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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

MD First Ride: Aprilia SXV and RXV 450/550

Our European Road Tester Tor Sagen is quite possibly the busiest man in Europe – he has been jetting around ‘the Continent’ (as the Brits call it) nonstop for the past month or so, testing loads of new models from all the big manufacturers. His latest trip landed him in Sicily, where he climbed aboard all four of Aprilia’s new small V-twins – the SXV (Supermoto) and RXV (Enduro), in both 450cc and 550cc variants. Afterwards he was immediately off to test KTM’s 990 Adventure, and this article was probably written in an airport or on a plane. Enjoy the article, and sing your own version of the “We Salute You” song from that Budweiser commercial as a tribute to our jet-lagged tester…

Following their 2004 S2 supermoto championship victory, all eyes have been on Aprilia’s new 77 degree V-twin. Over a three year period Aprilia has developed, tested and raced the SXV. The combined efforts of both RXV and SXV came at the cost of 50 million Euros. Even so, Aprilia will spend another 30 million Euros on the off-road segment in the next few years. Aprilia will not only race in the S1 and S2 Supermoto championships but also in the Enduro world championship with the RXV. Soon to come is a 250cc RXV for MX2 and an even larger displacement Supermoto. Rather than just launching one new model with one new engine, Aprilia has launched four new motorcycles at the same time. To make the confusion complete they are all different too. So what are they and can you ride them on the road? We will have a look at the Supermoto first.

The SXV 450 is literally using the same engine as the S2 race bike. The 450 develops a staggering 60 bhp at 13,000 rpm. The engine was developed from scratch at the Noale factory, as opposed to the usual Rotax mill from Austria. Aprilia wanted to enter the off-road market with a bang, and has done so with the usual displacement, but in V-twin configuration. Aprilia has gone all the way in the styling department – everything from brake fluid reservoirs to the diamond shaped frame and bodywork show incredible attention to detail. There is no doubt Aprilia planned to launch the SXV as a road bike from the very beginning.

The SXV 550 is the most powerful 550 supermoto ever. With 70 bhp and a dry weight of 128kg (282 lbs.) the power-to-weight ratio is unbelievable. The power is instant and as controllable as a race bike. There is not much that separates the SXV 550 from a full-on race bike. The engine is virtually the same, but suspension and brakes are different. The SXV 550 is a world beater out of the crate – Aprilia has designed the SXV 550 to be THE supermoto. Compared to other high end supermotos, the 60 hour service intervals for this machine are not too bad, either.

We got the chance to compare the SXV 450 and 550 on a go-cart track in Sicily. I started with the SXV 450 and after a few warm up laps it was evident that the new V-twin is very smooth for such a high performance 450. I really had to work the gearbox to get near the full potential, but it was still enough to get me excited anticipating the power of the 550 version.

After the first session on the 450 I swapped straight over to the 550 and I was suddenly in Supermotard heaven. Earlier in the day I had ridden the RXV 550 enduro and it was just not pleasant at all in the dirt. The SXV 550 however is just perfect. It has so much usable power, and it can be used from great lean angles as soon as the Dunlop D208RR tires are warm. Suddenly, it was the 550 I preferred, and on hard tarmac the bigger SXV is everything you want a supermoto to be. Powerful enough to power wheelie through the whole straight and smooth enough to make you think you will never ride a single again!

Where on the 550 you can hold third gear, before braking hard into the corner, you need a short click up into fourth on the 450. The gear box lubrication is separate from the engine, and I never thought once about the gearbox during the fast riding around the track. Aprilia has designed both the gearbox and clutch for longer life than you can expect from a single.

Both SXV’s share parts such as chassis, wheels and brakes. The engine is the only difference. The rear tire is a Dunlop D208RR 180/55-ZR17 and front 120/70-ZR17, tires that you would normally see on a superbike. This gives the SXV great stability when leaning all the way over, but might slow it down a bit when flicking from left to right compared to a top-spec single with a 160 section rear tyre. These tyres also allow you to stay on the power for longer and get on it earlier. Both bikes have got a powerful radial Brembo caliper wrapping around a single 270mm wavy disc up front.

Compared to the SXV, the RXV features a few differences that will make converting an RXV for supermoto use difficult. The SXV’s swingarm is wider to fit wider tyres (can fit wheels up to 6.5 inches) and to move the chain further out for the same reason. The 48mm USD fork is also calibrated differently than the 45mm fork on the RXV. The frame is the same tubular steel trellis fitted to pressed aluminium plates for extra rigidity.

The Aprilia RXV 550 will be the weapon of choice for Italian Enduro aces Alex Zani and Stefano Pessari during the 2006 season. They also showed us around on our test on the Enduro terrain in Sicily. Luckily I rode the RXV 450 first. Both bikes come with top spec Michelin Enduro Comp 3 tyres. Believe me – you need every bit of grip you can get, especially on the RXV 550.

The RXV 450 is all about usable power, loads of it. The rear tyre just digs in and rockets the bike forward. When I first started the engine it was not only evident this off road machine is very powerful, but it sounds bloody good too. Who could have imagined a V-twin 450cc engine in a highly competitive Enduro bike only a few years ago? V-twins, we thought, are for touring and adventure Enduros, not a racer of this capacity. Make no mistake, this machine is designed for racing. Consider that Yamaha’s WR450 has 40 or so horsepower. Then think about the RXV 450, with 60hp! The RXV 450 blew me away, and I was truly worried when it was time for the 550.

Neither the 450 nor 550 are friendly enough for easy going trail riding. I found it difficult to stand up for any long period of time on the 550 – the power is so on-off, and there is so much of it, that I spent more time trying to tame the beast than actually testing it. It wore me down so quickly that I decided to sit it out until I could get back on the 450. As soon as I tried to do anything but nurture the gas, the rear wheel spun up. The RXV 550 with its current engine mapping is a violent, powerful beast of an off-road bike. It is the most demanding of Aprilia’s XV’s to ride and can only be recommended to expert Enduro riders.

Of all the four new bikes, the SXV 550 is my favourite. The super strong engine really fits this bike. I only rode it on a supermoto track, but I suspect it will be just as fun on the road. Whilst having loads of fun on the track with SXV 550, the RXV 450 was blindingly fast on the gravel and dirt. It has the perfect combination of tractability and speed. The RXV 450 could easily be flicked from side to side on the grass track too. On the other hand, the RXV 550 is just too much to handle and requires loads of skill from the rider. It could be the experts’ choice, but even an expert can’t do too much magic with the rear wheel spinning up all the time. Different engine mapping could solve the problem, though. The RXV 450 has got the best of both worlds, smoother and more powerful than any other 450. It was easier to control the power delivery and it flew around the grass track. I’ll take one RXV 450 and one SXV 550 then, thank you.