Aprilia RS250

Do You Remember….Aprilia RS250

Here at CB-Net, it’s not just the chart-toppers and yardstick bikes that we like to talk about – we love reminding you about the bikes that didn’t quite make it that big…

What was it then?

It was the final incarnation of the street-scorching 250cc two-stroke mad machine…

Aprilia launched the road bike in 1994, just as Max Biaggi was achieving greatness on their race machine called – yup, the RS250… Aprilia seemed to be far too busy building amazing (and stunning) 250cc title-winning race bikes for the likes of Biaggi, Loris Capirossi and later even Valentino Rossi to build a road bike from scratch, so they hit upon a novel idea.

Why not use Suzuki’s proven RGV250M based engine? Yeah, of course it wasn’t exactly the same (Rotax did some work on the barrels/CDI) but the bike itself was gorgeous – using Aprilia’s sculptured frame/swingarm in which to house the lump. Of course ‘Aprilia’ engine cases hid the lie well…

So it had a banana swingarm?
Oh yes! Suzuki’s delicious RGV250M/N models first used the banana swingarm but later N/P/R models used a braced one. The rumour was that
Suzuki had nabbed the idea without permission, but in Italy anyone threatening anyone else with legal action of the sort that makes motorcycles look less than gorgeous ends up ‘sleeping with the fishes.’ So, yes the Aprilia RS250 had that swingarm and it looked fantastic. It was functional too…the recess in the curve of the swingarm allowed the exhausts to run higher and tighter to the bike than any conventional ‘arm could allow, giving the bike those extra, crucial degrees when it came to angle of lean arguments down the pub…

Italian… two-stroke: reliable?
Jap motor, remember? The VJ22-based engine was good for 55bhp in standard trim but it needed plenty of TLC, as we’re finding today with older RGVs. It needed good-quality two-stroke oil, gearboxes could give trouble, especially on ex-track/race bikes and the SAPC valve can sometimes make an entrance into the combustion chamber. Do check the RGV forums for what works and what doesn’t… they’ve learned the hard way!

We have to ask: was it better than the RGV250M?
Performance-wise there wasn’t anything in it as power was comparable. So in out-right handling/performance stakes – it is honours even.

RS250But, if you mean the Aprilia RS250 was a better more complete and polished package with much more history on its side then the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’. Why? Well, both do well as used classics, but the RGV’s fame came from one man: Kevin Schwantz. Both in early VJ21 Pepsi replicas and later Lucky Strike replicas Suzuki were waving the flag for a man who never raced an RGV250… although we did hear he tested one a few times. Suzuki’s only real race-winner was old John Kocinski in the 1993 GP season and (ahem) he wasn’t as popular as ‘Revvin’ Kevin.

In comparison the RS250’s family tree is full of the cream of Italian, Spanish, Japanese et-al’s racing big guns…
How long did the bike last?
Production ran for a decade from 1994. There was a makeover in 1998: this was mostly cosmetic, the frame and engine remained untouched. The forks were improved and the front wheel rim went a tad wider, ride height adjustment featured on the new rear shock. The ram air intake was a gimmick, it was a nod to Marco Melandri’s championship winning bike, along with the new seat unit so the bike looked a tad fatter compared to the lithe Mk.1…

What to look for when buying one?
“Age will not weary them…” So that means a well-looked after 1994 bike can be better than the last 2004 model. But… do realise that the oldest of the breed are now almost a quarter of a century old…  So, consumables are everything on this bike and with the motor being a Suzuki, plenty of spares are out there. When it comes to the chassis parts, the Sachs rear shock on pre-98 models will be shot by now, so don’t panic if it’s been replaced by something a little more race oriented.

Do check to see if it’s been crashed/raced (if the latter has happened the former has occurred as RS250s even had their own race series.) Remove any frame covers to inspect frame rails for damage. Ask for proof of any engine work that’s alleged to have taken place or assume that it hasn’t if that proof isn’t forthcoming!

Are they expensive?

Six years back these were the cheapie end of the two-stroke 250cc street-screamer class… not anymore. While the likes of the RGV, TZR NSR and KR1/S values took off and went ballistic, the later RS250 values stayed relatively low. The RS250 was the forgotten stroker of the noughties and prices for a decent runner were in the £2000 ball-park. Not any more…

Now, rough ones start at that price minimum and climb to around £5000-£7000 for later, lower-mile machines.

APRILIA RS250R 1994-2004

Price new: £5495 (1994)

Price now: £2000-£6000

Engine: 249cc, liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin, two-stroke.

Power: 55bhp @ 10,500rpm

Weight: 141kilos

Wheelbase: 1370mm

FOR: So gorgeous… look at that frame!

AGAINST: Try and find a ‘never raced or rallied’ one!