Dreamers need not apply
THE Aprilia Nera is the first machine in what the factory is calling its new " Dream Series " – not least because a dream is all it is ever likely to remain for all but the obscenely wealthy. At nearly £25,000 the Italian black beauty is one of the most expensive production motorcycles ever built.
But the dream tag is also entirely appropriate as this latest version of the recently revamped RSV1000 is the most exotic limited-edition sportster the Noale firm has ever built.
Buyers of the Nera will become part of a very select club of 200. Not only do they get a heavily modified, lighter, more powerful version of the £10,699 RSV Factory model but they also receive a VIP package of goods which includes personalised Dainese leathers and special trips to the Aprilia factory and to a foreign MotoGP round next year (see right).
The Nera certainly looks a dream out on track at the new Adria race circuit just an hour’s drive from Aprilia’s factory in the north east of Italy.
The bike, number 000 (one of only two made so far), is getting the benefit of a few warm-up laps by an Aprilia test rider before MCN’s world first test. The ride has been organised at short notice so our session is taking part during an official Aprilia owners track day. But it’s still easy to spot the Nera among the roaming packs of RSVs and Tuonos. The thunderous roar of its titanium full racing exhaust crescendos over the dull thud of all the other V-twins. And despite being coloured the most furtive shade of black, cloaked head to toe in carbon-fibre bodywork – including the tank, its unique fluorescent red magnesium wheels are at the exact other end of the stealth scale.
After its warm-up session, as the bike sits in the pit lane, engine still ticking and pinging, the sunlight picking out the weave in the carbon-fibre, the Nera also reveals itself to have one of the sexiest rear ends in the business. Forget underseat exhausts. The fact that the Japanese are all copying the likes of Ducati and MV Agusta is almost confirmation that they’re now out of fashion.
Instead, the upswept, oval-section Akrapovic cans point skywards and curve seductively around the banana-shaped aluminium swingarm.
Straddling the Nera is similarly rewarding. The bike is set up for the track so the rear end hardly dips as the red-piped leather seat supports my weight and hands are aimed downwards onto the low clip-ons.
Just riding down pit lane, swinging from left to right to get some heat back into the tyres, the bike’s lightness is obvious. The Nera tips the scales at 170kg (374lb), when fitted with the supplied race pipes (add 5kg/11lb with road cans). That compares with 185kg (407lb) for the standard RSV and 199kg (439lb) for Ducati’s 999.
And you can feel the difference. The merest nudge from the bars has the Nera instantly changing direction. Every pit lane lump, bump and ripple can be sensed through hands, feet and bum via the sticky Pirelli Super Corsas and Ohlins suspension.
Adria is very tight and twisty. Almost two miles of track has been squeezed into an area not much bigger than a football pitch, and there are lots of slow speed hairpins.
But despite the track being more suited to a 250, the Aprilia copes admirably – in fact it’s a real blast. Accelerating out of any of the circuit’s second gear turns has me clambering over the front to stop the wheel from lifting thanks to the combination of the Nera’s low weight and a claimed crank figure of 140bhp, up 2bhp on the Factory and R models.
That peak power figure rises to a claimed 145bhp with the race cans fitted but even without the power comes in so smoothly and predictably you can lift the front wheel and keep it pointing towards the sun until it’s time to brake for the next corner, whether that means staying in second or accelerating through to fourth at the end of the front straight.
Although there’s a slight dip in power around the 6000rpm mark, the power curve is smooth, which heightens further the typical V-twin characteristic of never feeling as fast as it’s actually going. Although the Nera never feels slow (how could it with 145bhp on tap?) you only become aware of your speed when it’s time to brake. And since all Adria’s corners are second gear hairpins preceded by fast straights the impression of speed comes in with a bang as you pass the 200 metre braking board at 130mph with a 30mph hairpin coming at you.
Fortunately, the Nera has the same excellent brakes as fitted to the Factory version. The radially-mounted four-piston Brembos give eye-popping performance which is aided by the reduced inertia of the lightweight magnesuim wheels. That said, they lack the feel of the Factory set up and it’s quite possible that the race compound pads Aprilia has fitted to this development mule could be robbing the bike of a bit of feel in favour of greater stopping power.
Although the Nera is flickable, it still takes a bit of effort to steer – especially when arriving at corners so fast. You have to get physical with the bike, steering with the bars, footpegs and your bodyweight so as not to overrun the turn. That said, the Nera is definitely better than both the standard R and high-specification Factory versions of the new RSV.
Once in the turn, the Nera feels rock solid and very confidence-inspiring. You can feel the suspension working beneath you while the Pirelli Super Corsa tyres dig into the tarmac between the big V-twin power pulses.
But is the Nera worth its near-£25,000 price tag? Well... yes and no. If you’ve got the money and are looking for something exotic, stunning and exclusive, not to mention the opportunity to enjoy all the fringe benefits of owning the bike, then look no further. However, back in the real world, not only is the Factory model over £14,000 cheaper, you’d struggle to separate them on the track.
IF you buy a Nera Aprilia promises you’ll get much more than just a bike – you’ll be buying into a whole new VIP lifestyle.
For a start, you will deal directly with the Aprilia factory, via the factory’s official website. Each customer will be assigned their own personal liaison representative who will take them through the entire purchase procedure.
Customers will then be invited to visit Aprilia in Noale, including a tour of the Nera production line and even get the chance to meet the firm’s president Ivano Beggio.
You will also be flown on an all expenses paid trip to a MotoGP round next year.
A stack of goodies comes with the Nera too. Each owner gets a set of Dainese leathers, a Suomy lid and a special silver key fob with the bike’s unique number engraved. They will also receive a book detailing how the Nera was conceived, developed and manufactured including design and CAD drawings.
The Nera is the lightest and most powerful of Aprilia’s new RSV family – not to mention the most expensive.
NERA SPEC v ‘FACTORY’ SPEC
Its power has been raised from the claimed 138.7bhp at 9500rpm of the Factory version to140bhp at 10,000rpm. A further 4-5bhp can be released by the fitment of the titanium Akrapovic race exhaust which comes with the Nera as part of the race kit.
The Nera is also far lighter than any other of the RSV models. Again, when wearing its full titanium race pipe, the Nera tips the scales at just over 170kg – which is a full 15kg less than the Factory version and a whopping 19 regular bags of sugar (42lb) less than the standard ‘R’! And if all that wasn’t enough, it is the first ever road bike to be fully homologated with a full set of carbon-fibre bodywork, including tank.
Attention to detail is stunning, too. The carbon-fibre is beautifully-finished with all the weave running in the same direction – a skilful and time-consuming process.
Aprilia have slashed kilograms where it matters most – cutting down on unsprung weight. The rear Ohlins shock uses many aluminium parts in place of ones that would normally be steel and the words ‘RSVR Magnesio Forgiato’, which is stamped into those fluorescent red wheels, is the only hint that they are forged entirely from magnesium alloy, another first for a production bike. The wheels each weigh almost two kilograms less than even the lightweight forged alloy OZ items found on the Factory model.