I just got back from attending the Aprilia Racers Days, put on at Pitt Race. These are my (extended) thoughts after reflecting on it a bit.
(Full Disclosure: Cost of the day was $275. I paid that. It was for a track day with 7 sessions of 20 minutes each. I rode 4 sessions on my personal RSV4, 2 on demo bikes, and skipped the last one to get packed up because there was an apocalyptic rainstorm incoming. Snacks and drinks were provided, as was lunch. There is a semi-permanent BBQ trailer on site that made the lunch, I had the pulled pork which was quite tasty. I brought my own additional breakfast, snacks, and drinks.)
What's the point of these days? They're track days sponsored by the manufacturer, in order to get people to do test rides. See GRATUITOUS MARKETING SPAM video:
In reality, it was just like a regular track day, only better. Aprilia brought in about a dozen demo bikes, a buncha signage and banners. They also handled the registration. One of the local trackday orgs that runs events at this track took care of tech inspections and provided control riders for the Novice and Intermediate groups. A local photographer that usually attends trackdays & races in the area was there taking photos. Usually they upload sample images to an event site where you can purchase them, but Aprilia paid to make all of the images available to everyone. The Pirelli Guy that usually attends events in the region was also there, and took care of putting tires on all of the demo bikes. The fact that they utilized all of the local people was a nice touch. Attendance was roughly half what a typical track day is at this facility, meaning there was plenty of open space in the pits and on track.
Overall, the day went incredibly smoothly. There was only one long red flag from the Novice group, but otherwise it was an entirely clean day. From my experience, the less people on track the better, due to a lower number of "incidents". In half of the sessions I did the only other rider I saw was a guy with MotoAmerica patches on his leathers that blasted past me and disappeared after 3 corners, and in the other half only saw 3-5 other bikes.
PittRace is awesome. The track itself is amazing, the facilities are top notch, the paddock is big and open and paved. Overall a a must-do on a car or bike and worth travelling to as a destination. They've also really embraced bikes on track. There are at least one or two weekends of bike trackdays per month from April - October, plus one club race weekend and one MotoAmerica weekend per year. The trackdays sell out a month or two in advance, the club race draws a decent crowd of riders, and the MA race brings in several thousand spectators.
Now, onto the bikes. First up, the RS660. (press photos borrowed because they're way better than the few potato cam ones I took)
This was the one that I came to ride. There's been a lot of buzz around it since it was announce dand launched, and for good reason. My personal opinion on it has previously wavered from positive to negative, but after riding it, I get it. It makes sense now. The thing about it is that it doesn't fit into an existing category. It's not in the same category as other 650-700cc twins, and it's not in the same category as 600cc inline 4s. It takes the best of both and combines them, along with trickle down electronics from 1000cc bikes.
The engine pulls like an SV650 up to ~9k rpms, but then has some considerable extra spice above that. It feels better at lower rpms than a 600 I4, and better at higher rpms than a 650 twin. It's sporty, but not so much so that it comes at the expense of usability.
Riding it was sporty, but quite comfy. The seat was just right. The controls were just right. The brakes were just right. The quickshifter / auto-blipper worked perfectly. It was fun riding on track at speed, but in stock configuration with street tires would really be better on a remote twisty road.
Bottom line, if you're looking for a sporty bike to do mostly street riding with an occasional track day thrown in, it should be at the top of your shopping list. If looking for just a dedicated track bike, a 600cc inline 4 will still be a better option. If looking to race, the RS660 (right now at least) fits in the same class as the SV650 and MT-07 (or whatever they're calling it now). You can get a serviceable SV650 for $2500, and a very competitive one for $5k. Ex-MotoAmerica Twins bikes will cost a bit more for a bit more speed and less reliability. By contrast, there is now a Factory Works RS660 available for ~$18k + shipping from Italy. It's already prepped, you basically just need to add your numbers and go racing. I think that presents a good value for what it is, especially when compared to the cost of building a new SV650 to comparable specs.
