When you think of Aprilia motorcycles, it’s easy to conjure up images of small capacity sports bikes or exotic European mopeds – but while they excel at manufacturing those two things, Aprilia have so much more to offer. From lightweight and agile 49cc racing machines right up to liter-class super bikes, Aprilia have got a motorcycle that suits you, but which ones are their best, and most innovative, models?
The History Of Aprilia Motorcycles
Although Aprilia was first founded in 1945 just after the Second World War had drawn to a close, it wasn’t until 1968 that the firm produced its first motorized bicycles. Originally, Cavaliere Alberto Beggio’s company specialized in manufacturing bicycles, but that all changed when his son, the late Ivano Beggio, took over. After producing three 50cc mopeds, Aprilia then decided to make their mark in the emerging motocross industry, fielding a range of championship winning off-road motorcycles that enjoyed remarkable success right through the 1970s.
The 80s saw a new breed of models surface, with the emergence of more enduro and trials models and the addition of the 1983 ST 125 – a street smart road bike to help get younger riders in the saddle. It was a success, and helped pave the way for the small capacity sports machines that we often associate with the brand name today. By the mid-80s, Aprilia motorcycles were moving from strength to strength, and began taking racing seriously. For their new assault on the racing scene, Aprilia decided to start using outsourced Rotax engines for many of their models, and this was a move that helped propel the small Italian firm into the spotlight.
Aprilia really rose to prominence in the 1990s, releasing models like the Pegaso 600, and other successful road bikes, but it was the brands success on the race track that really cemented the quality of Aprilia’s products. Most modern day racing champions can trace their roots back to a small capacity Aprilia, including the likes of Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi, and of course, motorcycle racing’s pin-up boy, Valentino Rossi. Since the early 90s, Aprilia motorcycles have clocked over 124 victories in the 125cc and 250cc Grand Prix events, earned 15 Road Racing World Championship titles, and have produced more top quality racers than any other manufacturer – and in multiple disciplines too, including the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships. Today, the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini is making remarkable progress in the MotoGP scoring regular top 10 finishes.
It hasn’t always been podiums and championship wins though, because like most European manufacturers, Aprilia has had its fair share of financial ups and downs. Fortunately, the brand was acquired by the Piaggio group in 2004 which has allowed the company to flourish without running the risk of bankruptcy. The new, modern incarnation has been a resounding success, with Aprilia becoming more popular than ever before, and their models frequently topping Best Model lists in the media.
Which Aprilia Motorcycles Are The Best?
Aprilia’s modern line-up includes more than razor sharp small capacity racers or no-nonsense city-focused scooters. These days, Aprilia produce very sophisticated, large capacity motorcycles like the Aprilia Tuono and RSV4, but big doesn’t always best…though in the case of the Tuono and RSV4, they are exceptionally fantastic motorcycles. Still, Aprilia’s experience in the sub-500cc class is what really defines the brand. If you’ve never ridden an RS125 or RS250, you’ve really missed out and you should go and remedy that immediately. So they make great small capacity motorbikes, and excellent liter-class ones too…what about in between?
That’s where things get interesting. Aside from the very well-recieved Aprilia Caponord and Aprilia Shiver models, the the brand has also been known to produce some innovative odd-balls and some absolute disasters in that dead-zone in between – and that’s what makes compiling a list of the best Aprilia motorcycles so interesting. Of course, we’ve got the obvious greatest hits in there, but there are going to be a few models added that some people will definitely disagree with…So let’s get this show on the road and look at 10 of the greatest Aprilia motorcycles ever made!
10 Of The Best Ever Aprilia Motorcycles Ever Made!
#10. The Aprilia Pegaso 600
At the beginning of the 1990s, Ivano Beggio decided to take Aprilia into new territory by dreaming up an enduro-themed road bike with a mid-sized engine. Despite the fact that Aprilia had effectively evolved as an off-road motorcycle manufacture, Beggio envisioned his new Pegaso as an Aprilia dirt bike in appearance only, with the streets being the ideal playground for Aprilia’s “winged horse.” The first Pegaso appeared in 1990 and came equipped with a powerful 600cc single-cylinder Rotax engine that produced a fairly average 36 lb-ft of torque, but a rather impressive 46 horsepower that made it a viable contender against the likes of other middleweight, enduro themed road bikes like the Suzuki DR650, Kawasaki’s KLX650, or the Honda NX650 Dominator. Considering that this was Aprilia’s first foray into the segment, the Pegaso 600 was an absolute success in its own way.
While it didn’t enjoy global sales success, it was a very popular machine in its home country, and thanks to those Italian sales, the Pegaso managed to keep its name in the company line-up for the better part of two decades. The formula changed every now and again, with the engine moving to a larger 650 displacement like the BMW F650, to help move the bike into more mainstream territory. Though the Pegaso might be too odd for many riders to consider, we think it’s one of the greatest Aprilia bikes because it helped move the company in the right direction, and became an important stepping stone between then and now.
