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Review of the Aprilia RSV Mille R - By Ken Whitely

Aprilia RSV Mille R in the sunshine 

After 14 years of blasting around on Kawasaki ZZR 1100’s and a couple of Gixers, buying a big V-twin was not high on my agenda. I’d always liked the sound they made but was slightly worried about the lack of top-end power and the vibes. Still I found myself stood in the local dealers looking curiously around an ’04 Mille whilst my mate told me it would be perfect.

I don’t quite know why I bought the bike. It was clean, well looked after with service history and had crash bungs on it. In black and red it looked nice enough so I threw caution to the wind and handed over the money.

I need not have worried. I must say I’m impressed with my purchase. I’ve had the bike now for almost a year and it brings me great joy! After the 4 cylinder machines of before I could not believe the amazing bucket full of torque and power that comes in down low and lazily. With the revs down at 3 to 4 thousand it does not feel fast until you realise that corner is coming up very very quickly. What also comes as a surprise is the ability of the motor to scrub of speed into that corner without the need for brakes.

The bike handles well and tips into the bends very easily. Grip is good with a reasonable amount of feedback but it’s real shine is it’s ability to power out of the corner on the grunt. There’s just no need to drop a gear to reach the power, it’s everywhere. Mine being the “R” version I believe the tricked up Ohlins gear is why it corners so well. It would be interesting to see how the standard version rides.

The Brembo brakes are very good too, good feel and all that. Not that you need them. Just drop 1 gear before the corner and the motor will so the rest. That said, don’t drop it 2 gears, this just locks the rear wheel. It looks impressive backing the rear end round into a bend but it scares the shit outta me!

One thing I was concerned about with owning an Italian bike was the build quality. Looking around the bike it is very well finished, the welds look good, nothing is falling off or rattling and it all feels very solid. It keeps clean quite well but I’ve never used it on salty roads and do very little wet weather riding. I have had several problems with the battery though, until I got it connected to an optimate charger thingy. If you leave the bike for a couple of weeks the battery will discharge enough to require a bump start, which is quite hard on a big twin. The optimate seems to keep the battery pepped up just fine.

A friend who also has a Mille required a few parts from Aprilia after a minor topple. It too AGES for the parts to arrive and he was very angry with the dealer. Best part of the summer was missed for want of switchgear and clamps. He reckons it’s quicker to deal with Aprilia Italy than the local dealer!

The only other thing I dislike about the Mille is the lack of absolute power. Don’t get me wrong, in everyday use the bike is fast fast fast and that torque is amazing and more importantly accessible. Yet on the track it is so frustrating to steam out of a bend ahead of a litre four, only for him to get you on the power. Another warning especially for the trackday boys, is to just touch the brake lever. I’ve been rear-ended once because the dick behind me didn’t realise a bike could slow down so quick without the brakes.

I love the bike, a lot. It’s not without it’s problems but it is a joy to ride and a pleasure to own.

Reader's Comments

DannyK said :-
What the hell ya talking about on the track? If ya bein overtaken on the straights ya not comin out hard enough and givin it enough. Neva been beat on mine ;)
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
James P said :-
Agree on most of this - mine's only the standard RSV but mapped and had the breathing improved with K+N etc. With an aftermarket exhaust it sounds like the apocalypse coming but BEWARE, those Italian elctrics don't like cold, wet or being left too long. Just a weekend off the Optimate was enough for it to not start Monday morning for work.

Sadly mine was written off for minor scuffs on the plastics. They are expensive and yes, the parts can take months to get to you. One guy at the Aprilia dealer I go to had been waiting almost a year for a panel.

Worth it for the sound of that engine winding up though, every time...
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
blacksadist said :-
Just got a aprilia rsv1000r factory haven't taken it for a ride yet more accustom to Japanese high ccs bikes what do I have to expect in the difference in riding, maintenance, part cost and durability?
31/08/2018 13:19:30 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It's been a VERY long time since Ken sent me this review! Difference in riding - grunt and engine braking. Rear brakes never work properly - the master is too close to the exhaust. I knew of an RSV with 50,000 trouble free miles save for the odd minor hiccup so they last ok.
01/09/2018 13:37:12 UTC
said :-
I've bought another Mille after two and a half year's, it had a sprag problem at 30k so I sold it on. Went from a Daytona 675 to a Z1000 2007. In all that time I kept looking at Millie's. Today, I took the plunge again and bought what I should have. Getting the leads, battery and upgrade wire kit so this one is a keeper! They have been so cheap to buy now it's ridiculous. £2500 for a mint 2003 with titanium pipe 25k on it. Come on now... really?
Posted Image
27/01/2020 15:55:35 UTC
Upt'North said :-
If that's the bike it looks fine and dandy. Giz us a go mista.
Upt'North.
27/01/2020 16:47:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I had a friend with a Mille and I remember just how brutally powerful and fast it was! That's a lot of motorcycle for a good price. I'm curious if the Mille will achieve classic status?

