We've published the USA and Aussie launch reports on the RS 660, now it is time to get the bike out in the real world for a few weeks. Jeff turns boy racer for a fortnight... Photos: HMC Photography
We’ve been going crazy about the RS 660 ever since the first concept images were released, mostly due to Jeff’s SXV550 Aprilia race winner, a bike we wished Aprilia would build… After Rennie and Simon’s tests, Jeff finally throws a leg over the bike…
I’m in full race tuck, head on the tank, looking as far ahead as possibly through the small screen, the twin howling to 10,000rpm and the grin on my face the only thing wider than the RS 660 powerband… I sit up, brake hard via the stunning Brembo stoppers, stick my knee out, quickly shift back three gears and peel into a fast right-hander. My knee skims the road, the Pirelli hoops hook up and the RS 660’s sublime chassis settles and soaks up the bumpy apex…
I open the throttle hard. There is a wiggle from the rear tyre as it protests 50ft-lbs of torque for a millisecond before finding grip and firing the bike to the next corner like a land missile. It’s light. It’s fast. It’s compliant. It’s so easy to ride… Could this be the most fun middleweight street sportsbike I’ve ridden through my local hills?
Before I answer that question in detail, I have to tell you I’ve got a history with Aprilia motorcycles. I raced in the Aprilia Challenge Cup when I was much younger, I also built and raced a bike called the RSX550, a Formula 3 BEARS (British European American Racing Series) racer that I competed on with great success over a decade ago, winning many races, setting lap records and winning a championship on. I also recently restored an RS250 Harada, which Heather and I re-photographed exactly 20-years after our first RS250, check out the feature here.
That RSX550 was really well know here in Australia, as nobody had seen anything like it for a long time, Moto2 was only a concept, and lots of people wished Aprilia would build something similar at the time. It was a difficult job to get right, particularly engine position and swingarm pivot/output shaft position and so forth but with the help of Ben Shaw and Dave Ward, we did it.
We got it done and the bike was awesome for two seasons. On shorter tracks it was near unstoppable and in the wet, absolutely incredible. It did 1:01s at Broadford, 1:02s at Wakefield Park and 1:17s at Oran Park, a BEARS F3 lap record that still stands since the track is gone! I loved that bike so much, and I always wondered what it would have been like softened up, geared up and road registered.
I’ve also ridden other exotic Aprilia’s, such as the RSW250 factory Grand Prix racer and even max Biaggi’s WorldSBK RSV4 at Portimao, but I’ve still always had a fascination for a middleweight four-stroke Aprilia in a small sports chassis, exactly like the RS 660 is…
So, when the RS 660 was released, despite being a parallel twin and clearly a road bike more than a track bike, my ears pricked up and my eyes popped out. I had to ride one! I could not wait, but first we had Rennie at the USA launch, then Simon Harris at the Aussie launch last Winter. Due to Covid-19, it took until Xmas for us to get one up here. It was well worth the wait and personally, my highlight of 2021! If only I had the money for one… Damn!
Rennie and Simon covered a hell of a lot about the bike, plus you can read all of the RS 660 Tech Talk here, so I am just going to stick to my ride impression and if I thought the RS 660 lives up to the hype around it and what it could potentially be from a performance perspective. Styling is up to you, but personally, I think it is the best looking Aprilia road bike ever built. From front to back and top to bottom, it makes me drool. I could look at it all day long… Anyway, time for a ride…
With a six axis IMU, APRC pack: AWC (wheelie control), ATC (traction control), AEB (engine brake control), AEM (power maps), ACC (cruise control), Cornering ABS, and more… it’s not the back to basics affordable pure street sportsbike it could have been, and the price reflects that. Funnily enough, I ended up with pretty much everything off or wound down, I found the bike better that way… I tried the two preset modes, Commute and Dynamic, then eventually set the bike up myself in Individual.
There are a few reasons; first of all, the brakes gave me a few scares when they simply would not stop me and the bike in time for the apex of certain corners. It was some type of electronic intervention, but with everything wound back I had full control over the brakes, which I then found perfect in both feel and power. It truly does stop well with less electronic intervention. The only way to stop the rear wheel lifting is to release the front brakes, right? Never my favourite rider aid, I can tell you…
The other reason is that the 659cc 270-degree parallel twin is so tractable that it really doesn’t need traction control. It hooks up, even in the wet, and is completely predictable, with better response the less intervention dialled in. I will say, however, between pushing it hard and REALLY going for it, Dynamic mode works well. But that next step harder and it becomes a limitation… Thus the availability of Individual mode. Something for all levels of rider. Still, it makes me think, should there be a more basic model RS 660 with less electronics, closer to the $14,000 – $15,000 price point?
Electronics aside, and don’t get me wrong they are superbike level in every way, the RS 660 is a cracker of a bike in its own right. The engine is stunning, a 100hp and 50ft-lbs mid-capacity twin that makes 80 per cent of its torque from 4000rpm! I fell in love with the engine. Not only does it pull like a steam train off corners, it has an exciting enough top-end to give thrills and it has the front-wheel launching skyward off corners. Yet around town, it’s a pussycat that is oh so easy. Fuelling, clutch, gearbox action… Everything is refined even more so than the V4 bigger sibling is…
From 6000rpm onwards, until it starts to flatten out after ten grand, the RS 660 hauls for its capacity, all while being packaged in what is essentially a small bike. It is certainly smaller than a 750cc inline four, and it handles like a small bike; super flickable, not tiring, easy line changing mid turn, but with grunt! The steering is pretty stable, meaning if you are expecting RS250 turn-in, you will be disappointed, it needs some effort, but the trade-off in that stability and predictability is worth it. It is a chassis you can trust, whether on a bumpy or smooth set of corners…
I’m 187cm tall and a bit overweight at 95kg! But I fit on the RS 660 well, in fact, I found it roomy particularly fore and aft on the seat, and with the not too radically positioned clip-ons, I could move around well in the corners, adjust my seating position for comfort on the highway stints, and happily fit in through the traffic. It’s super narrow between the knees and not overly tall at 820mm seat height.
Plenty of leg room for me, the pegs are lower than a traditional sportsbike, and the reach to the handlebars is more relaxed sport than full-on scratcher. The only issue I had with the riding position was that my heels constantly rubbed on the moving swingarm, as there are no heel guards…
The suspension is great, a good balance between sports and sports touring. Despite being a fairly basic rear set-up, with no linkage and only preload and rebound adjustment, the shock gets the job done. It’s quite firm and there is the odd kick off the sharper bumps but generally, the ride is good, and when pushed hard on the grippier, smoother roads, the shock stands up to the job. The harder I pushed, the better it felt, particularly when it was operating mid-stroke during hard cornering.
The same up front, although on the softer side of sports, the forks keep the front wheel planted and soak up the sharp hits, while giving support under hard braking. Any harder charging than fast road riding would probably see the need to fit firmer springs. But even for me at my weight, I could ride around the softer springs and enjoy the benefits of them on our crappy roads. I was happy with that.
Fit, finish and build are typically amazing from Aprilia. The switches look old fashioned and big but they do the job, the dash too, as modern as it is has that oversized Aprilia look they have had since the 1990s, but hey, the unique and satisfying riding experience more than makes up for those things. Every other part is cutting-edge, from the lights to the high-quality fasteners. I like the neat exhaust and it sounds fine to me, although if I had the spare cash, I’d go for a slip-on…
Now back to the original question, and the answer is yes. Yes, the RS 660 is the most fun I’ve had on a middleweight sportsbike in my local twisties. To me, the RS 660 is all of those Aprilia’s above combined into one package I would definitely want to create myself, but Aprilia have done it.
After spending a few weeks testing and the Tuono 660 (comparo on the way), I can say that this is one of the best street sportsbikes of recent times, and the beauty is that it doesn’t need 200hp to make it fast and fun… It sure ain’t cheap but if you can afford one, go and try one for yourself!
2022 Aprilia RS 660 Specifications
Price: $18,490 + ORC
Claimed Power: 73.5kW[100hp]@10,500rpm
Claimed Torque: 67Nm[50lbs-ft]@8,500rpm
Wet Weight: 183kg (169kg dry)
Fuel capacity: 15L
Engine: Parallel twin-cylinder forward facing, four-stroke, 270-degree, eight-valve DOHC, liquid-cooled, chain driven cams, 81 x 63.9mm bore x stroke, 659cc, 13.5:1 compression, two-into-one exhaust, ram air, twin 48mm throttle-bodies, RbW throttle and EMS.
Gearbox: Six-speed with AQS up and down. Clutch: Wet multi-plate with mechanical slipper, cable.
Chassis: Dual beam alloy frame with removable alloy sub-frame
Rake: 24.1° Trail: 104mm
Suspension: Kayaba 41mm inverted forks, preload and rebound adjustable, 120mm travel, alloy asymmetric swingarm, monoshock with spring preload and rebound adjustability, 130mm travel
Brakes: 320mm rotors (f), Brembo radial-mount four 32mm piston calipers and radial pump master-cylinder, stainless braided lines, ABS, 220mm rotor (r), Brembo twin 34mm piston caliper, ABS
Wheels & Tyres: Cast alloy six-spoke, 17 x 3.50in (f), 17 x 5.50in (r), 120/70 – 17, 180/55 – 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tyres.
Seat height: 820mm
Ground clearance: N/A
Overall width: N/A
Overall Length: N/A
Overall height: N/A
Instruments & Electronics: TFT display, Six axis IMU, APRC pack: AWC (wheelie control), ATC (traction control), AEB (engine brake control), AEM (power maps), ACC (cruise control), Cornering ABS.
The Verdict | Road Test: 2022 Aprilia RS660