit is ideal – with undulations, hairpins, open bends, and short straights on offer.

Session one

I leave the Aprilia on its road-going settings, dropping the pressures in the OE Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2 tyres and folding in the mirrors before trundling down pitlane. So far this morning the RS has waltzed through noise testing, with 94dB at 5500rpm and now I’m ready to bask in the Kentish sunshine – savouring that first kiss of knee slider on tarmac.

Cornering on the track on the Aprilia RS 660

But although I’m taking it steady, the soft road-friendly suspension set-up is already struggling. The shock squats under acceleration, making direction changes feel forced and the bars shake along the rippled start/finish straight. It’s a similar story up front, with the forks diving under braking. That said, the ABS is fabulously unobtrusive – backed off to its weakest setting and not pumping back through the lever at any point across the day.

Spring break

A session under our belt, it’s into the pits for some fettling. I don’t profess to being a suspension expert and it took me an embarrassingly long time to even adjust the rear preload for the road.

Riding the Aprilia RS 660 at Brands Hatch

Fortunately, I’m joined by the editors of our sister titles RiDE and Practical Sportsbikes and we set about making changes to help improve the RS. On goes 10 clicks of front preload in the forks and four at the rear, having first removed the left side fairing below the seat to access the top of the shock.

Harder better faster

I must admit I was sceptical at such drastic changes, but I’m glad I trusted my colleagues’ spannering nous. There’s less dive at the front and the brakes felt more powerful as a consequence – giving you the confidence to brake later and carry more corner speed. There’s also less squat at the back, however there is still the occasional shake of the bars at speeds nudging 130mph, before slowing for turn one.

Road-friendly limitations

By the end the RS feels fast without being intimidating and completes the day on little more than a single tank of fuel. It lacks the top-end pace of a supersport 600 and the low pegs sometimes dragged on faster bends, but the engine offers plenty of initial shove off the corner and as a halfway house between road and track, it performed excellently.

Plus – that extra road comfort made the 150-mile journey home a whole lot nicer, too. I’ll be back!

Accelerating on the Aprilia RS 660 at Brands Hatch

Update three: Aprilia RS 660 is an Italian attention-seeker

Published: 21.06.2021

Tucked in on the Aprilia RS 660

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 2000 miles, it’s that the Aprilia RS 660 attracts attention like no other motorcycle I’ve ridden.

Likely caused by its beautiful RSV4-aping looks and V-twin soundalike rumble at town speeds, it attracts curious glances, and I’ve been stopped in traffic by fellow bikers who want to find out more.

More long-term tests

It’s a refreshing take on the sportsbike concept and perfectly timed – giving race rep fans something they can enjoy at road legal speeds and on the occasional trackday. Think of it as a modern successor to the Honda CBR600F Sport – rather than the RS 250 replacement many hoped it would be – and you won’t be far wrong.

It has been fantastic as a road-going toy over the past four months and highlights why traditional supersport 600s fell from favour.

I’m heading out more at the weekends and have snatched extra evening rides where possible, falling back in love with the epic roads surrounding my Lincolnshire home. It’s even comfy over distance, with the standard issue cruise control and thick padded seat allowing you to soak up full tank loads in the saddle without needing to stretch. I simply love it.

Squared rubber

That said, it hasn’t all been plain sailing and after 1900 miles I did notice the rear Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2 tyre beginning to square off. It still performs wonderfully and I’ve since enjoyed a trackday with it (more of that in the next update…) but I’d have expected it to maintain its shape for longer.

I spotted this whilst making minor adjustments to the rear shock, which is too soft on standard settings for animated riding. The rear sits too low and occasionally causes the bars to slap under acceleration and can make changes of direction feel forced. No more than a half turn of preload appears to have done the trick for me, with any changes to the rebound requiring the removal of a small side panel via two bolts.

Paddock stand work revealed a squaring tyre

Recalls for some

An isolated cruise control issue aside, our RS has been good as gold, but other 660s have been recalled for work concerning ‘an engine shut-down while the vehicle is stationary.’ Bikes can be ridden without safety risk and any work carried out by a dealer is done for free. If you’ve been contacted, be sure to book it in.

Update two: What’s hot and what’s not on the Aprilia RS 660?

