Ask RideApart: This or That – Ducati 899 Panigale v. Aprilia RSV4

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Ask RideApart: This or That Ducati 899 Panigale v. Aprilia RSV4

When it comes to price v. power and you can select two of the hottest Italian sportbikes on the market, which do you choose?


“Would you get a 899 panigale or 2013 RSV4 Factory…i get both for about the same price the factory is just $500 more, and dealers aren’t really dealing on 899. Have you ridden one with the new fueling where it kills power below 6000 rpm?”


The Ducati 899 Panigale and Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS are a couple of leaders in the Italian sportbike realm today. I have had the pleasure to conduct a 4-day, head-to-head test with these two bikes both on the race track and on the city streets/canyons and can tell you that the Aprilia would be my hands-down favorite. Additionally, if I were in the position to obtain either of these bikes for nearly the same amount of cash, the RSV4 Factory would be a no-brainer for me.

2014 Ducati 899 Panigale

The Aprilia is an extremely planted and comfortable bike on the street as well as the track. The factory components such as the front and rear Ohlins suspension gear, Brembo braking system, smooth quick shifter and interactive traction management system make this an extremely loaded package. The V4 powerplant produces an amazing amount of power delivered linearly in a chassis that is very rigid and flickable. The only complaint I had was that 1st gear was a bit too tall for street riding causing me to slip the clutch slightly more than desired. However, a quick sprocket set swap dropping a tooth in the front and adding a couple in the rear should solve this minor inconvenience.

Aprilia RSV4

The Ducati is an extremely aesthetically pleasing piece of Italian artwork with beautiful craftsmanship to prove it. However, riding the V-twin is a bit more of a chore than the Aprilia. The Panigale has a very nimble chassis that can be thrown around with ease but the power delivery is rather exponential delivering relatively abrupt power spikes. In an attempt to smooth out this natural V-twin effect for a more comfortable street ride, Ducati adjusted the fuel mapping in lower RPM’s resulting in the power “kill” below 6,000 RPM that you may be referring to. Though not to worry, there is still plenty of juice on tap in higher RPM’s beyond the tamed, street-friendly zone.

These are two of the most technologically-advanced, well-rounded, publically-available sport motorcycles ever to come out of Europe and one would be hard-pressed to be upset with either. However, if the pricing variables were set equal to each other, my calculations would put the Aprilia Factory APRC ABS on top.

  • ookla_the_mok

    Good comparison article, thanks . I would also love to hear ra compare the multi with the new capo?

    • tarun

      Multi vs. Capo vs KTM would be probably the way to go. Although I think it almost is worth waiting for the BMW to be released.

  • Jack Meoph

    Get a Suzuki GSX-R750. The Ducati isn’t all that, and the Aprilia is a service and parts nightmare.

  • grb

    I hate how on this site, or any other motorcycle publication, they never mention reliability, service, parts, all that other stuff owners have to live with once they buy the bike, which can make the ownership experience a complete nightmare, regardless of how well it performs in a 4 day test.

    • luckyguy1098

      This. Which is why I have a GSXR-750 in the garage. Fast, simple, reliable. I had a 1098 and dealing with the dealership for parts was a nightmare. Aprilia reliability is highly suspect.

      • roma258

        The RSV4 has been on the market for what, 5 years now? If reliability issue, there should be plenty of data to demonstrate it. Otherwise it’s just hearsay and old wives tales.

    • HoundOfDoom

      That was my thought as well. Service requirements and intervals are important. If the bike’s draining your wallet every time you look at it, you won’t want to ride it.

      • hunkyleepickle

        not only that, low side either one of those, and the cost to replace the fairings and repair anything else will crush you.

        • HoundOfDoom

          Well, jeez, if you drop the thing, that’s on you :)

    • Nolan Zandi

      Fair point, I’ll bring that up with the team

    • Jack McLovin

      Insurance can be a weird and seemingly arbitrary but humongous difference in cost per mile so to speak.

      • hunkyleepickle

        truer words were never written.

    • Flying Couch

      Reliability, parts costs, and fuel economy are the things I’d like to see mentioned more. Most of what is in this article could be deduced with a glance at a manufacturer spec sheet and a dyno chart.

