Skip to main content

Aprilia RSV1000 Mille (1998-2003): Review & Buying Guide

Bike journo for a quarter of a century



IMAGE 2 RSV 2003

Price: £2300-£5000 | Power: 128bhp | Weight: 189kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 4/5

Aprilia’s RSV Mille is arguably the best value litre-sized superbike on the used market today. Faster and more powerful than Ducati’s 996, brilliantly engineered, uniquely stylish – exotic even, the RSV can still be found for less than half the price of its Bologna equivalent. Not bad for a booming V-twin with WSB race-winning pedigree.

Back in the late 1990s Aprilia were a company on a mission. The firm’s aim was to become Europe’s biggest manufacturer – the Italian Honda, and only a rapid expansion of models on top of the marque’s traditional 125 and 250 two-stroke offerings would achieve that. So the RSV was inevitable.

And it caused quite a stir when launched, especially when compared like-for-like with its then rivals, Ducati’s 996, Suzuki’s TL1000R and Honda’s VTR1000F. Aprilia had built a V-twin with its own unique, flamboyant flavour, that stood out from the crowd and yet matched or bettered its rivals for performance and ride. They’ve stood the test of time, too, proving reliable, extremely well built and engineered to last. If ever there was an Italian future classic in waiting it’s the RSV. Buy one now before everyone else cottons on…


  • Romping performance and great engineering at an affordable price

  • Distinctive styling and colours that stand out from the crowd

  • Roomy for a V-twin superbike, so a good choice for bigger riders

  • Stock suspension on the base RSV will by now be requiring a refresh

  • Even low speed crash damage can ruin the polished frame

  • Lacks the drama and sheer beauty of a Ducati

Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2000) Price

The first iteration of Aprilia’s RSV Mille spanned five years and three distinctly different models. The base model was updated twice, first in 2001 and again 2003, receiving a host of minor tweaks on both occasions. More significant are the higher spec R and SP models, the former featuring significantly upgraded suspension, saucier wheels and other performance enhancing extras. Despite the R’s superior spec, values are not that much higher than the base Mille, so an R is well worth seeking out. The SP is a very limited run homologation-spec superbike, offering more of everything. Finding an SP is more than half of the battle – only 150 were built and of those less than 40 made it to the UK – but even so the Mille SP represents far better value than an equivalent Ducati, with minters making as little as £10K.

1998 RSV Mille values: Rough £1500-£1900; Tidy £2300-£3200; Mint £3500-£4500

Original Mille, 997.6cc V-twin Rotax engine wrapped in a polished aluminium alloy beam chassis with banana style swingarm. Distinctive three-light headlamp, large, brushed aluminium end can etched with ‘Racing Aprilia’, red Brembo calipers. 128bhp, 189kg. Colours: blue/red/silver, black, grey silver


1999 RSV Mille R values: Rough £2800-£3500; Tidy £4000-£5500; Mint £6000-£8000

Higher spec, lighter, slightly more powerful (by 5bhp) version of the Mille, complete with Öhlins suspension and steering damper, forged aluminium OZ racing wheels, carbon front mudguard. 133bhp, 183kg. Colours: red/black, yellow/black, black/orange/red racing design.


1999 RSV Mille SP values: Rough £5000-£7000; Tidy £8000-£9500; Mint £10,000-£12,000

Full-on homologation spec version of the RSV. Only 150 built – less than 40 made it to the UK. Similar silhouette to stock RSV, but almost everything is different. Unique frame has adjustable swingarm pivot, head angle and moveable engine mounts. Öhlins suspension front and rear, aluminium tank, magnesium wheels, 145bhp Cosworth developed motor with shorter stroke for higher revs, twin-stacked silencers. 185kg. Colours: red/black/silver.


2001 RSV Mille values: Rough £1800-£2500; Tidy £2900-£3500; Mint £4000-£5000

Looks very similar to the original but incorporates 199 changes, including a 2-litre smaller resin fuel tank, slimmer bodywork with revised aerodynamics, 2mm larger inlet valves, and new suspension settings. Brake calipers now gold. Colours: blue, yellow, black/red.


2003 RSV Mille values: Rough £1800-£2500; Tidy £2900-£3500; Mint £4000-£5000

Last of the first gen Milles but also the first production bike to feature radially mounted Brembo monobloc front calipers. Exhaust system tweaked, gear ratios made closer, plus minor changes to the front mudguard and tail piece. Colours: silver, red.


Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2003) Engine and Performance

Aprilia employed Rotax to design and develop the RSV’s 997.6cc V-twin engine. The Noale marque already had a long and successful relationship with the Austrian engine builders – Aprilia’s two-stroke engines, both road and race, were Rotax designed, as was the firm’s later four-stroke single. Rotax chose a 60° angle and a dry sump lubrication system for the Mille’s V-twin engine to keep the unit compact. Twin plug heads maximise mixture burn for increased performance, while twin balancer shafts (one mounted forward of the crank and the other smaller unit positioned in the rear head) reduce vibration to a characterful thrum. Had Rotax and Aprilia opted for a 90° layout instead, like Ducati, the motor would have enjoyed a more natural balance and therefore wouldn’t have needed twin balancer shafts. Even so, performance was strong at a claimed 128bhp – 16bhp up on Ducati’s 996. On-road performance is as impressive as the on-paper figures (for its age). Strong, instant drive is always on tap, with a top speed of 167mph possible if you’ve got the room. There’s enough character to remind you you’re aboard a European superbike, too. Not quite as organic as a Ducati, but it’s definitely there. The engine changed little throughout the first generation RSV’s five year run. Larger inlet valves were fitted for 2001 to improve mixture flow, while for 2003 the gearbox ratios were tightened up to add a touch more spice to acceleration. The RSV’s all stainless exhaust system with massive end can did away the need to fit a catalytic converter.


Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2003) Handling & Suspension

The RSV’s aluminium beam chassis is a work of art. Highly polished, just like those of the firm’s GP race bikes, it forms the centrepiece of engineering chic that is the Mille. And again just like Aprilia’s race bikes, the RSV’s massive aluminium swingarm features a ‘banana’ right side to improve ground clearance for the large exhaust. Suspension is an odd mix of Japanese and German, with 43mm upside-down Showa forks taking care of front damping while a Sachs single shock brings up the rear. Brakes and wheels are Brembo. The uprated R benefits from Öhlins suspension and OZ wheels, while the SP comes equipped with even higher spec Öhlins damping and magnesium Marchesini rims. Ergonomics favour larger riders – an RSV is much roomier and way more comfortable to ride than a 916/996/998, and yet the handling can be just as rewarding. Base model Milles lack the damping control and ride quality of the better suspended R and SP.


Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2003) What to look for

Engine: The Aprilia’s 60° V-twin motor is strong and well-engineered. Issues are few, particularly regards the power producing parts of the unit. Service every 4500 miles (oil, filters etc) and check valve clearances every 9000 miles, although many owners report not having to adjust clearances until well past 20,000 miles. Fuel tank: First gen Mille’s come with steel fuel tanks, but from 2001 Aprilia changed the design to a plastic/resin design that carries the fuel lower in the frame. Leaks and swelling, related to the use of modern ethanol-rich unleaded (which is hygroscopic and therefore holds moisture), can be an issue, especially if the bike’s been left standing while holding fuel. Sprag clutch: The RSV motor features big pistons, and it takes a lot of starting amps to fire them and the crank into action. Attempting to start an RSV on a weak or low battery is folly because it can cause the sprag clutch to kick back – a time and money consuming repair. Battery: Another reason to be fastidious about RSV battery health is that only a fully functioning battery will allow the twin spark plugs to fire on start-up. If they don’t, this too can cause the sprag clutch to fail. Starting can be improved on early RSV by replacing the original 40A starter solenoid with a 150A unit from a later model. Clutch: A ham-fisted pilot can shorten the life of an RSV’s clutch plates – too much slip on pull away and poor wheelie technique are usual suspects – but more common is failure of the seal on the clutch slave unit. Check for weeping fluid. Aftermarket replacement is a favoured solution. Frame/crash damage: The polished GP-style chassis looks magnificent when well kept, but it’s all too susceptible to scratches, especially if the bike it’s holding together has been dropped. Right side slides often lead to the large silencer denting the equally polished swingarm, so cast a hawk’s eye over the whole thing. Rear shock: The original Sachs shock was fairly average from new. Pushed hard, it can lose its damping control all too easily. Öhlins units from the R and SP are a smart upgrade, especially if you can find a keenly priced, low mileage, pre-used unit. Same goes for the Showa forks.


Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2003) Rivals

Ducati 996, 1998 | Approx Price: £6000-£9000

Power/Torque: 112bhp/67lb-ft | Weight: 198kg

The class yardstick. Achingly stylish with performance and handling to match. Riding position a lot more extreme than Aprilia’s, so not a great choice for riders with bigger frames. Going up in value, so a sound investment to boot.

Suzuki TL1000R, 1998 | Approx Price: £3000-£5000

Power/Torque: 135bhp/78lb-ft | Weight: 197kg

Suzuki’s flawed attempt at a direct rival for Ducati and Aprilia. Rotary rear damper, as used in the TL1000S, spoilt an otherwise decent chassis. Motor has plenty of grunt and reacts well to tuning. Affordable and responds favourably to development.

Honda VTR1000 FireStorm, 1998 | Approx Price: £2500-£3500

Power/Torque: 110bhp/72lb-ft | Weight: 192kg

Road focussed V-twin feels more like a twin-pot VFR than a true rival to the class’s sportier offerings, but the VTR is still a great road bike. Comfortable, quick enough, affordable, but a poor range (due to a small tank) spoils early examples.


Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2003) Verdict

RSVs aren’t your usual Italian fare. In terms of style, ride and feel Milles are as different to their Ducati rivals as they are to Honda’s SP-1 or Suzuki’s TL1000R. But that’s no bad thing – what you get with an RSV is distinctly Aprilia; quirky, striking, well-engineered and built, and damn good fun to ride. So it’s surprising then that Milles have never made strong money on the used market. Mint examples are still considerably cheaper than an equivalent Ducati, making them something of a steal in the modern classic market. If you can stretch to it, go for a higher spec R.


Aprilia RSV Mille (1998-2003) spec

Original price


Current price range




Bore x Stroke

97mm x 67.5mm

Engine layout

Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8v, 60° V-twin


128bhp (93.3kW) @ 9500rpm


76lb-ft (103Nm) @ 7250rpm

Top speed



6-speed, wet, multiplate clutch, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption

34 mpg

Tank size

20 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

144 miles

Reserve capacity

30 miles

Rider aids



Aluminium beam

Front suspension

43mm Showa usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Rear suspension

Sachs single shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Front brake

2 x 320mm discs, 4-pot calipers

Rear brake

220mm disc, 2-pot caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17

Rear tyre

190/50 ZR17


24.5°/ 95mm

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2035mm x 730mm x 1145mm



Ground clearance


Seat height


Dry weight



If you’d like to chat about this article or anything else biking related, join us and thousands of other riders at the Bennetts BikeSocial Facebook page.


Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance