Road testers say... - Ducati UpNorth

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Road testers say... - Ducati UpNorth

HONDA VTR1000 SP-2the testPerformance criteria forthe test are all markedout of 20, making amaximum possible 100.ENGINE & GEARBOXEasily the most powerfulengine here, andalthough the throttleresponse is improved, it’sstill not perfect. Mindyou, the top-end whooshis lovely. The gearboxchanges gear.CHASSISThe brakes andsuspension are top notch.The steering is veryimmediate and the bikeinspires confidence. Onlythe standard DunlopD208 tyres let it downon the racetrack.1616VALUENot really. The SP-2 is aquality piece of kit, butthere really isn’t acompelling reason tospend two grand morethan the Aprilia.15FINISH 16It’s a Honda so it’s well puttogether and the quality ofthe components is good.IN THE DETAILS...(from left): the sculpted alloyswing-arm is one of the changesfrom the SP-1 model; whitefinish looks great, and it hasPGM Fi... it says so; from thecockpit, the Honda feels mostlike a race bike – the tacho issuper trick and the blue glowfrom the instruments at nightis a bit specialWOW FACTORIn white it’s very ‘look atme’. How that goes downin two years time remainsto be seen. I mean,remember white stilettos?17CBR600 or R1. Get it right and they’re more rewarding, get itwrong and they’ll soon let you know.Tom was the first on the SP-2. When he stopped hegushed, “It feels really neutral. The front end is very positive,confidence inspiring, like a race bike. It’s a track bike ridingposition and the front end feels really planted even at lowspeeds. The fuel injection is improved but it’s not perfect.The brakes are good but the engine feels like it lacks bottomend.” As a former club racer you’d expect this from Tom.The throttle sensitivity may be improved, but it’snowhere near the Ducati’s. On the road the ride is muchimproved. Even on the poorly surfaced Cat and Fiddle theHonda was composed. Hardly plush, but it is better.I didn’t get on with the riding position on the earlierbike. And this one’s no different. The tank is wide and theseat pushes you forward onto the tank. Tom loved it. “Youcan really dominate the bike.”Power is one thing the Honda doesn’t lack, but it startshigher up the rev range. Combine the snatchiness with theriding position... Tom liked the way you were right over thefront end. I didn’t. Tom liked the tank width. I didn’t. Tomliked way you slid down the seat into the tank. I didn’t.While Tom and I disagreed, Peter tried to adjudicate. “It’sa nice bike,” he reckoned. “Typical Honda in the way it’smade and the light feel it’s got.” Which to my mind makesone for, one against and one neutral. Let’s wait forDonington tomorrow. The dark ride down to Doningtononly proved that the Honda dash looks even better at night.Next morning in the pit lane at Donington, we all had asession, then compared notes.For Tom, “The SP-2 feels easy and familiar. It helps youinto a corner and gives lots of feedback – how long to holdonto the brakes, how far to lean, how hard to turn. But itdoes need better tyres for the track.” Peter is less convinced,“It didn’t seem to want to turn as easily as the Aprilia (but it’sless effort than the Ducati) and it tends to push wide underpower. It was hard to stay with Tom when I was on the SP-2,I’m sure I was faster on the other two, especially the Ducati.”And me? I felt that it turned easily enough, but that itrequired mid-corner adjustments in the way that the Aprilia,and especially the Ducati didn’t. It wasn’t as stable as theItalian bikes and for a rider like me that’s important. I wantto be thinking about the next corner before I’ve finished thisone. You know that first spring ride on a sportsbike? Whenyou’re rusty and make mistakes? That’s what the SP-2 feltlike to me. Every time I got on it.If you spend all your time on track days; if you prefercertain features, like the riding position and the way ithandles; and if the attraction of owning something as iconicas the 998 means nothing to you, it’s possible to argue thatthe SP-2 is a better bike than the Ducati.This bike really showed up the difficulty of road testing.I’ve tried to be fair, and I’ve tried to get a balanced view. Butultimately I don’t like the SP-2. Tom, Peter and JP had nicerthings to say, but they’re all faster, braver riders than me.And it didn’t run out of petrol on them.TOTAL 80/100There’s not much wrongwith the SP-2, butequally, there aren’t anycompelling reasons tobuy one over, say, theAprilia, or a cheaperfour-cylinder superbike.106 MAY 2002MAY 2002 107


