Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory ReviewAs often seems the case when opportunity knocks its timing can be less than optimal. The RSV4 & Tuono models have long been on my motorcycling bucket list however never during my wishful thoughts had I imagined doing so across the east Anglian Fens in the depths of winter. An opportunity it still most certainly was and one I’d be foolish not to accept.

First up was the RSV4 1100 Factory. Picked up on a sub zero day with a smattering of snow involving an 80 or so mile of mostly A roads. My initial impression of the RSV4 was how compact it felt despite its large exterior. A long, low looking machine with its deeply impressive superbike aping rear swingarm and MotoGP styled aero winged front fairings.

Despite being towards the top of the weight list of the current crop of superbikes (205KG with fluids) this is not apparent at a standstill, feeling nicely balance with its weight seemingly carried low.

A much shorter seat/ footpeg/handlebar ratio than I was expecting for a standard road bike. Feet rearward and tucked up almost perfectly (on track) for myself at 5ft 10in however it could well be considered as some form of torture for those over 6ft.

Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory ReviewThe first hurdle to overcome was to check through the various rider mode settings taking the weather conditions and Supercorsa tyres into consideration. This was easier said than done. Trying to figure out the nuances between the various buttons and the operating system saw me simply increasing the traction control using the easily understandably plus/minus finger/thumb operated paddles on the left hand switch gear and a note to self to try again later in a bid to get moving as quickly as possible.

A notably long reach to the non adjustable for span clutch lever and the need to use more revs than expected for a clean getaway are the only things of note during the first few miles of roundabouts. Rock hard tyres aside the rest of the package is taking the sedate pace in its stride. The electronic suspension is maintaining a suitable level of dive/pitch during braking and turning generating much needed heat into the tyres and in turn increasing my confidence that we will make it home in one piece. Despite the lower rev levels involved the shifter/blipper are working impeccably along with the small throttle opening fuelling. The rear brake is effective and progressive, a massive help negotiating the icy roundabouts with the front Brembo stylema setup again showing why it’s still the OE. package to beat with amazing feel and progression.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

The mirrors worked, wind protection was good and the seat was comfortable. The only fly in the ointment being the shape of the petrol tank, manging to offer little in terms of real grip with its shape angular sides falling just within my inside thighs, rather than above my legs which after an hour or so of riding was making itself known in the form of some dull pain.

Despite its high state of tune, size and V4 configuration the engine was the epitome of smooth despite never troubling more than 5000 rpm for the whole journey. The extra heat it was providing was more than welcome on this cold day, however it was noted how quickly its temperature rose to cooling fan inducing temp at several of the longer traffic-based waits during the journey. I can well imagine the pain that could be felt during a hots summer ride in traffic or sitting in pit lane exit waiting for your track day session to start could bring.

Overall for a 200bhp plus superbike the RSV4 handled our first ride admirably and left me looking forward to the next ride on more familiar roads in hopefully better suited conditions.

My next time out happened to be on a closed runway for the photoshoot of the article. A cold, bright and very breezy day. For the shoot we were using a disused corner of the facility which could be ridden as a large figure of eight in either direction. One way offered slow in, fast out corners onto its short straights whilst the other, more tricker on the day fast in with consistent radius ever decreasing speed turns before driving hard from a significantly lower apex speed.

Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory ReviewAs well as dealing with the strong crosswinds the process was made all the more treacherous with the damp and very green surface of the unused area.

The strengths of the package highlighted during my first ride were working together to make the whole experience much more enjoyable than it should have been.  The electronic suspension was again maintaining the level of pitch for each given level of braking/corner exit, again generate much needed heat into the tyres. The feel from the brakes was perfect as was the fuelling at the low (0>10% range) and higher (50%) plus the track layout was suited to.

Excellent feedback from the chassis from corner entry to corner exit, with its mid corner poise and stability being a highlight and a testament to long lineage. Everything I’ve ever read or been told about the chassis is immediately confirmed to me. Whilst it’s easy to critique the fact that the RSV4 has been a package that has been evolved over a long time, with many stating that a completely new model is long over-due I can understand the dilemma the engineers at Aprilia must find themselves facing – With what? and at what cost?

During this more playful encounter the gearing of the RSV4 began to be highlighted. Using 2nd to 4th for both directions it was clear just how long the final drive ratios were, something the 1st gear pull away clutch slip/rev combo backed up.

