Italian V-Four Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati Desmosedici [Video]
Superbike replica on track against a MotoGP replica
There are certain models in the history of motorcycledom that are perfect just the way they are. Often, these machines have body lines so eye-catching that looking at them in certain ways can make spouses jealous. Engines with just the right mix of power, sound, and most importantly, character, that one wouldn’t dare tamper with it in order to make sure this delicate balance remains intact.
These motorcycles don’t come around very often, but when they do, the term “instant classic” seems befitting. The Aprilia RSV4 Factory and the Ducati Desmocedici are two machines that qualify.
Ducati’s Desmosedici is certainly an instant classic, as it’s the only machine ever offered to mimic the formidable 990cc era of MotoGP, built in conjunction with Ducati’s MotoGP effort, and is the closest thing to a grand prix replica yet built for the street. The limited-production Desmo combines a hellacious powerband and light weight to make it desirable to every sportbiker, but its $70,000 price tag kept it out of reach to people not named Jay Leno and Tom Cruise. Our review of it can be found here.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Aprilia’s RSV4 Factory delighted us after the first few miles, and our fondness continues unabated. Its wonderful V-Four engine sings like an operatic banshee, and it’s so compact that it feels almost like a 600. Just look at Max Biaggi’s maiden World Superbike title last year aboard the RSV4 Factory as proof of its capabilities. And true Italian beauty that’s not bred from Bologna is a feat in itself. Check out its review here.
Perfection, you say? Not to Kaming Ko.
Loyal readers of MO should be well familiar with the name. The long-time friend of the site, loyal test rider and all-around good guy can never leave well enough alone, whether it’s a lawnmower, weed wacker, or in this case two of Italy’s finest. To Kaming, it can always be a little better. Yes, readers, both the bikes you see here belong to Mr. Ko, and he took the time (and spent the money!) to give each machine his personal touch. Best of all, he let us ride them when he was done. Did we mention he’s a good guy?
Aprilia RSV4 Factory... Upgraded?
We’ve made no secret here that we’re big fans of the stock RSV4 Factory. So really, what could Kaming possibly do to make it better? If the modification list is any indication, not much. First off is a full titanium Akrapovic exhaust system and ECU re-map ($1893). Next, the stock wheels were ditched in favor of a set of OZ forged-magnesium wheels ($5200). Those wheels were then fitted with sticky Dunlop D211GP tires in a 120/70-17 front and monstrous 200/55-17 rear ($419/set).
Our original plan was to let each bike stretch its legs at one of the few tracks in Southern California with a sufficiently long straight section: Auto Club Speedway. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work in our favor. Instead, we brought each bike to Buttonwillow Raceway Park to ride with our friends at Let’s Ride Trackdays. While the tighter confines of Buttonwillow certainly weren’t ideal, it would still prove useful to see how much of a difference each upgrade made to each bike.
The Aprilia was an interesting case, as our testers had developed a love for it during our All-Vee Literbike Shootout from last year. With an already well-honed package, the additional hardware thankfully made one of our favorite bikes even better — except in one key area, which we’ll get to in a moment. We’ve noted before how agile the chassis is; direction changes are executed on a whim with stability throughout the turn. Now with the OZ wheels fitted, direction changes are made even quicker than stock – so much so that we had to adjust our turn-in markers on the track to compensate.
“It tips into a corner really easy,” says E-i-C Kevin Duke. “It’s so compact and responsive, it feels like it should be in a different class to the Desmo.”
As for the Akrapovic exhaust, the RSV4 undoubtedly sounds fantastic, with a similar growl to the Desmo but with a different tone. The surprise, however, came when we put the bike on the dyno. Our initial dyno run recorded the Aprilia making less horsepower than the standard bike we tested last year. Confused, we sought help from some world-class tuners in the area — some with AMA credentials on their resume — and even Aprilia’s U.S. headquarters to figure out why the bike was down on power. After more than 20 dyno runs using every combination of exhaust pipe and ECU mapping imaginable, the end result was still the same: Kaming’s RSV4 Factory with Akrapovic exhaust still made less peak horsepower than our stock test bike last year - 148 horsepower vs. 150.
“The dyno results were a little disappointing, but the engine’s power delivery on the track is very accommodating and definitely doesn’t feel slow,” says Duke. “Unless the Desmo is really wound out, the RSV4 can beat it down a straightaway.”