Even before I first rode the Aprilia RS660, I feared this would finally be the bike that made my beloved Suzuki SV650 obsolete. Other bikes have tried – namely the Kawasaki Z/Ninja 650 and Yamaha’s MT-07 – but none have truly made me believe the ‘ol SV’s time in the spotlight was done.
But the RS660 has come frighteningly close. After just an initial street ride with the Aprilia, it hit all the right buttons, made all the right sounds, and gave just enough performance to make me seriously question what I was still doing with a 20-year-old Suzuki. Of course, being the de facto sportbike guy on the MO staff, I obviously wanted to hold final judgment until I was able to flog the new Aprilia on a racetrack.
I wouldn’t have to wait long, as I recently had the chance to wring the RS660’s neck at the newly-repaved Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in Desert Center, California. Considering the 660 isn’t a fire-breathing literbike like its RSV4 brother, Chuckwalla would prove to be the perfect place to put the Ape to the test. Its mixture of corners, elevation changes, and the infamous bowl section, would highlight just how good (or bad) the bike handles, and the lack of any real straight section would minimize the 660’s lack of straight-line speed. On a big bike, you could go very quickly and only ever use two gears. On the 660 (at least with stock gearing), five of the six cogs are in play. Basically, Chuck plays to all the bike’s strengths.
As a reminder, we’ve covered the RS660 extensively, starting with a breakdown of all the bike’s specs, then there was my First Ride Review on the street, followed by a video from that same ride. Aprilia’s all-new 659cc parallel-Twin forms the basis of this new platform that starts with the RS660 (a Tuono 660 is soon to follow, with others progressively after that). Essentially the front half of the RSV4 engine, going with a parallel-Twin instead of a V-Twin allowed Aprilia to make a tighter, more compact package.
Designed as a sporty-bike and not necessarily a sportbike, the seat is cushy, the clip-on bars sit above the triple clamp, and the pegs aren’t extremely high or set back – though they are narrow. The RS’s styling obviously points to its sport riding intentions, but its 53.9-inch wheelbase, 24.1º rake, and 4.1 inches of trail aren’t particularly aggressive but are plenty sporty. It’s more than enough to have fun.
Brembo provides the braking power, and though they’re not the latest Stylema calipers, do they really have to be? The street ride proved they shed speed just fine. The biggest question mark in the whole equation would be the suspension. Adjustable for only rebound damping and spring preload, it was more than capable on the street, but the higher pace of the track has left many people, myself included, wondering how quickly we’d have to ditch the stock stuff for better aftermarket upgrades.
Aprilia and Pirelli did me a solid and slapped my RS660 with some SC1 slicks, so I was sure traction would not be the limiting factor. In fact, I was worried the level of stickiness would highlight the weaknesses of the suspension even more.
As it turns out, my initial reservations were largely unwarranted. Right from the start, the 660 proved to be a fun and willing dance partner, just like it had done on the street. The bark from the engine gets the juices flowing as soon as you leave pit lane, and clicking up through the gears with the quickshifter feels positive and secure. Instead of approaching the next turn at mind-numbing speeds, like you would on an RSV4, you’re gaining momentum swiftly, at a pace that’s thrilling but also allows you to enjoy the aural symphony coming from the engine. If nits are to be picked, however, then I suppose some more top-end oomph would be nice. You can feel the power trailing as you approach redline. My guess is an ECU re-flash to let the throttle stay open when your wrist is to the stop will awaken this beast even more.
Coming into the first bend on the brakes, the RS feels sure-footed. The Brembo stopping power is plenty strong and communicative, and it doesn’t take long before you stop caring that these aren’t Stylemas (if you did in the first place). As soon as you tip it over you’re reminded that, no matter how much of a mess Aprilia’s Grand Prix effort is, the folks in Noale know how to make one hell of a chassis.
It was a little strange, actually. As I was also riding other bikes throughout the day, whenever I’d hop back on the RS660, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable and padded the seat was. No sportbike should be this comfy. Then, as soon as you get going on the racetrack, the RS welcomes you to flog it harder and harder.