For the days conditions the long gearing was certainly helping to calm things. The turbine smooth power delivery of the V4 coupled with a chassis appearing to offer a high level of mechanical grip meant even though I had the various electronic aids on their lowest setting (with the wheelie control off in preparation for the photos) the only time the traction control made itself known was whilst trying to instigate said wheelies. First gear, 30>40mph a handful of revs and a suitable amount of dropped clutch would only see a foot or so of height before traction was temporary lost, cue traction cut and loss of photo op!. Had the conditions been better I would have tried without any traction control, however they weren’t, and I wasn’t brave enough on the day. Especially with a camera pointed at me. My hypostasis based purely on the limited experience I currently have on the RSV4 is that dynamically the chassis is very well setup to limit unwanted font wheel lift and that the very long gearing aides this.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

Full marks must be given to Aprilia and the tuned induction noise they’ve endowed the V4 with. Addictive and sounding loud enough to alert anyone within a 5 mile radius from on board it left me questioning the need to fit a performance end can just on the basis of unleashing more noise.

My final excursion on the RSV4 was a two day road ride, prominently riding around the north Norfolk coast, again in patchy conditions albeit at a more balmy 8ish degrees.

Having spent time during the photoshoot day and sometime in my garage before leaving experimenting with the user interface of the various electronics the road element of this test never saw me fully at one with the system. Despite largish buttons my attempts to alter/engage a particular feature would be made up of frustrating interactions involving many reattempts at pressing the correct button in the correct sequence to achieve my goal. Consistently managing to engage high beam, usually whilst attempting to reach for the indicators (not ideal seemingly flashing people whilst approaching a junction) and or alter the traction control setting by accident. As a rider I’m a big user of either speed limiters/cruise control specifically in built up areas. In the case of the RSV4 with only cruise control available many attempts were made trying to engage the system smoothly. Unlike other systems on the market it requires a steady throttle and I’m still unsure whether it’s a short or a long push to the side of the speed toggle switch. This often found me in a village dropping for 30mph to near 20mph whilst too much of my attention was drawn to trying to engage the system. This would have the drivers of following vehicles wondering what I was upto. A pitfall of the reduction in speed would also then mean depending on which gear I was in the minimum speed threshold was not met adding another potential reason as to why I couldn’t get the cruise control activated.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

Once again the long gearing of the RSV4 would be brought to the fore with 1st gear being required for pullaways and 2nd gear being needed if you wished to use cruise control with revs higher than feels comfortable/sociable riding through villages and 3rd being too low in the rev range for those with any mechanical sympathy.

With conditions being more favourable for a more spirited pace than before another issue began to make its presence known. Part throttle fuelling, namely within the 10>20% opening at a working rev range on the unknown roads I was riding of 4000 to 6000. The sensation was of a particularly lean fuelling map coupled with an inconsistent amount of back-pressure with what I believed to be the exhaust noise/emission valve opening and closing at in-opportune times.

A set of circumstances that are very unlikely to arise during a summer ride on a familiar stretch of road or on a track day for example are part of the norm for real road riding throughout the year. Unfamiliar roads and inconstant conditions do mean several attempts at corner entry are made. On/off throttle applications at semi sensible speeds and for want of a better word this experience was ‘lacklustre’ where was the bike from the airfield?

Another sensation from this ride which became apparent on occasion once I had started a relatively hard level of braking and then having to release and then re-apply the brakes was a feeling of being just ahead of curve whilst the electronic suspension re-adjusted. I can now understand the polarising effect electronically adjusted suspension has on riders, in particular track day riders/club racers as the sensation is one of inconsistency. Most noticeably when hard on the brakes approaching a corner. Weight transfer, namely dive through the stroke of the suspension is a fixed and usually compromised set-up. A balancing act of not too stiff for slow speed whilst being ideal for fast hard braking, high load cornering providing a muscle memory of the faster you go the more the bike dives. With the electronic suspension it virtually dives the same amount at all braking forces/speed. Couple this with being able to catch it out, again changing the feel I can see why some immediately write it off as inferior.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

For me outside of noticing this quirk I hadn’t once thought about the suspension set up, despite negotiating what the Fens refer to as roads (ploughed fields with tarmac painted on). This is a major coup for a superbike on the road. Of course there are several fixed suspension modes available which would remove this issue, however I personally would spend time building confidence with the active systems nuances as the benefits are plentiful.

So after multiple rides and several hundred miles I’m left with two distinct memories.

