RSV Mille R first ride

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Aprilia has reworked and repackaged its stylish RSV Mille V-twin to produce a devastating evolution of the 1000cc superbike that goes every bit as well as it looks – as our world exclusive first ride proves.

Sleeker and more powerful than the old Mille, the bike is new from the ground up with a new chassis, heavily modified engine and complete cosmetic overhall. The trademark 2-into-1 exhaust, complete with bulbous single cans is gone – replaced by twin exhausts with elliptical-section cans.

The seat is 25mm lower and the wheelbase 35mm shorter than the old bike. Jump on and you feel plugged into the RSV, forced into a race crouch, your helmet in line with the top of the screen. Knees fit perfectly into the cut-aways of the sculptured tank. Feet sit on high footrests, ready for action.

The box-section twin spar aluminium frame is not only lighter and stronger than the old bike’s – it is shapely and beautifully finished with textbook welding. The finish and fit of all the bodywork is of a very high standard. It has even got bobbins for a paddock stand fitted to the swingarm.

The view from the seat is a visual delight. The gun metal grey aluminium top yoke and red anodised fork tops are things of beauty and you could lose yourself in just toying with the instruments. The shift light can be set at any rpm and the integrated LCD shows everything from speed and temperature to lap times. At night it glows a warm, relaxing red as the effective headlights cut a swathe through the darkness. Despite its track pedigree the RSV has genuine road-rider usefulness built in.

Trickling through town the whole package has a quality feel. There are no shakes or rattles. All the controls are light and precise. The engine is always responsive no matter how many rpm is showing on the dial and the fuel injection is set up perfectly to provide a smooth and linear throttle response.

The seat is padded enough for most demands, but really long hauls take their toll on wrists, back, neck and legs.

The RSV offers its greatest joy on squiggly bits – whether they be track or road. And the new motor offers phenomenal assistance here.

The 998cc 60° V-twin engine is a heavily modified evolution of the original Mille motor and makes more power. The output is up from 112bhp to 117bhp, measured at the back wheel. But not only does it make more power it develops it smoothly too. Crack open the throttle in first gear and the RSV instantly surges forward swiftly and seamlessly… until the red rev needle hits 5500rpm. Here you find a slight dip in power – engineered in to pass noise tests. Then, as the needle hits the 6000rpm mark the RSV takes a big breath and hurtles its way towards the 11,000rpm rev limiter with a hefty kick up the backside and the option to send the front wheel skywards.

You don’t need to go all the way to 11,000rpm as the RSV makes peak power at 9500rpm, but the revs pick up so quickly the shift indicator light becomes increasingly useful as you rush towards the 165mph top speed.

Handling has always been a strong point on the Mille. It’s no coincidence the RSV has become the weapon of choice for many track day addicts. The combination of a grunty V-twin engine, excellent chassis and superb standard suspension make the RSV fast and confidence inspiring.

The new RSV feels plush and extremely competent on the road. On standard settings the suspension irons out ripples and road imperfections allowing you to get on and enjoy the Aprilia’s impressive cornering ability. The steering is neutral and you feel the bike roll in predictably with no more than a nudge on the clip-ons.

Mid-corner stability is superb, giving you the confidence to explore serious angles of dangle – there’s more than enough ground clearance.

Firing out of turns the RSV supplies you with the same confidence. As soon as you hit the apex you can start winding on the power as hard as you dare. The rear Michelin Pilot digs in as the Sachs fully adjustable rear shock keeps everything composed.

And at a day spent at Croft circuit in North Yorkshire, the Aprilia gave us the confidence to push seriously hard. The new more compact dimensions make grabbing the RSV by the neck and chucking it around very easy. It’s now small enough to climb all over. Stickier tyres would allow you to explore the handling abilities still further.

The suspension, while perfect for the road, needs stiffening for proper track action and the Showa forks and Sachs shock have the adjustment you need.

You don’t get radial mount brakes on the Mille R but the Brembo four-pot calipers work stupendously. Braking with just two fingers on road or track is enough to stand the RSV on its nose. They never come close to fading.

Aprilia has clearly built a worthy successor to the old bike, making improvements in almost every department.

ENGINE: The RSV’s cylinders are arranged in a relatively compact 60° V-twin (compared to the 999 and SP-2’s 90°). That could result in a lot of vibration – if it wasn’t for the balancer shaft. Because the motor is relatively compact it can be placed lower and further forward in the frame than the others – for weight distribution advantages.

CHASSIS: Aprilia’s sculptured twin spar frame and banana-shaped swingarm are a joy to behold. But it’s also very light and that contributes to the sweet handling the RSV enjoys. Sachs shock and Showa forks offer plenty of adjustment, which is just as well, as they need firming on the track.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff