In honour of Ivano Beggio, the father of Aprilia motorcycles, who died at the age of 73 last week, Insidebikes has gone through the archives to come up with our top five Aprilias of all time.
For a company that only made its first motorbike in 1975, the Italian company has certainly had more than its fair share of bona fide classics. With 294 Grand Prix wins and 54 world titles to their name there is a whole book to be written on those iconic racers alone, so we’ve focussed here only on the road going machines. Let us know what you think though our Insidebikes Facebook page…
Aprilia Pegaso 600 (1990)
Beggio’s burning ambition saw Aprilia move into the mid-market sector in the early 1990s with an enduro styled street moto called the Pegaso.
Named after an immortal winged horse from Greek mythology, the Pegaso was a worthy enough alternative to bikes like the Honda Dominator and Kawasaki KLX650, even if the Rotax sourced single cylinder engine was a bit rough and ready.
Let’s not forget that Aprilia’s heritage was in off-road bikes, and the Rotax motor was actually used in the company’s rally raid machines. The Pegaso was the Strada, or street, orientated model and was a decent seller in its native Italy – even if it remained a relative oddity here in the UK.
Later generation Pegaso 650s were developed alongside the BMW F650 (which was actually built by Aprilia) and were much more refined and mainstream.
In total, the Pegaso model spent almost two decades in the Aprilia range, making it one of the company’s most enduring name plates.
Aprilia RS125R Extrema (1992)
Aprilia’s heritage was founded upon light and powerful two strokes, backed up by a strong racetrack heritage.
In Grand Prix racing circles, if you wanted to have a chance of winning 125 or 250cc races, you either had to have a factory Honda contract or a bike built in Aprilia’s fabled Noale race shop.
The RS125R (the R and Extrema suffixes were dropped for the 1996 update) looked like the race bikes campaigned by the likes of Alessandro Gramigni and Stefano Perugini (indeed, Aprilia regularly offered the RS125 with replica paint jobs aping those of the factory racers). Just like the racers, the RS125’s engine was built by Austrian company Rotax. With upside down forks, sharp styling and 100mph and 33bhp when derestricted, the RS125 (along with the Cagiva Mito) was the ultimate learner bike of the 1990s.
It wasn’t just road riders who learned their craft on the RS125. The peaky two-stroke made for a great entry level race bike. In the UK we had the Aprilia Superteen series, were the likes of Cal Crutchlow, Chaz Davies and Bradley Smith cut their teeth, while in Italy a young Rossi started out his career on one.
Truly a choice of champions.
Aprilia RS250 (1994)
We’ve said it before, but Aprilia was the company to beat in 125 and 250cc Grand Prix racing in the 1990s, so it was no surprise to see a road going replica RS250 hit the showrooms in 1994.
Legend had it that the Noale factory tried to take the Rotax motor from the factory RSV250 racers and put it into the RS250 road bike, but problems with durability meant that they instead opted to buy in RGV250 engines from Suzuki instead.
Of course, Aprilia breathed a little more power into the 90° V twin engine and, with 72bhp to haul around just 167kg, the little Aprilia was a sparky little sports bike that went around corners like nothing on earth.
The RS250’s chassis was top notch and handling was sublime. The bike’s styling was heavily inspired by the curvy factory GP racers and the annual colour schemes reflected those ridden by Biaggi, Rossi and Co.
The RS250 outlived the fashionable Japanese 250 race replicas of the same era, being on sale until saying farewell when increasingly strict emissions regulations came a knocking in 2004.
RSV1000 Mille (1998)
If the early 1990s had been an era of the small sports bike, the end of the decade was all about the big superbikes.
Buoyed by the popularity of the superbike world championship, and the need to build cutting edge production machines from which to develop racers, a whole host of new sportsbikes were introduced to the world as a new millennium dawned.
While the Japanese manufacturers generally stuck with their historic 750cc, four cylinder, configuration but Aprilia joined Ducati in building a 1000cc V-twin to comply with superbike regulations – a path that Honda would later tread with the SP1/RC51 of 2000.
At the time the RSV was Aprilia’s biggest bike. The engine (designed by Aprilia but once again built by Rotax) was a peach and put out 110bhp in stock trim. The 60° V configuration did make the RSV feel more top heavy than the competition, but overall it was a storming superbike that sounded amazing and could be had for a fraction of the cost of a Ducati.