The first is akin to a ‘fish out of water’. A 200 + bhp motorcycle, road riding in the depths of winter. A motorcycle with such exquisite details and high capabilities it seems such a crime to expose it to not only road salt but to the shame of only using a mere 10% of its potential. Thanks to the ever increasingly stringent emissions and noise regulations with each passing evolution its masterpiece of an engine becomes more restricted, not just through fuelling and exhaust restrictions but I also believe the gearing that’s required to place the engine within the correct boundaries to pass said noise tests. All of which fall at the exact rev range that the majority of normal road riding is carried out at. With Aprilia already previously increased the capacity from 1000 to 1100 in an attempt to counteract these problems; much inline with my previous thoughts on the chassis I imagine the Aprilia engineers pondering How do they improve it? And again at what cost?

The second memory of the RSV4 I have is the day spent revelling in the sound and power delivery of the tremendous engine working in perfect harmony with a confidence inspiring chassis. A day where realistically I was still miles off the bikes potential.

I do believe however, even if I’d carried out this test during the peak of summer I’d be left with the same conclusion. That realistically the level of the RSV4 and its peers has long surpassed what can be utilised at a visceral level on the road. You can never go fast enough, for long enough. You cannot attack corner after corner at speed, you can never fully commit to a point where the bike is working in its ‘sweet spot’ and therefore your time is spent living for the stolen moments where you can say rev it out for a couple of gears, or attack that corner you like with the 100% visibility before residing yourself to again falling back to the numb zone.

Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory ReviewThat is unless you fully commit to your purchase and add ‘track days’ to your riding life. The issues that are felt on the road, as proven during my time on the air field will not be present.

The longer gearing would bring first gear into a many of the uk tracks, something I know can be disconcerting for many track riders, so a gearing change would more than likely be the only modification I would suggest for track day attacks. This would also be a massive benefit to the road riding, increasing that intoxicating feeling of ‘thrust’ as I later found aplenty on the Tuono.

Whilst it would be tempting to add an end can with noise restrictions as they are on trackdays I myself would save the money and put it towards brake pads and tyres.

Having spoken to Aprilia they’re aware of the wasted potential of the RSV4 on the UK roads and as a company not only understand but WANT owners to take them on track. Something which is reinforced with the revised track use service schedule they have in place for owners to take confidence in the knowledge their warranty will remain in place should an issue arise. As simple as this sounds this is not something all manufacturers offer, despite in some instances having models marketed on the back of their track prowess.

To answer the ‘where does it all go from here’ question, one has to take on board the low number of sales the superbike market as a whole generates and come from a place of gratitude that bike like the RSV4 are still available and therefore apply realistic optimism that an updated model is much more likely than an entirely new product.

On this basis I don’t believe the RSV4 needs any changes to its chassis or engine. They’re both masterpieces.  I personally feel a small suite of changes could be made which would enhance both the ownership and rider experience. The devil as they say is in the detail and should Aprilia look at items such as adjustable rearsets/handlebars/clutch lever span this would allow the bike to be altered by each owner individually without the need to replacing parts for both road and track use.

The shape of the tank could be improved to promote a better fit for larger riders and/or more grip area.

Despite having all the information you need (and some you don’t – i.e.. Top speed reached, which is just asking for trouble should a knowing police officer stops you) the switchgear ergonomics and the user interface is lagging behind its rivals along with the TFT dash display. This being a system spread across multiple models the costs could be shared across multiple models.

And finally as per the Ducati playbook of the past, perhaps a F.O.C smaller tooth front sprocket could be included within the new owners pack………………..

As a 2 wheeled equivalent of a hyper car despite having no real right to be as malleable and compliant as it is on the road. It’s a testament to the development of modern motorcycles that it is able to turn its hand to most things, something I’m sure hyper cars are not able to do.

It is only because we are now lucky enough to have so many different motorcycle sectors, each a champion in their chosen field that it highlights this minutia and affords us multiple solutions at varying price points to the questions ‘what is the best bike for the riding I do?’….  and if the riding you do is fast road and track days the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory needs to be on your test ride shortlist.

To conclude I wish to be clear that I love the RSV4 1100. My criticisms are minutia.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

Having sampled the single mindedness of the RSV4 I now found myself in the lucky position of swapping it straight out for its super naked Tuono sibling in matching Factory specification.

