testing any superbike on the salty, slippery and usually damp
mid-winter British roads
is always a somewhat challenging
experience, and to say I had reasonable weather whilst with
the Aprilia is probably and understatement! I think I had
1 day where the roads were actually clear of salt, that's
only because it rained heavily on the previous day and as
usual I got caught in it!
First things first, and
in the case of the new Aprilia RSV Mille R it's a totally
different animal than Aprilia's last model. The '04' R model
(let's call it that to save confusion) is now the base model
of the Mille, while last years R was in fact the top of the
range. Confused? Well read on...
Last years R had the exotica
already fitted to make it an R, Ohlins suspension, OZ race
wheels etc, etc, but this years '04' R has the standard Showa
front and a Sachs unit at the rear; you have to go to the
next step, the Mille 'Factory' to get the same treatment as
the previous R. That model comes with all the Ohlins goodies
including a top spec steering damper which the new R doesn't
get at all, and of course Brembo radial brakes. We'll be testing
a Factory in a couple of weeks, so keep coming back. Well
that just about explains it, if you got lost somewhere just
The instant giveaway that
the new Mille R is not just a re-vamped '03' model is the
bodywork. We now have a very angular and much slimmer profile
than the bulging rounded lines of the '03' model, this gives
the new bike a very sleek look indeed, and give Aprilia credit
here, it's a stunning bike to look at now. As per quite a
few bikes today including Ducati's 999/749 range, the front
indicators are built into the mirrors. It creates a very slim
profile now, but again a-la-Ducati you really can't see much
in them without having to lift your arm to stare back under
your armpit. What's behind doesn't matter, it's the prey in
front of you that counts!!
smaller, more compact appearance of the new bike
made me think at first that the rider space had become more
compact too, though I was proved to be completely wrong on
this. Although the new bike has a lower windscreen, there's
quite a bit more room between the seat and the fuel tank.
This means that you can tuck in a lot more than the previous
model, and another bonus here is that the overall aerodynamics
will be improved at speed. Both the old Mille and the '04'
R do still have a similar feel to them, but the '04 makes
you feel if you are sitting 'in' the bike, rather than 'perched'
on top of it. It just doesn't feel a high as the old model,
a criticism many potential buyers had when looking for a rather
exotic v-twin. The new Mille sits a full 2.5cm lower, and
if you had ever had any doubts about touching the ground on
the old one then I would suggest a look at the new Mille R.
I don't think you would hesitate now.
Sitting on the new bike
you are immediately faced with a full set of brand new instruments.
Gone are the ex - Fiat Strada surplus units! Now they have
been replaced with a very neat single piece unit with a digital
speedo and analogue tacho. All the lights are in the right
place and when you turn on the ignition the bike does the
usual modern pre-flight check. There is also a full timer
facility, clock, mph/kmh conversion mode and even a side stand
warning light! The layout on the rest of the bars etc is still
pretty much the same with the exception of radial master cylinders.
The switch gear is still the usual 'funky' Aprilia layout
with upside down horn and indicator switches providing endless
fun to other road users as you sound your horn to turn right
at a roundabout, or flash the lights to warn someone, it will
take you a few days to get used to this, it did for me anyway!
regards the rest of the front end of the new Mille
R, when looking forward from the new riding position the frontal
area is now much smaller and lower. You can spend a lot more
time concentrating on the road ahead as the bike almost disappears
from your view. The adjustable alloy levers are also very
good, fine tuning to your exact needs, they are light to operate
and easy to use, even with new waterproof gloves purchased
when my others (leather race gloves) were just soaked through!
The Mille R feels extremely narrow all over now, gone is that
slightly outdated styling, what you have now is a slim, modern
styled superbike with integrated indicators both front and
rear. The rear indicators are in fact housed in possibly the
sleekest, sexiest looking tail unit on any current motorcycle.
Here is a bike to rival the best exotica from Italy.
Hidden away under the sweeping
alloy frame rails lies a brand new engine called the V-60
Magnesium. It is essentially the same layout of a 60deg V-Twin
and has 4 valve heads with double cams, but that's about where
the similarity ends. Aprilia have designed new heads for better
combustion, only a single plug is now needed per cylinder,
it has new cams and valve springs and a whole host of extra
little things to make up this engines claimed 139 bhp. In
the electronics and fuel department we now have 57mm throttle
bodies instead of the previous 51mm, new intake ducts, a single
injector per cylinder, and a new pressurised air-box giving
some 3% increase in power on the move. All this is managed
by a new ECU with 15 sensors on the bike to fine-tune it through
an diagnosis terminal in the instrument cluster.
these modifications to the '04' R have made a huge
difference in the overall ride on the road. Now we have a
very responsive engine with lots of smooth power delivery
right up the range, but there's a surprise still to come when
you get beyond 8,000rpm.. Lots more power suddenly appears
up to the rev limiter around the 11,500rpm mark. The new bike
becomes a Wolf, ready to give chase to anything in it's path,
it's great fun!!
