The motorcycle world is always abuzz with some intrigue or another, and after some recent spy shots of a masked Aprilia test bike surfaced, rumours abound.
Behind the camouflage, appears to lurk the rumoured RS440, Aprilia’s newest track-bred toy and probably the first example of a whole new platform.
This stripped-down sports bike could be poised to bring the thrill of Aprilia’s racing heritage to a new generation of scratchers.
Development had to accelerate on the RS440 ahead of its anticipated 2024 release and it seems that it has. Speculation is running rampant about what secrets lie beneath the bodywork.
Will this pint-sized performer live up to the Aprilia RS pedigree?
Let’s look inside and see what we can decode from under the disguise of this rising star.
Reading Between the Lines
Reading Between the Lines, if you look, although cleverly disguised as the RS660, you can see some key differences from its big sibling. Gone are the 660’s dual front brake discs, replaced by a single unit. The front fairing shape also lacks the upper “nose” that generates extra downforce on the 660.
Other clues also emerge from closer inspection. The mirrors, bodywork design, and swingarm shape all differ substantially from the 660. This shows that the RS440 has a unique identity rather than simply having a smaller engine stuck in the 660. Aprilia designers seem to have crafted a bike with its own distinct character.
The RS440 appears to trade some of the 660’s aggressive edges for smoother, more graceful lines, but that may change on the final production model. The styling now gives a feeling of poise rather than outright aggression. It is still undeniably a member of the RS clan, but with a fresh new twist.
Perhaps a more ergonomic rider experience was a design priority over a racetrack biased design.
Visually, compared to the RS660 the RS440 looks like a slimmed-down scalpel, perfect for slicing through mountain roads.
For those of you that are wondering, that is in theory an all new Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1000 too, but I am still digging on that one.
A Clean Sheet Design
Insider chatter suggests the RS440 will be powered an all-new parallel twin engine, rather than simply sleeving down the existing 660 powerplant.
Piaggio, Aprilia’s parent company, has already registered designs for a 250cc twin with a 270-degree crankshaft. While patents show a 250cc engine, rumours indicate by final production there will also be a 440cc engine.
This should put power output around the UK and European A2 license limit of 35Kw which is around 47 horsepower.
With that in mind the RS440 could make a serious mark in the A2 licence and sub-500cc sportbike category.
We can expect high revving performance from this free-spinning twin, with a redline likely to be well above 10,000 rpm and probably around the 12,000rpm mark.
While inevitably down on peak power compared to 600cc supersports, Aprilia’s engineers will undoubtedly wring every last drop they can from the 440cc parallel twin.
Ride-by-wire throttle, engine braking management, and selectable engine maps are likely to be standard and give the rider control over the power characteristics.
Cutting Edge Tech
Full LED lighting and a bright TFT dash can be seen and Bluetooth connectivity, and smartphone integration are very likely, bringing the RS440 firmly into the 21st century.
Photos also reveal robust looking, inverted front forks and a linkage-mounted rear shock. Aprilia know that sharp handling is paramount in the small-displacement sportbike segment. These premium components suggest a focus on handling and so whether or not they offer external adjustability the suspension should be well dialled in.
The latest tech like multi level traction control and a quickshifter may further polish the RS440’s track readiness but the quickshifter may well be in the extras list.
While adding cost, these rider aids significantly broaden the appeal, for new riders and the burgeoning Asian markets. With these tricks up its sleeve, the RS440 could provide a great platform to help novice riders learn their craft and gain confidence.
Committed to Lightness
Paring away excess weight becomes an obsession among sportbike engineers, and you can bet the RS440 development team chased grams relentlessly. The compact twin-cylinder engine will always be slim compared to a larger four-cylinder mill. A lightweight frame and subframe and featherweight bodywork will help to keep weight central and low.
Expect the RS440’s power-to-weight ratio to push legal limits. Combine this with razor-sharp geometry and the RS440 looks perfect for carving up canyon switchbacks or scraping the pegs at a track day.
There is one thing to consider here though. European A2 licence regulations state that the limits are: an engine power output not exceeding 35kW and a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.2kW/kg, so we need to do some sums.
35Kw is about 47HP so 0.2Kw/Kg is around 0.27HP per Kilogram, so to find the weight, we calculate:
Power divided by Power to weight ratio = Weight, so 47 HP / 0.27 HP/Kg = 174.1 Kg
This means, the minimum weight of a 47HP motorcycle to comply with the A2 licence regs is 174.1Kg
So I think we can safely say that the RS440 will be around 175Kg with around 47HP as standard, but probably, or should I say hopefully, with a performance chip to raise the redline and subsequent power output.