#09. The Aprilia Moto 6.5
If you thought the Pegaso was weird, then this one should blow your minds. The Aprilia Moto 6.5 is just plain strange, and there’s no getting over it. Designed by acclaimed French industrial designer Philippe Starck, the Moto 6.5 has made a name for itself as a motorcycling design icon – whether as a good icon or a bad is up to individual tastes. Either way, let’s just say that Starck didn’t go on to design any more motorcycles. But it’s those controversial looks that really make us love this Aprilia. How many motorcycles have you seen recently that have really broken the mold or challenged the rules in recent years? Hardly any. This might not be one of the most attractive Aprilia products ever made, but it certainly has a daring aesthetic that makes it instantly recognizable – and that’s a rare thing.
Unfortunately, the Aprilia Moto 6.5’s mechanics weren’t nearly as interesting as its bold exterior design. At its heart, the Moto 6.5 was powered by a fairly uninspiring liquid-cooled, 649cc, single engine that could produce around 43 horsepower and 38 lb-ft of torque. However, it came with decent Marzocchi suspension, beautifully spoked wheels, and a few other cool quirks that made it a dream to ride around town…but not much further. Since it challenges the design rules so much, we’re classing the Moto 6.5 as one of the coolest Aprilias ever built. But is it a real classic, or is it just an oddball? That’s for you to decide.
#08. The Aprilia TX311
The Aprilia TX311 was a formidable trials motorcycle when it first arrived on the scene back in 1985. Coming in two sizes, an accessible 125 that made it legal for young riders in Italy, and a more aggressive 276.6cc version for seasoned riders. The TX311 was powered by a very nice 276.6cc single cylinder, two-stroke engine that could produce a modest 17 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and reach speeds in excess of 75 mph. As a fully street-legal machine, the TX311 offered lightweight and nimble handling for navigating crowded city streets, whilst offering up unparalleled fun on off-road courses. With six gears to choose from and a clutch that can take a serious battering, the TX311 was an ideal weapon of choice for riders who wanted a motorcycle with a serious dual nature.
While it looks like a motorcycle that has been stripped down to its bare essentials, the Aprilia TX311 actually comes equipped with quite a few interesting features that make it such a clever little machine. The braking duties are handled by floating disc at the front and drum arrangement at the back, and the suspension features some high-tech Aprilia hydraulics – with the rear monoshock being adjustable whilst the bike’s in motion, offering excellent suspension progression to allow riders the best settings for the environment. Which is pretty neat. For a no-nonsense trials bike that comes with a tough, rough and ready nature that can also handle its own on the roads, the Aprilia TX311 was ahead of its time. It’s a smart Aprilia dirt bike.
#07. The Aprilia Mana 850
Now the Aprilia Mana 850 is a seriously impressive motorcycle when you think about it. For a start, it’s one of the few automatic transmission motorcycles out there, and if you don’t know what that means then check out our article on automatic motorcycles that aren’t scooters for more information. Essentially, it’s a full-on motorcycle that features a continuously variable transmission, which allows for easy clutch-less shifting, or no shifting at all. Not only is it one of the most innovative Aprilia motorcycles ever made, it’s one of the more innovative motorcycling ideas in general to have made it to full production. While the world hasn’t fully embraced the practicality of automatic motorcycles yet – though the new Africa Twin comes with a CVT option – the Aprilia Mana 850 was most certainly ahead of its time.
The clutch-less nature of the Mana 850 might be its biggest talking point, but there’s more to it than the lack of a clutch lever. The Mana 850 comes powered by an 839.3cc 90-degree V-twin engine that can produce some rather impressive performance specs, such as a peak power output of 76 horses at 7,250 rpm and 54 lb-ft of peak torque at 5,000 rpm and can reach speeds of up to 118 mph. With three riding modes to choose from, Sport, Touring, and Rain, the Mana 850 offers quite a nice package for those looking for easy thrills and clutchless riding. It’s definitely not for everyone though, but it is certainly one of the most innovative Aprilia motorcycles ever developed. And it comes in a faired GT option too.
#06. The Aprilia RS125
The Aprilia RS125 is easily one the most successful Aprilia motorcycles of all time, and that’s mainly due to its incredible handling, superb acceleration, sexy good looks, and fierce nature. Yes, the RS125 really is the full package…or as much as a “full package” that you can get in 125cc form. There’s a good reason why this is the object of obsession for many teenagers and budding track racers: the RS125 has won so many professional competitions that there really aren’t any other 125 options worth considering…save for perhaps the Cagiva Mito, but they’re not as widely available as the RS125, and generally come with a higher price tag.
