The RSV is the flagship of the Aprilia lineup, but how does the 2003 RSV Mille rate? CARtoday.com correspondent Brett Hamilton sees how it compares.

When Aprilia entered World Superbike racing with the RSV, the world took notice. Not because the RSV was better than the Ducati or because they expected it to win, but it was another Italian twin that had the audacity to take the fight to the champions.

The RSV immediately had a loyal fan base that, even prior to the defection of Noriyuki Haga to MotoGP, rnsured that Aprilia would be a force to be reckoned with outside the GP-scene.

Launched in 1998, the RSV Mille came towards the end of an extremely successful decade for Aprilia. The roman emperor, Max Biaggi, despite breaking ties with the Italian firm, had wrapped up both 125 cm3 and 250 cm3 world championships on his Aprilia RS and a certain Valentino Rossi was rising to power in the lesser GPs with full Aprilia factory support.

But it all went pear-shaped, with the Hondas ruling in the 125 and 250 categories, a relatively unsuccessful MotoGP campaign plagued by crashes and reliability problems, and the withdrawal of the Aprilia racing team from World Superbike racing. Not to mention the departure of Rossi to the Repsol Honda racing team.

Nevertheless, the RSV is still the flagship motorcycle of the Aprilia line-up and the 2003 Aprilia RSV Mille is no different.

But first impressions were disappointing. The promise and allure of a new and spectacular ride was quickly cut short by the lack of visible changes to this model. The re-designed front fairing was sharper and the bodywork was stunning. But otherwise the RSV seemed the same as the older models. Almost normal, compared to other recent Italian race-replica offerings.

The single-trio headlamp has been refined and the curvy styling gives the RSV a futuristic appeal. The dash is easy to read, but could be tidier.

Expectantly, I started the twin and grumbled out on to the road. Still, the RSV offered nothing new. Don’t get me wrong, this might still be one of the best motorcycles currently on the road, but it is just not a “new” model.

I gently blipped the throttle to hear the signature deep bark of the V-twin vibrating beneath me. The RSV is one of the most flexible twins currently on the market and seems almost too sedate in the tight and confined spaces of town. Its extremely tall riding position gives the rider increased leverage during low speed riding. However, at standstill, the high ground-clearance does hamper “pushing” as even tall riders would find it difficult to reach the ground to manoeuvre.

At full speed, the RSV howls a tidy tune. The deep end-can and V-twin configuration is a winning combination. The screen is large and ducking the wind is a breeze, no pun intended. It seems that Aprilia's wind tunnel testing was not just used for race testing. This is where the RSV throws its rider over the tank with its high seat/low bars configuration. Most weight is carried through the seat and not by the rider's wrists, making the RSV easier to manoeuvre and less fatiguing to race on track days.

And this, of course, is what the RSV was intended to do. Despite not being as focused as the RSV R, the Mille offers the casual rider more than enough go to challenge on road and track. It shows its true potential in the tight twists and turns of mountain passes. In fact, this is the one area in which the RSV is a “new” motorcycle.

The redline is reached extremely quickly in almost all gears, but there is still a minute flat spot in the lower ranges of the higher ratios. But, select the right cog and there’s meaty grunt when it is needed, along with smooth delivery. The rider only has to hang on and let the Mille do its thing.

The fully adjustable Showa forks and Sachs rear shock soak up every bump. It could be a bit too soft, but some minor adjustments should remedy that problem. The high riding position puts the rider on top of the bike , hampering rider confidence and, indirectly, slowing the steering capabilities of an otherwise perfect bike. This is a disappointing characteristic that a steering damper could cure. The RSV blasts into corners, but during hard exits, the front chatters and the rear wiggles a bit more than it should over minor bumps.

SUMMARY: The Aprilia RSV Mille is the minor model of the range, but still offers the everyday rider way more than is necessary. If you want an out-and-out track tool, then buy the Mille R. If you want a grunty, iconic V-twin with good styling, pleasant handling and an Italian heritage, then the Aprilia RSV Mille is the perfect motorcycle. The RSV might be the standard model, but it is a bargain.

Price: R130 000.

Original article from Car