It was April 1995 and despite the world starting to turn against the pollution monster know as the 2-stroke motorcycle, but they weren’t quite dead and buried yet and the Aprilia RS250 was arriving to the UK with promises of being the best yet. In SuperBike magazine the chaps tested the Aprilia against a Yamaha TZR 250 and a Suzuki RGV 250. Enjoy reading what they thought in 1995.
The 250 superstroker class just got a massive kick up the arse in the shape of Aprilia’s hot new RS250. The rolling chassis is new and thrilling, but it’s got an RGV motor and the RGV is still a boss motorbike. Unable to decide, John Cantlie invites GP god Kevin Schwantz to test the two stablemates head-to-head, and chucks in a V-twin TZR250 just to broaden the odds
The Aprilia RS250 has been on the cards for about five years now. The firm will, it won’t, it did and now the result’s finally here. The RS250 comes crashing into a class totally abandoned by all the UK importers, bar Suzuki. Up to now it’s been a one-horse race. You want a two-stroke, you want slipping clutches and oil fumes, you buy an RGV. It’s the pinnacle of two-stroke roadbikes.
But not any more. There’s 200 RS250s bound for UK shores as you read this, each one dripping in Italian design and technology. The fact that it’s got an RGV motor keeps the cost of the bike way down which is good but is, in my opinion, a monumental cop-out. I’m sure that if Aprilia had built a production 400 version, or had it developed its own 250, punters would have been more than happy to shell out the extra sponds for something genuinely unique. As it is, the bike’s just very good.
Also in here is Yamaha’s grey-imported V-Twin TZR250. We originally included it just to make up numbers, but the final outcome was a little different – the TZR is a belting bike. I don’t think anyone other than this month’s Supernutter Aaron Phillips would disagree that these things are Sunday-night specials only, designed solely for hooning round racetracks or pissing-off bigger bikes. But get it together on the right roads on any one of these and, I promise you, you’ll have one of the rides of yer life.
From: Crescent Suzuki
Call: (01202) 512923
Actual Weight: 152kg
Power: 55bhp @ 10,500rpm
In Short: Nearly sex on a two-Stroke stick.
It’s gorgeous and voluptuous, so it must be Italian. That’s the first thing that strikes you about the RS250. Great slabs of contoured plastic, spanky carbon stingers, five-spoke wheels and this huge, highly-polished frame. It’s a shame it isn’t a 400, because it sure looks bigger than a 250 and the rolling chassis blows smoke rings at the power being put through it. Of all the parts that could genuinely claim to come straight off Max’s or Loris’s GP monsters, the frame is it. Sodding great beams, bloody great welds, and the most exquisite swingarm of 1995.
Bolted on to this masterpiece are top-notch Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks, a Boge shock and that RGV engine. Of course, it would have been more than Aprilia could bear just to buy crateloads of bog-stock RGV motors and slap ’em in the frame.
Instead, the engine spec was fettled and fiddled with, changing the pipes, airbox, ignition and combustion chambers to make more power at the top. The gearing was raised to take advantage of the claimed extra power and to give a higher top speed. This, Aprilia shouldn’t really have done.
Perky But Peaky
Because it’s made an already legendary peaky motor unspeakably, mentally peaky. A peak among peaky motors. It’s driveable between 4-6,000rpm, completely dead between 7-8,000rpm and pulls hard from 9-ll,000rpm.
There’s no rest or relaxation, no easy cruising revs, and the whole riding process is a blur of thought, reaction and gearshifts. Brutalise the engine with full throttle in every gear and you don’t notice the massive power steps so much, but m downchange or try being lazy and you’ll end up induction growl and little else.
It’s the 7,000rpm deadspot that irritates the most. It’s far more pronounced than on the RGV and is so bad that you can cruise for miles at 7,500rpm before realising you’ve got the throttli against the stop and nothing’s happening. Abou three times during the test, I fell into this rev ra in top gear and thought I’d seized the wretched thing, so total is the power loss. You’ve got to keep it spinning precisely between 9,000 and ll,000rpm, and no excuses will be accepted.
Issa Man’s Bike, Chaps
If you’re good enough to keep it there, the Aprilia will reward you with one of the fastest, purest rides you’ll-ever have on any bike, but anything above or below those revs it is a complete moped. On sunny, grippy, A-road days the whole thing makes sense,
and you’re disbelieving of the speeds you’re going at in complete control and safety. The Aprilia shrieks along like a ground-based missile: brake hard, down two, full throttle, shrieking again. Very racy, very fun. Then hit the town for the high gearing and the on-off power switch to come crashing back.