    • Clint Keener

      Maintenance isn’t really an issue with the new Ducatis. The belt and valve schedule is at 18k miles I’m pretty sure. For me, that’s every two years. If people complain about that, may as well drive a Prius. Gotta pay to play. $1,000 every other year for a service isn’t a big deal.

      If you live in the middle of Nebraska, might not be a good idea to have either. But if you live in an urban area, not a big deal.

      How was your ownership experience a nightmare?

    • DoubleBloodyDecking

      …service-quality is largely dependent on the shop, and the perception of service-quality is dependent on the owner.

    • BlackSnake

      The German motorcycle news paper “Motorrad” regularly conducts long term (50 000 km) tests, noting any failure and completely disassemble the bike and engine at the end of the test to evaluate tear of each component. Currently they have a Panigale 1199 S in their test. I’m looking forward to the results of their test. The first 12 000 km it apparently performed without a single failure. Last year they had a Ducati Multistrada to run their test on and it performed quite respectably. So maybe the times where Ducati has been anything but reliable really belong to the past.

      • Piglet2010

        “So maybe the times where Ducati has been anything but reliable really belong to the past. ”

        The Wrath of Piëch.

        • BlackSnake

          “The Wrath of Piëch.” LOL.

          Don’t like him either, but as long as they build stunning bikes like the panigale which even don’t break after a few thousand miles, I’m the last to complain.

      • grb

        That sounds awesome, but isn’t it in german?

      • noin007

        As of 2008 Ducati, while better than before, still had extremely expensive maintenance and some really obnoxious issues that Aprilia had fixed at least by 2004, possibly earlier. Such as, you need to keep your Ducati on a charger 24/7 if you’re not riding it a TON every single day. And, Ducati bikes HATE cold weather, Aprilia has no such problem.
        The info I’ve seen on the 2012+ Ducati bikes, and have gotten from fellow local riders who have them is that they’re “better” than previous years, but you still have to baby them.
        Right now I have a 2013 Aprilia and I don’t miss the headache that was owning a Ducati… though sometimes I do miss that beautiful Ducati noise.

        As for this Article: 899 VS the RSV4 is kinda ridiculous. The RSV4 is supposed to go head to head with the 1199.

  • grahluk

    That’s a weird article. Apples to oranges there. Comparing the base model 899 middle weight to the premium model liter bike is like comparing a base model Triumph Daytona 675 to a BMW S1000R/HP4. They are different class bikes and very different level of trim & components. A more even comparison of the two bikes would be the RSV4 Factory and an 1199S.

    • Justin McClintock

      Except that….”i get both for about the same price the factory is just $500 more, and dealers aren’t really dealing on 899.” That makes it a VERY valid comparison.

    • Richard Gozinya

      Eh, not the worst comparison ever. Saw one on YouTube where they thought it would be a great idea to compare a Hayabusa and a Daytona 675 in a drag race.

      • Piglet2010

        Hey, I am still waiting for the TW200 vs. Gold Wing article.

    • Clint Keener

      This is a comparison that people in real life are making. Yea it’s kinda weird on paper, but if you are a good enough rider for a 899, you are “good enough” for a rsv4, right?

      • Ryan Deckard

        Couple the better specs with all the tech advancements on the ape and its a no brainer.

  • Kr Tong

    Fuelling on any bike is a dumb issue. No matter what bike you buy youre going to buy an exhaust, a power commander and change the fuelling anyway.

    • Jack McLovin

      Nope. Fender eliminator maybe.

      • Kr Tong

        Dont forget your rim tape, studded fairing bolts, and opaque windscreen.

        • Jack McLovin

          Oh man, the performance poser with more money than brains is picking on who he perceives I am. How fun.

          • Kr Tong

            Because aesthetic touches on a bone-stock sportbike doesn’t scream poseur.

    • Ayabe

      Maybe, but why should have to plunk down $1000+ to fix fueling issues from the factory? Especially on a $15,000 motorcycle?

      I haven’t read up on the issue but crap fueling in the premium bike category isn’t acceptable, in fact I don’t consider acceptable on the el-cheapo FZ-09 either.

      • Kr Tong

        Fuel mapping is an issue on ALL stock bikes. Bike journos review bikes for other bike journos.

