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Longterm test: Aprilia RSV-R

Published: 25 November 2001

Updated: 19 November 2014

We’ve all had moments when we wish the ground would just open up. Like when you’ve spent the last five minutes saying what a tosser your boss is, only to find him standing behind you. Or when you’ve been telling a bloke at a party how you plan to make a move on that blonde – only to discover it’s his girlfriend.

As I stood by the side of the road in the dark I, too, wished I could disappear.

How the hell was I going to tell my boss I’d just broken his pride and joy, having only borrowed it a few hours before? To make matters worse, Keith Farr (my boss and proud owner of the RSV-R) is a keen body-builder and could snap me in half with one hand.

It had all started so well. After months of pestering him for a ride on the big twin, he finally relented and handed over the keys. I have always wanted to ride the RSV Mille and was finally going to get the chance. The weather was fine and I even managed to escape the office an hour early. Things were looking good as I gingerly edged out of the car park, Farr’s parting comment of " break it and you die " ringing in my ears. Sadly, things changed fast.

I had been riding around some of my favourite roads and was loving it. The Aprilia was exactly as I had imagined. Through fast corners it felt so planted it was amazing.

I could really feel the difference between the mass-produced suspension like that on my CBR600 and the Ohlins set-up on the Aprilia.

The brakes are also absolutely staggering. I thought the CBR’s four-pots were good, but the Aprilia’s six are unbelievable. The slightest pressure has the front diving, they are almost too much to cope with. And the motor is something else. Or at least it was.

Having stopped at a pub for a quick Coke, I got back on the bike and pulled away. About 20 yards later I changed up, there was a funny " ping " sound and the twistgrip went slack.

My first thought was a snapped throttle cable and as I came to a halt that certainly seemed the case. There was no pressure at all on the grip and the engine was left just idling.

As I don’t make a habit of carrying a spare cable with me, and had no intention of pushing a 187kg (411lb) superbike the six miles home, it looked as though a call to the AA was my only hope. Until I had a thought.

When I first started the bike I noticed the tickover on choke was set quite high, about 6000rpm. I put the choke on full and, after a lot of careful clutch-slipping, managed to ride the bike home. Not recommended, but useful in an emergency and an RSV will still do 80mph in top at 6000rpm.

Luckily it was a Friday night so, before I told Farr about my unfortunate incident, I decided to try and solve it. Two bolts hold the tank on and once undone allow it to be lifted up on a hinge, giving you access to the engine area.

A quick inspection revealed that both throttle cables were intact, but one was detached from a clamp holding it in place. Basically, the engine’s vibrations had loosened one of the nuts holding it in, allowing it to come off and giving symptoms similar to a snapped cable. Two minutes to tighten the nut and replace the tank and the Aprilia was sorted.

A test ride and the bike felt perfect. But not one to ignore omens, I returned the bike to the big man before anything else happened.

Though I loved riding the RSV, I think I will stick with the CBR in future. Partly because of the thought of Farr ripping my arms off and beating me with them should anything else happen, but partly because I need 100 per cent reliability. I commute 60 miles a day, have been since Spring, and there’s no way anything like this would have gone wrong on the Honda.

Then again, the Aprilia was fantastic and the handling, brakes and motor were something else. Maybe I’ll have just one more ride, if he lets me have the keys. And anyway, if lightning strikes twice I can run faster than Farr.

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