It was 2002: in Noale, for some time something had been revving up behind the gates of the Aprilia factory, something that was destined to transform the concept of on-road biking and hit the two-wheeler world with a noise like thunder … or Tuono, to put it in Italian! The Aprilia RSV Mille had already been on the market for 4 years: a sport bike with a 60° V-twin, 998 cc engine that put out 128 hp, weighing in at just under 200 kg.
A thoroughbred superbike, which a few shrewd riders had already quietly tried to “strip” and perhaps accessorise with higher handlebars.
At the 26th Bologna Motor Show, Aprilia unveiled the RSV Mille Tuono R Limited Edition, a chunky maxi-naked bike – a term that didn’t even exist back then – with a limited production run of a mere two hundred and a price tag of 18,000 Euro (initially only 105 bikes were produced but output was doubled to satisfy the demand from the export market). In that configuration, the V60 engine delivered 125 hp and 96 Nm of torque.
Its lines were muscular and in-your-face. The matt black paintwork of the body panels and the first-ever fixed fairing, the metallic gold paintwork of the frame and the “banana” swing arm really set off the bike’s top-end components, which included fully-adjustable Öhlins shock absorbers, carbon fibre and magnesium components, Brembo Gold series 4-shoe brake callipers and a chunky titanium exhaust silencer. The Tuono R was an immediate success, and quickly sold out. It wasn’t long before a more affordable version, dubbed the Tuono Fighter, made its appearance on the market.
So what was the bike like on the road? After taking it out for a test ride, Motociclismo magazine had this to say: “Mind-blowing pull-off and acceleration. It feels very similar to the RSV but is more docile. […] The Tuono Fighter is very satisfying to ride: the handlebars are wide enough to guarantee good control without creating a sail effect at high speed, the weight distribution is good with the same chassis proportions as the RSV, and at just 197.8 kg, the bike is agile and responsive. Stability and road holding are top-class and steering the bike into corners is quick and precise.”
Thus began the reign of the Tuono, which lost the “Fighter” label within a few years and would offer fans a whole succession of editions, some of which are now highly sought after (like the track-loving RSV Mille Tuono Racing).
All of the models, even now, 15 years down the line, are still quite capable of taking on much newer bikes and putting a smile on your face under your helmet. But that was just the beginning. In 2006 the first new-generation model made its debut, inspired by the technical and aesthetic changes made to the 2004 model, RSV 1000 R.
By now, the “Tuono” was already well known to bikers all round the world and it was decided to drop the “RSV” prefix from the model name and merely indicate the displacement in figures. The fairing of the Tuono 1000 R now housed two headlights separated by a small Plexiglas panel and the back-end was also totally redesigned, with the two flicker-lights incorporated into the tailpiece and the tail-light mounted in the middle.
This well-received version of the Tuono offered enhanced performance in terms of agility and weight (the “Factory edition” was almost 20 kg lighter), and also delivered greater power, with the last version fitted with the V60 Magnesium engine providing 139 hp. Then seven years after the very first RSV Mille Tuono R rolled off the line, a formidable new Aprilia hit the headlines and dominated the 2009 SBK World Championship: the new Aprilia RSV4. This was the bike that would pave the way for the new super-naked “made in Noale”, which revolutionised the riding world with handlebars even higher than those of its predecessor.
Aprilia unveiled the legendary Tuono V4 R in 2011. Even before the launch, the level of anticipation amongst the fans and in the press was so high that it caused a bit of a “diplomatic incident”, described by Motorcycle Technical Development Manager, Roberto Calò: “When we went to Mugello circuit in 2010 with a prototype of the Tuono 1000 V4 (which was little more than a stripped-down version of the RSV4), as usual we went to great lengths to camouflage the bike and to remind the test rider a thousand times over not to get caught out by photographers or fans, particularly in the pit lane where the slower speeds mean that very often anyone in the vicinity is able to spot important details. We had no way of knowing that the Motociclismo magazine staff had used this opportunity (or had the bare-faced cheek) to take a video of the bike in action on the track!”MOTOCICLISMO VIDEO: MUGELLO CIRCUIT 2010.
In any event, all that really mattered was that the Tuono 1000 V4 was truly bad and over-the-top: riding it was like getting a shot of pure adrenalin, even for the most demanding riders accustomed to powerful emotions. With its 167 hp, V4 engine and APRC electronic control package, this was the most powerful, technological and sophisticated naked motorcycle ever made. Notwithstanding a second and far more radical generation change, the Tuono remained true to its roots and was totally built for performance, starting from its controversial fixed fairing mounted on the frame. A maxi-naked bike fairing can only be fixed, said Noale, it’s a question of aerodynamics.
In 2013 – after the arrival of the second generation RSV4 – the new Tuono V4 R ABS fitted with a 170 hp engine, revised APRC and a sophisticated Racing ABS system was released. 2015 saw the advent of an elegant new look, engine capacity raised to 1,077 cc with a consequent increase in maximum power and torque (175 hp and 121 Nm) and the V4-MP smartphone-connection platform.OFFICIAL VIDEO: APRILIA TUONO V4 2015
Two versions were released, the RR and the Factory, with the latter, designed for extremely demanding customers, fitted with components that were largely derived from the RSV4 RF.
The years have passed, but the Tuono V4 continues to ride high, its on-going technological evolution enabling it to hold on firmly to its reputation as queen of the super-naked bikes, epitomised by the latest addition to the dynasty: the Tuono V4 1100 my2017 is pure excitement on two wheels, combined with the rationality of cutting-edge electronics. A concentrate of technology that, thanks to the state-of-the-art APRC electronic control package with Cornering ABS, Pit Limiter and Cruise Control systems, allows the rider to use and safely enjoy the kind of performance that we could only dream of just a few years ago.
Today, 15 years after the very first “clap of Thunder”, when you’re out cutting the kerb on the track or eating the hairpins on a mountain road, all it takes is a little twist of the Tuono V4 1100 my2017 throttle to honour the bold revolutionary spirit of the very first RSV Mille Tuono and the 15 years of evolution of a legend chosen by so many passionate bikers around the world, not least the members of the #bearacer club.