Lucky Strike staining (red passenger seat and mirrors blacks)
Aprilia RS125R Extrema vs Cagiva Mito Race
IF YOU crave the quiet life, don't even think about an Aprilia RS125R
Extrema. The easy sophistication of modern motorcycling is definitely not on the
agenda here. Neither are workaday concepts such as 'trickling through town
unnoticed', 'just riding round a bit' and 'being remotely sensible'.
No. The 34bhp Extrema is for committed nutters; fans of head-down, full-bore
lOOmph momentumism. The Extrema is for those willing to coax unreal speed from
puny power, then preserve it at all costs. The Extrema responds only when
subjected to the uncompromising attack plan of a 125 grand prix racer: 1) peg
throttle open 2) tread gear lever furiously 3) cling to speed like demented
pitbull, and never let go. Dogged slipstream-ing, precision overtaking and
ferocious corner speeds are the 125 racer's trademarks; buy an Extrema and they
will become yours too, reality suspended forthwith.
It's all knees in, blue smoke and black visor. Ideally there's some Italian
blood in the family tree. Move only when necessary and in measured amounts.
Brake later, much later, and then brake less. Abuse the engine, caress the
chassis or go in slow arid come out crawling. Rev it ruthlessly, all the time.
Buy exotic two-stroke oils, never hesitate, relax or be embarrassed. Be in fact
a short grand prix hero, and 50 times a day peek in the mirrors to check a
policeman didn't witness what you just did.
This is life on the Extrema - outrageous fun, hopeless transport. To a real
grand prix racer it's probably a slug, his humble paddock hack most likely, but
just as the fastest GP bikes now come often as not from Italy, so indisputably
"do the most authentic GP replicas. And if ever a road-going motorcycle were fit
to receive a celebrated factory bottom, this is the one. Really, to use the
Extrema as a plain motorbike is to ask the impossible.
Its heavenly curves and racy detail elevate it high above the 125 norm; a
sprung front brake master cylinder, itself a mere thimble; myriad dinky button
screws; and a total absence of cable guides and clutter score a desirability
rating at least on a par with the RGV250. Big bike snobs may scoff, but in this
unrestricted guise the Extrema (like the Cagiva Mito) is genuinely classless; no
more a novice-friendly stepping stone than a Honda GoldWing. Gone are the days
when having the 125 .business meant knocking out the restrictor and binning the
L-plates. Graduated learners should ride a middleweight first - work up
to the Extrema.
After all, it costs £3650, so should deliver like any other performance bike.
There's plenty of bluffing (carbon fibre stickers etc) but you can't foist tat
onto the huge and discerning Italian 125 market. An ally twin-spar frame, 40mm
upside-down forks, a four-piston caliper, 320mm floating disc, and wide, 17in
Dunlop radials are just for starters.
The grand prix derived touches are endless. By Japanese standards its
fasteners and fittings are sparse and tiny; the opposed-piston rear caliper
renders most efforts plain clumsy. The sprung to unsprung weight ratio takes on
extra significance on a bike weighing just 115kg dry and the Extrema gives its
suspension every chance by using scooped-spoke wheels unusually delicate by
production bike standards^ The forks share one spring (left leg) and one damper
unit (right leg) to counterbalance the front disc and caliper, and minimise
steering inertia. And the Extrema is also serious about aerodynamics, the
fairings have no sharp edges, only unexpected curves, while the underseat area
is faired off to smooth the air flow around the rear wheel. Tucking in can send
a labouring tacho needle singing into the red.
This, the RS125R version of the Extrema, is ostensibly an RS125, the short
wheelbase beauty that succeeded the AF1 Sport Pro at the top of Aprilia UK's
range, plus a carbon fibre exhaust can (wrapped round thin-walled ally), carbon
fibre air ducts, and a polished metal finish on that dribblingly beautiful frame
and swing-arm. It's an incredible piece of metal, neatly welded aluminium alloy
spars cast into ribbed C-sections that are both light (9.75kg according to the
frame sticker) and stiff beyond a 125's wildest performance dreams. The
curva-ceously braced swing-arm, which replaced the old AF1-style mono-arm, is
equally awesome and allows the Extrema to run a drastically short 1345mm
wheel-base without a hint of instability. And that's the crux of the bike's
handling. It doesn't steer with the nervous intensity of the Mito, but clings to
the race-ready Cagiva by dint of its infallible precision.
