THIS MONTH I HAVE MOSTLY BEEN… “Play­ing with tech.”

Fast Bikes - - LONGTERMERS -

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.

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