APRILIARSV MILLEPrice £8099 power 113.5bhp top speed 167mph 0-60mph 3.35sthe testIN ESTATE AGENT SPEAK Aprilia’s Mille is comfortable,roomy and well presented – a detached Victorian villa,minus the parquet floor and ornate picture rail.Parked up next to the Honda or the Ducati it looks big.It doesn’t appear any less purposeful or muscular than theother two bikes, just larger. The only changes to the bike for2002 are the colours, and in silver it looks fantastic.There are plenty of other nice details too. The polishedframe sections and banana swing-arm, the adjustable gearand brake pedal tips, the three headlight fairing, the trickmulti-function dash (if only I could work out how to use it).And this is the cooking version of the RSV, which coststwo grand less than the Honda and £2500 less than theDucati. But it’s hard to see where Aprilia has saved themoney. The Showa forks and Sachs rear shock may not betop of the range, but they work well enough. If you’redetermined to spend more cash, then Aprilia will happily sellyou the R version with Öhlins suspension and lightweightwheels (£9999). Or, if you’re really serious, there’s the SPmodel (£22,765). I’ll pass, thanks.The Aprilia engine has a tighter 60° vee than the 90° veeused by the Ducati and Honda. The result is a more compactmotor, but one which vibrates. That problem’s solved byusing two balancer shafts. The other benefit of the 60°engine is the exhaust note. It’s sounds hollow, blunt andoff-beat compared to the other two.Camshafts are chain driven (compared to belts on theDucati and gears on the Honda). The fuel injection is glitchfree. It’s not as creamy off the throttle as the Ducati, but it’scertainly nothing to complain about.Peak torque is delivered at 7000rpm, peak power at9000rpm but it will pull from as low as 3000rpm and it’stempting to ride the Aprilia using only the fat mid-range. Ontwisting roads you can just roll the throttle on an off whilethe bike stays calm and climbs up to deceptive speeds.Wind it on past 7500 and there’s a dramatic rush ofpower. Then the red shift light flashes at 10,000rpm and youbang it up another gear. We were all convinced it was themost powerful bike here. But we were wrong.When we put all the bikes on the dyno, the Aprilia madethe same power as the Ducati, and a whopping 7.5bhp lessthan the Honda. Tom couldn’t believe it when I told him.While speed testing at Bruntingthorpe, Jonathan Pearsonstruggled to get away clean off the line. The Aprilia wantedto wheelie in all three lower gears.Of course, the location of the engine has something to dowith that too. Set quite high in the frame, severe throttle usemeans the crankshaft is trying to climb over the back wheel.The Mille is fantastically composed on any road, but itwas in its element on the Cat and Fiddle. Throw in anyamount of mid-corner throttle abuse, brake cack-handednessand bizarre lines and you won’t catch it out. The suspensionmay not have the kudos of Öhlins but it does the job and thehandling is much more forgiving than the other two bikes.It was the first bike I rode at Donington, and I made thechoice deliberately. I hadn’t ridden round the circuit sinceCOLOUR SCHEMES...Silver, black or red108 MAY 2002MAY 2002 109