Riding it on the road in
winter is probably not the best place for it in reality, all
that alloy and those designer Italian fittings do take a bit
of a 'hammering' on the UK roads, but a quick jet wash soon
gets rid of all that salt bringing the gorgeous looking Aprilia
back to it's former glory. In general on road riding all you
need to do is to ride it around at about 5-6,000rpm, run a
gear higher than you think, and it will pull smoothly and
feels totally relaxed to ride. A Sunday cruise is about the
best description for it, but take note here, in 6th gear you
will find yourself doing about 90-100mph, and feeling as easy
as you would at 50mph!
Once you Start to get used
to the power delivery it's time to play! On the one dry and
salt-free day I had it gave me a good chance to try out the
bike on something other than slippery or wet roads. The Aprilia
is a fast bike, a seriously fast bike, but there are faster
ones out there. Any 1 lt Japanese 4 cyl superbike will give
the Mille a real run on speed and acceleration, but when it
come to feel and stability the V-Twin has it. Four cylinder
bikes are brutal in their power delivery, there's no room
for the slightest error or it will spit you off, but the Millle
is a lot more forgiving. The balance of power delivery, good
handling and good brakes makes this bike so much easier to
ride fast on ordinary roads than your average four cyl superbike.
Sure it wheelies on power in 1st to 3rd, and it will spin
up the rear wheel if your'e heavy handed, but with it's balanced
Showa front USD forks and Sachs rear unit it always feels
solid and firmly fixed to the road. The one thing I would
advise is the steering damper upgrade as it tends to shake
it's head under heavy acceleraton, and when you discover that
the front wheel has been airborne for the last 100mtrs!
Aprilia Factory and the standard Mille 'R' share
the same base chassis geometry as the old model, but subtle
changes are obvious throughout including the headstock which
has been repositioned lowering the new bike. More lowering
has also taken place with the swing arm mountings, and the
pivot and is now further forward by 0.5mm. The engine sits
4mm further over to the right completing the changes, so the
outcome of all these changes adds up to a very different bike
indeed. The standard mount, Brembo four-pot calipers on the
R model are very strong and provide lots of feel, and they're
all you'd probably ever want - as long as you don't try the
the feel and power of the radial mount Brembo calipers of
the Factory model, then you may change your mind to overkill!
On the road one of the most
noticeable changes is the way the bike turns in on fast corners.
The old Mille always used to feel as though it wanted to run
in wide asking for a little muscle, on the new '04' this is
just not the case. Unfortunately as the roads were mostly
slippery it did show a tendency to want to run wide on the
exit of corners, but I mainly put that down to the slippery
surface and to the standard Michelin Pilot Sports, not a favourite
feed-back tyre of mine at all! The 43mm Showa forks allow
adjustment for spring pre-load, compression and rebound damping,
I did find the standard settings a bit too hard for general
road use, but on smooth roads they worked well, so track use
should be great! I found the rear Sachs unit to be behaving
very well in any conditions, no need to alter anything there.
The Mille also has Aprilia's pneumatically controlled clutch
on it and this contributes to super smooth corner entries
allowing slip on deceleration stopping the rear wheel hopping
after a quick downchange.
Dry weight quoted for the
Aprilia Mille R is 185kg, so it's not a lightweight in comparison
to most Japanese superbikes with about a 20kg handicap. This
doesn't really come into it in the real world, only on the
race track would it be at all noticable, but then the twin
does have it's advantages in so many places over the mad 4cyl
conclusion the Aprilia RSV Mille 'R' is fast, it's
exotic, it's seriously stylish, and both gets and deserves
the looks it receives from other bikers and road users. Aprilia
have made sweeping changes to the Mille, it's changed from
a somewhat overweight looking and dated bike into true Italian
Stallion. The Mille R and the Factory are bikes for the enthusiast
Italian sport-bike rider, they are absolutely beautiful to
look at, and even more beautiful to ride.
At the end of every ride,
even in some of the worst weather, I walked away impressed.
The new Mille is faster, more composed, and probably the most
important point here, is easier to use than ever. Comfort
is not n issue here, you don't get sore on it in general riding.
The only time I ever felt any pain was after a serious amount
of traffic and filtering, then the wrists suffered a bit,
but that's it. The new bike has been improved in almost every
department regarding performance and handling, its looks are
up to each individual, but I can honestly say it looks fantastic.
If I were the owner of an older Mille and tested one of these
then I'd be handing over a cheque for one tomorrow. Still
that's just my point of view, everyone has their own tastes,
to each their own I say!
I'll be continuing the Aprilia
testing with a Factory in about 3 weeks...keep an eye out