Best Sportbike of the Year Winner: Aprilia RSV4 RR/RF

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Twenty fifteen was a big year for sportbikes, with the new Yamaha R1 and a heavily revised BMW S1000RR and Aprilia RSV4 RF making their debuts – the two European weapons motoring their way to the Best Sportbike and runner-up awards, respectively, in last year’s Sportbike MOBOs. With the proverbial load being blown that year, there wasn’t much excitement in store for 2016, save for the new, heavily revised Kawasaki ZX-10R. The Green Machine is a good literbike, no doubt, but it still wasn’t a match for the year-old Aprilia RR (the “base” model RSV4) when we put the two $17,000 machines against each other.

Based on the strength of the BMW and the relative ease with which the Aprilia dispatched the Kawasaki, it was an easy choice for us to retain the German and Italian as the top bikes in the Sportbike category again for 2016. However, those who are paying close attention to our awards over the years might have noticed that this year we have the two switching positions as bride and bridesmaid.

The reason is simple: both the BMW and Aprilia are beasts – we contemplated giving them both top honors this year – but Aprilia won the tiebreaker because it is able to offer two versions of the RSV4, the RR and the RF, with the RR model providing 95% of the performance of the RF for $4,500 less. And quite honestly, the RR has all the performance 95% of us will ever need. It’s still got the same intoxicating V-4 engine we love, advanced electronics, and sublime handling of its more expensive sibling, but if you don’t think you’ll ever exploit the virtues of forged aluminum wheels and Ohlins suspension, then it makes sense to grab the RR. Of course, for those who want the absolute best of the best, then they can reach into their pocketbooks and fork over for the RF.

Sure, the S1000RR starts at $15,695, which is less than the RR Aprilia, but good luck actually finding a bare-bones base model S1000RR – BMW’s online configurator won’t even allow you to uncheck all the options to get the $15,695 bike. It’s the proverbial unicorn. However, assuming you do end up finding a base S1000RR, you’ll be missing out on things like a quickshifter, dynamic traction control, and ride modes, and you’ll kick yourself for not spending the extra $800 for the Aprilia that’s already so equipped.

Honorable Mention: BMW S1000RR

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Let’s be real for a minute: if you’re in the market for a BMW S1000RR, then who’s actually thinking about buying the base version? Not many. Throwing price aside for a moment, the BMW S1000RR is simply one of the best literbikes on the market today, and the reason why it’s been demoted to the runner-up position this year has nothing to do with its performance. In fact, the BMW’s performance is nothing but praiseworthy. When we tested it against its rivals in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Shootout (track, street, overall), it demolished the field in the horsepower department with 182.9 – seven horses better than the next closest bike, the RSV4 RF, and a whopping 32.5 horses above the weakest bike in the field, Honda’s CBR1000RR SP. In the torque game, it was the best of the four-bangers at 79.9 lb-ft, topped only by the booming 1285cc V-Twin inside the Ducati 1299 Panigale.

What’s more, the BMW’s chassis is equally as capable as its engine, harnessing all that power and allowing it to be put to the ground effectively, while also carving apexes with scalpel-like precision. Combined with its advanced traction-control system, launch control, Race ABS, quickshifter, and Dynamic Damping Control, the S1000RR is simply a powerhouse on track. That said, the BMW is also remarkably user-friendly on the street as well. Its seat is well padded, the ergos aren’t extreme on the street (for a sportbike), and it’s still the only superbike with cruise control!

Like the Aprilia Tuono and KTM 1290 Superduke R in our Best Streetfighter/Hooligan category, you really can’t go wrong with either the RSV4 or S1000RR.

  • JMDonald

    I love this Aprilia but I would marry this BMW. Where were these bikes in 1990? If you aren’t 25 you aren’t 25. I still need one even at my advanced age. Great motorcycles no doubt.

    • Old MOron

      You know, JM, you’re starting to sound familiar. You remind me of myself before I took the plunge on my S1000R. First enjoy the anticipation. Then enjoy your new bike!

      • JMDonald

        I still have my old roadster as well as my RT. It would be nice to round out the BMW collection with a RnineT and a GS. I am salivating at the thought of a Speed Triple R or a Tuono. You never can tell.

    • Born to Ride

      Sadly 25 year olds can’t afford the insurance on the damn things. I know that I’m unwilling to pay as much or more than my bike payment in insurance… Streetfighters FTW.