        • Piglet2010

          My Honda NHX110 has subjectively* perfect fueling, so the “ALL” is incorrect.

          * Any issues are masked by the low power-to-weight ratio and CVT transmission.

      • charlie

        Have you ridden or do you own the FZ-09? What are your impressions? I’ve been meaning to check it out at the dealer.

    • Piglet2010

      Nope. I would spend money at Race Tech (or similar) for suspension upgrades first. Especially on a Honda, which will have proper fueling, but most likely too soft springs and goofy damping.

      • DoubleBloodyDecking

        I don’t think he said what would be done first, Piggy.
        Let’s review: “No matter what bike you buy youre going to buy an exhaust, a power commander and change the fuelling anyway”.
        Now of course that’s not universally true even for sportbikes (and certainly not for a guy who would trade down from a 600F4 to a Ninja 250), but in general that’s the modus-operandi for serious sportbike riders. Unless maybe your bike comes with a titanium header and an Akrapovic muffler already, plus track-ready Ohlins front and rear, and a quickshifter, multi-level power-modes, TC and ABS. All stock.

        Then probably just the ECU mod is in order. Eventually. Maybe. Especially if another 20hp is waiting in the wings.
        Unless another 20hp would just be 60HP too much for you psychologically, instead of just 40HP.

        Not to mention if 20HP altogether is all that you can handle, intellectually.

        • Piglet2010

          Nym-shifting after getting banned yet again – .

    • Gerald Irish

      I owned an 1199 and now I have a RSV4. The RSV4 has zero issues with fueling while the 1199 needed a firmware reflash to fix a gaping hole in the power band and it stalled sometimes decelerating in 2nd gear.

      My dealer told me that some other owners solved their issues by going with a termignoni system and PC. I don’t think I should have to buy an aftermarket to fix a problem from the factory. Maybe the 899 and later 1199′s are better in that regard.

      Either way, out of the 5 bikes I’ve owned, the Ducati was the only one with significant fueling issues.

      • Kr Tong

        Stalling on decel is a bigger issue than fuel mapping.

  • John Pollard

    I bought the 899. The nearest Aprilia dealership to me is a good two hours away. My Ducati dealer is 20 minutes. But separate and apart from that, I just didn’t think I could handle the RSV4. The 899 occupies a nice psychological sweet spot for an intermediate rider like me. If I do outgrow it (which I doubt I ever will), I’ll trade up.

    • DoubleBloodyDecking

      Please be serious. The appropriate sportbike for an “intermediate rider” is an R6, Gixxer 600-750, or Speed Triple, 6R maybe. Used, of course.

      Not a $15k 900 that weighs 420lbs, has over 120hp and 60ft-lbs of torque. The psychological sweet-spot for an intermediate rider is well below either of these two bikes. Assuming you ignore the various power and TC modes and the ABS of both. And of course, that thing on the end of the right handlebar. Now of course if you consider yourself an intermediate rider afraid of and unable to manage 160hp peak from a 1000cc motor even with all the electronic aids of a class-leading sportbike and you go for a Panigale 900 with 120hp peak anyway, then you still have to consider the maintenance-cost and price of new parts for each bike. I don’t know about you but I’d happily ride 2 hours each way to get to a shop where the labor-cost is half that of a shop down the street from my house. In fact I’ve ridden 3 hrs each way for that. Two tanks of gas in exchange for half the local shop rate? Any day of the week. That may not be the case here but certainly you should investigate that first.

    • Gerald Irish

      Honestly the RSV4 is pretty tame if you want it to be. You can change the TC setting on the fly with +- buttons and it really doesn’t hit you with a hard surge of torque as soon as you open the throttle the way an 1199 would (haven’t ridden the 899). I do feel you on the distance to the dealer thing. I’m 3 hours away from my closest Ape dealer.

  • skongara

    I suppose, the Aprilia probably has it’s reliability issues sorted out considering its been in production for a few years now. Although in this day and age, I wouldn’t imagine any major issues with new production motorcycles. Don’t most European motorcycles come with 2 years warranty? My 13′ Triumph 675 did; a little more peace of mind considering the revamped 675 was in its 1st production year.

  • charlie

    Not sure how each rides but that Ducati looks stunning.