The gearing’s just not very user-friendly. It only has one less tooth at the rear – 42 on the Aprilia compared with the RGV’s 43 – but it makes quick take-offs from the line that bit more difficult, needing heaps of clutch slip and then still bogging down when you let out the clutch fully at 1 l,000rpm. When you get it right, it catapults off the line like a 600, but at the expense of inches of clutch material. Sure smells good, though. On the road with yer mate and it means the RGV is quicker to accelerate everywhere. From a standstill, out of corners, down the straight, the RGV rider will pull out a couple of bike lengths every time.
The gears are widely spaced, and what bogs the motor in fourth will scream it in third. Is all this hassle worth perhaps another 3mph on top speed? On the road, no way. On the track, perhaps. Crescent Motorcycles in Bournemouth (01202 512923) was going to put on a bigger sprocket at the back to negate this high-geared hassle, but time didn’t allow. It’s worth doing, and it’s a shame that
Aprilia felt that it had to fiddle about with the RGV motor just for the sake of it. Slotting the stock Suzuki motor and gearing into the chassis, Aprilia would have been away. As it stands, the bike has an expert’s engine that demands total rider dedication and makes anything less than 100% input pretty unrewarding. Yup, an extreme motor has been made even more so.
Get Your Balls Out
But you have been given the rolling chassis to use it. Where the standard RGV is a snapping, nervous creature that doesn’t give you a second to react, the Aprilia is more forgiving everywhere. It makes up for the balls-out motor by allowing you actually to use
the thing balls-out. The main element of this is softer suspension which absorbs more bumps and tankslaps less, slightly less radical steering geometry that slows the front end down, and a more relaxed riding position that puts the rider in a better poise to control the bike.
It’s got much more of a big bike feel, and even tall bastards like me fit on it no problem. Loads of room to hide behind the bubble, loads of room to chuck the bike around underneath you. The more relaxed steering geometry (102mm trail compared with the RGV’s 94mm) is important, since it makes the front of the bike slower to turn in and less susceptible to
slapping about. You can go quicker on the RS before things start to get frisky, though flipping the bike from one side to the other – as if through a chicane – is marginally faster on the RGV.
The Aprilia’s suspension reflects this. The Marzocchi forks are a little softer, and the Boge rear shock much softer than the RGV’s Kayaba units. It means the bike isn’t as wild or panicky on public roads, but again feedback isn’t quite as direct as with the Suzuki. Lay the RGV on its side, feed in the power and you can feel every smidgeon of grip or slide. Do the same with the Aprilia and you get the same info, but it’s a little vaguer, not quite as plugged-in.
The RGV’s rear shock is actually a better unit than the RS item. Grant was the first to report back from the Misano launch in Italy about the over-damped shock, how it pumps-up over a series of bumps, not allowing the wheel to recover properly and thus losing drive over uneven road surfaces.
You notice it most winding in the power hard exiting corners, where the exhaust note stutters as the wheel hops instead of getting smooth, clean drive. Through the same corner the RGV would just howl out, but we’re talking tenths of a second on a racetrack here, folks, and most of the time the rear shock works well enough for anyone.
The RS scores highly with the Brembo brakes, on-board computer (lap timer where the Pass switch normally is), and Pirelli Dragons. The brakes are the opposite of the RGV’s Nissins, needing a good, long tug to get them working but providing far more initial bite and feedback. Locking-up the front tyre on the RGV is a real possibility. On the RS, you just grab a handful and feeeel what the tyre is doing. Luwerly. The Dragons allow lunatic-bonkers angles of lean, the RS egging you to go in further and faster.
From: Crescent Suzuki
Call: (01202) 512923
Actual Weight: 154kg
Power: 58bhp @ 10,600rpm
In Short: Not as crazy as it used to be
The original peaky-scream roadracer feels like a tractable tourer in comparison with the Aprilia. Where does that leave the TZR? In coach class, mate. This is the second RGV we’ve had from Crescent Motorcycles that was an absolute rocket, pulling cleanly from 5,000rpm right into the 12,000rpm redline. Crescent swears that the bike is bog-stock, but time has been spent on polishing and setting-up the powervalves for crisp response.
It clearly works. With lower gearing on the back sprocket, the RGV would pull harder and faster than the RS250 out of every corner, and torque at
6,000rpm felt much smoother, much more tractable. Where you’re changing down two gears with the Aprilia, one will do with the RGV.
