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

Microprocessors take on horsepower in this battle over traction control supremacy

The age of the digital sportbike is as close to reality as ever. It’s a sign of the times when manufacturers shift their focus from generating more horsepower to making sure the power reaches the ground as effectively as possible. Two manufacturers exemplifying that mindset are Aprilia and Yamaha.

In the case of the former, the RSV4 platform has been a major hit as it combines an extremely precise chassis with a unique V-Four engine that may not have been the most powerful in its class but definitely left the rider invigorated with its characteristic and exciting power delivery and sound. For the latter, the crossplane-crankshaft R1 is Yamaha’s answer to differentiate itself from the rest of the inline-Four playing field. Using its MotoGP technology to benefit production machines wasn’t just a marketing ploy, but a concerted effort to give Yamaha a leg up on the competition.

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The basic forms of the RSV4 R and YZF-R1 should be nothing new to loyal readers. We’ve covered the Aprilia before in our 2010 literbike shootout and yours truly was recently at Yamaha’s press introduction where the company unveiled its new upgrade to the R1. These machines illustrate how manufacturers are refocusing their attention from the machine shop to the laptop.

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

Aprilia’s electronic rider-aid system is dubbed APRC, for Aprilia Performance Ride Control, and it not only incorporates an eight-level traction control, but also wheelie control, launch control and an electronic speed shifter. Best of all, it’s not only available on the top-of-the-line RSV4 Factory model, but also the more affordable, $16,999 R model, tested here, which comes with all these features.

Yamaha’s YZF-R1 doesn’t have the same fancy nomenclature for its traction control, nor does it come with launch control, wheelie control or a speed shifter. What it does have is a six-stage traction control system, which is a first for the tuning fork company.

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

Now it has come to this: A comparison test between two sportbikes where we’re not so much focusing on power but instead on electronics. To give both traction control systems a proper test, we took both machines to the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway and rode with our friends at Moto Forza, a European motorcycle dealership in San Diego, CA, which invites customers to ride their bikes to their limits safely away from the rules of the road.

Our friends at Metzeler also provided each bike with the latest Racetec K3 rubber in stock sizes to keep both bikes planted. We were genuinely impresed with the warm-up times from the K3, especially considering we weren’t using tire warmers. Grip and feel from both ends was also superb the entire day. Following the track portion we rode each bike in the local canyons of southern California to get a feel for their road manners. By the end we came away knowing our usual metrics for judging sportbikes just gained one more criterion.

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