Feeling immediately familiar albeit much less intimidating and focussed than the RSV4.  With its more upright riding position my feet were both firmly on the floor allowing all my weight to be carried down through my spine leaving my arms relaxed and feeling light on the wide flat bars which in turn seemed to offer a much larger steering lock than the RSV4. Peddling the bike backwards and forwards whilst trying the carry out the near 3 point turn in order to exit the yard felt effortless.

A quick check of the wing mirror positions left me disappointed, offering far less rear vision than is expected from a naked bike. Seeming very much like an afterthought fighting for space on the handlebars from the RSV4 clip on derived switchgear (minus the plus/minus TC control paddles on the left hand side). The fact the cruise control operation is hindered by the proximity of the lefthand wing mirror stalk further underlines this issue.

The still too wide clutch lever is present, however with the change of riding position taking the strain off your hands it is more manageable than the RSV4.

Pulling away for the first time was a revelation. No clutch slipping, no throttle feathering. It actually felt as though I was on an 1100 cc V4. So much so, for the sake of experimenting I immediately stopped and tried again, only this time in 2nd gear. Easy. So much so that for the majority of time riding the Tuono for the next few weeks I mostly only used 2nd gear for pullaways, especially in towns. Another benefit of the gearing was the ability for the cruise control to be operated all the way down from 20mph in 4th gear.  This making controlling your speed through various (20/30/40/50mph) controlled routes so much easier.

The Brembo M50 callipers although offering slightly less initial feel/bite than the Stylema equipped RSV4 still represent a high water mark in the world of braking and not once during my time on the Tuono was I left feeling wanting.

The overall riding position was not as I’d imagined it would be with the footpegs being slightly lower and more forward biased. This gave a slightly disjointed feeling of my upper body being canted forward with my lower body statically vertical. After longer periods of riding I experienced pressure point pain on the thumb muscle parts of each hand. I put this down to the handlebars having a slightly strange angled cant which rotates your wrists outwards.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

Although feeling initially comfortable, again after a short period of time I began to feel some discomfort in my lower back, which I feel could be alleviated if my foot position was further rearward to match the angle of the reach to the bars.  Despite all of this the overall riding position and comfort is far higher than that of the RSV4. The added height and angle of your head providing an excellent field of vision including being able to see over vehicles and hedge rows.

With your legs being lower the petrol tank discomfort found on the RSV4 isn’t present however it smallish size and shape does mean you can find yourself sliding further forward and up onto the back of the tank unless you really brace yourself against it at all times. Another major bug bare of the tank size is that of the mileage range it offers, which even with the limited pace I could utilise with the wintery road conditions was never more than 80 miles before illuminating the fuel light. This was a constant annoyance during my rides as I have to travel at least 40 or so miles for exciting roads, which are also some distance from any petrol stations. It always meant a precursory fuel stop during every ride with many rides resulting in two fuel stops. Add to this a fuel filler that made it almost impossible to completely fill the tank without getting blow back spray from the fuel pump I spent a lot of the time frustrated at every fuel stop.

Outside of these various issues the Tuono is very nearly a masterpiece. Despite having over 20bhp less than the RSV4 it feels the other way round. It feels like it revs faster and harder. Everything feels like it’s been turned upto 11. It barks and booms as it squats rearwards on the power causing the front wheel to go light and all manner of lights start to flash on the dash as the various electronics try to stop the rear spinning and the bike from flipping. The bars wiggle and move around whilst you’re holding on for dear life. It is a bike that has you questioning ‘how is this legal?’ each and every time you open it up in anger.

It feels alive. Raw would be a poor choice of word as it would do a disservice to the completeness of the package. It’s superbike routes are still very much present. The chassis and mechanical grip unlike many other models in the sector doesn’t feel like its moving and flexing.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

The difference in its handling characteristics when compared to the RSV4 outside of the obvious change in its riding position and handlebars feel more a result of suspension/geometry changes such as fork height, rear shock length etc. So should you wish you could adjust the Tuono to more closely mimic the feeling of the RSV4.

However, for the types of roads I ride the way the Tuono is set up from the factory is perfect. With its rearwards weight bias its all about firing out of the corners. It has excellent stability under hard braking, a reluctance to turn unless off throttle meant I was entering corners far slower than I would on the RSV4, getting the bike turned before then using the throttle to complete the turn.  Overall, not only is this a safer way to approach road riding it was also much more exhilarating. The lower gearing of the Tuono meant brutal acceleration was always available regardless of gear at each exit.

