The highway is congested, so I scan ahead only to see more cars and more clutter. I smile in my helmet, because none of this matters right now. I twist the throttle and listen to one of the best exhaust notes in the business. The smiles just widens….
My thoughts go back a few minutes to the showroom where I took delivery of the Aprilia RSV4, one of Italy’s latest weapons in the formidable war for top honours in the Superbike battle. This Italian beauty caught my eye the minute I walked inside. Looking at the R300k price tag, I can understand why the sales manager seemed a bit nervous, handing the keys to someone he had just met.
After the main features and functionality were explained, we agreed to do a road based test rather than join the army of reviews that have taken to the race track for answers. This approach suited me, as I have often asked myself the question; “how relevant are sports bikes in the modern road environment?”
Truth be known, and despite this motorcycles’ stellar track credentials, most owners will be using them for the odd commute to work, and escaping life on Sunday mornings to a favourite breakfast run venue for like minded conversation and sharing. Showing off on this Italian steed happens without much effort. There were times that I felt almost embarrased by the amount of attention generated.
I ended up engaging with so many people just because of this phenomenon. People from all walks of life showed interest and admiration for what they saw. It is very hard to ignore an exotic super vehicle, be that on four wheels or two, especially if said vehicle also happens to be Italian!
After a few days of trekking around in the urban scene, I decided it was time to take this beauty on the open road. Nowhere better than Hartbeespoort dam, the most famous and popular breakfast venue in all of the Gauteng region. I chose this route specifically because it would test rider and bike more so than most other public spaces. To enhance the experience, I decided on an early start. I wanted to make sure that I get as much feedback as possible to satisfy my curious mind and off course, enjoy this opportunity to the max.
It was bitterly cold when I straddled the RSV4 in the still dark hours of the winters morning. Daylight was a while away, which made traversing this portion of road quite an event. I harbour the old fashioned belief that a journalist needs to make certain sacrifices to get the best experiences, and of course, the best story.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the light beam that spread out before me as I negotiated bumps, potholes, slow traffic and the like. This further enhances an argument that these bikes are road bikes, first and foremost.
It is worth noting that the RSV4 differs quite a bit to most other sports motorcycles in the seating arrangement. Despite being one of the smallest supers I have ridden, I find it extremely tall in the saddle.
I immediately noticed that you sit “on” the bike, rather than “in” the bike. This makes moving around on the seat quite easy, an attribute which I welcomed, as body positioning is a critical factor if one wants to get the most from your superbiking experience.
Another positive observation is how plush the suspension felt in the first third of the suspension stroke. This helps in filtering the small road irregularities, which in turn, assists in maintaining control. This is a trend that I find more and more on modern day superbikes. Gone are the days of “double vision” harshness found on most suspension setups. Well done Aprilia.
And then there is the 65 degree V4 engine. This was the game changer for me. In my years of circuit racing and track days, I experienced time and time again, that the amount of horsepower on tap, was subject to the usability of that horsepower. Over the years, I was able to bully riders on much more powerful bikes, because the bike I was on, despite a speed deficit, inspired confidence in the way it generated and delivered its power.
This is the case with the Aprilia. Whilst not the most powerful superbike on offer today, it is certainly one of the most tracktable and reassuring. The power delivery resembles that of a big twin, rather than a screaming V-four. Perhaps I am somewhat biased as I had the most enjoyable battles of my race career aboard big twins.
I enjoyed the way the engine reacted to the subtler throttle inputs. The fuelling was spot on, and it was really easy fine tuning the delivery with my right hand. All the while the exhaust note is simply seductive and intoxicating. I would ride around all day, just to have the sound of this bike massage my ears and senses.
In conclusion, the question remains; “how relevant are sports bikes in the modern road environment?” Well here’s the thing.
Exotic motorcycles have captivated the imagination for ages. The superbike battle has intensified in the last few years, with more and more offerings deserving attention and respect.
Most who are able to afford these steeds, have attained a degree of financial security and affluence. They will purchase such an exotic vehicle simply for the allure of owning one of the best sports bikes money can buy. Very few of these bikes will see prolonged action on the racetracks. Most will be paraded to key locations, and bring smiles to the faces of owners and admirers alike. This makes a compelling argument for the existence and ownership of such machines. Sometimes you want something simply because you want it. How boring would life be if it was all about function without passion? In the case of the Aprilia RSV4, many will argue that beauty and desire are a function all on their own. Those few who have the means to explore the qualities of this bike, will not be disappointed.
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