It’s all good, healthy stuff as far as the GP-minded RGV rider is concerned, as is the incredibly flighty handling and blink-‘n’-you’ll-miss-it steering. This is where the sophistication of the Aprilia RS really shows over the RGV, with the Suzuki growing nervous at the slightest provocation while the Aprilia just runs on through. It’s mostly down to the front end, with the RGV’s tighter steering and slightly firmer forks getting whippety long before the RS250’s calmer characteristics. On the track that is no bad thing, but on the road it can go from fun to bloody dangerous in the space of one bump on one corner.
What you end up with is a swapover. The RGV has the better engine in a flighty frame, while the Aprilia has a fussy, peaky motor in a smooth, rideable chassis. Part of this is probably down to the Aprilia’s new motor (we tested it with 370 miles on the clock), but what you want is the RGV engine in the Aprilia’s rolling chassis. Isn’t that what we all expected in the first place?
From: Performance Bikes Imports
Call: (01203) 641263
Actual Weight: 138kg
Power: 44bhp @ 10r500rpm
In Short: A mid-range super-tractor
The Japanese-import TZR V-Twin is running at a distinct disadvantage here. It’s ‘derestricted’ from standard, but that still leaves blockages in the barrels and carbs, and it peaks a good llbhp down from the other two. Even so, it’s making loads more power and torque from 5,000 to 9,000rpm, when the restrictions cut in and kill the fun. Get one seen to properly (see tuning boxout) and, combined with the 20kg weight advantage, the TZR is going to be right in there, if not at the top.
That torque makes the TZR astonishingly quick off the line, with a superb clutch and snick-snick gearbox to go with it. It’s certainly the easiest bike to ride in the 70-90mph bracket, the torque pushing you into the powerband every time. Exiting corners too slow? Pottering about town? No problem, there’s enough grunt to pull second gear cleanly from 3,500rpm and, after the other two bikes, I loved it for this alone. There’s no hideous flatspot and it’ll sit on 8,000rpm and 90mph all day.
Take it out for a thrash and once speeds go north of 80mph, the other two bikes come past like you’ve got a brick in the spokes. In this competition, the TZR is best kept to the twistiest, tightest, greasiest roads to take full advantage of its low-end power, light weight and demon brakes. The steering geometry of the TZR is the wackiest of the lot and that, coupled with an excruciating, leg-bending riding position, makes it terrifyingly easy to chuck about and change direction. Think, and it’s there, making the Aprilia feel like a Goldwing in comparison. The springs are Yamaha-soft, but that’s no bad thing. With harder forks the crazy steering angles would have the front slapping off every bump in the road. Running so soft helps to knock this sort of behaviour on the head, though the rear shock was a little too knackered, giving a vague, loose feel into fast corners that the RGV just cut through.
Pay Attention! The Bit That Matters…
It’s a fantastic bike to look at, with plenty of big-bike feel that’s far more forgiving and easier to ride hard than the slappy RGV. Attention to detail is spot on, while the brakes and suspension are far better than the RGV. But that’s where it ends. Aprilia has taken the already-peaky RGV engine and made it even peakier, sticking on higher gearing and generally making the motor harder than ever before to exploit to the full. Anyone who’s in the market for a new superstroker 250 will buy the Aprilia ‘cos it’s only £50 more and the rolling chassis is much better. But that engine’s a pain in the arse.
After the Aprilia, the RGV feels very light and unstable. The steering turns in quicker than you’d believe, and the whole riding experience is far more insecure. Down the same section of twisting roads, it’s easier to go faster on the Aprilia. But the RGV’s engine and gearing are far more forgiving. Nearly the same price as the Aprilia and little cred nowc days will mean it’ll die alongside the RS250, but it’s still the last word in committed road-race bikes.
The dark horse of the test and amazingly good. Government-controlled powerband means it’s 1 lbhp down at peak, but get the barrels and carb sorted and you’ve got a superlight, superquick 21 with a mid-range that pisses on the other two bik here. The vile, Satan-inspired riding position is agony, and lightning-fast steering geometry mean that a change of direction happens even more quickly than on the RGV. Soft suspension soaks u bumps, but it gets a bit wobbly and unresponsive the back. Heaps of bike for the money.
If you’re now sold on buying one of these classic two smokers here’s a couple we found:-
Aprilia’s seem to be between £3000 and £5000.
Suzuki’s seem to be a little cheaper for a similar year…
Yamaha’s seem to be the most expensive and rare…