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First ride: Aprilia RS125

Published: 30 June 2017

The Aprilia RS 125 returns for 2017. But sadly not in two-stroke form…

The Aprilia RS 125 first smoked its way onto racetracks 25 years ago and quickly set about dominating its class before Moto3 was introduced in 2012. Quick to link its GP success to its road bikes, and spotting the potential of young tearaways hell-bent on speed, it didn’t take long for the firm to build race rep learner bikes, starting with the 1992 AF125 Futura before the RS name was adopted in 1994 on the RS 125R Extrema. This awesome mini stink-wheel became the 125 of choice for teenage hooligans, not to mention multiple future GP stars through various one-make race series, and remained in Aprilia’s range until it was replaced by the four-stroke RS4 in 2011. Now, to celebrate the RS’s 25th anniversary as well as updating it to make it Euro4-compliant, Aprilia has changed the name of their RS4 to RS 125 in homage. Although sadly it remains four-stroke…

To be horribly honest, the RS 125 is basically just an RS4 with a Euro4 engine, new dash and larger underseat storage area. The fairing design is the same RSV4-mimicking look as before, but alongside the black and silver paint schemes, you now have the option of a MotoGP-rep for an extra £100, which comes with a quickshifter fitted. And that’s kind of my problem with the RS 125…


Just to clarify matters, there is absolutely nothing wrong at all with the RS 125. It is a really good looking four-stroke race rep that despite costing a premium £4700, goes some way to justifying this by being built in Italy and not a far eastern country. However my problem is the fact that Aprilia have called it an RS 125. Let me explain.

I’m of the generation that lusted after owning an RS 125. I never fulfilled my ambition of having one, but I always wanted one as it looked stunning and even had a polished aluminium frame like the 125GP bikes – and don’t even start me on the Chesterfield rep. Then there was the legendary potential of getting it derestricted and unleashing all 33bhp that could be squeezed out of that two-stroke motor before it melted a piston. That was what made the RS 125 so special – it was, potentially, the fastest and best handling 125 out there as well as the best looking. The 2017 RS 125, however, is a totally different prospect.

The four-stroke engine is all very smooth in its running thanks to a balancer shaft, and makes the required 15bhp that allows it to top 80mph while also only sipping petrol, but like all small capacity four-strokes it is very flat in its performance. And that 15bhp is all you will ever get as home tuning is out of the question. These power characteristics make it feel functional rather than two-stroke thrilling like its namesake, a theme that is reflected in its chassis

While there is little to criticise about the RS’s chassis (aside from the fact it is painted and not polished, which is really disappointing) it does nothing to really distinguish itself from the likes of the Yamaha YZF-R125 or KTM RC125. The suspension is surprisingly good and it handles impressively as well as being nice and roomy for taller riders, but it’s doesn’t give the impression of being a GP-refugee like the older two-stroke generation. It feels, slightly disappointingly considering its legendary RS 125 name, just like its rivals…

But am I being too critical and looking back at a world where two-strokes could be fettled to increase their performance with rose-tinted glasses? Probably so, the new RS 125 is certainly desirable as it looks fantastic and handles well for a 125, but underneath its skin it is just another four-stroke 125 that makes the same 15bhp as every other four-stroke 125 and that makes me a bit sad considering its unique race heritage. 

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