On to the RSV4:
The best way to summarize this is that if the RS660 is the perfect compromise that is the bike form of Goldilocks, by comparison the RSV4 is DOOM GUY. There is no compromise anywhere. Its sole purpose is to go as fast as possible and that's it and it doesn't care about anything else.
Advertised output on the engine is 217 hp, and that feels accurate. My personal bike is the 1000 cc version advertised at 201 hp, and there is a noticeable difference with the new 1100. These are levels that WSBK and MotoGP bikes were putting out not long ago. There is power everywhere in the rev range, and banging through full throttle 2-3-4 shifts at redline before smashing on the brakes is nothing short of pure blasphemy. It's the physics equivalent of kicking Galileo in the nuts.
Watching the reactions of people getting off them after test rides was mostly stupid grins laced with profanities. And that's from bikes on street tires, with the traction control set towards the weenie side of the available levels.
It's too much for road usage. Speed is too easily accessible. Street riding would be the absolutely miserable experience of resisting the urge to ride the bike to its full potential at all times. The proper thing to do after buying one would be to immediately tear it apart. Throw the Euro 5 exhaust in the trash where it belongs. Same goes for the tires, lights, mirrors, and fancy bodywork. Add a a light and obnoxiously loud exhaust, slicks and track bodywork, turn all of the electronic controls down to the lowest levels, and enjoy it unrestricted on the track where it belongs. Either track days or racing.
Random musings on bike electronics:
They're technically impressive, but becoming complicated to the point of distraction. You can select your tire type, traction control levels, ABS levels, wheelie control levels, suspension adjustments, throttle mapping, etc. It's neat that you can adjust so many things to your liking. I suspect that most people will play around with them and try out every setting available after buying a new bike. The inevitable conclusion will be to either set everything to total weenie mode for street usage or as close to off as possible for track usage. The big display screen was neat when stopped but pretty useless when riding at speed. All that you really need is a shift light so that you know when to upshift, and a warning light if something is broken. All of the other info is irrelevant and distracting at speed.
Random musings on Aprilia ownership:
Imagine this: You're sitting down to a nice Italian dinner, freshly and perfectly prepared by your lady-mate (or dude-mate). You've got a nice salad, garlic bread, your favorite pasta dish, an unhealthy amount of fresh cheese grated over everything, and a proper red wine to enjoy them with. You finish everything and move on to dessert, a classic tiramisu, but a portion that's closer to 4 servings of it because it's delicious and serving sizes are bullcrap. As you reach roughly halfway through your tiramisu, you come to a point of self realization - Your existence has peaked. Everything is perfect. You have reached a seemingly higher plane where everything is exactly as it should be, there are no negatives, it's not even conceivable to experience anything better, and it is amazing. The universe has picked a winner, and it is you.
Just as you are about to revel in the moment and dig in to the second half of your tiramisu, your lady-mate (or dude-mate) stands up, flips the table over, hurls a cappuccino at your face, and demands that you pay them $3000 and wait an indeterminate number of months. It doesn't make any sense! Why! Why would they do that?!?!? Everything was going great and now I need to pay $3000 and wait an indeterminate number of months and I don't even know if that will fix whatever is wrong because I don't know what is wrong and nobody does and now I kinda wish I just bought an R1 like everybody else....
That's the problem. The dealer network (at least in the USA) is sporadically placed, and constantly changing. Most of them sell Aprilias as an afterthought, not their main brand. The sales staff and service staff at dealerships aren't the best, because they don't see enough of the bikes or customers to become familiar with them. The bikes are really, really, really good... until they have random expensive and sometimes catastrophic issues. Perusing the biggest internet forum for them shows issues of RSV4s breaking valve springs and transmissions, the RS660s on stop sale because valve clearances were borked from the factory. Owning one is an emotional, psychological, and financial roller coaster. The highs are worth it only if you're prepared for the lows.