2012 European Literbike Shootout - Video - Motorcycle.com

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Recently, we teased you with a sneak peak of our track impressions after riding the 2012 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC, BMW S1000RR and Ducati 1199 Panigale S at the fast and undulating Thunderhill Raceway with our friends at Keigwins at the Track. We were genuinely impressed with all three machines, and our purely subjective ratings continually changed during the course of the day. Now, however, we’ve had a chance to ride our protagonists on the streets and highways, get dyno numbers, collect our thoughts and tabulate scores on the trusty MO scorecard.

As mentioned in our track teaser, we’re missing a couple of bikes for a full-sledged Euro literbike shootout. We thought we had secured an F4 1000 R from MV Agusta, but then, mysteriously, they stopped returning our emails – coincidentally after their Brutale R 1090 lost our Litertbike Streetfighter Shootout. And it would’ve been interesting to see how KTM’s V-Twin RC8 could compete with the Panigale, but they were unable to get us a bike during our testing window. We should also take a moment to explain why we’re using a Panigale S instead of the standard 1199. Simply put, Ducati couldn’t supply non-S Panigales until next month, and we couldn’t wait!

After wringing out our trio on the track, it didn’t take a dyno to figure out which machine made the most power. Our seat-of-the-pants dyno quickly registered the S1000RR as the horsepower king in this lot, followed by the Ducati and Aprilia. The BMW spun the DynoJet dyno operated by Hypercycle owner and former Nicky Hayden crew chief, Carry Andrew, to the tune of 172.5 hp. The highly-oversquare Superquadro engine of the 1199 made 162.1 hp, and the Aprilia brings up the rear with “just” 156.9 ponies.

The BMW S1000RR (left), Aprilia RSV4 R APRC (center) and Ducati 1199 Panigale S represent three of the hottest sportbike exports to come out of Europe.

Impressive, but we expected the BMW and Ducati to pump out more. Our 2011 S1000RR made a ridiculous 185.8 horses, and Ducati’s press materials tout the Panigale’s peak output as 195 hp rated at the crank, with company officials claiming mid-170s at the wheel. Nonetheless, these are still strong numbers taken on the same day, on the same dyno, even following Ducati’s detailed instructions for dynoing the Panigale.

Ducati’s four-page instruction guide on proper dyno preparation and procedure involves various steps, most important of which is disconnecting the rear wheel-speed sensor. The 1199’s ECU uses this sensor to “estimate the boost effect present in the air ducts at high speed” via ram air. With the sensor connected and the rear wheel spinning at a high rate, the ECU thinks the ram-air effect is high and reacts by sending an overly rich fuel mixture to the cylinders to compensate, thus giving a false reading. Disconnecting the sensor delivers an appropriate air/fuel ratio while the bike is stationary on the dyno. Handy tip for those looking to dyno their own Panigale: obtain (or have your dealer provide) these instructions when buying.

As expected, the Aprilia (orange line) trails in the horsepower department. A few surprises are the Ducati’s (red) dip between 4500 and 5400 revs, and its huge advantage after 7800 rpm until it hits its 11,300-rpm rev limit. The S1000RR (blue) has the widest usable powerband and pulls away up top, causing T-Rod to remark: 'The S1000RR produced one of the most flawless, perfectly arching horsepower and torque curves I’ve ever seen from a production bike.’

Still, 156 horsepower on the Aprilia is more than enough to spin the rear tire, which is why the RSV4, like the S1000RR and 1199, is equipped with a sophisticated electronics package encompassing traction control among its many features. Some scoff at the idea of rider aids on performance motorcycles, but having a safety net to help save you could be the difference between finishing a track day (or canyon ride) or coming back on the crash truck. Or worse. And if you don’t like TC, simply turn it off.

These three contenders represent vastly different methods for achieving the same goal: carving canyons and ripping up racetracks. BMW, our reigning Euro literbike champ, sticks to Japanese convention with its inline-Four powerplant, while Aprilia utilizes mass-centralization and a unique V-Four. Ducati throws the rulebook out the window and is attempting to rewrite it with a semi-monocoque chassis and a thumping, 1200cc V-Twin engine.

The extra displacement from the Ducati’s V-Twin belts out top torque numbers, but the inconsistency of its curve speaks to the bike’s poor fueling. In contrast, the BMW is smooth and consistent throughout its run, with the Aprilia not far behind except for a slight dip before 8000 rpm.

We’ve already teased you with our track impressions, but now we’ll dig into them further. Later, we’ll rank each bike’s street manners.

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

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