It has, for a 125, big handling: lightness of touch but also a planted
footprint which makes it less out and out fun than the Mito, but less of a toy
too. The flattop tank, slotted and waisted for knees provides bracing without
putting destabilising pressure on the wide bars, even under bonkers braking. The
stubby pegs are high and rearset and make six footers as welcome as traditional
125 midgets. A full tuck is amazingly comfortable, in fact the whole chassis is
a brilliant blend of lunacy, response, balance and security. Tracking the Mito
at the Pembrey race track in Wales, I felt I could flick faster, and more
accurately than Nige Breslain (easily the best Subbuteo player in my school).
Truth is, I couldn't. Returning from the medical centre I surmised that the
steeply profiled Dunlops lend much needed zip to the steering, but their hard
wearing compound dumped me out. The suspension, too, could use some damping
adjustment as, on rougher surfaces, the rear shock got choppy and the forks,
progressive enough on the immense but abrupt brakes, bounced back at the crucial
turn in point. The Cagiva, meanwhile, was still thrashing round. Swallowing ZXRs
The engine, unchanged from the AF1 series apart from unspecified port work,
is just motion for the chassis. On paper it's all there — a compact
liquid-cooled single, long life Nikasil plated barrels, RAVE exhaust valve and a
lumpy 14.5:1 compression ratio - but is dwarfed by the handling. It sounds and
revs like a 12bhp TZR125, vibrates despite a balance shaft, was stuffed out of
sight by the Mito.
Moving from the free-revving (but fickle) Cagiva to the woolly Extrema was
like losing a cylinder on a KR-1S twin, the crisp snap that makes all good
two-strokes worth thrashing sadly absent. What the Extrema has though is proven
reliability — use a good oil and it'll need re-ringing less often than a ZXR
will need shimming. And what it does is click straight into life on the button
(no kick-start), warm quickly and pull keenly enough from 6500rpm. As the
two-stage RAVE shifts at 8100rpm, the hitherto •sterile exhaust note finally
cuts an edge and the revs whizz up to the 11,000 before tailing off fast. In a
lesser chassis that would be exciting, in the Extrema it's just enough.
Anyway, these 125 stand or fall on their gearboxes. The Extrema's uses the
same internals as the Sport Pro which means three clonky lower gears and three
sweet upper ones, spaced close enough for a shift at peak power at ll.000rpm to
drop the needle at the top of the torque curve at 9000rpm. So despite a late and
jerky clutch it's easy enough to keep the Extrema buzzing either in the useful
6-8000 range or up at boiling point. Our tester could reach 80 indicated mph
anytime, though often only after dropping to fifth, and given a long enough
stretch exploited its tall overall gearing to overhaul the Mito.
Who buys Extremas? According to Aprilia UK a typical customer is still to
emerge even after selling 300 bikes since last August. "We've had plenty of
younger blokes, as you'd expect," says Aprilia's Steve Reynolds, "but just as
many older customers, including a 53-year-old farmer. I think the public now
know what Aprilias are, a lot of credit has to go to the company's GP success."
The RS/R version comes in at the same, price as the plain RS, maintaining
Italy's relative advantage over the Japanese yen (TZR125: £3939). A free Abus
goes to every Aprilia customer.
In spite of its intoxicating imagery and the obvious legal advantages of
playing racers on a 125 in preference to a FireBlade, the Extrema still gets a
tad tiresome when there are miles to be done or metropoli to be crossed.
Presumably, all these mature customers have another bike for distance days, when
75 miles between petrol stops simply isn't enough.
