Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Is a Missile for the Street—and Track

·7 min read
Photo credit: Aprilia
Photo credit: Aprilia
  • The 2022 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is a 217-hp street-legal production motorcycle weighing in at just 445 pounds.

  • The weight-to-power ratio of 2.1:1 bests the likes of a Ferrari F8 Tributo—by more than double.

  • It also delivers a lot more power per dollar: With a sticker price of $25,999, it costs less than a tenth of what the Ferrari goes for.

Since Autoweek is a car publication and all, consider this: Ferrari’s high-falutin’ 710-hp twin-turbo F8 Tributo has a weight-to-power ratio of 4.5:1 lb/hp. Pretty impressive. It also carries an MSRP of $283,950 and requires a racetrack to exploit, both legally and dynamically. Now meet the 2022 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory, a $25,999 street-legal production motorcycle with 217 normally aspirated horses and tipping in at 445 lb for a 2.1:1 weight-to-power ratio. That’s over twice the punch for 9 percent of the Prancing Horse’s price. The Aprilia likewise needs a racetrack to fully utilize—but a much bigger one than Laguna Seca Raceway in California, where we recently found ourselves guiding this two-wheeled cruise missile.

Measuring a slinky 2.2 miles around, Laguna Seca is among the most challenging road courses in America, or anywhere. With relentless elevation changes and variously cambered turns—including the famous 5 ½-story drop that is the Corkscrew—it requires fighter-pilot level critical thinking, care and precision to get right. Some courage helps too.

Suited up and sweating in tight-fitting racing leathers, boots, helmet and gloves, I swung a leg over the RSV4, dropped into the solo seat, switched on the ignition and used the 5-inch LCD display and switchgear to configure the electronic settings afforded this top-of-the-line model. Ride-by-wire throttle mapping, launch control, traction control, wheelie control, engine braking, front and rear ABS, rear-wheel anti-lift, adjustable semi-active suspension…the list goes on. After selecting track settings compatible with the machine’s DOT tires, tapping the starter button brought a baritone V4 growl.

Photo credit: Aprilia
Photo credit: Aprilia

From here on, it was like hugging a grizzly on Adderall; vibrating and growling, you’re the machine and it is you. Then rap the throttle—bereft of much flywheel, the revs spike instantly, along with the noise. There is no firewall, no 4-point racing harness, no door beams, no window net nor fire bottle. Just you aboard a big, bad bottle-rocket, released on your own recognizance to conduct your own private Walter Mitty Challenge. Clicking the 6-speed gearbox lever down for first, we burbled towards pit out. This should be interesting.

Aside from sharing general racetrack practices and enjoying Isaac Newton’s blessed g-forces, riding the Aprilia and driving a car here are profoundly dissimilar. One reason is that the bike is just 29 inches wide at the mirror-tips, spreading the line choices enormously. Another is motorcycling’s hugely participatory experience. Astride the machine, your knees clench the fuel tank and your legs and feet tuck against the frame. Hunched forward to reach the handlebars, your wrists, arms and shoulders bear the weight of your upper body. “Let’s get physical!” sang Olivia Newton-John, though perhaps not about this bike.

A modest lap to build tire temperatures and then on it. The Aprilia’s traction and wheelie control software are so efficient, that while banking through hairpin Turn 11, eyeing the front straight, and pulling the trigger, the rear end hardly wiggled and the front didn’t pitch skyward—just a brief wheelie as the revs surged. A quick-shifter helps the six-speed dog-box work nearly instantly up as well as down, including rev-matching on downshifts. Literally, once on track, you needn’t touch the clutch.

The powerband gets serious above 9000 rpm and peaks at 13,000 rpm, letting the Aprilia reportedly accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds and then surpass 189 mph. But that couldn’t happen this time. “There are absolutely no straightaways anywhere,” Al Holbert said of Laguna Seca in 1982. “Even the fast parts of the racecourse have squiggles in them!”

