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Published on May 23rd, 2021 | by Boris0
2021 APRILIA TS660 REVIEW – THE LIGHT IS SHINING AGAIN
IMAGES BY ALEX JOVANOVIC
A few of us might remember when Aprilia entered the Australian motorcycle octagon and quickly made a name for itself.
Its bikes were like nothing else on the market. They were painted like party girls – a chiaroscuro of competing colours smeared on pure, look-at-me Italian weaponry. And just like party girls, they certainly weren’t for tame, mousey souls.
Aprilia was clearly uninterested in attracting mice to its marque.
And then in 1995, more mice were ignored with the advent of Aprilia’s brilliant two-stroke missiles – the RS125 and RS250. Legitimate race-bikes you could ride on the road. Beautiful, wicked, and brilliant, they were the last gasp of the two-stroke era.
At that time, the various state governments were busily enforcing safety on L-platers by limiting what was available for them to ride, and 250cc bikes were being foisted on wild-eyed teenagers by Safety Karens everywhere.
Happily, it took the Safety Karens a little while to work out that this particular Aprilia 250cc bike was a giant-killer capable of being ridden at ferocious speeds, with the handling and braking to match its racing heritage.
And then, damn their eyes, they killed them for the L-platers.
But I was not an L-plater. And it did not stop me from howling around on Brother Silverback’s RS250 at every opportunity. He howled around on it less so – being very large and somewhat nonplussed by the two-stroke paradigm of narrow powerbands – and ultimately sold it for those reasons.
I wanted to buy it, but the money was not there. But one day I will buy one because they’re such insane propositions, I would be mad not to.
Then some strange things started to happen for Aprilia. It kept producing weaponised, high-end bikes, which easily contended for supremacy with the likes of Ducati and the Japanese – the V4 Tuono is nothing short of brilliant, and the RSV4RR and its Factory option are true masterclass monsters – but it just wasn’t selling them by the bucketload.
People cited the ageing aesthetics, the confusing menus, the lack of rider comfort, and a whole host of mewling bull-porridge, none of which I agreed with…well, maybe the menus, and Aprilia went kinda dark.
That darkness is now at an end, and the light is back on.
The rather moribund mid-range sportsbike class is going to get very interesting very soon. And the first potent shot across those bows is this new Aprilia RS660.
Once again, Aprilia has taken to painting its bikes like a party girl dancing on a table with two different-coloured high-heels on.
Once again, Aprilia has reached into its deep bag of racing expertise, and offered up a new and very beautiful bike that ticks all the boxes such a bike needs to tick.
And once again, my heart rejoices because I have been a long-standing lover of how the Noale paisans make their proscuitto.
So what is the RS660?
It’s light – and if you understand this class, you’ll understand how crucial such a thing is. And this is as light as it gets in this pond.
It’s comfortable, with ergos that quite belie its ability to behave like a track-ready weapon – and dimensionally, it feels like it’s a bigger bike than what it is.
It’s very electronically sophisticated – and look for this TFT screen, its attendant computers, and its much-easier-to-navigate menus, to appear on the new Tuonos and RSV4RRs.
It boasts a level of equipment that reflects it premium price tag – and I’m good with that, since money must never dictate what feeds your soul.
It handles…oh, sainted baby in a Jerusalem manger, does it handle. It’s not tetchy in the least – think sure-footed, stable, and sweet.
And it goes, despite the fact its powered by an upright twin. I thought I’d be wishing for more bang, but it suited the roads we rode perfectly.
That engine is all new, and comes with a 270-degree crank, so when you’re smashing through the up-down quickshifter, it emits the most delightful race-bred explosions out of its optional Akro race system. Few things make me smile like a bike that makes a bang between gear-shifts. And since I rode the fully optioned version at the press launch, and only the fully optioned version (no-one asked me if they could have a go, so I assumed no-one cared enough to want to ride it), I know what I know. And I know I was pleased.
What I knew before I had ridden the RS660 through just about every corner in Victoria, most of which were greasy with the tears of heaven, was that I didn’t much like upright twins – and I certainly didn’t much like the Supersport class.
Those bikes tend to be built for snake-hipped, stoop-shouldered, chicken-chested boys, and I tend to be structured more like a bear.
I had totally changed my mind as the corners came at me.
I was already wondering why I was not crippled after riding it around inner-city Melbourne and doing some freeway time.
Usually, on a supersport, this kind of riding makes me stretch out my legs, wriggle in the seat, and mutter foul curses at the bloke who chose the route.
Not this time.
The seat was comfortable, Aprilia had sat the handlebars above the top triple clamp, and the whole package was quite ergonomically pleasing.
And when we hit the corners, everything else just fell into place. The suspension – 41mm, upside-down, fully adjustable Kyabas, and a single fully adjustable unit up the back, hanging off a very sexy asymmetrical alloy swingarm – is excellent.
There was a distilled rightness to the way the RS660 handled. Aided and abetted by its low, unsprung weight, and a wet heft of a mere 183kg, all being pushed by a non-temperamental and beautifully fuelled engine, this is precisely the kind of bike you would enjoy when the road surface is wet.
In the dry, and there were a few dry bits, there is no mistaking the RS660s heritage – this is not only one of the best-handling Aprilias ever made, it’s one of the best-handling bikes you can get. The fact you’re not cramped into a racer’s crouch – an entirely impractical way to ride on the road for anyone over 20 – certainly helps. If you’re comfy, you’re fast.
The engine (100 horsies and 67Nm at 8500rpm) makes most its torque down low and in the middle, and while it doesn’t breathe fire, it produces more than enough stomp for you to delight in. Power to weight, ladies. Power to weight.
It would appear quite a lot of thought has gone into the RS660 – especially when you consider the asking price, which is around $18,500 plus on-roads. It had better come loaded with well thought-out essentials and high-tech goodies, right?
The latest Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) is hidden inside the RS660. That’s the king-daddy six-axis inertial computer system and its attendant gyroscopes that measure what the bike is doing in real time – and then marry that to what you’re up to. It’s all very sophisticated.
The TFT dash will show you five different menus, two of which are customisable, and for the younger players, it can all be linked to the Aprilia app – and that’s all that navigational stuff, a multimedia platform, and even an electronic anti-theft application. No other bike in this class offers this level of electronic wizardry. Wicked LED running lights, a steeper and more aggressive cant to the screen, and a double-fairing which assists the bike’s stability, all add to the package. Even the blinkers are built into the lights.
The tank holds 15 litres, which is good for damn near 280km, which you’ll do easy thanks to the ergos – even if you’re built like a meat-bison. And it’s frugal on juice because Euro 5.
And, most importantly, it looks like sex. Hair-pulling, neck-biting, back-scratching sex, like all them pretty people in films get up to. The RS660 is, objectively, a very hot-looking bike.
It proportions are right – and you can even get it in some crazy metallic yellowy hue called Acid Gold for the full “Check this out, girls!” experience. Or just go the black or the matte blue, both of which come with disparate wheel colours (an Aprilia tradition), and very snazzy graphics and highlights.
The impression the RS660 left me with was rather unique.
It looks and feels a bit special – which it should for the price. And it’s got that X-factor, which so few bikes manage these days. That X-factor is a heady combo of cutting-edge technology, killer aesthetics, proper real-road ability, and that ephemeral “thing” that guides every red-blooded beast’s aspirational desire to have a hot Italian mistress. Especially one that can cook like the RS660 can.
I loved it – and I’m old and broken, so that’s a big thing.
There can only be one conclusion to that conclusion.
The light is on and Aprilia is back, baby.