Sunday night at Barber Motorsports Park I crawl into my tent to get some rest for the next day because I know I’ll be riding the all new RSV4 Factory. I fall asleep just fine because I’m exhausted but then I wake up through the night and realize I’m giddy with anticipation.
The time finally comes and as I swing my leg over the machine I notice how wide the seat and tank are. It’s a comfortable sitting position for sure and my legs feel good on the foot pegs, not overly aggressive. But because of it’s wide stance I can barely tip toe the machine which is totally fine for track—not sure I would feel confident on the street though. I am 5’8” with all my height in my legs and I still feel I would possibly drop this $25k machine on some uneven ground if I got off balance. But semantics, we’re on track and that is the least of my concerns here as I’m used to riding whatever in this setting and feel right at home.
As I take off for pit out I feel the friction zone and grab on the clutch, it’s smooth and instinctive propelling me forward without hesitation. The New Aprilia RSV4 Factory boasts an impressive 217 horsepower at 13,200 rpm / 90 foot-pounds at 11K rpm. And by gawd you can feel the power as soon as you pull back on the throttle; it’s all there at your finger tips. As I crest the blind T4 at Barber I am not quite at full throttle—don’t need to be, she’s already screaming and moving with such force that I’m gripping for dear life with my legs around the tank as I move her to the opposite side of the track lining up my entry for T5. It takes me a couple of laps to work up the nerves to whack it wide open on the front straight. She’s angry and vocal and she wants to go, she waiting on me to let her at at. I notice I’ve got an insane grin across my face as I hear her roar and feel the pull, there’s definitely something to be said about the way Aprilia’s engines sound, I’m always impressed.
I am not good at wheelies but I was expecting some lift, to my surprise the winglets are actually doing their job and I get barely anything except a freight train of solid power barreling towards T1. As I look at the speedo I’m utterly shocked because I don’t feel the speed at all—the RSV4’s pace is amazingly deceptive which is a massive plus in my book! Go faster!!
Besides the impressive power I instantly notice how the bike wants to fall into the turns. The ergonomics are quite different compared to what I’m used to and what I personally prefer. I’m more “on top” of this machine rather than in it. The new RSV4 feels more top heavy compared to it’s predecessors which allows for it’s sharp turn in. The bars are also angled a bit closer together making my right wrist ache when I’m holding maintenance throttle in a corner (this is something I’m sure a simple adjustment should take care of). I quickly realize I’m having a hard time in Barber’s T5 where you’re hard on the brakes dowhill into the horseshoe. After a few laps I notice it’s definitely a different body position riding style that’s making me uncomfortable and I need to adjust, no biggie.
The brakes on this thing are intense! They are very strong and abrupt rather than progressive. I’m gently using one finger the entire time. And even then I realize I’m over braking into a few of the turns. I quickly notice that the engine braking is much more minimal than what I’m used to so I ended up putting the bike in Sport mode which turns on max engine braking. This completely fixes my over-braking issue and I’m able to use the engine to my advantage and trail brake more progressively like what I’m used to. Now I’m rolling through much faster and smoother. The bike is feeling sooo much better at this new increased pace—steadier and more confident. Through the chicane it’s flickable and feels great, I’m wanting to get on the gas even harder but I’m getting ripped off at triple digits lol! As I start touching my knee down in every corner I finally realize I’m more comfortable and finding my groove, the smile on my face widens.
While the machine has plenty of grunt even in a low rpm, I found the throttle to be twitchy on the lower end. Unless you are about 6k rpms the feel seems abrupt and not as smooth. I assume this is an easy fix with a flash and tune as most of the newer makes seem to have this feel to me. The other fix is to just go faster! I quickly came to realize that this machine requires a competent rider to feel smooth and solid. As soon as I started rolling on the track I realized the RSV4 felt more akin to my husband’s racebike rather than just a street sport bike. Everything from the throttle to the suspension screamed race mode at me. Unlike some of the other large displacement bikes I’ve ridden, this one I feel requires user confidence and skill. She only wants to go fast and doesn’t take hesitation well, she needs you to be confident and fearless.
In the end I’m absolutely thrilled to have ridden this most sexy machine on my favorite racetrack! Even with my personal struggles I was able to ride her well most of the time and more importantly enjoy myself. Her rumbling feel and sound will bring a joy to your heart even with earplugs. This is definitely one fierce and aggressive machine, but make no mistake about it, she is smooth and planted carving her way through the track.