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Aprilia RS250

Profile – Aprilia RS250

by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

Aprilia RS250


Two-pot Screamer

The era of the two-stroke may be largely over, but the Aprilia RS250 gives you plenty of good reasons to relive it

After a too-long an absence, it’s worth pondering what it would be like to once again be in the saddle of an Aprilia RS250. These days, rolling up to a set of lights with an angry two-stroke would feel about as anti-social as you can get. The cackling of the chambers, the smoke, and then the hackle-raising cacophony of the pipes as you rev the bejeezus out of it to get off the line cleanly. But, there are those among us who miss it.

There was a time well within living memory when you could have walked into a motorcycle showroom and had your choice of wailing strokers. Models such as the relatively simple air-cooled Yamaha RD250/350/400 series of the sixties and seventies helped to popularise the idea of the little oil-burners, which punched well above their weight division when it came to performance. As a rule of thumb, you could count on a two-stroke to see off a four-stroke of double the engine capacity.

However that rule changed to three or at a stretch four times in the right circumstances, when it came to the later-generation liquid-cooled twins of the eighties and nineties: Honda’s NSR250, Suzuki’s RGV250, Yamaha’s TZR250 and Kawasaki’s ultra-fast but fragile KR-1 and 1S series. Here was a string of sophisticated little hotrods which could run rings around most 750 four-strokes on the right road. The Kawasaki, for example, had an independently recorded top speed of 224km/h – from a 250, 20 years ago!

For those of us who developed a love for the things, there was the final killer app: the Aprilia. This was the longest-lived of the quarter-litre brigade over the nineties and early noughties. Here was a motorcycle that ended up having its own race series (ostensibly 250 production, though it essentially became an Aprilia Cup) across several continents and on which a whole generation of motorcycle racers learned their craft.

For Australians, Aprilia for decades was one of those funny little Euro brands that the well-informed may have been aware of, but only vaguely. That changed in the 1990s, when some star riders emerged from the ranks of 125 and 250 GP racing, dragging the reputation of the brand along with them. Think Loris Capirossi or Max Biaggi. Oh, and you may have heard of a bloke called Valentino Rossi. He won a 125 title with the factory in 1997 and a 250 gong in 1999, before moving to Honda and winning five top-class titles (500, then MotoGP) on the trot.

One of the cruel ironies about the Aprilia is the company ‘borrowed’ Suzuki’s RGV250 V-twin and built a better bike with it. Oh, and just to twist the knife, it was more powerful. Not by much – but every little bit counts when you’re fairing to fairing with some other lunatic on a racetrack.

Like its competitors, the RS250 was an unapologetic sports bike. In 1995, it was running the closest thing you could buy to a pukka world championship contender chassis. The two stand-out components were the frame and the swingarm, both of which were giant expositions of the alloy fabricator’s art – effective and sexy all at the same time.

Holding it off the ground was a Marzocchi fork up front and Boge rear shock, with Brembo supplying the brakes. All top-notch stuff.

And the powerplant? Well, it was Suzuki’s V-twin reworked with altered combustion chambers and ignition curve, expansion chambers and gearing. The end result was a few more horses and a little more top speed than the Suzuki, but it was peaky and had a giant flat-spot around 7000rpm, which the original didn’t have. In a perfect world, you might actually want the Suzuki engine in the Aprilia chassis.

No matter, as there was a reasonably slick six-speed to keep you busy, though the gap between third and fourth seemed a little wide. In stock trim the RS250 was running a tooth less than the Suzuki on the rear sprocket (42 versus 43). Going to one extra was enough to make it just that little more flexible and user-friendly on the road.

Aprilia RS250

Really this only barely met the criteria for a road bike. The saddle and general accommodation were if anything slightly more head-down and bum-up than the competition, which really wasn’t such an issue. What really hindered its use as transport was the engine characteristics. It made enough power to get underway at 4000-6000rpm and you could use that range to just bumble around.

However it fell in a hole at 7000 and, really, you wanted the tacho on the high side of 8000 for performance, preferably in the golden 9000 to 11,000 range where you peaked around 73hp. Get it right and the thing was wickedly fast and you felt like (with some justification) king of the kids. Throw in the acceleration with a package that handled like a dream and weighed bugger-all (141kg dry), and you had a truly formidable bit of kit. There were some places where your mate on a litre road bike would have to work extremely bloody hard to keep up. And often failed.

Aprilia’s visual packaging really helped to make this machine special. It was a looker from day one and, after some GP success, it brought out a second-gen (1998) that more closely resembled the race machines. The two versions were essentially the same thing under the bodywork, with the exception of a wider front wheel (120 tyre instead of 110) and a switch to a Showa front fork. Instrumentation was also updated.

When it comes to mechanicals, there are no great tricks to the Aprilia. They work hard and have a short service life as a result, though there is still a wealth of good knowledge out there on how to build and tune them. The architecture is typical for the period: reed induction valves and an electronically controlled exhaust, with twin 34mm carbs. Given the Suzuki heritage, there should be no major issue in tracing mechanical components such as pistons and rings.

If you’re assessing one as a resto project, get online. These things are very much on the radar of restorers overseas – particularly in the UK – which has helped to create a burgeoning cottage industry.

The big mystery is what the hell has happened to all the ones that used to be in the local market? Lots were sold. Most were raced and maybe a lot of them ended up at the tip. Finding one in decent condition is surprisingly difficult and assessing value is, as a result, a bit of a guessing game. Given the current revival of interest in two-strokes, there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay more than new price for an example that’s ready for the road and in excellent shape. That could mean Au$15-20,000 (US$11-14,000, GB£8-11,000).

Worth it? Probably. For many this was the ultimate pocket rocket and, while a modern 600 will have it for lunch, it represents an era and what was arguably the best of the breed. Certainly the most successful.

Aprilia RS250

***

RS250

Resources
In print: Aprilia – the complete story
Now out of print, this book by Mick Walker (above) covers up to year 2000. Aprilia’s history is generally not well known and this goes some way to filling that gap. Published by Crowood Press in the UK, you’ll find second-hand copies on the web.

Online: apriliaforum.com



SPECS:
Aprilia RS250 (1995-2006)


ENGINE:

TYPE: Liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin
two-stroke with reed valve induction and two-stage electronic exhaust
CAPACITY: 249cc

BORE & STROKE: 56 x 50.6mm

COMPRESSION RATIO: 13.2:1

FUEL SYSTEM: Mikuni TM34SS flat slides


TRANSMISSION:

TYPE: Six-speed, constant-mesh 

FINAL DRIVE: Chain


CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:

FRAME TYPE: Alloy beam
FRONT SUSPENSION: 41mm Marzocchi or Showa forks, full adjustment
REAR SUSPENSION: Boge monoshock with full adjustment
FRONT BRAKE: 298mm disc with four-piston Brembo calipers

REAR BRAKE: 220mm disc with two-piston caliper


DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:

DRY WEIGHT: 141kg

SEAT HEIGHT: 810mm

WHEELBASE: 1370mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 19.5/16.5L

WHEELS & TYRES:
FRONT: 17 x 3.0/3.5-inch seven-spoke cast alloy with 110/60 or 120/60 tyre
REAR: 17 x 4.5-inch seven-spoke cast alloy with 150/60 tyre

PERFORMANCE:

POWER: 53kW @ 11,900rpm

TORQUE: 40Nm @ 10,750rpm

OTHER STUFF:
PRICE: $12,800 new

Good
Fast
Brilliant handling
Good looks

Bad
Sometimes hard to find in good shape
Peaky

 

 

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