Aprilia is Europe's most successful racing motorcycle manufacturer, with two superbike world championship titles, nine off-road world championships and 38 world titles in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. So, it is entirely appropriate that as the "racing" marque of the Piaggio stable, which is one of the world's largest producers of scooters, Aprilia should produce the world's fastest scooter.
The Aprilia SRV 850 is based on the Gilera GP 800, the world's fastest maxi scooter that was created back in 2007 when Piaggio Group put an Aprilia Mana sports V-twin engine into a purpose-built scooter frame.
The bike was launched in 2007 as a Gilera GP 800 Maxi Scooter and now it's the turn of another of Piaggio's marques (Piaggio owns the brands Piaggio, Gilera and Aprilia, plus Moto Guzzi, Derbi, Vespa and Laverda), the race-orientated Aprilia brand, to make its mark on the GP 800 and make it the SRV 850.
Indeed, the scooter and motorcycle appear to be morphing into a new class of two-wheeled machine, with the power, acceleration, braking and roadholding of the motorcycle, and carrying capacity, weather protection, comfort, safety and ease-of-use of the scooter.
The Aprilia SRV850
The SRV 850 is Aprilia's redesign of the Gilera GP800, which was already the fastest and most powerful scooter ever manufactured anywhere in the world. It is a red-blooded Italian V-twin sports bike - a sports bike with no gears that looks like a scooter.
The specifications read like any Italian sports bike: the 55.9 kW (76.0 HP) engine is a fuel-injected, electronic ignition, four valves per cylinder, 90° V-twin in a lightweight rigid trellis frame. The handling and roadholding are reportedly quite extraordinary, partly because of the lightweight but very rigid trellis frame, and partly because the crankshaft and transmission rotate in the opposite direction to the wheels, significantly reducing the gyroscopic effect.
The Aprilia SRV850
There's also top shelf brakes, suspension and running gear. Maxi scooters have been around for more than a decade now, but with Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and BMW already having large-engined scooter/motorcycle combinations at or close to market, the super scooter is appearing as a new class of motorcycle with a very compelling proposition - the convenience of a scooter no longer means an anemic mid-range. Instead, the muscular 76.5 Nm (7.8 kgm) mid-range of the Aprilia SRV drives a CVT - sports riding with a modern CVT means NO gears.
The Gilera GP800
An engine of this power output (at 76 bhp, the scooter has more horsepower than the original modern day superbike, the Honda CB750, which had 67 bhp) requires a very strong chassis - the double cradle frame of the Aprilia SRV 850 is made of steel trellis with reinforcing and rigidity plates, and is apparently more than up to the task.
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According to Aprilia, it has conducted simulations and road tests that have demonstrated that the SRV 850 has a coefficient of stability at full power similar to a motorcycle (1 rad/sec) and almost twice as high as a conventional scooter. The rigidity of the bracing in the trellis frame is the difference and is claimed to deliver an "extraordinary sensation of riding control", a bike that "leans into bends like a sport bike, reaching angles of 45°, always holding a neutral behavior and extraordinary road holding."
The overall package is far more rigid than the GP 800 even though it is only slightly lighter (by just 5 kg/11 lbs). The suspension has been replaced at both ends - the 41 mm cast aluminum swingarm, completely revamped suspension geometry and top class brakes sitting on fat 16" front, 15" rear lightweight cast aluminum rims.
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The interesting thing about the SRV 850 is that the engine faces the opposite way to normal - the crankshaft and transmission have a rotational motion opposite to that of the wheels in order to reduce rotating inertia and the gyroscopic effect which makes it more difficult to tip a conventional motorcycle into a turn.
The company claims that by removing this suppression of the rotational inertia, "the handling and quick entrance into turns" of the Aprilia SRV 850 has been improved.
The chassis design has also given Aprilia a way of minimizing the vibrations of the big V-twin by isolating the engine from the frame with "elastic mountings" and similarly with the 2-into-1 exhaust system.
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The front end of the SRV 850 is styled on the RSV4 SBK 2010 SBK World Championship bike, with a big triple headlight, dynamic air intakes under the headlight assembly, and a fairing supposedly designed in a wind tunnel, though it doesn't look that much different to the original GP 800.
The braking system on the SRV 850 is similarly top shelf, hauling an admittedly porky machine (for a scooter, 249 kg/549 lbs), to a stop from its road bike speeds with ease. Up front are Brembo Gold Series double piston floating calipers and two 300mm semi-floating steel discs, and at rear the floating caliper has opposing pistons and acts on a 280 mm steel disc. Twin channel anti lock braking makes this a breeze.
As the RSV has a CVT and hence no ability to lock the rear wheel by engaging the transmission, it's one of the very few two wheelers on the planet to also have a parking brake, which is operated by a lever on the right of the leg shield.
The SRV comes standard with radial tires, being a 120/70 at the front and 160/60 on the driving wheel.
Aprilia's influence on the sporting character of the bike is most pronounced in the area of suspension. A cast aluminum swingarm is similar to that of the remarkable RS250 road bike which is sadly no more.
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It is clamped by suspension linkages that are dominated by a horizontally mounted, lateral hydraulic monoshock absorber, adjustable to seven different preload settings.
Compared to the GP 800 the fork made in aluminum with large 41 mm stanchions, it adopts a more sustained calibration resulting in significant improvement of dynamic control of the vehicle, improving braking and leaning stability.
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The maxi scooter class is growing considerably - the only thing now that it requires for take-off as a class is for the the fuel prices to follow their natural course, and all those ex-motorcyclists to renew their vows.