Bike reviews

Aprilia The RST1000 Futura

It’s easy to forget that Aprilia has only been building road bikes for twenty years. Add the fact that it has only produced its first big bike, the RSV1000 Mille in 1998, and you have to judge its rise to fame in the global motorcycle market as nothing short of amazing.

The Italian firm has even greater plans for the future. Quite apart from pursuing World Championship glory at both GP and WSB level, it wants to broaden its model range, and cater for the needs of a greater variety of motorcyclists. And with the new Futura sports tourer, Aprilia has taken a significant step forward with its objectives.

In the increasingly competitive sports tourer class, any new bike joining the ranks has to be very accomplished to make its mark. But Aprilia should be more than confident about achieving success in the class with the Futura. It’s good enough to rival the likes of Honda’s VFR800. And with the typical Italian flair, style and character it’s blessed with, the Futura is even more appealing.

It’s obvious that Aprilia has thought very carefully about the design of the Futura. An almost perfect engine and chassis balance, excellent comfort, and detailed touches to make life on the road more amenable, are just some of its virtues. And the rest of many others quickly became apparent at its launch on the gorgeous island of Sicily, highlighting the fact that Aprilia has got its sums right by the way the bike performs.

Back in 1998 when the first ideas of making a sports tourer were discussed, the design ideas for the bike were very clear. The bike had to be comfortable with plenty of protection, and generally be very easy to live with. But it was just as important that the Futura should be fun to ride and have strong sporting pretensions, like a gutsy engine and sharp handling. After spending the day on it at speeds ranging between walking pace to flat out on some of the most challenging roads you could ever find, I’d say it’s a case of mission accomplished.


Not everything about it smells of roses, but overall the Futura does a fine job and deserves to sell well when it hits the showrooms in just a few days time. One thing that might have potential buyers holding onto their cash for a little bit longer is the Aprilia’s styling. I personally really rate it, though I have to admit it took a while for my typically (and typical of most bikers I hope) conservative attitude to be won over by its look.


As its name suggests, the overall shape of the bike, with its sharp and angular bodywork is very futuristic. It breaks with design tradition and is a welcome change from the regular-looking stuff being churned out these days. The Futura will be easily recognised in a queue of conventionally-styled bikes, and that counts for a lot in a world where people are keen to be different.


What also takes time to get accustomed to is the tall, bulky and slightly ponderous feel of the bike when you first ride it. But thankfully it’s a view that soon diminishes, and within an hour or so becomes a distant memory. In the meantime there are other qualities to offset that initial niggle. And a quick blast along the motorway underlined a few of them.


Even at very high speed, easily achieved by the power and flexibility of the 60 degree V-twin engine, the protection from the fairing is extremely good. OK, I’m lucky to be only five foot seven, so getting down behind the generously sized fairing and screen to get good shelter was never a problem. But other taller testers also remarked on how comfortable the Aprilia felt even when it was being ridden hard.


The relaxed riding position also makes a significant contribution to the bike’s easy mile-eating potential. And the seat, with a small hump in the middle to separate the rider and passenger, is plush but supportive enough for long non-stop hauls too. With a decent sized tank, there’s no reason why the Futura can’t be ridden for nearly a couple of hundred miles, and still leave you as fresh as when you started. Even the supple suspension has been developed carefully enough to reduce the physical stress sometimes involved with roaring over rougher surfaces.


With this sort of civility, the Futura certainly satisfies any demands made of it from the touring rider. But as a sports tourer the bike also has to perform well enough when ridden by the more aggressive pilot. And howling along as fast as I dared round the tortuously twisty mountain roads of the famous volcano of Mount Etna proved it’s as good at scratching as cruising.


These roads are very hard work, and their challenging and often deceptive nature means not only do you have to keep your wits about you. But having a bike that’s easy to ride pays dividends too. And that’s just what the Futura is.


That should be no surprise really given the fact both its engine and chassis are based on the stuff used in other established sportsbikes in the Aprilia range, and therefore well proven for speedy work.


The frame is the same alloy twin spar version you’ll find on the RSV Mille models. But given its less focused role, geometry has been relaxed with a 1 degree shallower head angle. Combined with different fork yokes to lengthen the trail by 20mm, and a single sided swingarm which adds another 20mm to the wheelbase, stability is improved at the slight cost of reduced agility. But you wouldn’t really notice that unless you rode the two bikes back to back, because the Futura is still very easy to steer and chuck around.


What it might have lost in sharpness thanks to the slightly blunted chassis dimensions, it more than makes up for by having wide bars. They increase the leverage you can muster as you countersteer to change direction, and all in all going where you want to on the Aprilia is very easy work.


Once you’ve got the thing on its side the suspension keeps things under control nicely, with a nice balance to back it up. The Michelin Pilot Sport tyres have plenty of grip, and if you’re in the mood it won’t be long before you’re grinding away the metal from the centrestand. Another neat touch to make life easier here is the remote pre-load adjuster on the shock. And a couple of turns is all that’s needed to raise the bike from the deck high enough for scratch-free cornering.


Matching the talents of the Futura’s handling is the strength of the motor. Again there’s an air of familiarity about the powerplant. The 600 V-twin is basically the same as the ones fitted to the Mille and Falco models. But with smaller throttle bodies, tapered inlet manifolds, new Sagem fuel-injection system, and altered fuel and ignition mapping from the ECU, the motor makes more power and torque lower down the rev range. Even if it’s at the expense of losing a few horses up top. The flywheel is heavier to smooth engine running still further, and a larger generator provides more electrical power.


The mods work well and increase the urge offered by the motor in the ‘real world’ part of the rev range. Low down grunt is impressive and means the slick box doesn’t have to be troubled much to get good throttle response and be on your way quickly. Revving it harder does bring rewards though. And there’s a distinct surge as the engine reaches 6000rpm, which then builds smoothly until the rev limiter cuts in at 11,000rpm.


Of course it’s no good if the power and handling allow rapid progress, but the brakes can’t keep it in check. And yet again the brilliant balance of the Futura is maintained by a good set of Brembo kit which is both powerful and progressive enough to cut speed in a hurry without frightening the rider. It’s just another laudable item on a generally superbly sorted piece of kit.


Before I sign off I will have a bit of a moan and be critical of the mirrors which are a little too small to offer the best view of what’s happening behind. And the absence of any storage space in the fairing or under the seat isn’t an ideal situation. Oh, and the plastic tank could be a pain for fans of magnetic tank bags. Although, there will be an official aftermarket tankbag, and set of hard panniers on offer soon.


But just to put those moans into perspective a little, because I liked the Futura as much as I did, I was a bit cheesed off to leave it behind and fly home. It’s such a good bike, I would have much preferred riding it back to the UK.


It might have taken longer but it would have been a damned sight more satisfying.


Get Aprilia bike insurance for the aprilia the rst1000 futura.


Vital Statistics
Engine Water-cooled 90-degree V-twin two-stroke
cc 998
Claimed power (bhp) 113bhp at 9,250rpm
Compression ratio 11.4:1
Transmission Six speed
Cycle parts
Frame Alloy twin spar
Suspension Front: 43mm Showa USD forks, adjustable pre-load and rebound damping. Rear: Sachs monoshock, multi adjustable
Brakes Front: Twin 300mm discs, four piston calipers. Rear: Single 255mm disc, twin piston caliper
Wheelbase 1435 mm
Top speed 155mph (est)
Fuel capacity 21 litres
Buying Info
Current price £8,750 (otr)

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