It’s a rewarding experience when you do, too, as the bike is light on its feet and bends into turns with minimal effort – perhaps due to the higher bar placement giving better leverage. Once on its side, the Aprilia feels planted and sure, though the high bars prevent me from resting my outside arm on the tank like I’d prefer. Through it all, the more laps I rode, the more I realized that the suspension was basically a non-issue – and won’t be for a vast majority of people. However, go-fast types, those who have to have the best, and racers looking to win championships (possibly even MotoAmerica championships, if/when the bike gets approved) will clearly opt to swap out the shock and fork – probably in that order.
Now, it’s worth noting that Chuckwalla’s recent repave is an example of how to repave a circuit right. It’s much smoother than before, with hardly a bump that could put a suspension system to the test at a fast pace. If your local tracks are closer to motocross tracks than road race circuits, it’s very likely you’ll run up against the limitations of the stock RS660 suspension rather quickly, especially if you’re fast.
Negatives? There are a few. For as fun of a middleweight Twin as the RS660 is, it’s not without its faults. First, my 5-foot, 8-inch frame couldn’t scoot far enough back in a tuck to get comfortable. My butt would hit the passenger seat/cowl and I’d end up partially sitting on top of it. Then there are the high bars; in a full tuck, it’s hard to squeeze in tight because my hands are sitting high. These are both minor quibbles, really, and probably easily cured once the aftermarket lets loose on this bike.
However, the bigger issue I had was with the quickshifter on downshifts. Now, it’s worth noting the motorcycle I was riding was a pre-production unit, and as such, won’t be exactly the same as the bikes you’ll be able to buy in dealers. Nonetheless, the downshift function of the quickshifter eventually stopped working and I had to resort to using the clutch on downshifts. No big deal, but one worth mentioning.
Electronics? Yeah, it has them, but the combination of fresh, sticky tires, great weather, and low horsepower meant I wasn’t putting any of the rider aids to the test.
This is kind of a weird one. Odds are, if you were looking to track an Aprilia RS660 anyway, this review won’t move the bar much other than to judge whether a suspension upgrade is a top priority or not depending on your local tracks. In stock form, it’s already hugely impressive, but I suspect many folks will immediately look for ways to add power, improve the damping, dump some weight, and generally find ways to make it go faster. I get that, and I understand it, though I suggest giving it a shot in stock form to appreciate it right out of the box.
If track time isn’t something you’re interested in with the RS660, then I’m amazed you read this far, frankly. If the First Ride review from the street was any indicator, the Aprilia will make a very fun and enjoyable commuter and weekend warrior. And the inclusion of cruise control means your digits won’t go numb on the highway as you make your way to the good roads.
That leaves folks who are on the fence about the RS660. By now it should be clear that, if the occasional trackday is something you want to experiment with, this bike can clearly handle it. But if you’re primarily riding on the street and only have hopes for occasional track time, it might be worth taking a look at the KTM 890 Duke R. Also coming in at under $12,000 ($11,699), the KTM’s performance quotient matches everything the Aprilia offers – then bumps it up another three degrees.
It’s a tough choice, but one you really can’t go wrong with. Now, I just need to figure out if it’s time to offload my SV650…
|2021 Aprilia RS660 Specifications|
|MSRP||$11,299 – $11,499|
|Engine Type||659cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin, DOHC, four valves per cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke||81mm x 63.9mm|
|Horsepower (claimed at crankshaft)||100 hp (73.5 kW) @ 10,500 rpm|
|Torque (claimed)||49.4 lb-ft (67.0 Nm) @ 8,500 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed with Aprilia Quick Shift up-and-down system and slip/assist|
|Front Suspension||Kayaba 41 mm upside-down fork, adjustable for rebound, and spring preload. Wheel travel 4.7 inches (120mm)|
|Rear Suspension||Aluminum swingarm with asymmetrical trusses. Monoshock with adjustable rebound and spring preload. Wheel travel: 5.1 inches (130mm)|
|Front Brake||Dual radial-mounted Brembo calipers with four 32mm pistons. 320mm discs. Radial master cylinder and steel braided brake lines with Cornering ABS|
|Rear Brake||Single Brembo caliper with two 34mm pistons. 220mm disc with Cornering ABS|
|Rake/Trail||24.1 deg/4.1 in|
|Seat Height||32.3 in.|
|Curb Weight (Claimed)||403 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity||3.96 gal.|
|Colors||Apex Black, Lava Red, Acid Gold|