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Aprilia RSV Mille: Raising the Center of Gravity

When Aprilia introduced its Mille, v-twin, superbike just two model years ago, the version homologated for superbike racing featured an adjustable engine position (basically, the engine could be raised or lowered in the frame). I found this interesting, and considered it further evidence of Aprilia’s passion for winning when it goes racing.

After just two years, the Mille was substantially redesigned for 2001, with over 200 changes. This article isn’t about all, or even most of those changes, but is about a single, significant change.

Aprilia raised the position of its engine 5mm. The base Mille started life with a fixed engine position (and the new model also has a fixed engine position), but Aprilia thought enough of the performance advantages of a higher engine position to redesign its frame and relocate the engine in the new model.

This seemingly subtle change comes straight out of the experience with the homologated version raced so successfully by Troy Corser in World Superbike last year. By raising the engine position, Aprilia accomplished two things, namely, (1) a more centralized mass (which aids turning), and (2) a higher center of gravity (which, contrary to popular belief, tends to aid turning, as well).

I am sure we have some readers who are engineers (and I am sure I will receive some e-mail on this), but here is a somewhat controversial proposition. It shouldn’t be controversial, but apparently it is. A higher center of gravity on a motorcycle, all other things being equal, will result in a quicker turning motorcycle. Think of a pendulum. If a pendulum is standing straight up, a pendulum with a higher, heavier weight will fall to its side easier. Simple enough. A motorcycle with a higher center of gravity will also respond quicker to a rider’s efforts to lean it over (while standing it back up is another issue).

The point is this, the fact that Aprilia, just two years after introducing its first big-bore, four-stroke sportbike, redesigned that bike, and moved the engine 5mm higher is a phenomenal testament to Aprilia’s commitment to handling integrity in its sportbikes. I would love to have the opportunity to test an Aprilia RSV Mille. That may or may not happen, but this relatively small company is damned impressive.