This week we have something special. An interview with the creator of the world famous RSVR550 project.
How about a small introduction of yourself to the readers of Aprilia News?
My name is David Howard I’m a 46 year old school teacher living in
Congratulations with this beautiful project. It’s respected and well known by motorcycle enthusiasts all over the world. You must have gotten a lot of compliments?
The reaction to the bike has been fantastic, I have talked to a lot of people and all I get positive comments like “that will be the best track bike in the world” so we are thrilled that it has been a popular project.
When and how did the idea for this project originated?
Simon and I first discussed the bike in September 06 and I started to look into the project. Simon had recently taken over the role of MD of www.rsvr.net and was looking for a promotional platform for the business, Over a beer or two the Idea was developed and the more we threw ideas around the more we got excited at the prospect of building a unique bike. The deadline for completion was decided at this time as Simon wanted the bike finished for the London Motorcycle show in February.
Why the combo of the Aprilia RS250 and SXV 550 engine?
Simon and I had both had RS250 track bikes in the past, and despite moving on to bigger faster and more expensive bikes we both agreed that the best handling and most fun track day bikes we had ridden were our RS250’s. Initially I had thought about putting a KTM 525 motor into the RS chassis but the Aprilia sxv550 motor seemed perfect, however getting hold of an engine would prove to be difficult.
You finished this project in 4 months. That’s really fast. What is the secret for getting a project like this done so fast?
After watching episodes of American Chopper I figured that if they could build a bike to a deadline than so could I. Simon set a rigid deadline for completion of the project, it had to be ready for the Excel MCN London Bike show. Therefore a project plan was drawn up. Simon and I drew up a job list, and allocated tasks to each other. Simon headed off to the
I worked on the bike for an hour or so each evening and one day each weekend, so the actual build could be completed in about two weeks if necessary. A dry wipe white board is invaluable as everything that needs to be done can be planned in chronological order therefore while one part is away being painted I had other things to get on with.
What was the biggest problem you encountered during the build of the bike? And which part went a lot smoother than expected?
Getting hold of the engine was a problem. Aprilia wouldn’t sell us an engine so we had to buy a brand new bike, just to harvest the engine and electrics. Fitting the SXV engine into the chassis caused the only real headache. The SXV swinging arm pivots through the back of the motor where the RS does not. To get the chain run right and the balance of the bike correct I needed to get the engine as far back in the chassis as possible. Initially I looked at using the SXV swinging arm, while this would be possible it would require a huge amount of frame modification as the rear cylinder would be where the top shock mount would need to go. I spent about a week trying tiny adjustment to get the best compromise, and eventually made up new engine mounts and a small amount of machining of the RS swinging arm. This threw up another problem there was no room for the rear exhaust pipe, some brilliant pipe bending from Gibson Exhausts solved this. The easy bit was bolting on all the expensive goodies like the Ohlins forks and shock. The wiring was surprisingly easy as well. In fact any competent mechanic could easily complete this conversion with the appropriate fitting kit.
What would you have done differently looking back on the project?
Nothing major, we are both delighted with the bike. My wife would probably like me to do things differently however as I was a pretty useless husband for a couple of months.
The bike has already been tested on the track. How did it perform on its first shakedown?
The bikes first outing was at Rockingham Motor Speedway, just last week. Motorcycle News road tester Michael Neeves did a full test of the bike, Simon took the bike out for three laps then Neevsy completed 32 laps without stopping. This was the first time the bike had been ridden. The motor was run in on the dyno the week before. Michael was on track with Bruce Dunn on his 2006 TZ250 both bikes were lapping at a similar pace which was fantastic. To get the bike to lap within half a second of a fully sorted 250 GP bike was far better than we expected. The only thing that Michael suggested was to make a slight adjustment to the front compression damping. We are now looking for a suitable race series for the bike.
How did the tuning of the engine go? How much HP did it put out on the dyno?
The engine is basically standard at the moment. It runs without an airbox and has a Gibson Exhaust system and a power commander fitted. HM Racing set it all up for us on their dyno and it’s producing 71bhp and 38f/lb of torque. We will leave the motor in this state for this season. Over next winter we will go for maximum power from the engine.
Will the bike be raced in any kind of racing class or is it just for trackdays?
Trackdays were the main motivation for the bike however the shakedown run went so well that we are now considering entering the Thunderbike series, I am awaiting confirmation that the bike is eligible. I would like to go over to Assen for the Ducati club meeting just to show up a few bigger bikes.
With the interest from all over the world didn’t it cross your mind to make a kit for the engine transplant? A basic kit like the engine cradle, mounts and etc?
Apart for being a publicity platform for RSVR.net selling kits was always a consideration. I have fitting kits which can be bought via www.rsvr.net I will also do full conversions for a fee.
You built this bike for Simon Steele from RSVR.net. Didn’t you want to keep the bike yourself? Or do you also get to drive it from time to time?
I’d love to keep the bike but as Simon has invested nearly £20,000 in the bike I can’t afford it. Simon is a generous bloke and I’m sure I’ll be taking it to a few trackdays, after all if I bend it I can mend it.
Do you have any tips for people that want to start a project like this on their own?
Planning is the most important thing, don’t just let your project evolve, have a clear idea what you want to achieve and workout a timeline so that you can keep working on the bike. Also whenever you send items out for work make sure that you keep your suppliers happy and you will be amazed how much they will do to help you.
Another thing, always use the best tools and the correct tools for the job.
Can you tell something about the projects/bikes you did in the past? Or was this your first big project?
I have built a project bike every year for the past decade; as soon as it gets too cold to ride I lock myself in the workshop and make something different. I’m not a fan of standard bikes. The last few projects are:
· Suzuki RG570 engine in RGV250 chassis
· Custom Harley Davidson Sportster. USD Forks Marchesinis etc.
· Yamaha/Spondon 690 Supermono
· Ducati Paso Trackbike
· KTM525 Supermotard
Take a look at my website for some pictures. www.drhracing.com
Any plans for another nice project like this in the future?
I will build something next winter, I haven’t decided what yet. I am thinking of fitting TZ125 cylinders to my RG500 engine with homemade reed valve conversion, this should make around 150bhp, I have an RS250 rolling chassis in the shed, now that would be a fun bike.
Or maybe I can get hold of an Aprilia V4 motor, now that would be good, I could make a MotoGP replica, I just need to find a patron who wants a unique bike.
Of course Aprilia should have built an RSVR550. Which other bikes than the RSVR550 would you like to see from them?
I would love to have an Aprilia cube, viciously powerful and impractical; I think that would be sensational.
And finally do you have any motorcycling tips for the readers of Aprilia News?
Don’t buy your next bike, get in the shed and build it. It’s not that hard and it’s really satisfying when you finish.
Check out the RSVR550 video by MCN.co.uk here