Even so, between corners, gravity pressed our sacrum against the seatback and sought (unsuccessfully, thank you) to pull our hands off the grips. The remedy is to isometrically embrace the machine, elbows in and helmet tucked behind the windscreen, and most crucially, steer! And steer well, because a second’s misguidance may be uncorrectable at 150 feet per second. As the 1968 Battling Tops game promised, riding fast really is “in the wrist action.”

Photo credit: Aprilia
Photo credit: Aprilia

A half-century of superbike world history and 13 years of development for Aprilia’s flagship model have brought us here. The RSV4 nameplate debuted for 2009 and, after winning several World Superbike titles, grew to 1099cc form for 2021. Simultaneously, engineers sweetened the “cockpit” by slightly lowering the footrests and seat for comfort. Achieving the 95th percentile in human factors is way harder to achieve for bikes than cars, but broadly, if you’re between five-foot-three and six-foot-three and weigh perhaps 110 to 210 pounds, the Aprilia should work.

Hurtling toward the start-finish line, the quick-shifter grabbed fourth gear and the engine screamed toward its power peak. In mere seconds, Laguna’s pedestrian bridge flashed overhead. No time to look at the display but we’re well past 100 mph at this point. An onboard lap timer, if you remember it, activates with a pull of the high-beam switch by your left forefinger. But there were bigger fish to fry now, namely banking left over the track’s blind brow and through Turn 1; get this wrong and you could wind up in the dirt, a bad scenario on a bike.

An infield section was added in 1988, and braking downhill for the “new” double-apex Turn 2—aka Andretti Hairpin—led into this next spellbinding adventure. Operated independently, normal for motorcycles, the Brembo dual front and single rear discs are linear and strong, with firm lever effort. The Z-rated Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP radials and electronic Öhlins semi-active suspension telegraph excellent feel; ordinary riders simply won’t run out of grip on the RSV4 Factory. And the electronic aids add further security. This is an extremely fast bike; it’s also a safe one.

What this means for all of us Regular Joes (and Josephines), is that if we can avoid big mistakes, the RSV4 will help us confidently enjoy the demonic superbike thrill. What kinds of mistakes, you might ask, can spoil this scintillating soup? Well, the Aprilia’s six-axis IMU won’t choose your turn-in points, apexes or exits, braking points, speed, or brake pressures. That’s all you, you, and you again. For a good time, ride smoothly, calmly, and deftly, and build speed gradually—think “grace under pressure.”

Photo credit: Aprilia
Photo credit: Aprilia

Which brings up a key point about the RSV4 1100 Factory. Assisted by its electronics suite, the bike is completely obedient to its pilot—ready to brake, tip into turns, hold a steady line, and then accelerate out. The chassis geometry, an obsessive topic for sportbike fanatics, includes a 56.6-inch wheelbase and steering with a quick 24.6 degrees of rake (caster) and 4.1 inches of trail. Those are in keeping with current standards, as is the Aprilia’s dual-beam frame composed of aluminum castings and stampings. Hustling through Laguna’s infield section, we much appreciated—and respected—this immediacy, but it and the power would be daunting to newbies. Start smaller, and slower.

Once through the infield, two 90-degree lefts delivered us to Rahal Straight, a steep uphill leading to the Corkscrew. Romping through third and fourth gears here, on lap after ecstatic lap the RSV4 seemed unphased by the elevation gain. Tucking against the tank reduced the windblast but the airbox roared inches from my head, and the engine raged just beneath; the sound’s simply manic. Approaching the crest, I sat up, squeezed on the brakes, and flicked the Aprilia through the little righthand kink to start Laguna Seca’s most technical sequence. After downshifting to second, I eased off the brakes—forefinger off the lever!—and pulled the right bar slightly to flip the bike left. And then it’s like channeling Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Fallingwater house—a beautiful, tranquil momentary drop through the trees before heading down the hill.

Rebelliously, gloriously, and exceedingly fast.

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