Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-03) review

Posted: 26 Feb 2013

Aprilia was renowned for producing banshee two-stroke motorcycles and more sedate scooters. Then, in 1998, along came the punch-throwing, big-bore four-stroke sports motorcycle RSV Mille (Mille is Italian for 1000). As a first-attempt entry into the large capacity sports market, the young Italian company had the Mille just about spot on.

Power is provided by a 60-degree liquid-cooled V-twin engine made by Rotax of Austria. In standard guise, the claimed 128 bhp is spread across the rev range, but the very nature of a big twin means there’s a heap of torque available at the back tyre from just off the tickover point. This is especially noticeable when thrust quietens off around the 3,000 rpm mark, where there’s a marked ‘fluffy spot’ in the fuelling.

Most Aprilia Mille were subjected to an owner upgrade of sports exhaust and modified Eprom chip, which helped the fuelling no end. So if you end up with a standard Mille with standard exhaust that runs fine but smells a bit rich at low rpm then chances are it has been modified and the sports exhaust/can has been sold separately. Not a bad thing in itself because V-twins are notoriously difficult to silence and a performance can with reduced baffle packing is asking for trouble.

It’s not often a bike comes along that you either love or hate to ride but the RSV Mille is one of these bikes. The 20-litre fuel tank is tall to retain the bike’s slim appearance and can get in the way of the rider’s upper body. This isn’t helped by clip-on bars that are low and forward placed. In all it’s an awkward seating position for anyone under 5ft 10in.

Where the Mille does excel is its handling manners. The tall chassis comes into its own on the road. It doesn’t take much effort to get the bike on its side and back upright. Put faith in the tyres the Aprilia is wearing and it would take a good rider on something very modern to lose sight of a Mille on open roads. Needless to say, a Mille at a track day is a force to be reckoned with – even now there are people with money looking for the right priced and half decent condition Mille to come along purely for track day outings.

Helping the Mille’s track day image is a square electronic dash that can relay track times and other unfathomable information assuming you can be bothered – many owners never got past resetting the electronic tachometer after the running period despite having an owners’ manual.

Milles don’t age that well after a UK winter or two. The red brake calliper paint flakes off from hidden corrosion and fasteners tend to seize unless Copaslip grease is in place. Paint and decals wear thin and chain and sprockets get eaten with the engine’s strong power pulses. Otherwise, a great bike and still a capable machine today.

+ points – good, strong engine. Handles perfectly well as standard. Good track day tool

- points – needs a careful looking over to spot corrosion/crash damage under the bodywork. Riding position doesn’t suit everyon

Year: 1998-2003
Power: 128bhp, 74ft lbs
Dry weight: 168kg
Seat height: 825mm
Colours: Blue/red/silver, black/grey/silver