APRILIARSV MILLEthe testPerformance criteria forthe test are all markedout of 20, making amaximum possible 100.ENGINE & GEARBOXThe RSV is plentypowerful enougheverywhere, but the midrangeis especially meatyand it’s got dollops ofcharacter. The gearbox ispositive and glitch-free.17CHASSISThe suspension may becheaper, but thegeometry is bang on. Thesteering is neutral andthe ride is excellent.Brakes are good, too.17VALUEIt’s a bloody bargain.At two grand less thanthe Honda and anotherfive hundred quid lessthan the Ducati it lookslike a steal.18FINISH 16Beautiful welding andpolished frame sectionsplus nice components, butthey don’t hold up as wellas Hondas.IN THE DETAILS...(from left): Aprilia’s silver colourscheme looks great, and we’realways impressed by a big duct;the dash is very clever, put itbeside your bed and it’ll makeyou a cup of tea in the morning;and the brakes, workWOW FACTORIt doesn’t have thetimeless good looks of the998, or the ‘this year’smodel’ appeal of the SP-2,but the RSV is a class act.171989. I hated it back then and wanted something simpler toreacquaint myself with big corners and wide-open spaces.Good call. Ultimately, I didn’t find the Mille as inspiringas the 998 but it didn’t do anything to disconcert me. And itwas just as well I got my session in early. Peter and Tom soonstarted squabbling over who would get the next ride.You’d expect the physical size of the RSV to affect thebike in corners, and it does, but not much. “It feels topheavy,” said Tom at Donington, “so you feel as thoughyou’re holding the bike up in corners, but it inspiresconfidence. You’ve just got to get used to it.”For Peter, “The RSV is as quick and as easy to turnthrough the chicane as the other two bikes, it proves youdon’t need your bum in the air to get a bike to steer.”Doesn’t have the ‘on rails’ feel of the Ducati, or the touchsensitivity of the Honda. It’s very neutral. It doesn’t needbody English or masses of bar pressure to turn, or tomaintain the turn. It just goes around the corner.Part of the reason Peter and Tom so loved the Aprilia wasthat size thing. “You can’t love a bike if you’reuncomfortable after 10 minutes,” reckoned Peter. “On theAprilia you feel as though you’re sitting in the bike ratherthan perched on top of it.”Tom was even more outspoken. “I’d happily ride to thesouth of France on the Aprilia,” he said, “but I couldprobably only manage Dover on the SP-2 and the A1 sliproad on the Ducati.” Tom has a point. Sublime steering,suspension and power delivery are all well and good, but ifyou have to visit the chiropractor between track sessionsyou’re not going to get far on the road.The Aprilia gives you room to move around, room tostretch out and the ability to relax. It’s even roomier thanthan an R1 or Blade. The narrow tank with well positionedcut-outs contributes to the ergonomics. Like the Ducati, ithelps support your upper body and lets your arms relax. It’salso got the biggest and best fairing.There are more practical aspects to the RSV, too. Themirrors work and you can fit a well packed set of waterproofsunder the seat hump. Tank range should be 130 miles,which is a bit better than the SP-2. The indicator switchunder the horn button annoyed all of us, but doubtlessowners get used to it.In raving about the RSV it’s easy to forget that not only isit cheaper than the other two, but that Aprilia has only beenmaking big bikes for four years. The RSV was introduced insummer of 1998 since when it’s had one revamp for 2001.Reliability seems to be good and Aprilia is confident enoughto give a two-year unlimited mileage warrantyIn building their sports twin Aprilia appears to havecreated the idea for the road bike first and adapted it forracing rather than the other way around. It’s certainlydesigned for typically sized people with typically sized belliesto ride on typical British roads and typical British track days.And despite its road-biased design, it isn’t doing badly onthe track either. But then Noriyuki Haga, Aprilia’s WorldSuperbike pilot, certainly isn’t typical.TOTAL 85/100The Aprilia is the bestoverall package for roadriders, it’s fast with greathandling, but it’scomfortable, too. Andif that’s not enough, it’sthe cheapest by a mile.A clear winner overall.110 MAY 2002MAY 2002 B 111


