2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC [Video]

Microprocessors take on horsepower in this battle over traction control supremacy

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Conclusion - Apple or PC?

Coke or Pepsi? Ford or Chevy? When it comes to choosing a winner between these two highly capable machines, the answer is seemingly like choosing between one of the aforementioned products. Both the Aprilia and Yamaha are extremely capable in their intended environment: the racetrack. The rider aids on both machines are more than just hype and represent the beginning of a paradigm shift in the sportbike wars.

From a practical side, the Yamaha clearly is better suited to the street rider with its spacious ergos, comfy seat and cheaper price tag of $13,990 (as tested). Its downfall is the extreme heat emanating from the underseat exhausts. “The heat radiating off the exhaust of the R1 is unforgivable,” claims Tom. “Especially considering the under-seat routing is passé in terms of sportbike styling.”

2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC

During the R1’s introduction earlier this year, held in near triple digit weather, the immense heat radiating onto my thighs was downright painful, nevermind uncomfortable. This has been a common complaint since the previous generation R1, though many were able to look past it as the underseat exhaust along with the rest of the stylistic components combined for a sexy motorcycle for its day. Today, the R1 is the last of the literbikes to retain that trend.

On the track the Aprilia is a dangerous weapon, eager to please a worthy rider in a heartbeat, but also able to coddle the less experienced should they need it. While it may suffer a power disadvantage to a couple of other bikes in this segment, the smiles per mile factor when ridden in its environment are hard to beat. Traction, wheelie and launch control are all innovative ideas sure to be copied in some aspect in the future. But by no means is the Aprilia an angel either.

2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC

On the street the only place to take advantage of the Aprilia’s nimble chassis is in the twisties. Its compact dimensions and stiff seat don’t make it much of a grocery getter or sport-tourer when compared to the Yamaha. If that wasn’t enough, the RSV4’s appalling gas mileage figure of 26.4 mpg (compared to the Yamaha’s 31.2 mpg) surely makes it the last choice for burning away miles. Aprilia reportedly revised the fuel mapping to address this issue, but it would appear as though it was not entirely successful. For $3000 more than the Yamaha, one must really want a slice of exotica if they pick the Aprilia.

“Some have said that MV Agusta is the Ferrari of the two-wheeled world,” Duke comments. “To that I’d say the RSV4 is the Lamborghini. Its V-4 engine is unique in the literbike world, and it’s a raucous and rapturous ride that makes its pilot feel very special.”

So when it comes to picking a winner in the traditional sense between these two combatants, we’d have to defer to the intentions you, the end user, want, as these two motorcycles are seemingly polar opposites within the literbike genre. For the serious track junky, budding racer or even hardcore street rider, the RSV4 R is the ticket.

I’d say I fall into this category; pushing my limits to get the most I can out of a motorcycle keeps me excited. Street cred at coffee shops (if that’s your thing) is attained with the fact it’s not a Japanese motorcycle, while the latest and greatest technology of the day encourage me to push faster than I thought I could before.

2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC

However, street riders who occasionally see the racetrack yet want a well-rounded machine will pick the YZF-R1.

“I think the Yamaha makes for a better all-around sportbike — the key to its success being its user-friendliness,” says Tom. “As much as I like the Aprilia, its V4 engine and its sex appeal, the bike's nervousness isn't to my liking and kept me migrating back to the R1 and its more stable handling mannerisms.”

Of course, the R1’s cheaper price tag doesn’t hurt either. After flogging both bikes, one of the few conclusions we could agree on was that in the not-too-distant future we’ll be trading our wrenches in for keyboards when trying to extract the most from a sportbike.

Related Reading
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Review
2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC SE Review
Italian V-Four Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati Desmosedici
2010 Aprilia RSV4 R Review
2010 Literbike shootout: RSV4 R vs. S1000RR vs. CBR1000RR vs. ZX-10R
2009 Yamaha R1 Review

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