Aprilia MilleR Factory Track Test

I had a magic moment on the RSV 1000 Erre Factory, oh yes. Drilling through the never-ending, 180-degree downhill Bucine turn, I suddenly realized that I was holding the whole plot with my fingertips. Leaned way over, eyes locked on the turn's exit, I grasped the fact that I wasn't 
"Try to avoid crashing into hard, unmovable objects, such as the planet Earth"
gripping the handlebars at all but was rather caressing them, letting the RSV's front end talk to me: "Do you want to tighten up your line mister? Just press the inner handlebar by another 56 grams please. Want to exit nearer the curb? Just release about 105 grams of pressure from the outer handlebar". A nice dialog to be had while you are on your tire's edges, feeling for the last vestiges of traction at 85 mph -- and not one I could recall having on many other rides. So, MOFOs, forget all the Burns-esque heroic tales of valor about powering out of turns with smoking tires on a GSX-R1000, the RSV is into a different type of game: Finesse with capital F, an annihilating finesse that is. The point did not get lost on Aprilia's PR guys. Motto of the New RSV launch was "one second less", meaning that Aprilia testers achieved, on a variety of tracks, lap times that were faster by about one second than the previous model's. Seemingly an honest understatement, less so when you consider the fact that the previous incarnation of the RSV has previously won the coveted "Master Bike" mega sport bike comparo. This year it was second at that test only to the all-mighty Suzook GSXR1000 by about 0.2 of a second.

The story behind the new RSV which now gets the moniker "1000" rather than "Mille" is heavy refinement. Easy to spot is the all-new frame, lighter and torsionally stronger by five percent. Even easier to spot is the double banana swingarm with its extremely tall arms. It reflects current interest in obtaining "controlled flex" and indeed, though torsionally stiffer, it is less so for sideways deformation thus supplying some "sideways suspension" at high angles of lean and thus improving traction control. In terms of dimensions, the steering head has been lowered (for lower height and CG) and re-angled (from 25 to 24.8). Wheelbase has actually increased by 3 mm although overall bike length has been reduced. All this reshuffling has resulted in a perfect 50-50 weight distribution front-to-back with the front wheel carrying 13 pounds more than before.

The unmoral discrimination between normal RSV and R models power outputs is a thing of the past. In fact, Aprilia thinks that the regular model is now fast enough to be called the "R", whereas the Ohlins suspended/radial

Sadly, this was about all that was left of the Factory R after Yossef's grindage. Mr. Schvetz chalks up MO's first-ever Aprilia crash. Yup, if you're gonna wad, might as well: 1) Get it on onboard video and 2) Highside yourself to the moon so you get sympathy instead of a good beating when you hobble back to the pits and 3) slink away silenty. It wasn't until the first golf ball brained him that Yossef realized he had taken a wrong turn onto the local driving rangebraked/carbon-wearing version is now the "Erre Factory" (Erre being the Italian pronunciation for the letter r), yet both new machines carry the same spec power plant. And where's the WSBK homologation SP you may ask? With the current messy state of WSBK rules, Aprilia is sitting at the sidelines, waiting for the picture to clear up. In fact, Aprilia is rather aiming at the Superstock class and the power unit was seriously massaged with racing potential in mind. Increased squish areas increases mixture turbulence at TDC and allowed the removal of one plug in each pot. Manhole sized throttle bodies of 57 mm of diameter allow the Rotax made twin to take big gulps of air at high revs.

The counter balanced twin claims now produce to a healthy 138 hp at the crank, which is right up there with the S spec 999. Breathing is also helped by the new and tricky, through-the-headstock, central ram-air induction. This is not just a dumb duct but has smug and smart features such as an engine vacuum controlled flapper valve that regulates airflow into the airbox

The new Aprilias are blacker and badder than ever beforeaccording to engine needs. Then two secret chambers dampen out intake air pressure fluctuations and are a great place to stash diamonds or other stuff in case of an atomic crisis. Other useful mods are strengthened con-rods; light magnesium covers for the heads and clutch, twin oil-coolers, bumpier cams and a 1:11.8 comp ratio. Last notable departure from the previous model are the twin exhaust cans instead of the single one in the Mille. Miraculously, the twin Catalyzed silencers weighed less than the single TOW launcher of old. Aprilia were hard pressed to follow the under the seat cans trend/fad but found no inherent advantages in testing, only added costs and roasted bums.

Enough about tech stuff. Italian things are about design too, aren't they? The feisty press conference wasn't really the place to get the finer details about design issues though. First there was a bombastic intro video clip, seemingly targeted at an MTV crowd rather than info hungry journos. Then, some colleagues started asking the Aprilia staff dubious questions in order to get better viewing angles of the surreal supermodel that was assigned to pass the mike between journos. Considering the sheer tightness of her hot pants, I can't really blame them, but you can picture the setting. Trying to get hold of Martin Longmore, the RSV's designer during the track day was equally frustrating with 30 other journos ambushing the guy between test sessions. Luckily I stayed at the track the day after our test ride and got my quality time with the man.

Being a freelance designer, Martin Longmore might not be as well known as Tamburini or Treblanche but he has a serious track record having designed the first series BMW 650 GS, the R1200C, the Aprilia Falco and even BMW's Desmodromic boxer racer prototype, the R1, in the early 90's.

Lil' Mille back when she was merely a glint in Martin's eye.This guy has been involved also in cars with the Audi TT and the BMW Z3. He is a curly haired Scotsman from Edinburgh with an intense body language and a spicy vocabulary. He is also a sporting type having raced single seater cars up to Formula Three level and commutes weekly from his Munich office to Noale by bike.

So what was your starting point with the second generation RSV?
ML: We started very early after the first RSV's launch, in 99'. Aprilia came up with a list of things to be improved, things to be evolved and we tried to keep the design DNA of the first model. We also wanted to get away from the down-pointing wedge paradigm that is so strong in sport motorcycle design since the 90's. A motorcycle moves horizontally and I preferred to develop a design language around that motion, more like a javelin thrown forward, not down.

Third millenium bounty hunter Boba Schvetz pursues the elusive "lost second"And what about the design direction at the detail level? Even a technical part as the frame seems to be designed with all these scalloped areas...?
ML: Well, some people like to wear expensive jewelry, watches, what I like to wear are finely detailed motorcycles!

At this point Martin drags me to a naked bike and starts shooting.
ML: Knock at the frame spars with your knuckles. See how quiet it is? These folds in the frame side members help reduce metallic resonance and increase rigidity. And look at the welds between the metal pressings and the cast rear members, see the angled weld line? It's better looking and stronger than the straight weld line you'll find in other bikes. And see the top attachment points of the rear subframe? The bolts are vertical. It saved us some twenty millimeters of overall width at the critical tank-meets-seat point. And look at these hollow front engine mounts, they allow air to pass through, enter the engine bay and aid cooling...

I spy with my gleaming trapezoidal eyes ... And he goes on and on... Martin was the RSV's designer but he got so much involved with the definition of every single part, even if an invisible radiator bracket or the exact position of the neutral light on the dashboard, that he just couldn't let any thing slip by "undesigned".
ML: I had this idea about having rear turn lights while on the track so you can signal entering the pits without raising your leg off the peg like your going to take a.... So by taking off just 8 screws your RSV is track day ready in five minutes (four for the mirrors/front turn signals, four for the numberplate holder).

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