I love the Aprilia RSV4. It’s a bike that hasn’t changed drastically at any time since its inception, but rather has constantly evolved over time, with everything from the chassis to the engine to the electronics making the subject of serious work over the past 13 years. Last year Aprilia further tweaked the RSV4, giving it a slightly bigger engine to tackle Euro5 while still maintaining incredible power and torque figures, an under-reinforced swingarm (as you you’ll find on a GP bike) and some pretty hefty aero updates, which not only improve downforce and overall aerodynamics, but also make it incredibly nasty.
But then again, one-liter sport bikes are real weapons, and if you judge the bike by its spec sheet, the current iteration is one of the most powerful this planet has ever seen. The 2022 RSV4 1100 puts out 214bhp, with 125Nm of torque, while weighing an anemic 202kg, which combined makes for an absolutely ballistic motorcycle. To put that into context, two decades ago the iconic Ducati 916 weighed 195kg, produced 109bhp and produced 88Nm of torque. Things have really evolved.
But a machine is more than a few numbers on a sheet; as power and performance have increased, so has user-friendliness and technology. The APRC system not only powers the semi-active Öhlins EC 2.0 suspension, but also a host of driver aids and power modes designed solely to keep you safe and make you faster, in conjunction with sticky Pirelli rubber Supercorsa to keep you upright. The funny thing is that while the bikes have gotten faster and more advanced in every way, the tracks haven’t really gotten much bigger or wider – in fact, they’re even tougher on the fat bikes, with added stop-start chicanes and entire sections modified to reduce speeds, making hard braking zones and hard acceleration at low speeds all too common. So is a one-litre machine too much for good British tracks such as Cadwell Park? Well, we spent a day there on the factory £21,600 Aprilia RSV4 1100 to find out.
If you’ve never been to Cadwell this is something that should be on your bucket list. It’s got everything from tight and twisty to fast and flowing, but with very little room for error thanks to its blind, undulating nature, thin slivers of tar and the need to be absolutely precise, absolutely everywhere. And that’s also not helped by the weather in the UK, as usually on our track day there was a little downpour overnight, which meant the track was wet for the first session. Exactly what you want with a brand new set of tires and no tire warmers.
With that in mind and with six riding modes available (three for road, three for track), I had to work to make the RSV4 as smooth as possible for the first ride. Setting up one of the track modes, I made the engine map slightly softer, stuck the suspension to a softer setting, then increased the traction control, while keeping control of wheel and ABS on lower settings. It was super easy; the large TFT instrument panel and the whole interface of the latest generation of RSV are by far the best they have ever been, and within the space of about five minutes I had created two of my own modes of custom track, which I could change in the blink of an eye; one soft and gentle and one much more aggressive.
Heading out on the track for the first time, I couldn’t believe how tame the RSV4 was. For something that has more horsepower than kilograms, it felt almost as docile as an RS 660 in terms of power delivery; the throttle response was incredibly smooth and because the electronics kept things under control, I felt like I had around 120 horsepower to play with, rather than the 214 horsepower available. Everything felt a lot smoother than I expected from a high-end sport bike, and that really meant I could focus on hunting the wet spots, rolling the tires, and getting acclimated to the bike, to the track and the conditions. Even though I was relatively sluggish, even the semi-active Öhlins EC 2.0 suspension worked its magic and felt responsive, and it showed how far these bikes had come in terms of usability. Really, it didn’t feel like a big aggressive superbike, but something super easy that I didn’t need to think too much about, and as I started to heat up the rubber a bit and ride the lines dry, I even gradually lowered the traction control, which was simple to do on the fly, via the buttons on the left handlebar. As far as I’m concerned, the new RSV4 passed the first test with flying colors. Years ago, these one-liter machines had one personality: wanting to be as fast as possible, but now? Well, there’s a mode for whatever you want, a setting to make your fire-breathing beast feel like a sweet kitty.
But the beauty is that the RSV4, like so many modern sportbikes, isn’t just a one-trick pony. You see, when he’s freed from the electric magic that does such a good job of keeping him tame, that’s when the real animal comes to life. With full power on tap, traction control, ABS and rear wheel control all flipped and the suspension set up in a more suitable setting, it took me a few laps to figure out just how great the Aprilia is powerful, precise and exciting. is – especially on a track like Cadwell Park. There’s so much power in this V4 engine that not only do the straights get shorter, but also the little bends become real bends; you have to be on the ball to keep it on the straight and narrow, or even keep that front wheel straight. The same goes for the cornering abilities of the RSV4, because its brakes are so good and its chassis so capable, that no matter what time I left my markers, I always felt like there had room to fly a few more feet, pushed by those impressively cushioned electronic suspenders beneath me. The whole experience is utterly exhilarating and incredibly addictive in equal measure, and I have to say, 20 minutes around Cadwell on a one-litre sports bike? It’s a workout, but something really fun beyond belief.
I’ve done hundreds (maybe even thousands) of laps around Cadwell now on the best machines money can buy, but every time I swing my leg over a quart full of grease machine, it always blows my mind how wild and exciting they can be. So much power, so much grip and so much capability when it comes to every aspect of attacking a corner makes the experience so exhilarating, and something every rider should taste at least once. But the beauty of the modern era of sportbikes is that it can be as wild as you want it to be; Reduce the power, increase the driving aids and you have a friendly kitty under you, which is perfect for building confidence, learning the tracks and even just focusing on your driving. So, is a one-litre machine too much for British tracks? Absolutely not; just tune your machine to your style, pace and comfort zone, and it’ll take care of you as well as any smaller capacity bike – in fact, with the electronics on offer, it’ll take take care of yourself even better. We have never been so fortunate to have the machinery, technology and innovation that we have today.