HONDA CBR1000RR SP
THIS MONTH I HAVE MOSTLY BEEN… “Playing with tech.”
If you’ve read the SBOTY test then you’ll know my SP didn’t win. It didn’t even make the podium, but I’m not too bothered about that. Fast laps are one thing but if it’s a pure riding experience you’re after then I reckon the Blade’s a cut above the rest. I lost count of how many laps I clocked on the Honda, but all of them were done with a massive smile because it made me feel good. It wasn’t the fastest bike, or the best handling, but it made you feel like a superstar. The rear end was always wagging on the brakes and sliding on corner exits, and there was always an edge of surprise when it came to predicting what the electronics would do. I said last month that my plan for this issue was to get a fuller grasp of the SP’s tech, and that’s what I’ve done.
But before I start slating and rating, it’s important to keep perspective in mind; Al and I were riding these bikes balls out, looking for every tenth of a second and often negating any human preservation in the doing so. I had some huge moments on most of the bikes… including the Blade. But the Honda was the one I was inclined to forgive. From a pure power perspective, it was the underdog, but it never gave up the fight. Its rider aids were also the most intrusive, with its ABS being a bit of a mare and the unpredictability of its wheelie control system caused my knackers to get a good old kicking on too many occasions.
There was nothing to be done to sort the ABS qualm, as the system couldn’t be turned off or switched to a track mode, which was a real shame on a bike costing £19k. And the only way to get around the wheelie control hang-up was to completely disengage the TC altogether. I wasn’t a fan of doing that, but it was the only way to not lose loads of time against bikes with more sophisticated systems.
Thankfully, the bike’s talkative chassis helped out here, inspiring confidence and helping me to rinse the motor and I bloody loved that! But I’ll not deny I felt a tad safer with the TC set to level one. The traction control package on the Blade is really good, especially in the lowest numbers. It still allowed me to slide the rear end without ever feeling vulnerable when set to level one, but I was trusting it to have my back should things get too far out of line. I’d have happily raced this bike on that selection, if it wasn’t for the anti-wheelie element which was automatically engaged – as was the rear wheel lift function that tied in with the ABS and caused the bike to track onwards if it sensed the rear was prone to lift. It’s such a shame, and somewhat ironic that these systems are in place to make your ride safer, but they actually made the ride more dangerous for me on track.
On a more positive note, the Öhlins electronic suspension proved genius on track. I already love it on the road, but the semi-active systemmade life awesome in the bends and filled me with confidence. The blade’s talkative chassis helped the job further, and its lightweight demeanour made apex smashing a doddle. Most of the time I had the bike set on ‘A1’ (Automatic 1 – the firmest and fastest of three auto options), but I couldn’t resist dabbling with the manual setup on the ‘User’ menus. There’s so much adaptability on tap and it’s intuitive to master. To be fair the auto modes worked a treat, and aside from benefiting from a bit of braking support, I didn’t really gain much frommy fettling, but it was fun all the same. I’ve come back loving the Blade more than I did before we went away, but I’ve also got a few ideas to up its game. I’m after more power, better ground clearance and less intrusive electronics. Watch this space.
Off the lorry and ready to be thrashed! We’re not sure what he’s doing to the tank either! The Honda’s tech is great on the roads, but limiting on track.