The clearest advantage the Extrema has over the Mito is that, by comparison,
it is positively staid. You can say no to its traffic light pleas for
ll,000rpm and a screaming clutch. You can gurgle passed a policemen
looking every inch the responsible motorcyclist. Then, when the going's good and
that bout of sobriety evaporates, you can just pin it.
Cagiva Mito Race
RIDING CAGIVA'S works racer Mito is more fun than having a fag behind the
school bike shed. It's the same sort of nerve-tingling, adrenalin-pumping
thrill, but believe me, it feels far, far naughtier. Breathing in lungfuls of
racing two-stroke oil is one of the great joys of life.
It's all about tunnel-vision excitement. Without mirrors you just don't know
when Plod is creeping up, but somehow you simply don't care. Just keep your head
down, screw that throttle open and hope for the best... Familiar?
With a claimed top speed of 120mph, this must be the fastest 125 on the
block. However you look at it, the Race version of the standard Lawson II Mito
is about the nearest thing you'll find on the road to a fully-blown grand prix
maahine, Extrema included and it's not just the Eddie tag that gives it
street cred. Those tasty looks, that smooth feel and the crackling sound are
pedigree, while some red-hot performance will see this Mito burn off anything
else in its class.
On the road it's a bit of a disaster. The lightweight moped chain stretches
like a lakky band and the jetting is so crucial that the engine can become
bogged down in cold, damp conditions. Not to mention the lack of mirrors and
starter motor, although the bike push-starts with ease. Just don't stall at the
lights, which is easier said than done, because there's no idle either.
Still, this Italian Cagiva race series-spec bike flew down from Peterborough
to London on a still, warm day, easily reaching an indicated 180kph (112mph) and
holding seventh gear with ease.
Round town it's nifty, but the tall first gear means you have to rev like mad
to get a clean drag from the lights.
The ride back was altogether different — and plain hard work. The roads were
damp and the heavy night air played havoc with the jetting. Carb set-up is so
crucial that the bike comes with a workshop manual to enable you to jet up
according to the weather and at the time I'd have preferred the less fussy
Extrema. Petrol consumption plummeted from 42mpg on the southbound trip to just
over 35mpg, hitting reserve after just 76 miles. And I had to fight to maintain
85mph, hardly ever getting into top.
The race circuit is the Mito's true home, and at Pembrey it made a mockery of
the poor old Aprilia Extrema (which it should have done), along with a host of
other, much bigger bikes.
The razor-sharp, almost nervous steering and the crisp power would even turn
Mr Nice-But-Dim into a sadistic, fire-breathing demon. This Mito, which is both
raced in Ministock and ridden on the road by importers Three Cross, is one of a
limited bunch of specials built each year by the factory. The engine has been
extensively breathed on and the suspension uprated, while some excess flab has
been trimmed off. Race-spec wheels and tyres complete the package.
It has a useful midrange for a 125, but the motor screams to be thrashed and
the race ignition allows it to rev freely to the 13,000rpm limit. That's great,
because otherwise you'd have to concentrate on the wafer-thin powerband between
9500rpm and the ll,000rpm red line to stay alight. Slip below that and you need
to nip down a couple of cogs to build the revs up again.
The Mito packs a punch like no other 125 coming out of corners and despite my
extra weight and size, I was able to pull away from tiny Tim Thompson riding the
Handling is the other great Mito joy. Steering is so quick it's almost
twitchy, but the bike is smooth and steady through even bumpy bends, thanks to
the fully-adjustable race suspension.
The improved midrange, lack of weight, stonking brakes and excellent handling
makes the Cagiva the perfect wet-weather racer. You can get away with whacking
on the power earlier than you'd ever dare on a big bike. Race-compound Hi-Sport
radials tyres also made a huge difference, biting hard while Tim slid around in
If I had a spannerman who understood barometric pressure, a luxurious
motorhome and a Kocinski surly Southern drawl, I'd love to race this little
beauty. But own it as a road bike? Gimme a fag any day.