Numerous versions were produced, from the base Mille to the upmarket R (complete with Ohlins suspension and lightweight forged wheels. A run of just 150 SP models, with Cosworth tweaked short stroke engines, were built to homologate the model for superbike racing.
The RSV never quite lived up to Aprilia’s heritage on the racetrack. Veteran Australian Peter Goddard debuted the bike in the 1999 world superbike series, without tearing up any trees, but the factory scored a real coup by getting former champion Troy Corser on the bike the following season. The Aussie scored five wins on the rapidly developing machine, ending the season third in the standings, but he slipped back to fourth the following season, winning both races at the opening round failing to top the podium again.
Regis Laconi bookended the 2001 season with the RSV’s eighth and final world superbike win. Japanese entertainer finished fourth again the following year on a sole entry but failed to win a race in a season dominated by the Michelin shod Troy Corser and Colin Edwards. Indeed, it was difficult to determine just how competitive Aprilia’s contender was as the Italian factory ran all its races on the generally inferior Dunlop rubber. The bike was pulled from racing for 2003, as the factory focused its attention on the new four-stroke MotoGP series and its fearsome RS3 Cube.
The RSV Mille was restyled and renamed as the RSV1000R from 2004 and although it lost out in terms of sheer performance to the new generation of 1000cc four-cylinder sports bikes, the charmingly charismatic Aprilia remained in the range until 2010.
Aprilia RSV4 (2009)
Aprilia got back into the cutting edge superbike game in 2008, when it revealed the tiny and technologically advanced RSV4.
Powered by an all-new 65° V4, the Aprilia delivered 180bhp out of the box and controlled it with a bunch of MotoGP developed electronic aids and a chassis that looked like it had come straight from the race track.
That was hardly surprising, as Aprilia made no bones about the fact that they’d developed the RSV4 to not only compete in the world superbike championship, but to win it too. Prodigal son Max Biaggi (winner of three consecutive 250cc world titles for Aprilia between 1994 and 1996) returned to lead a one bike team in 2009 and, despite a tough first half to the year, came on strong to win a race and end the year fourth in the standings. The partnership went on to win the title in 2010 and 2012, with Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli doing the honours again in 2014. The RSV also formed the basis of the grid-filling MotoGP ‘Open ‘ class, giving this model even more racing pedigree.
As with the V-twin a decade earlier, the RSV4 came in different versions. The current model develops over 200bhp and comes in two spec levels, the £19,999 RF and the £15,599 RR. As with the RSV that preceded it, a naked version – called the Tuono – is also available.
Although Piaggio (owners of Aprilia since 2004) has positioned the brand as its sporty offering, it’s easy to forget that it was the vast numbers of scooters being churned out of the Noale factory in the 1990s that was the financial success of the company. You couldn’t go anywhere in Italy without seeing youths tearing around on the all-plastic Amico, while the big wheeled four-stroke Scarabeo was a popular choice among the Roman and Milanese commuters.
A nod also to the SX125, the 1983 model that was Aprilia’s first street bike, and while we’ve already listed the RS125 Futura its predecessor, the AF1 was every bit as spectacular, if not more so. With its aluminium beam frame, upside down forks and a single sided swingarm, the Grand Prix inspired AF1 had a spec that exceeded most superbikes of the day, With a razor edged two-stroke motor and 100mph top speed, it was the ultimate learner bike for any 17 year old when introduced in 1990.
Aprilia’s entry in to the big bike market was not quite as successful, and who could forget the Moto 6.5 of 1995. Designed by wacky industrial designer Phillipe Starck, it was displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Poo-pooed by traditional motorcyclists and unable to win over the new generation of trendy professionals at which it was aimed, the big single was PR winner but a sales disaster. Rarity value means that they are fetching good money these days…
And lets not forget the Tuareg Wind 600 of 1990, the single-cylinder adventure/enduro bike upon which the adventurous Italian company entered the Paris Dakar Rally. The bike was never a winner on the circuit, or with customers, but its mere existence was proof of Ivano Beggio’s sheer passion and ambition for a company that only 15 years earlier had been a largely unknown bicycle manufacturer.
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