    • Moot

      The 1199s bends and contorts like a 600 can (source: mine in street trim go as fast as 600 racebikes). They said 899 is more nimble than that with shorter wheelbase (but not lightweight wheels). Give it $2k and you’ll probably get a 400cc -like handling.

  • Dolphin Henry Overton IV

    RSV4 in any configuration. 675R over both.

  • taba

    But, but, but both bikes will kill us!

  • DoubleBloodyDecking

    Assuming that you find this comparison to be credible and take it seriously, it becomes a question of why would you choose one bike over the other.
    To me, the Panigale is a better-looking bike that has a number of mechanical weaknesses compared to the RSV4. The main issue is are you going to look past the “looks” and the fact that one is a Ducati and the other is an Aprilia. Mechanically the choice is butt-effing obvious. Hands-down mechanically and performance-wise the RSV4 is the better bike and while some may discount this on its face, it has consistently tested better in magazine shootouts than the Panigale has, for that reason. “An R6 with literbike power and class-leading electronics” is pretty-much all that needs to be said. I would add to that “it’s a V4 not a V-twin, and it has a real frame not ‘an engine bolted to the triple-clamps, swingarm and rear shock’. This is no contest once you get past the looks and the Ducati rep.

    But sure for a lot of guys the looks and the Ducati rep are far more important than the mechanicals, and true the 899 is not an awful bike. Many say that it’s better than the 1199. So really the choice is easy either way. Just decide what matters to you. Do you want a good sportbike that is also a Ducati as well as perhaps one of the best-looking sportbikes ever made (though personally I’d take an R1 over it if we’re judging on looks), or do you want one of the best sportbikes ever made even if it isn’t a Ducati and isn’t all that great-looking, at least not stock. I think the RSV4 would be great-looking with some sponsor/mfg-type stickers on it, especially losing the turn-signals/mirrors and putting some standard ones on it. Maybe a decent paint-job. It’s already got everything else. I’d say the same for the Panigale in terms of looks, but the 899 has a long way to go to be a great sportbike. But a lot of riders simply don’t need that. My guess is that in the end once that rear pipe fries their butt enough and they try to get rid of it and fail, then they will rethink their choice, if for no other reason. But maybe it just needs a really thick heat-shield to solve that problem.

    It’s still going to sound like a lawn-mower on two wheels but maybe they like that.

  • Bluesceyes

    As an Aprilia owner this was a no-brainer. I just wish that Aprilia would finally bend and make a sub-liter bike or a 250-300cc sportbike which was their bread and butter for years.

    The only issue with Aprilia however is their dealer network sucks depending on where you live. This, and Aprilia has yet to offer a branded espresso set. I kid, I kid.

    • Moot

      So it’s everywhere? Their dealer network where I live down under here is not something to be proud of either, apparently.

      • Bluesceyes

        I live in the Midwest and the closest dealer is 1.5 hours away. The west cost and south do have a good network but it is still nothing compared to the Japanese companies. The Aprilia forums are some of the best around however

  • HoldenL

    Does anyone else think the RSV4 Factory is prettier than the Ducati? The Aprilia is stunning in person, with a sexy hourglass shape. Aesthetically, the Aprilia wins, IMO.

  • Ryan Deckard

    Specs here are all day in favor of the ape, right? Plus its a monster on a track and still looks good in front of the coffee shop.

    I’ll just stick with my 1190rx

  • Afonso Mata

    And the Aprillia has 3 World Superbike titles on the last 4 years. The Factory is supposed to be the homologation special of the RSV4, right? Win on sunday, sell on monday ;)

  • Moot

    On one hand the Ohlins on he RSV4 themselves virtually seals the deal if one is looking for enjoyment. Granted you still need them worked on to tune to your weight and style, but it is a significantly better platform than the 899′s budget platform (I know so, I’ve compared worked Showas on my 848 against Panigale’s Ohlins and they are different).
    On the other, yes, the running cost of a Panigale (or ducati superbike in general) can range from ‘high’ to ‘astronomical’.
    The panigale’s traction control is very good, though. Seamless.
    If you can afford the maintenance cost, and can afford lightweight wheels and are looking for handling, get the 899. That frameless design is nimble.