Published: 03.06.2021

Cornering on the Aprilia RS660

Back in 2018, when the planet was pandemic-free, I was sent to Milan to report on the new bike releases from Italy’s international Eicma trade show.

It was here that Aprilia surprised the world’s press with an unscheduled RSV4 lookalike concept, sporting a red parallel-twin motor, winglets, premium suspension and more. It was unlike anything in their range and sat on a plinth that said simply: ‘coming soon’. That bike was to become the RS 660, which arrived just two years later.

More long-term tests

I never forgot that first encounter and with every spy shot, patent drawing and teaser video released, my hunger to ride one grew. I love mid-sized sportsbikes, but as a former owner of both a GSX-R600 and ZX-6R, I had grown tired of their one-track-mind on the road.

Flash forward to March 2021 and there’s an RS 660 sitting in my garage, finished in the Loris Reggiani replica RS 250 colours. I’m a lucky boy.

After just shy of 1500 miles together, the combination of a usable 99bhp output, lean-sensitive electronics and superbike looks have proved a winning combination, but it hasn’t all been perfect. So, what’s hot and what’s not on the RS 660? Let’s dig in.

Twin-cylinder winner

The Aprilia RS660's engine is a cracker

The 659cc parallel twin is an absolute peach. Producing a claimed 99bhp, there’s an appetite to rev all the way to its 11,500rpm redline and enough meat in the middle to be calm and easy day-to-day. Ride it sensibly and you’ll see a tested 60mpg, with next to no vibes on the move. It also sounds fabulous, growling like a Ducati Panigale V2 at idle and climbing to a yowling top end, reminiscent of Aprilia’s own V4s. For a Euro5 system, it really is impressive.

A lazy lip

The styling is let down by the front lip

The RS 660 is a lovely looking thing – especially in our red and purple pastel design, which truly pops in the sun. But it’s let down by a lazy design feature on the nose fairing. In order to accommodate the unnecessarily bulky left switchgear, the Noale firm have added a lip in the body work, to insure a full turning circle. I noticed it after around 50 miles and now see it every time it’s parked. A little more R&D for symmetry would’ve gone a long way in my book.

Distance comfort

A thick padded seat is good over distance

Although styled to look like a half-pint RSV4, the RS 660 is really comfortable over distance. The bars are gently set and there’s plenty of leg room. There’s also a thick padded seat, which may come to detract from sportier summer riding pursuits but is perfect on a longer motorway haul. Life is made even sweeter by cruise control, which is easily adjusted, but flashes green when primed but not active, which makes you think you’ve left an indicator on. It also briefly lost the ability to be adjusted on the fly after its first service, however a quick trip back to Piaggio and an hour with a laptop and it was all sorted.

Pirelli Performance

The tyres have been impressive over 1500 miles

The Aprilia leaves the factory on a set of Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa IIs and I won’t beat around the bush, they’ve been bloody brilliant. They heat up quickly and have oodles of grip in the dry for some animated riding. If you’re a weekend road rider and the Aprilia has caught your eye, these could be the only tyres you’ll ever need. 1500 miles in and there is yet no sign of wear.

Blip and miss

The RS 660 features an up-and-down quickshifter – unlike Honda’s rival CBR650R which has an upshifter as an extra. It works brilliantly well when you’re riding hard, but lacks finesse at everyday speeds. At sedate revs, it can feel clunky on the upshift and, unless you apply a positive prod of the lever, can sometimes fail to change at all coming back down. At these sorts of speeds, it’s best to change traditionally, which is no hardship as each application of the light clutch creates a devilish pop from the underslung pipes.

Update one: Can the Aprilia RS 660 be road-friendly and still thrill on track?

Published: 28.04.21

A side view of the Aprilia RS660

As a former supersport 600 owner I cannot wait to get stuck into the Aprilia RS 660. It’s a much-needed reimagining of the focused middleweight class and I want to sculpt the Italian into the ultimate road-friendly sportsbike, with enough poise to still thrill on track.

The rider Dan Sutherland, Senior Writer, 25, 5ft 6in. Year-round commuter, weekend blaster, riding for nine years.

Bike specs 659cc | 99bhp | 183kg (dry) | 820mm seat height

Watch MCN’s expert Aprilia RS 660 video review below: