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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > Issue 328 > RULING THE ROADS

RULING THE ROADS

By the time you read this it’ll be TT time, so in honour of that awesome event we decided to rope in last year’s fastest TT newcomer and hit the roads on four of 2017’s finest newbs to see which rules the roost on Britain’s B-roads.

CORE TEST

This is, without doubt, the year of the litre bike. With the likes of Honda and Suzuki finally making proper man-spec’ superbikes again, there is no longer a runt among the 1000cc litter. It’s all down to personal preference and different flavours of 200bhp, which makes our job even tougher in some respects. We have to dissect each bike in finer detail and sort the shit from the shit-hot.

With Sportsbike of the Year just around the corner (well, next month), it would be rude to dilute the biggest, most informative test in motorcycling by gathering the latest superbikes beforehand. Instead, we assembled a foursome for a fast road thrash and asked Rachel Riley to give us some help in choosing. I asked for a consonant. She dished up an ‘R.’ What are the chances? Aprilia’s RSV4 RF gets more than just a Euro 4 overhaul for 2017, and the Noale factory reckons its revised V4-powered sex god is one second a lap faster than the previous model. Meanwhile, BMW’s S 1000 RR is definitely the most unchanged of the quartet, but the class benchmark and 2016 SBOTY winner is more than worthy of nabbing a victory this season – heated grips and all.

Kawasaki’s ZX-10RR is a pure and simple homologation special. The World Superbike dictator looks as good as any in those Winter Test, er, colours and has recently impressed as the first longtermer fleet member. Finally, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000R got Bruce’s willy doing funny things at Phillip Island. A MotoGP track and the Lincolnshire TT are two very different things, but the Suzuki is packed with the latest and greatest gadgets. We began our mammoth 300-mile test in Horncastle, rode up to Whitby, back down via Oliver’s Mount and on to some of the sexiest Tarmac in England.

Being a road-only assessment, this test was all about highway etiquette, so we hired the services of Mike Booth. Unless you’re well into racing or part of the Hull mafia, you probably wouldn’t have heard of him, but Boothy can pedal a bike round and finished as the fastest newcomer at last year’s Isle of Man TT with a 123mph lap on his first visit. Want a proper old-school road test? You’ve got it. All four bikes boast identical numbers of Rs in their titles, so it’s down to a good old-fashioned spank fest.

Aprilia RSV4 RF

No matter how much I love Eugene Laverty and his asymmetric Alpinestars fashion, that moustache is enough to put me off buying an Aprilia. Thankfully, the 2017 RSV4 RF is a whole lot sexier and still looks timeless after pretty much eight years in the same clothes. For this season, the Noale factory technicians have dished up far more than just Euro 4 updates, with a heavily revised V4 motor, new ECU, updated electronics, new exhaust and, finally, new Öhlins suspension.

Seeing as the Aprilia was the only 2017 bike I hadn’t yet sampled, I jumped on it for the first stint. The new TFT dash – the same as the Tuono’s – is a welcome greeting, as is the rock-hard seat to remind you of its racing heritage: it’s still as utterly relentless as ever. Euro 4 updates seem to have seriously dampened the V4’s spirits initially, but ditching neutral and selecting a gear from the superbly precise ’box (probably the best on test) allows the engine to breath freely.

The extra 300rpm that’s been introduced for 2017 is negligible yet welcome. Any excuse to hold the throttle open for an extra millisecond is a millisecond well spent aboard the RF. Over the years, the V4 powerplant has gradually sacrificed usability and its gorgeous spread of grunt, with each refreshed model gaining another frenzied level of top-end madness. This year is no different, but you’ve got to ride a lot of race bikes to better this engine’s characteristics and soundtrack.

Fuelling and throttle response is as smooth as ever, which delivers a deceptively rapid release of V4 power. Being one of the fastest, the RF is also one of the most seamless, although you have to work harder on the road to match the others. This ain’t down to the engine – it’s the track-happy chassis.

It’s almost impossible to pick holes in the RSV4’s handling arsenal when the surface suits its WSB heritage. While others have been developed as a road bike, the Aprilia has been reverse engineered from a test bed of slicks. It steers with ultimate pace and precision, making you feel like Eugene Laverty and flattering any rider.

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Fast Bikes is home to the best sportsbike tests on the planet and is packed with new bike launches, technical insight, hardcore action, masterclasses, racing, reviews and loads more.
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