Italian V-Four Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati Desmosedici [Video]

Superbike replica on track against a MotoGP replica

Ducati Desmosedici

Ducati Desmosedici — All Show and No Go?

As for the Desmo, the list of upgrades is a little longer than the Aprilia. With stock wheels the tire choice is limited to a specific Bridgestone rubber, made in cooperation with Ducati, because the stock rear wheel is 16.5 inches. There are aftermarket adapters out there to fit a 17-inch Ducati 999 rear wheel and therefore have access to a wider range of rubber, but Kaming wouldn’t settle for that.

2011 Ducati Desmosedici vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

Instead, he fitted his Desmo with 17-inch BST carbon fiber wheels ($1695 front, $2695 rear) to accommodate the same Dunlop tires as the Aprilia. But while he was at it he went crazy and installed ceramic wheel bearings ($395), and a host of titanium bits including sprocket studs, nuts, and lock washers. Why all the trick lightweight bits? “I don’t know. They sounded good at the time, so I bought them,” says Kaming.

We’ll admit, once the aura and panache of the Desmosedici wears off, it shares something in common with virtually every motorcycle: it could use improving — mainly to the suspension. The standard spring rates work well for a top-flight racer, who generally prefers stiffer rates than us mortals. But since neither Kaming nor we possess that kind of skill, Mr. Ko felt the need to replace the stock 8.0 kg/mm rear spring with a 7.0 kg/mm unit ($713.50).

It’s money well spent, we think. The softer spring absorbed more of the road imperfections around “Bumpywillow” and was generally well accepted among all of our testers. Also well accepted were the carbon fiber BST wheels and Dunlop race rubber. It’s hard to pinpoint which of the three upgrades deserves the most credit for the Desmo’s improved handling, but overall — and at our respective speeds — it steered quicker with a more compliant ride.

“It now steers so much better than stock,” raves Duke. “The BST wheels are even lighter than the mag stockers, and their traditional 17-inch sizes make its handling so much more linear and allows the use of any grippy sportbike tires. It’s much more composed while leaned over in a corner.”

The Desmo has a massive top-end hit that catapults the bike down every straight, but its performance on the dyno was a bit disappointing. Not only does the Desmosedici make less overall torque than the Aprilia, but it isn’t until 11,000 rpm that it surpasses the Ape in peak horsepower as well. Take a closer look and you’ll also see that the Ducati is far from linear in the way it builds power, unlike the RSV4. But you’ll never notice that from the saddle. During our track testing, the Desmo seemingly went from a standstill to light speed the moment the throttle was cracked. 

2011 Ducati Desmosedici vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

One area that wasn’t touched, but one we were still mixed about, is the Desmo’s rider triangle. The clip-on bars are a stretch from the saddle and the pegs feel surprisingly low for a sportbike. Overall comfort with the narrow seat took some getting used to, which some were able to do and others weren’t. Ground clearance was never a problem, though hanging off the bike mid-corner felt awkward to some.

“This is likely the only GP motorcycle I’ll ever ride, so my basis of comparison is limited,” says Pete. “But compared to ‘normal’ sportbikes the Desmo feels strange, almost unnatural. Though it’s still cool as heck to ride!”

Worth The Money?

If the numbers don’t bother you, the upgrades to the Ducati transform the bike from a raging bull to a relatively manageable beast. Even though the power figures aren’t particularly impressive, as a total package it’s much better than stock in our minds. As for the Aprilia, while we can’t explain the power deficit, that’s not to say every aftermarket exhaust will deliver the same results.

Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati Desmosedici

When it’s all said and done, are the upgrades worth the money? The changes to the Ducati transform it to a machine worth living with, while the anomaly that is the Aprilia makes an argument that spending a ton of cash does not automatically make a motorcycle better.

Either way, these are two of the coolest sportbikes we’ve ever ridden.

Literbike Battle: By the Numbers
  Modified Aprilia RSV4 Factory Modified Ducati Desmosedici
Engine 999cc (78.0 x 52.3mm) V-Four, DOHC, 4-valves per cylinder; 13.0:1 c/r 989cc (86.0 x 42.56mm) L-Four, DOHC, Desmodromic, 4-valves per cylinder; 13.5:1 c/r
Frame Aluminum frame; alum. swingarm Tubular steel trellis frame; alum. swingarm
Suspension Ohlins 43mm usd fully adjustable fork
Ohlins fully adjustable shock
43mm Ohlins usd fully adjustable fork
Ohlins fully adjustable shock
Rake, Trail, Wheelbase 24.5°, 4.1 inches, 55.9 inches 23.5°/24.5, 4.1 inches, 56.3 inches
Tires 120/70 x 17 and 200/55 x 17 120/70 x 17 and 200/55 x 17
Brakes Dual radial-mount 4-piston monobloc calipers; 320mm rotors Dual radial mount 4-piston monobloc calipers; 330mm rotors
Seat Height 33.3 inches 32.6 inches
Curb Weight 453 lbs 377 lbs (dry)
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal NA
Base MSRP $20,999; ($28,511 as tested) $72,500; ($77,999 as tested)

Related Reading
2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC SE Review
2010 Literbike Shootout
2008 Ducati Desmosedici RR Review

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