82 /100 80 /10085 /100the testRoad testers say...PriceTop speedStanding 1/4 mile0-60mph0-100mph0-130mphBraking 100-0mphTop gear roll on 60-90mphTop gear roll on 80-120mphFuel consumption BestWorstAverageEngineBore/strokeCompressionFuel systemTransmissionFrameFront suspensionAdjustmentRear suspensionAdjustmentBrakes front; rearTyres front; rearWheelbaseRake/trailDry weight (claimed)Seat heightFuel capacityWarranty/mileageNU insurance groupService intervalsPRACTICALITIESSpares pricesIndicatorMirrorFairing side panelDucati 998£10,450162.1mph11.31s @ 132.2mph3.15s6.55s11.6s4.7s5.6s8.75s55mpg29mpg42mpg998cc, dohc,8v, 90° V-twin100 x 63.5mm11.4:1fuel injection6-speed, chaintubular steel trellis43mm usdpreload, compression, reboundrising-rate monoshockpreload, compression, rebound2 x 320mm discs/4-piston calipers;220mm disc/2-piston caliperPirelli Dragon Evo Corsa120/70-ZR17, 190/50-ZR171410mm23.5-24.5°/91-97mm198kg790mm17 litres2 years/unlimited176000 miles£8.10£43.30£256.20Honda VTR1000 SP-2£10,349165.3mph11.73s @ 124.9mph3.15s6.6s10.95s4.75s7.05s12.2s36mpg26mpg31mpg999cc, dohc,8v, 90° V-twin100 x 63.6mm10.8:1fuel injection6-speed, chaintwin-spar aluminium43mm usdpreload, compression, reboundrising-rate monoshockpreload, compression, rebound2 x 320mm discs/4-piston calipers;220mm disc/single-piston caliperDunlop D208120/70-ZR17; 190/50-ZR171420mm24.5°/101mm194kg820mm18 litres2 years/unlimited174000 miles£41.71£49.71£255.36Aprilia RSV Mille£8099167.4mph11.78s @ 131.5mph3.35s6.5s10.8s4.55s5.15s7.65s49mpg27mpg38mpg997.6cc, dohc,8v, 60° V-twin97 x 67.5mm11.4:1fuel injection6-speed, chaintwin-spar aluminium43mm usdpreload, compression, reboundrising rate monoshockpreload, compression, rebound2 x 320mm discs/4-piston calipers;220mm disc/2-piston caliperDunlop D207120/70-ZR17; 190/50-ZR171415mm25°/99mm187kg820mm18 litres2 years/unlimited164000 miles£22.94£28.52£198.14(far right): Tom making the998 look like a minimoto.(right): “We’re riding alongon the crest of a hill”(right): Shiny new white bike, shiny newwhite leathers. Tom was asking for it atDonington but he managed to stay on(below right): candid advice on the wallat The Cat and Fiddle(below): draft tea and a coal fire makesroad testing in March almost tolerable(below left): “It’s a motorbike.” “Are yousure?” “Definitely.” “Shall we ask,Pete?” “No, just write it down”(left): the Honda in its natural habitat(far left): Tom on the SP-2 and Pete onthe RSV flicking the flack through theDonington chicane(left): the garden gnome, just out of shotin front of the Ducati, offers a few ridingtips to Pete and TomHugo WilsonTom BedfordPeter BoastJon PearsonI liked the Aprilia, but I loved the Ducati. I was put off 916s early,great looks but too uncompromising on the road. The 998 is different.Decent suspension and smooth power make this the best Ducatisuperbike I’ve ever ridden. Worth two and a half grand more than theAprilia? Not really, but extravagance should be encouraged.I’d spend my money on the Aprilia. I get to ride lots of bikes but this isone of the ones I’d actually open my wallet to own. It’s not just thatit’s comfortable over distances it’s also got lovely handling and a greatmotor. Second for me is the SP-2, I love the handling and especiallythe front end. The Ducati is third. I just don’t fit ’em.The Aprilia is the best road bike I’ve ever ridden. I loved every minute ofit and there’s no way it’s worth spending more on the other bikes. Well,I think I was faster at Donington on the Ducati but it’s toouncomfortable on the road. The Honda is a good bike, but it would haveto be cheaper than the Aprilia to make sense to me.If you’re a Ducati sceptic the 998 will change your mind. It’s stillbeautifully focused but a better road bike. Hmmm, Aprilia or SP-2?The Aprilia rightly wins the test. So user-friendly, such a pleasure toride and value for money. But I’d buy the SP-2. It looks like a race bike,is exciting to ride fast and gets you in the WSB paddock.Living with it...You’ll have an idea from reading the test.It’s very cramped. If you’re tall, or you’vegot a bit of a belly make sure you fit.Ducatis are designed for skinny folk undersix feet tall. There are no bungee pointsand the mirrors are useless.The