As with the RSV4 the Tuono has to meet the same noise and emission standards however the issues highlighter with the RSV4 are significantly minimised. The exhaust valve operation/fuelling point is still there but massively reduced with the gearing and drive available to become a quirk rather than the annoyance it is on the RSV4.

With weather conditions virtually the same as with my time with the RSV4 I found myself much more confident to ride roads I hadn’t dared navigate on the RSV4, despite being on the same summer based Supercorsa tyres. A testament to the confidence inspiring setup. The weight transfer offered by the softer suspension and chassis setup gave confidence that heat was being generated in the tyres, the suspension itself in active mode was reacting to everything that the fen roads could throw at them and although the engine performance was so much more accessible highlighted by the various electronics kicking in (which had been largely absent with the RSV4) gave a feeling that the Aprilia had your back. That we were both in it together to have as much fun as possible yet still arrive home in one piece.

Playing around on the Tuono I found the wheelie control to be a little hit and miss at times, it seemed happiest in a setting which stopped it from lifting at all. The less intrusive levels would often allow the wheel to lift too quickly which in turn then seemed to surprise the ecu which would then cut everything causing the wheel to drop, before everything came back in with a bang, lifting the wheel again too quickly … resulting in a kangarooing effect. This isn’t uncommon with wheelie control however it is something other manufacturers have over come in recent years with updated software and does perhaps suggest that Aprilia has some catching up to do with its peers on this front.

Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory ReviewOn the subject of the electronic suspension, I purposefully tackled a stretch of road several times, both with static and active suspension modes. The stretch of road is one of the bumpiest roads I’ve ever encountered yet also has some of the best series of corners. It has completely open visibility throughout, cambered hairpins, fast direction changes, hard braking zones, straights (like ploughed fields) to name but a few and after an hour or so of testing I can confidently saw that the active setting was considerably better on the Tuono than static presets.

Where the static lost all control after several bumps were hit in succession the active kept a noticeable more composure. Don’t get me wrong, this road is one where you’re up on the pegs like a jockey, however where the static mode caused me to back off the throttle the active allowed me to carry on accelerating each time. The feeling of being able to catch the front suspension stiffening up at certain times whilst coming off and going back hard on the brakes is still there but far less noticeable than it was on the RSV4 at similar speeds.

In comparison to my time with the RSV4 I found myself actively making excuses to get the Tuono out on the road. With the RSV4 and the winter roads I knew I was in for frustrating rides searching for a suitable road in the right condition in order to try and be able to ride fast enough to ‘activate’ it. Whereas the Tuono feels exciting as soon as you pull away on it for the first time. It can navigate busy towns and traffic, it can do all of the boring stuff well whilst turning any type of open road into your own dragstrip/race track. Not only does it do this it also does it for considerable less money than an RSV4 Factory with the Tuono Factory RRP £16,700 vs RSV4 Factory RRP of £21,300.Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

I’ve no doubt that on track the Tuono would be tremendous fun but at least 30% less capable than the RSV4. I do believe that the majority of riders on track would be far more confident however on an RSV4 as the lack of front end feel a naked can offer when compared to a traditional sports bike when on track. So should you be someone looking to do more track days than road riding the RSV4 base model (£16,700) with money to spare for upgraded manual suspension would most likely be a better choice.

However, for road riding with the odd track day I would pick the Tuono Factory every time. The electronic suspension of the Factory does command an additional £2300 over the base model (£14,400) but I feel this is very much worth it on the Tuono.

The Tuono being 30% less capable on track is the price that has had to be made to make it in my eyes 70% more exciting on the road. It really is an astounding motorcycle and worthy of all the awards and test wins it has received over the years. As with the RSV4 despite facing stiff competition with each passing year, it really only needs a series of small detail changes to keep it at the head of the pack. These being as per the RSV4 with an upgrade to the switchgear/electronics, a change in tank design (more range and support required) and the ability to fine tune the ergonomics (footpegs/handlebars/levers/mirrors) would make a considerable improvement to the overall package.

With thanks to Aprilia UK, Piaggio for the loan of the bikes.

Review by

Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

With images by Matt Anthony

Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review

This feature is brought to you with thanks too:

Sycamore Yamaha: https://instagram.com/sycamoreyamaha?igshid=MWZjMTM2ODFkZg==

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Hel Performance: https://instagram.com/helperformance?igshid=MWZjMTM2ODFkZg==

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Aprilia Rsv4 Factory 1100 And Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory Review