That does make much more sense to me than restricting bigger more expensive motorcycles for learner riders.
A Growing Sector
This is a sector that I have been talking about for a while now and it is hotting up. With the Kawasaki ZXR400 and 400 Ninja, BMW’s G310R, the Yamaha R3, Honda CBR300R and CBR500R along with new kids on the block like the CF Moto 450SR, it is set to become the next big battleground. I wonder what Suzuki will bring to the table? Alongside the Sports bikes we already have the various Royal Enfield’s, the new Triumph’s and dont forget the Kove 450 Rally. We even a new Harley in some parts of the world.
The RS440’s rider triangle also appears to be less radical than some full-on supersports motorcycles. While still decidedly forward leaning, it looks a little more upright than the RS660 for better comfort. A more relaxed knee bend and a seat height accessible to shorter riders should broaden the appeal of the RS440 while not dulling its competitive edge.
Better wind protection comes from a taller looking windscreen, a subtle change that improves real-world practicality. This should open the door for more riders to experience Aprilia’s racing heritage, not just hard-core racers.
Aprilia has a knack for building small-displacement bikes with big bike character, and the RS440 should continue that tradition. Just as the acclaimed RS125 and 250 did, the RS440 looks set to shake up the learner market, as a pure concentration of excitement rather than a watered-down version of a bigger motorcycle.
Expect the RS440 to have a spot-on chassis balance, a howling twin-cylinder soundtrack, and cat like agility. That should promise a fantastic level of rideability and performance — enough to thrill even experienced riders.
Sophisticated electronics and dialled in suspension will mean it is more than just a beginners bike. This motorcycle could be set to deliver a big bucket of fun at sane and safer speeds.
While novice riders can develop their skills progressively on the RS440, its geometry and engine should allow more experienced riders to explore its limits too.
The Next-Gen Sportbike
In an era of ever-stricter licensing and other regulations, lightweight supersports motorcycles have a strong appeal. As triple-digit horsepower engine really is of little use on public roads, the RS440 offers a more sustainable route to thrilling performance.
As the latest model in Aprilia’s legendary RS line, the RS440 should provide the next generation of riders a gateway to Aprilia’s decades of racing success. Younger riders can cut their teeth on this sharp-handling sports bike before sampling its big brothers.
I think the RS440 opens up many possibilities for sportbikes’ and could mean a continued evolution in challenging times for the internal combustion engine.
While concrete details are few, the glimpses of Aprilia’s handiwork have stoked the fires of anticipation.
If the RS440 fulfils its promise, it could be a fantastic route to race-inspired thrills on two wheels. Based on the rest of the family, this rising star seems destined for greatness.
Has a new heir emerged in the proud RS line?
Let me know your thoughts below in the comments.
Now, you know I have talked about how to get younger riders interested in motorcycles, and bikes like this can only help.
Well, looking again at the licence regs.
35Kw which is about 47HP is the absolute max power for A2 compliance
that means the minimum weight of a 47HP motorcycle is 174.1Kg
For a motorcycle of 150Kg, the max power output would be 40HP.
Considering this, and the fact that it has ALWAYS been easier to tune a motorcycle than to make it lighter, would it be a reasonable idea, to make this and other motorcycles in this segment lighter, and then supply a power upgrade kit for people who have passed their test and no longer need to stick to the power to weight ratio?
If Aprilia built the new RS440 lighter, which from the SVX550 we know they can, then sold a multi level power chip conversion, could a 150Kg RS440 be pushed up from a limited 40HP to around 60HP?
Taken to its extreme, if they could build it down to a weight of 125Kg, for A2 use it would have to be limited to around 34HP, but if it could then be pushed up to 60HP it would give a power to weight ratio equivalent to a 100HP motorcycle that weighed 200Kg, but with all the advantages a lightweight motorcycle brings.
That would get us back to the sort of performance levels that some of the small capacity motorcycles of the past achieved. For me, I think that it would make an interesting little track bike and provide an exciting and enticing motorcycle for new, younger riders.
The platform could also make for an exciting lightweight, dirt focussed Adventure Bike too.
Knowing how popular the idea of multiple models built around the same platform is, there is no reason that a naked roadster and a scrambler couldn’t be added to the range either.
This would mean the R&D costs would be recouped from 4 new models rather than just 1.
In Aprilia’s case they could even add a lower weight “carbon” equipped “Factory” model with a full power race chip, or follow KTM’s idea and have the extra power hidden behind a pay wall, so it can be activated when the rider has passed their test.
Do you think any of these ideas would help to lure a higher number of younger riders into the world of motorcycles?