2007 Aprilia RSW250: Italian Legend, RSW250
Words by Jeff Ware Photography by Tim Munro
The chance to ride a real deal 250 Grand Prix World Championship bike is the stuff dreams are made of. I grew up obsessed by 250GP racing. In my teens in the 1990s I knew every rider, every race number, had the posters on my bedroom wall and all races on videotape! Even my first RGV racebike was painted the same colors as the Ralf Waldman HB 250. Riding the RGV proddie, I dreamed of one day being a 250 GP rider…
Fast forward 22 years and I find myself about to ride a proper RSW250 Aprilia thanks to the owner, Harry, who kindly offered us a spin.
About the bike. It is trick. It is expensive. It is rare and absolutely stunning. The peak of two-stroke development is right here under the fairings…
This is the Aprilia Racing RSW250 ridden by Eugene Laverty in the 2008 250 Grand Prix World Championship. It is the real deal and very, very rare, not to mention priceless. The swingarm alone is worth near fifty grand! The RSW250 was made by Aprilia from 1991 to 2007. It has been ridden to world titles by the likes of Max Biaggi, Valentino Rossi, Marco Melandri, and Jorge Lorenzo and has won countless memorable races.
With just over 100-horsepower at the wheel and weighing in at 90-100kg, the power-to-weight is over one to one. The frame is hand made aluminum, as is the fuel tank. The seat unit and rear hump is a complete A kit part only for factory teams, all carbon-fibre monocoque, and the wheels and swingarm are carbon-fibre also. The engine is cast magnesium and every single nut, bolt, axle and washer is titanium.
The 249cc 90-degree V-twin two-stroke revs to over 12,000rpm and is the absolute trickest little engine I’ve seen.
I hop on the bike and immediately think, ‘How the hell and I going to fit in this?’ The nerves settle a little as I blip the throttle and get the engine up to temperature. My old two-stroke days are flooding back to me and there is a crowd gathering around the bike. It is loud. Very loud…
A huge amount of revs and clutch slipping, along with a lot of leg paddling and I’m off up pit lane. I short-shift in the lower top-end via the ultra-slick factory quickshifter and do my usual checks into turn two, like feeling the front and rear brakes and generally getting into a relaxed riding position.
The bike was straight off the warmers and what blows me away is I’m scraping my whole leg in the second corner from pit lane and carrying more corner speed than I have on any bike for years, and it is my out lap!
When you ride road production bikes for so long, it is easy to forget how a proper handling thoroughbred feels and there is no comparison to any street going bike at all, not even close.
It is jetted a little on the conservative side, so hasn’t got that razor’s-edge sharpness to the throttle, but still it is on song and almost four-stroke like in some aspects. It pulls third gear where I would have expected second.
The gearbox is ultra-close-ration and the quickshifter super sensitive. The engine starts making power from as low as 8000rpm but really comes alive up top, where is pulls harder than most 1000cc bikes around while feeling like it is the weight of a bicycle.
Steering is insane. Once my brain slows things down a bit I steer with a bit more finesse and begin to find some rhythm there. The same goes for the brakes, one finger and even then I almost go over on the first lap. They are as strong as the best street sportsbike, say an S 1000 RR or Panigale, but then double the power and sensitivity and imagine the bike also weighed half as much, that will give you an idea.
Comparing the RSW stopping power on braking to an RSV4, say, is like comparing RSV4 brakes to a 1972 RD250…
I settle down and start my session proper. Tucking in on the front chute I’m chasing gears as the engine revs so quickly it is incredible. The straight disappears faster than usual and suddenly I’m into the ultra fast turn one. I touch the brakes gently with one finger and pop it down to fourth gear.
Getting back on the gas, I cannot believe how rapidly the 250 accelerate towards turn two. In fact I have to grab fifth gear. I’m in shock and arrive at my usual braking point for T2 faster than I would on any superbike. I ride straight past my braking point, in fact still on the gas, and don’t start braking until I’m turning in. It is no problem; the RSW just goes deep, stays tight and hold a perfect line through the double-apex corner. I feel like I can put the bike anywhere, anytime.
Getting the rpm right is not as crucial as it is on a TZ, so although high corner speed and high rpm are still required, there is some forgiveness there for a lard-ass like me who doesn’t get it inch perfect every lap.
The bike hauls out of two, over three and is on the back wheel cresting the hump into turn four. Having watched Biaggi and Co on video reply thousands of times here from the 1994 and 1995 races, I actually have one of those dream moments where I feel like they must have felt…
Up the hill out of five, with the engine in the sweet spot, the bike pulls with amazing urgency up this steep hill and again does the same to Corporate Hill, another bumpy long left-hand crest.
Braking into the turn nine hairpin, I feel like my hands are holding the front axle! I’m waiting for Biaggi, Waldman, Capirossi or Harada to dive up the inside!
My lap ends and I’m in. Just rolling into pit lane, after watching so many legend 250 riders at Aussie GP’s ride down this entrance, I feel like the luckiest man alive. That’s one dream ticked off the bucket list…
SPECIFICATIONS 2007 APRILIA RSW250
Price: Over $250,000.00 (2022)
power: 110hp – 110hp@13,000rpm
wet weight: 90kg dry
Engine: 249cc 90-degree V-twin two-stroke, full data logging, digital ignition, traction control
Bore & stroke: 54 x 54.5mm
Fuel delivery: 42mm flat slide VHSE magnesium carburetors
Exhaust: DLR carbon-fibre mufflers and Aprilia Racing titanium expansion chambers
Gearbox: Cassette-style adjustable ratios
Frame: Aluminium hand made
Rake & Trail: Variable
Suspension: Factory Ohlins
Tyres: Bridgestone racing slicks