What most people don’t realize about sports bikes is that they’re uncomfortable and hot, and they tend to handle awfully in traffic. You obviously don’t buy one to commute, but every weekend a highway blast must end with a slog through gridlock. Nearly every sports bike is ill-suited for the tight, stop-and-go nature of city traffic as the engine temps rise, the ergonomics start to get painful, and the drivetrain lashes out at the indignity of rolling along in second gear. If you’ve ever seen a sports bike rider impatiently zipping along a crowded street, it’s probably not because he or she wants to be an ass—he or she just wants to get the ordeal over with.
Comfortable bikes make you want to ride them longer and more frequently, and the Aprilia RS660 is a solid attempt to tame the sports-bike genre without emasculating it. A good thing, too, because the so-called “supersports” category has been getting stale as the market has shifted to adventure bikes.
At P860,000, the RS660 is a lot of money for less raw power than you’d get with a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R (P672,000; 126hp), but that’s usually the case with prestigious Italian brands. It’s an Aprilia, for crying out loud. This thing is made in Italy and dripping with sex appeal and ‘yayamanin’ pogi points.
Between the RS and its semi-naked sibling, the Tuono 660, the full fairing of the former reeks of style and functional aerodynamics. The signature three-tone color—with purposely mismatched front- and rear-wheel colors—has panache that stands out in a sea of lookalike bikes. Check out the flush fitting of the exhaust—so neat and precise that it matches the machining of the aluminum swingarm. It sounds great in stock form, too, so no real need to swap it out for an aftermarket unit. All of the swoops and curves and strakes serve their purpose, too. Even at 130km/h, there’s so little windblast that I honestly thought I was going much slower.
The 270° crank gives the parallel-twin motor an authoritative bark when you start it up, and the uneven firing pulse gives it a lot of character at the low- to midrange zones of the power band along with plenty of torque. Peak power is 100hp at 10,500rpm. But in most situations, you’ll be shifting at around the 8,000rpm mark. You’ll be going pretty quick by that point, and the engine starts getting buzzy.
Of course, find a clear stretch of road, wind the motor to the redline, bang through the gears with the quickshifter, and 0-100km/h is done in just under four seconds. Top speed is officially stated as 225km/h, but we’ve heard of some early testers having taken the bike to 245km/h. Not superbike-fast, but fast enough to get you in trouble and acquit itself well on a track.
The beauty of so-called “mid-capacity” bikes is they give you just enough power to play with and let you still feel in control, demanding your utmost attention and skill to set a brisk pace.
On my favorite hill-climb route (not Marilaque) with a buddy riding chase, the RS660 flies up the road and has that magical man-machine connection that translates thought into movement. The riding position is aggressive but not excessively low. Sitting upright to cruise isn’t too demanding of core strength, and my wrists weren’t sore even after an hour of brisk riding. The brake and clutch levers have smooth and linear engagement, with the latter equipped with a slip-assist system, too. The only fly in the ointment was a squealing rear brake, likely from a previous rider who pushed the Brembos to the limit.
Since it’s not ridiculously powerful, accelerating and holding a fast pace is about constantly shifting to keep the motor in its sweet spot, and nailing the apex each and every time. You can’t cover up your mistakes with a brute-force approach like a superbike, and, at least for me, a bike with “just enough” power is more rewarding. In between these spirited moments when you’re just dawdling along, the RS660 is a docile thoroughbred.
No chain lash at low speeds, no snatchy fuel delivery, and the engine heat was bearable for about an hour. The bike has an advanced Inertial Measuring Unit that enables cornering brake control and several rider modes, including a rather unmacho “Commute” setting. In that mode, power delivery is like molasses, and it works great for taming the beast when you don’t want a herky-jerky throttle. But maybe Aprilia could have called it “Street.”
On the open road, “Dynamic” is much more responsive without being snatchy. There were some other modes I could have played around with, along with fiddling with the suspension setup. Since I wasn’t taking it to the track, I just settled for Dynamic and left the suspension alone. One gremlin did pop up: The quickshifter occasionally refused to play ball in second and third gears.
The RS660 has everything you’d expect from a premium sports bike: taut suspension, a well-balanced frame that tempts you to drag a knee, and powerful brakes. What’s more surprising, at least for me, is how comfortable the bike was from the padding of the seat to the Goldilocks-level ergonomics: aggressive enough to feel sporty without being uncomfortable.
After several hours of riding up and down some winding hills, my back wasn’t screaming for a massage. My inner legs weren’t scorched from engine heat. Apart from the stupid grin I had on my face when I finally returned the test unit to Bikerbox, I was none the worse for wear.
This is a bike you can ride for a whole day without feeling beat-up. A sports bike is a fast bike, but when it’s comfortable and amiable like the RS660, you can go even faster for longer.