      • JMDonald

        I hear you. In my twenties I owned a slightly used almost new CB750. It was a luxury item for me. It was inexpensive to maintain and insurance was practically nothing. I thought it was the ultimate motorcycle. I had always loved Hondas. Other than the Bonneville other bikes weren’t even on my radar. I bought a CBR600 after the CB. The insurance was more but because it wasn’t a litre bike it was still affordable. Having had a motorcycle license and insurance for a long while also made a difference. I heard stories of guys paying a couple of grand to insure their litre bikes. God only knows what it costs now. Back then it was a few hundred dollars for the CBR. I find it hard resist a good sportbike but the better ergonomics of today’s street fighters make them the best bikes out there today. IMHO.

        • Born to Ride

          At risk of aging myself, I have 8 years of licensed rider experience, and no accidents on my record. I really wanted to replace my aging triumph sprint with a ninja 1000 this year. Not a zx10r. A Ninja. Geico, progressive, allstate, and statefarm all quoted me over 2 grand for full coverage on a 2013 model that I nearly purchased. So glad I checked the insurance cost before I signed on the dotted line. I would have ended up with a ~100$ a month bike payment and a 190-200$ a month insurance payment. Point is, lots of guys my age are avoiding supersports and superbikes for that reason alone. A Tuono is a 3rd of the price to insure as the nearly identical RSV4. That is a broken ass system.

          • JMDonald

            It is not your personal record or experience that drives insurance costs. After doing an online search for motorcycle actuarial data there are many factors but the obvious one is the age group data by motorcycle type. I have included a link that does a good job explaining the data.

            https://www.casact.org/education/rpm/2011/handouts/PL1-Chowdhury.pdf

            It was the Who’s version of Young Man Blues blues that best expressed the cost of youth for me. Joe Bonamassa does a hell of a modern day version. It helped me back in the day. Maybe Joe’s version will help you.

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U3b1OFrOgaM

          • ‘Mike Smith

            I have progressive and pay around $90 a month for full coverage for a 2009 R1 and 2015 Zero SR. You need to find new coverage.

          • Born to Ride

            Except I got quotes from 5 major insurers to the same result. Could be a regional thing too. I live pretty close to Camp Pendleton and the only thing marines love to do more than drink and fight is wreck liter bikes.

          • ‘Mike Smith

            I thought of that too, plus I own a house and keep ’em in a garage, which also helps. I got the best deal insurance wise from the Progressive agent at my local Honda/Beemer dealer. That lady worked some serious magic and even got Progressive to send me a check for some “credits” for being a homeowner that my previous agent never bothered with.

          • john burns

            Full Coverage what’s that? Liability only. Minimum state requirements. $$$ plummets.

  • John B.

    I have no problem with MO’s selection for this category, but have a hunch choosing the RSV4 over the 1000RR had more to do with emotion than logic. The 1000RR is nearly perfect and outperforms its peers, but for non-engineers it doesn’t stir the soul. I owned a BMW M3 for a couple years so I get it. That car was nearly perfect, but… meh!

    • Steve Cole

      That’s about it. The BMW only stirs the soul when ridden at 10/10ths, and the rest of the time…?!

  • Gabriel Owens

    Wow aprilia with 2 awards! Not bad.

  • john phyyt

    “And quite honestly, the RR has all the performance 95% of us will ever need. ” And this sums up the Tuono et al. And why it is very hard to put up with the day to day discomfort which a dedicated sportsbike has in its DNA.
    I think super car makers may need to look at this phenomenon. Can you imagine a ferrari street fighter. ?

  • Ian Parkes

    That’s better – putting the Aprilia ahead of the BMW. I think we motorcyclists appreciate that all bikes are more than the sum of their parts, and some more than others. Why would we put up with transport – especially in places that don’t let you lane-split – that is innately unstable and likely to pitch you off unless you exercise considerable skill in maintaining right-way-upness; that subjects you to wind, rain, mud and insect spatter, which makes you buy a whole lot of expensive and usually ugly protective gear and so on… unless it provided a huge grin factor too. I know the sound my V4 makes at low, moderate and high levels of urgency has a lot to do with how I feel about my bike. How it sounds, how it responds, how it feels and especially how it makes you feel surely counts for more than a scoresheet counting widgets – even ones that work exceptionally well. Long live bikes that stir the soul.