We went out riding on the road first. And immediately, we were reminded of the comfy seating ergos of the RS. The handlebars are wide, the seat isn’t too hard or high, and even though the footpegs are rearset, they aren’t extremely so.
Then there’s the added mid range grunt of the engine. We spent over an hour riding the RS around twisties, motorways, and through some villages, and that engine handled it all without missing a beat. We would short shift, roll on the gas, and watch it pull cleanly and effortlessly from 4,000rpm all the way to the redline.
I mean with the bike in third gear, we were puttering through villages, and trying to keep the front wheel down over crests on full throttle. That’s the sort of flexibility the engine now offers. And apart from the ride which felt a little choppy over bumps, and the steering which felt wavy at low speeds, there was nothing else to complain about.
But, the RS truly comes alive on a race track. And to say that about a street naked is tremendously high praise. Now the track - Circuito Cartagena - is a challenging one. Lots of blind corners, lots of elevation changes, and lots of tightening radius corners. Naturally, it is easy to make mistakes on such a track. And I did. More than once.
Coming into the first corner at Cartagena after a relatively long straight, one has to hard on the brakes, drop down a few gears, and then turn the bike over a blind crest. To carry good speed through this corner, one has to trust the motorcycle’s ability as much as their own.
But on one particular lap, I got it so wrong I only had the motorcycle’s ability to rely on. I had to brake harder. I had to carry way more trail braking into the corner than I am comfortable with. And then I had to lean the bike over pretty far to avoid running into gravel. And it did it all without too much drama.
Sure, the rear wiggled a bit under braking. And I had to put in more effort to turn it in. And, to my horror I was scrapping the pegs all the way through. But here’s the thing with the RS, if setup right - it does get fully adjustable front and rear suspension after all - it manages to mask your mistakes, your shortcomings, and your poor judgment of speed so well, you can’t help but love it.
Plus, on those rare occasions where I wasn’t getting it wrong, the RS just flowed through corners effortlessly. It would turn into corners almost intuitively. It would settle in and track the line through the corner like a monorail.
And then, when you got on the gas at exits, it would put down the power seamlessly and with proper authority and precision. So much so that you’d find yourself charging towards the next corner with the front wheel just skimming the road even though you weren’t still completely upright.
The only thing I wasn’t completely happy about though, was the quickshifter. It works both while shifting up and down the gearbox. And the shifts themselves, even with the throttle wide open, are not a concern. But it’s the abruptness of the way the engine cuts while making these shifts that feels crude and bothersome.