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Less torque, more action

This appears on the Motor Cycle News web site, for much more information, reviews, results etc, visit the site:

Bikes like this shouldn't exist any more. An environmentally unfriendly two-stroke with more focus than a Stalingrad sniper, Aprilia's GP replica RS250 is in a class of one. With a riding position that is likely to get you on first name terms with your chiropractor and a power band located somewhere over 8000rpm, practical it is not. However, everything forgotten after you've kicked it into life and snuggled into the prescribed racing crouch. This bike makes GP heroes of everyone who rides it. Get the little V-twin screaming, and nothing short of massive coronary failure through over-excitement will get you off it again. You will never want to touch the brakes, not because they are anything less than excellent, but because maintaining momentum is crucial to enjoying this little gem of a bike.

Howl around roundabouts, lorries, anything and everything, road or track, nothing but nothing must slow your manic pace not even for a second. Based on the '93 Suzuki RGV250 motor the engine is a peach. There is reasonable torque available, but tractable grunt isn't what this bike is about. Bang it down three gears into a bend; hook up the power band and scream off into the distance, trailing a beautiful, blue-hued two-stroke perfume behind you. Poetry.

The quality of the hardware is superb; the minimal weight of the bike, 140kg (308lb) means you don't even notice the excellent Showa suspension. Even with quite radical geometry, and a steering-head angle that makes you feel like you're about to run over your own front wheel, the RS250 never gets out of shape. Corners can be swallowed up and spat out with a wail of revs. The RS250 eats them whole; spitting out the bones of big bore sports bikes and anything else that gets in its way.

Owning one of these gorgeous machines can be an expensive business however. Two-stroke oil isn't cheap, you'll want the stickiest tyres around to make use of that phenomenal cornering ability, and then there's its greedy consumption of unleaded - you won't see better than 30mpg. Not forgetting the inevitable rebuild at as little as 10,000 miles.

As awesome as it is, the best way to enjoy this bike is on the track. Road riding on the RS250 can be a frustrating business; it really thrives on empty ribbons of tarmac. Traffic frustrates its revvy nature and will take the shine off owning the Aprilia. Keep your love alive and save it for Sunday blasts and track day outings, where it will reward you with one of the most exotic riding pleasures around.

1999 The Scalpel - Aprilia RS250

This review appeared in the January 2003 edition of Bike Magazine.

This is the end, my friend. The Aprilia RS250 was the last remaining two-stroke road bike of any significance. Now it's been axed and a 30-year period of two-stroke lunacy has come to an end. It's a bloody tragedy.

The RG500 might have led the way into the race replica fashion, but it was the 250 two-strokes that honed it to perfection from the mid-eighties on. With a booming 250 market at home, all the Japanese manufacturers built radical 250 strokers for domestic consumption. The Kawasaki KR-1S, a V-twin, made it to Europe, but most of them we only saw in grey importers' showrooms.

Bikes like the exquisite Honda NSR250 and the equally tasty Yamaha TZR250 V-twin only made it to Britain in very limited numbers. And now they are history, too. It has been left to the Aprilia RS250 to satiate the appetites of stroker fans.

Introduced in 1994, the RS was intended to cash in on Aprilia's world championship-winning 250 grand prix credibility. It looked the part and it went the part, with razor-sharp handling and 130mph performance in a 150kg package.

But the GP connection, at least in engine terms, is a bit of a sham. Aprilia's grand prix strokers have relied on disc valve twin-crank engines . But the road bike uses a reed valve single-crank V-twin. And the engine is actually made by Suzuki, having been used to power the RGV250 which was discontinued back in 1996.

The engine layout may have originated with the RGV in 1989, but the stagnation in two-stroke development means that, as far as road riders are concerned, it's as good as it gets. The 34mm Mikuni carburettors feed the fuel mix into the cases via big reed valves and the V-twin layout is compact and smooth.

None of the technology is new, but Aprilia at least took the trouble to optimise compression ratios, ignition timing, ports and expansion chamber type. The result? 55bhp at 10,500rpm - though at half those revs you could pass it off as a restricted 125.

It runs cleanly at low revs but nothing actually happens. It doesn't respond to the throttle in any meaningful way. Nothing nasty, it's all quite polite, but it yawns and says "no thanks, you're going to have to work at this".

Tuck into the bubble, change down a gear or three, get the revs to nine thousand and it takes off. With the engine singing it's impossible to hold a steady throttle. The powerband sucks you in and the engine starts screaming.

The noise is more than intense than other bikes, even if it's not actually loud. At 11,500rpm a red shift light flashes on the dash, saving you the time-consuming bother of looking at the rev counter.

The rest of the bike is just as focused as the engine. The handling is buttock-twitchingly accurate, the brakes could stop a bike of twice the weight and the details don't disappoint either. Check the frame, the banana swing-arm, the exhausts. It's all beautiful.

Compromise is a nasty thing and the RS250 is one of the most single-minded bikes you can buy. It's worth buying a good one now and keeping it. In ten years time you'll regret it if you don't.

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