The Aprilia RS125, darling of the Aprilia Racing empire, came in four different forms throughout its twenty year life that spanned between 1992 and 2012, but at its heart it was always powered by a liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, two stroke, 124.8cc Rotax engine with a Nikasil coated aluminum cylinder block. While its power outputs changed throughout the years, the most advanced version of the RS125 in un-restricted form could produce and insane maximum power output of 28 horsepower, and produce a modest 14 lb-ft of peak torque. And that is sensational performance for a 125. Unfortunately, the legendary RS125 was discontinued in 2012 in favor of a less inspiring four stroke model (the RS4 125) that can’t live up to the old school RS125, even with a race kit installed. Luckily, there are so many RS125s out there that you don’t have to work hard to find one for a decent price. If you can handle a wrench, the RS125 is the thing for you, and if you’ve ever dreamed of throwing the legendary Aprilia RSV4 around a race track, then the miniature RS125 is an ideal place to start.
#05. The Aprilia RSV1000 Mille
We already know that Aprilia produce some of the best small-capacity sports bikes, but once you’ve mastered the RS125 and 250, Aprilia didn’t have anything for you to graduate to…that is, until they unveiled the RSV1000 Mille. At the end of the 90s, big sports bikes got serious and while many manufacturers persevered with four-cylinder 750s, the Italians went in another direction, building 1000cc v-twins for their superbike entries. The RSV1000 Mille became Aprilia’s biggest motorcycle ever, boasting an Aprilia designed, 998cc v-twin Rotax engine that could produce an impressive 110 horsepower, 68 lb-ft of torque and accelerate to a top speed of 169 mph. Not only was it one hell of a motorcycle, it also undercut the nearest Ducati in price by a considerable amount.
On the track, the Mille was an absolute weapon but ultimately failed to win a championship – despite scoring multiple podiums and race victories. In 2003, it was retired from racing as Aprilia focused on developing MotoGP standard machinery, but the Mille was given an overhaul and re-released in 2004, and renamed the RSV1000R. Unfortunately, it couldn’t match the 1000cc four-cylinder machines that were dominating the motorcycle industry but it managed to retain its Italian charm which made it an attractive and exotic alternative for riders in need of something special. These days, the old Mille models make for excellent alternative track day race machines and they do come up cheap. While the Mille isn’t the most successful racer from Aprilia, it paved the way for something even more extraordinary that we’ll talk about later…
#04. The Aprilia RS250
While we’re huge fans of the legendary Aprilia RS125, there were a few who complained that it wasn’t as fast as it could’ve been, and wished it could’ve had a little more. To satisfy those who enjoyed the 125’s incredible handling but wanted a little more oompf, Aprilia released the RS250: a small, lightweight racer that was styled to mimic the Aprilia RSW250 Grand Prix racer as closely as possible. For all those who wanted to ride something as close to the kind of technology that heroes like Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi, and Valentino Rossi were riding, the Aprilia RS250 was as good as it gets. But if you thought that the RS250 was a bigger version of the RS125, prepare to be surprised, because they’re very different machines.
Underneath the gorgeous race replica fairings, the RS250 has a completely different engine to the 125 Rotax unit found on the RS125. Instead, the RS250 is powered by an Aprilia prepped Suzuki RGV250 two-stroke, v-twin engine. Aprilia also provided an all new ECU, in-house designed expansion champers, new barrels, and a completely different air-box. The second edition of the RS250, which lasted from 1998 until the bike was discontinued for road use in 2002, featured modern Showa suspension, digital instrumentation, and new wheels. In total, the RS250 could deliver a powerful 63.3 horsepower to the rear tire at 10,400 rpm, and produce a peak torque figure of 29.5 lb-ft at 10,750 rpm, which makes it one of the most formidable 250s out there, and one of our favorite Aprilias of all time.
#03. The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100
The Aprilia Tuono has been around in one guise or another ever since 2002, and while we appreciate the original Mille powered limited edition models from the first year, and loved the v-twin Tuono Fighter and Tuono 1000R, we’re really talking about the most recent incarnation of the Italian legend: the Tuono V4 1100. It’s far from being average, in every sense of the word, and it certainly is charismatic: the modern Tuono V4 1100 is easily one of the best Aprilia bikes ever made, and it really isn’t hard to see why. Borrowing technology from the highly appealing and widely acclaimed RSV4 super bike, the latest Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC ABS takes high performance specification and drops it into an incredibly practical and versatile naked streetfighter that you can throw into corners on the track one day, and confidently commute around town on the next.
Aprilia’s top naked motorcycle comes equipped with an intimidating 1077cc V4 engine that can deliver a very potent 178 horsepower and produce 89 lb-ft of peak torque, transplanted into a race-derived aluminum deltabox chassis, and comes laden with a full suite of modern riding aids. In fact, it comes with more electronics than the average rider would know what to do with, including cornering ABS, an up and down quickshifter, cruise control, a pit lane speed limiter, wheelie control, launch control, and much, much more. It’s advanced, fast, incredibly fun to ride, and what’s more, it’s a very usable motorcycle that produces a lot of manageable power, but still retains a lot of Italian character. Is it one of the best Aprilia motorcycles ever made? Definitely. And it’s quite affordable considering what you get for you money, with the base model RR selling for $14,999 and the more advanced Factory, which has an MSRP of $17,499.
#02. The Aprilia Dorsoduro
The Aprilia Dorsoduro is one of the stranger Aprilias out there. It’s not quite as supermoto as it thinks it is, and it definitely isn’t quite the hooligan you’d expect it to be either – but that’s why we really like it. Some motorcycles don’t have to be one thing at the expense of another, and the Dorsoduro might not be what you expect, but that’s not necessarily a negative. You see, it’s not going to put you on the top step of the podium at the race track, and it’s not going to wheelie with ease when you’re showing off to your friends, but it is incredibly easy to ride – and that goes a very long way. The new brand of Dorsoduro is powered by a new 896cc V-twin engine that you might recognize from the Shiver, and produces a tidy 83 horsepower at 8,990 rpm and 56.4 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. But what makes it special?
Apart from being an oddball Italian, it comes equipped with the a new ECU from Marelli that you’d normally find on the likes of the Aprilia Tuono V4 and RSV4 duo, which manages the Dorsoduro’s ride by wire system, controls three engine maps, three stages of traction control, and the Dorso’s factory ABS. The new ECU really makes riding this thing a dream, though it can feel a little heavy when compared to other bikes in its class, like the Ducati Hypermotard. It might not be entirely sure of what it wants to be, but then again, why settle in one camp when you can do a lot of jobs pretty well instead? It’s more than dual-purpose, it’s almost quad-purpose, and that’s why the Dorsoduro is one of the most underrated Aprilias of all time. Not a real Aprilia supermoto, but fearsome nonetheless.
#01. The Aprilia RSV4
And in first place we have the obvious choice: the stunning Aprilia RSV4. As if you couldn’t have guessed? The Aprilia RSV4 is easily one of the best motorcycles ever made, and it most certainly one of the best Aprilia motorcycles ever made. It’s as simple as that. The Aprilia RSV4 first appeared on the scene in 2009 and quickly caught everyone’s attention thanks to the fact that it was Aprilia’s first ever production four-cylinder sports bike. Today, the modern version of the legendary RSV4 can produce a range topping 201 horsepower and deliver an impressive 85 lb-ft of torque, with top speeds venturing well above 180 mph. What’s more, that’s just the base model’s specifications. For the top-of-the-range RSV4 FW (Factory Works) things just get ridiculous.
For the outrageous Factory Works model, these beautiful RSV4s get transformed into frighteningly powerful beasts. To make the most of the Aprilia RSV4’s supreme power, Aprilia add in new cylinder heads, new forged pistons, a flashed ECU that compliments an all-new full Akrapovic race exhaust system, a lightweight lithium battery, special aerodynamic bodywork that features carbon fiber parts, and of course, MotoGP inspired aerodynamic winglets. All in, Aprilia guarantee that the new parts can up the RSV4’s power output to somewhere north of 215 horsepower. And if that’s not enough to satisfy you, Aprilia actually offer a superior model, the Aprilia RSV4 R FW-GP to anyone with more money than sense…which comes with a factory guarantee that it will produce more than 250 horsepower. If there was ever any doubt about which model was the best of the Aprilia bike line-up, let it be known that there can only be one winner: the Aprilia RSV4 Factory.
But wait! Where’s the Aprilia Caponord? What about the Aprilia Shiver? Or the legendary Futura? Well, while those models are also fantastic bikes, we couldn’t fit them into this list. And let’s be honest, if the local dealer dangles two keys in front of you: one for the Aprilia RSV4 and one for the Aprilia Caponord 1200 ABS, which one are you going to take? The RSV4 will always win, won’t it?
Are Aprilia Motorcycles Reliable?
It’s all very well having a top list of great Aprilia machines, but when it comes to Italian motorcycles, there’s always a question of reliability. So how does Aprilia stack up?
Modern Aprilia models are far more reliable than most people expect. During the 90s, it’s true that many Italian motorcycles were plagued with recurring faults and problems. However, since Piaggio acquired the brand in 2004, Aprilia’s reliability has greatly improved. In fact, since 2004 Aprilia has only issued 10 recalls, which is a very, very low figure. The largest of those recalls wasn’t even an official Aprilia recall, but a Brembo recall that affected almost every significant motorcycle manufacturer.