mirrors are half decent till they start tovibrate. There are no bungee points butthere is enough room inside the seathump for a spare pair of gloves or a wellpacked set of waterproofs. Tank range?Pathetic.Another set of half decent mirrors andthere’s a tiny space under the tail piece.And your pillion...The Biposto seat is a no cost option, butfrankly why bother. You can’t really enjoyriding the bike with a pillion and the soloseat looks better. Anyone getting on theback should be certified anyway.Gets to sit on a little pad which can beswapped for the panel on top of the seathump. Why they would want to is amystery. Grab rail? You’re having a laugh.All prices are on-the-road, including the pre-delivery inspection (PDI), number plates and a year’s taxLike the Honda, you substitute the tailpiece top with a seat pad. I know whatmy missus would say if I suggested atrip to France.verdictDyno graphs explainedNone of the power curves are ruffled as theystorm to their peaks, but the Ducati’s is themost impressive. It explains why testers wereso impressed with the 998’s powerful enginecharacteristics.As ever, the initial pick-up in piston rate ofa V-twin motor is shown by an almost verticalrise to 3000rpm. The SP-2 is strongest here butthen dips dramatically around 4500rpm. Itcould be noise emission restrictions causingHonda to back things off. The Italians arenever that bothered about that sort of thing.The dip explains the SP-2’s poor top gear rollonfigure in comparison with the 998 andMille (see above), despite the Honda’s 10bhppower advantage. Ducati 998113.5bhp @ 9600rpm67.8lb-ft @ 8000rpm Aprilia RSV Mille113.5bhp @ 9400rpm70.5lb-ft @ 7200rpm Honda VTR1000 SP-2122bhp @ 10000rpm71.5lb-ft @ 8000rpm* Bikes are measured on BSD’sfantastic Dynojet dyno using theEEC power standard, whichgives figures a few bhp down(around 1 per cent) on Bike’sprevious figures.* Refer to our insurance ready reckoner on p175 for arough guide to the cost of insuring these bikes withNorwich UnionOn all our road tests and European adventures,we’re covered by RAC breakdown and Europeanassistance. Phone 0990 722722.n The lovely people at 100% Bikes track dayssorted us out with track time at Donington. They’vegot a million dates this year. Call them on 0870 8722532 or visit www.100pc.co.ukn The Powerslide Training School (01507 313829).Ask Peter Boast to show you how to go sideways.n BSD (01733 223377) for dyno testing the bikes.n The Cat & Fiddle pub for keeping the fire going.“THE FIRST QUESTION is whether you want a twin at all. Bikes like these are capable of delivering great ridingexperiences, but they’re more difficult to ride well than, for instance, a Honda FireBlade or Yamaha R1, both ofwhich offer more performance per pound, and the prospect of an easier life. For many of us the World Superbikeconnection will make the effort worthwhile. Cheering Haga or Edwards or Bayliss means much more if the bike in your garagelooks the same as the one that your hero is riding.These three bikes share the same philosophy, but they actually feel very different. More so than in almost any othercategory, personal preferences are crucial to which one you will suit you. The Ducati and the Honda have completely differenthandling. The 998 is harder to turn but more stable. The Honda turns with a shift of the buttock but requires more inputthroughout the turn. Take your pick. Or get the Aprilia which, in comparison, it’s very neutral.”The Aprilia is a clear and easy winner. Not only is it two grand cheaper than the Honda and Ducati, but it’s alsothe most comfortable and has the most entertaining power delivery. Next up is the Ducati. For road riders the 998 iseasily the best version yet of the 916/996/998 dynasty. And some people will always be prepared to pay the extrafor the Ducati name and pedigree on a package that looks this good. The Honda is improved over the SP-1, but as aroad and trackday tool there just aren’t enough reasons to spend the money on this rather than something else.

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