MCN Fleet: Aprilia RS 660 Brands Hatch bash
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 msvtrackdays.com 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.
It was an early start, but we’re itching to put the #MCNFleet @ApriliaUK RS660 through its paces on today’s @MSVTrackdays road bike day at Brands Hatch. Keep an eye out for more updates later on. pic.twitter.com/cLeduQMGnG— Motor Cycle News (@MCNnews) June 1, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Aprilia RS 660 previous updates:
- Update one: Introducing the Aprilia RS 660
- Update two: Hit & miss on the Aprilia RS 660
- Update three: Italian attention seeker
Update three: Aprilia RS 660 is an Italian attention-seeker
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
- 2021 BMW S1000R long-term test
- 2021 Kawaski ZX-10R long-term test
- 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9GT long-term test
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.
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.
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?
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
- 2021 BMW S1000R long-term test
- 2021 Suzuki Hayabusa long-term test
- 2021 Kawaski ZX-10R long-term test
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
All cleaned up and ready to go for another week. Is it just me that finds taking a bike on and off a paddock stand a bit of a stress? pic.twitter.com/rkSrdTuK4d— Dan Sutherland (@DanielJS46) May 3, 2021
Update one: Can the Aprilia RS 660 be road-friendly and still thrill on track?
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. Dan.firstname.lastname@example.org
Bike specs 659cc | 99bhp | 183kg (dry) | 820mm seat height