The Aprilia Mpumalanga Blast

 Two Aprilias, two days and two idiots blasting to motorcycling paradise. What could be better?


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The RSV4RR and the Tuono taking a break beside the 22

Story: Donovan Fourie
Pics: Hapless Donovan and his iPhone
Mat never mixes his words: “Don, let’s go shoot two bikes in Sabie this week.”
My professionalism fails, and I answer like a school kid unwrapping a new Scalextrics set.
“Yes, please!”
“Good. We are riding up with all our camera gear in backpacks. And you’re riding an RSV4. And you have to wear leathers.”
At this point, you notice that the box is from China and “Scalextrics” has two K’s.

 I love the RSV4, just like I love all Aprilias, but the idea of 300km of N4 highway cramped on a superbike while my black leathers absorb the stifling heat tends to dull the shine slightly. Normally, I’d load the trailer, turn the aircon in my bakkie up and blare Led Zeppelin the entire way there, but Mat had this genius plan of doing a travelogue film about the trip there. He’d sit in the comfort of a Tuono while I, the butt of the joke, cramp my way to heat exhaustion. Bastard!

 The sun rose on a Wednesday, which we are all thankful for, and two bursting backpacks travelled through the morning gridlock on the back of two idiots growling their V4 ways along the morning suffering. I’m on the RSV4RR, the cheaper of the two superbike options, that is joyfully still adorned with the full set of Aprilia electrickery, including cruise control. The traffic clears as we leave civilisation, and we want to get this highway torture over and done with. The fastest way to so that is to lock the speed at 166 km/h; fast enough to haul and yet not fast enough for handcuffs. Along the journey, we encountered a police representative once, who pointed its little radar gun at us, saw the speed, shrugged and then waved at us. Isn’t that nice?

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Two absolute beauties! You can see them in the background behind Mat and Don sitting in an Ultra City Steers.

 I expected to be weeping with cramps before mid-distance, more so in leathers. Truthfully, the cramped position of a superbike is never great in riding jeans and a jacket, but the leathers had a surprisingly opposite effect. They were a new pair I had received from Mass Sports who were good enough to stick a tape measure into my unmentionables and tailor me a custom set, something a gentleman of my “generous” proportions requires. By some miracle, they fitted magnificently, more so than jeans and jackets, and I was oddly comfortable. Helping further is that the Italians are not the smallest race and their bikes are usually deliciously roomy.

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Pornography for petrolheads.

 By Milly’s Services, I felt drained but not fatigued. Happy as a daisy, we set off for the last stretch and rolled into The Woodsman less than an hour later.

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Arrival at the famous Woodsman in Sabie.

 The plan was to begin filming my road test of the RSV4 that afternoon, but the weather gods had become jealous and offloaded a mini monsoon upon us, so there was no more riding until morning. With that, I can heartily recommend The Woodman’s bar…

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Drowning our sorrows in The Woodsman as the rain thunders down outside.

 The 22 is a stretch of road running from Sabie towards Hazyview and is the best race track in the world. You may have gazed in wonder at aerial photos of European passes zig-zagging down the mighty Alps and cast some doubt on this claim. While they are magnificent to behold, they are less magnificent to ride. Essentially, they are like a prolonged lap of a go-cart track – short straight, hairpin, short straight, hairpin, short straight, hairpin, etc. The 22 does not surmount any might peaks but, instead, follows the Sabie River’s meanders making for a 22 km-long stretch of fast, flowing, predictable corners. The best in the world.

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The perfect bike for the perfect road.

 And the RSV4RR is quite possibly the best bike in the world for this stretch. It’s even better than the RSV4 Factory for one simple reason – it’s cheaper. There’s a good reason for the Factory commanding a dearer price and one that is much appreciated around the closed race circuits of the world, but the 22 isn’t a closed race circuit. The Ohlins suspension on the Factory is far better than the Sachs on the RR for braking hard into hairpin bends, but there are no hairpin bends on the 22. The extra 16hp stomped out by the bigger 1100cc motor is excellent for punching out of curves onto long straights, but the 22 is mostly a series of connected corners where subtlety is rewarded far more than a punch. The extra Moola for the Factory is not needed, so why pay more?

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A sign of a good day’s riding on the 22.

 Beyond that, the V-four motor offers power throughout the rev range while broadcasting that soulful soundtrack. The frames on Aprilias are legendary for providing a miraculous mix of both stability and agility in a rarely found combination of both, making switches between corners as easy as holding a line while in them. The Brembo brakes are excellent, the Sachs suspension works admirably, the looks turn the heads of every pedestrian, and the electronics are magnificent – especially the two-way quickshifter.

 The RSV4RR is quite probably the perfect bike for the 22, but it was not the best bike on our trip; that prize went to the Tuono.

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After spending the day “working” on the 22, it helps to carbo-load.

 Through the 22, it was outclassed by the RSV4 but a long way from the point of embarrassment. Everywhere else, it was a better motorcycle. Through traffic, it is easier to jiggle between cars, down the freeway the upright position is breezier but less taxing, and it was all joy everywhere else. We’ve said it before, and we will say it again – the Tuono is the best bike Aprilia makes.

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Readying for the trip home.

 If you want to conquer the 22, get an RSV4RR. If you want to conquer everywhere else, get a Tuono.

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Standing triumphantly at the Aprilia (and Maserati) shop after a two-day blast.


Aprilia RSV4RR and Tuono Mpumalanga Trip Videos:

The Bike Show’s test of the Aprilia RSV4RR on the 22 near Sabie:

The Travel Vlog with both the Aprilia Tuono and RSV4RR: