Aprilia ushers in new era with mid-weight RS 660
The similarities between the two-stroke Aprilia RS 250 and the newly launched Aprilia RS 660 are plain for all to see.
The Lava Red colour scheme - one of three available hues - of the RS 660 resembles the shade of the championship-winning RS 250 of the 1990s.
Other similarities include the new Aprilia's slightly angular banana-shaped swingarm, upside down forks and sporty silhouette.
But the RS 660 signifies a new concept and benchmark for Aprilia in terms of technology, design and performance.
Mr Simone Niccolai, managing director of Piaggio Asia- Pacific, said at the bike launch last week: "The RS 660 represents a new era."
While the RS 250 was a track-focused speed demon with a licence plate, the new 660cc Aprilia is more user-friendly and has a dual function.
"You can ride it hard at the circuit and you can ride it daily on the road," added Mr Niccolai.
It is meant to be accessible to all, which does seem the case when you straddle the 100bhp parallel twin-engined RS 660.
Unlike 600cc supersports motorcycles, it does not have clip-on handlebars that put more downforce on the front wheel, while causing your wrists to ache at the same time. Its handlebars stem from the sides of the bike's top yoke for added comfort on long commutes.
Still, the marque is not able to escape its racing heritage.
While past Aprilia sportbikes display single-panel fairings to counter wind drag, the 183kg RS 660 has a dual fairing system, similar in concept to the current rage of winglets on racebikes in MotoGP and Superbikes.
Despite being a parallel twin, its engine sounds like an angry V4 motorcycle.
The slender and compact RS 660 has a competitive edge compared with other middle-weight sportbikes and is equipped with sophisticated electronics usually found on top-end machines.
The ride-by-wire machine has five riding modes - three for road use and two for track riding. It has anti-wheelie, cruise and traction controls, a quickshifter and anti-lock brakes.
The Italian motorbike senses what is happening around it via a six-axis inertial measuring unit, thanks to internal gyroscopes and accelerometers.
But why did Aprilia invest in a middle-weight sportbike when the Big Four Japanese manufacturers have scaled down on their models in the category?
Mr Niccolai's answer: to catch people. He explained that current trends depict a drop in motorcycle owners in the large capacity segment but an increase in motorcycle ownership in the small capacity class.
So Aprilia hopes to entice riders who are downgrading as well as those who want to upgrade to a motorcycle with more performance.
"We want to give (riders) something more," said Mr Niccolai. "We hope the RS 660 is an option that is just right."