Back in 2005, motorcycles were gaining performance so rapidly that it looked like they’d soon be unrideably fast. The Gixer 1k could crank out nearly 162bhp and weighed just 366 lbs dry (remember the original CBR 900RR? 120bhp and 407lbs dry). You needed to be a horsewhisperer to have a chance of staying on one. The Thou’ won Fast Bikes’ Sportsbike of the Year title in 2005, and after that manufacturers started putting more and more effort into developing electronic systems to help riders manage their most beastly bikes.
In 2009, BMW’s S1000R leapt onto the scene with ABS and advanced traction control; it needed it. The 193 bhp motor would have been more than happy to spin up the rear wheel in a corner and so BMW drew upon their automotive traction control expertise and used their DTC to help keep the rubber side down, but now even that technology can’t keep the S1000R at the top of the pack.
The techno crown now sits squarely on the 2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC’s head. Instead of trying to tame the banzai 1000cc V-4, all the electric gibbons work together to boost the speed of the rider. The RSV4 Factory itself has been around for a year, but Aprilia recently snatched up Ducati’s traction control mastermind, Andrea Ricci Iamino.
Iamino masterminded the RSV4′s Aprilia Performance Ride Control; it’s a comprehensive electronic toolbox that helps the rider get the most out of the loony Ape. It’s got launch control, wheelie control, a quickshifter, and traction control. The quickshifter blitzes through the box, allowing the motor to work hard even more of the time, but the traction control is the bike’s trump card. It lets the motor work right to the tire’s limit, allowing more throttle and bigger bank angles without retarding the ignition too heavily when any meaningful slip is detected, the way the BMW does. Check out the awesome video the boys at Hell for Leather and Tangent Vector created for Aprilia to help explain it all.
It is certainly neat technology. Not everyone can wring out a bike like Guy Martin, so there is a definite case for electronic aids on sportsbikes–lots of avoided highsides and corresponding unbroken shoulders. When those electronics help make the bike faster too, it’s hard not to be a fan.