Far too much bike for me though!
28/01/2020 07:29:54 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Classic status? That's a strange one innit.
Personally I think the Mille is priced about right for its age, mileage, desirability etc, and good value for money. Priced so you can ride it.
Some are predicting large financial losses in the classic car and bike market, I'm not so sure but if you treat anything as an investment you should be prepared for the value to rise or fall.
When you see the asking prices for CB750K0's, Z1's, H2's etc, it would take a leap of faith to expect it to rise a lot more anytime soon. I can't believe anyone is spending 20K plus to ride it.
Upt'North.
28/01/2020 08:40:02 UTC
Alex said :-
which model of the rsv is best in your opinion the 2000 or the 2002 model?
03/05/2020 22:15:48 UTC
Desmo said :-
I own the 02 Troy Corser replica

Never had any issue but for the bike being unstable on its sidestand had it fall over twice once in high wind and the other on a slight slope

Over 40,000km not a problem with anything

You do have an issue with the battery being so small for such a big twin good quality battery and trickle charger a must if you don't ride weekly.

I don't ride it on tracks but through the tight stuff in the hills it's the beast

Keep it rubber side down
Posted Image
29/11/2020 01:50:09 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Desmo,
Nice looking Mille.
Bet it sounds sweet. In an Italian way.
Upt'North.
29/11/2020 11:30:51 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Seeing this brings back some memories. Had 2 friends with these and my word they can surely move some. Upt', I was doing some, erm, speed when my 2 pals blasted past me at full chat in The Highlands. Wide open throttle bodies and beating exhaust note, it's quite an evocative noise.
29/11/2020 19:59:57 UTC
MilleMan said :-
I'm now on my 3rd Mille, this one a 2001 RSVR custom in non standard paint but with just 6K miles from new. I've been riding them cumulatively for over 12 years and have owned loads of other IL4's including Blades, kwackers and the like but for me, nothing does it like a Mille on the road. For the track, to keep up with the more modern IL4's and V4's buy a modern IL4 or V4 rather than trash your cherished Mille. However it can be done. An Arrow or Akra 2-2, 57mm throttle bodies, bigger air box and forza chip will see you to 125BHP at the rear wheel, enough for most tracks combined with the huge torque to slingshot you out of corners.

Having ridden many modern rocket ships like the S100R and MT10SP I can tell you none of these better the cornering ability or braking of a well fettled Mille, particularly shod in Ohlins suspension and with OZ forged lightweight wheels. They just haven't been bettered and Aprilia got it right first time with that sublime chassis, low slung, mass centralised engine and geometry. To think this design is 20 years old is mind boggling as it rides as good as anything made today and feels like a real man's bike, not a 250. You sit in it, not on it and it becomes part of you. It's a wonderful riding experience.

They have a few common issues but are easily rectified. The starter solenoid and wiring was under specced from new, and batteries were under powered, giving rise to flat batteries, poor starting and damaged sprag clutches. Uprate the solenoid with a 150A one to replace the 120A original, replace wiring to it with heavier duty wiring and replace the battery with an AGM 14Ah version and your good to go. No more electrical issues. Replace slave clutch cyclinder with an Oberon afetrmarket one (there are others) and you get over the leaging clutch fluid issue and up the pilot jet one size. Better slipper clutch operation and reliable clutch, no more clutch woes.

Change the oil every 3K miles, and plugs every 10K miles and you have a bomb-proof reliable sportster. They are getting scarcer to find in original spec tidy trim with low miles and are becoming very sought after now as it has taken 20 years for people to wake up to just what a superb motorcycle these are. They have withstood the test of time, don't have complex electronics hampering engine modes or suspension control, no abs or other complex systems like that. Learn to ride one safely and within it and your limits and you'll never have so much fun on 2 wheels as on a Mille. The ones to look for were those made between 2001 and 2003. Avoid early Gen 2 bikes as they had numerous issues and lacked the low and mid range grunt of the Gen 1 models.

From 2001 onwards (the ones with side wings on the fairing) there were numerous improvements. Lower CoG thanks to a slight engine drop and moved forwards a touch, bigger valve heads and the iconic RP58 Eprom, later copied by Arrow. This allows derestriction of the EU emmissions weak running in the mids and gives loads more grunt. Combine with an Arrow, Akra or Miv rear end can and free flowing filter for 4 to 5 BHP more through the mids. Drop gearing to 16t front sprocket and 44 rear for easier town work and rapid acceleration and you have a seriously potent machine. The sound of that 60 degree twin is unique and addictive. Nothing quite like it. Many say the clocks are dated but for their day they were very advanced and show you everything you need to know from engine temp to lap timer!

Here in the UK, expect to pay £4K for a good 2001 to 2003 RSVR but be prepared to change front ohlins fork seals as they are a weakness and all of them leak. There are kits available to make them more reliable and they're worth doing.

Also expect to change rear tyres every 1K miles as they eat them if you use that right hand. Other than that they are unrivalled by anything Italian and red up until the Ducati 999 came along which arguably was Ducati's first Hyper sports Vee twin. It, like most Ducatis before and since, are more temperamental, need more regular servicing and care and are very expensive to run over large miles. I speak from experience!

The first and the best Vee twin superbike for me remains the Aprilia RSV Mille. The only modern one I'd own funds allowing which can be used anywhere near to the same extend on road is the Pinagale V2. Everything else is too track focussed and too fast for the roads. You'll either lose your licence on one of those or end up in a pine box.
16/09/2021 11:23:03 UTC
said :-

13/10/2021 20:35:16 UTC

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