NEW HONDA FIREBLADE
Faster, lighter, easier to ride – Honda’s crisp new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP goes back to the model’s roots and is ready to reset the expectations for a large sportsbike... all over again
The most exciting CBR since 1992. Honda build a high-tech Blade true to the original's revolutionary values.
THE SINGLE MOST important thing about Honda’s heavily reworked Fireblade SP is not the increase in horsepower. It isn’t the arrival of never-ending electronic assistance, nor the rather sharp new clothing. No, the most significant fact about Honda’s new flagship sportsbike is the whopping increase in its power-to-weight ratio, which soars upwards by a rather significant 14 per cent. Yes, fourteen per cent. This is Honda staying true to the Fireblade’s design ethos. When the original CBR900RR was released (yes, 25 years ago – blimey) it made a mockery of other large-capacity sportsbikes not by trying to out-grunt them, but by bringing compact design, balance and low weight to a part of the market occupied by oversize dinosaurs. Yes, a Suzuki GSX-R1100 or Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 made more power than the new Honda – a lot more, actually – but the lighter, trimmer, more agile CBR ran rings round them. Literally. So rather than get involved in a power face-off with today’s big-hitters – the brutish, bludgeoning BMW S1000RR and Kawasaki’s shrieking ZX-10R – Honda have again focused on cornering, acceleration and braking through serious weight loss. ‘All 1000cc sportsbikes are extraordinary examples of high performance engineering,’ says the Fireblade’s project leader. ‘But we want extraordinary to be the pleasure of handling and controlling such a machine’. They’ve reduced the weight of the CBR1000RR’S engine by 2kg. Pistons are thinner and lighter, valve train components go from steel to aluminium, and there are magnesium covers. The exhaust is titanium, saving another 2.8kg. Even the radiator and battery are redesigned to save a few essential grams over the previous model. There’s as much flab-saving attention to detail on the chassis. It’s evolved from the previous machine, however a new die-cast
‘Honda have focused on cornering and acceleration’
subframe saves 800g, and the section thicknesses of the swingarm are altered for another 100g. Thinning the main frame walls has saved half a kilo but Honda claim transverse rigidity is unaffected, though it’s more flexible in a torsional plane, for improved feel. And so it goes on, and on, and on. In total Honda’s obsessive desire to cut weight has knocked the Fireblade down by 15kg. Wet weight, ready to roll, is now a delicate 195kg – that’s less than the featherweight (and sadly discontinued) CBR600RR and thirteen whole bags of sugar less than BMW’S revised S1000RR. Less weight means quicker reactions. The departing version of the Fireblade is hardly ponderous (see page 52 for evidence) but the new bike’s diet makes it even more agile. The moments of inertia for yaw and roll are cut by 15% and 10% respectively – or, put another way, it takes a massive fat chunk less effort to convince the already nimble Fireblade SP to change direction. This all comes despite the addition of lots more wires, sensors and black boxes doing mysterious things. Yes, the Fireblade SP goes all-in for electronics. There’s ninelevel traction control (an enhanced version of the system off the RC213V-S), anti-wheelie, adjustable engine braking, rear lift control under heavy braking, cornering ABS, modes (three preset, plus user-defined), a power selector... plus a quickshifter that has Downshift Assist as well. Just stamp down the ’box while an auto-blipper does its stuff. Honda’s tag for the Blade has always been ‘Total Control’. Now it’s gone all digital that’s changed, of course. Now we’ve got Next Stage Total Control. The new SP also boasts semi-active electronic suspension, made by Öhlins and using their NIX30 fork and TTX36 shock. Its control unit looks at roll rate, yaw rate and lean angle information, adds it to data on wheel speed, revs, throttle position and braking effort,
and fiddles with the damping accordingly. There are three Active modes (track, sport and comfort) and three Manual (where you can make adjustments and set things up as badly as you wish). And the acceleration improvement we mentioned earlier? While inside the engine, saving grams and ensuring Euro 4 compliance, Honda wound up compression from 12.3:1 to 13:1, redesigned the pistons, altered valve lift and timing, and used superior material for the crank and valve train that allows the rev limit to creep up to 13,000rpm. There’s an extra 11 horses available, with a peak of 189bhp at 12,500rpm. Hence that somewhat impressive 14% hike in the Fireblade SP’S power-to-weight ratio. As if the super-swanky Fireblade SP isn’t enough, Honda will also be knocking out an SP2 variant. Likely to be a limited run, it’s a road legal homologation special intended as a base for racing. It features: larger valves working at slightly different angles; elongated sparkplugs; valve lifters that are lighter and designed ready to accept high-lift camshafts; stronger pistons with shorter and lighter gudgeon pins; and lighter Marchesini wheels. It has the same electronic control gubbins as the SP, but with settings exclusive to the SP2. Honda also have assorted race kit goodies ready for ‘both race and general circuit use’. Obviously this won’t all be cheap. Honda haven’t released prices yet, but we’d estimate £17,500 for the SP and nearing £20k for the SP2. There’s good news, however. There will still be a regular non-sp Blade in 2017, with conventional suspension but with all the power, weight and styling benefits. It’s expected at the EICMA show at the start of November. Form an orderly queue.
‘Good news – there’ll also be a regular non-sp Fireblade in 2017’
Brighter blue, a hint of gold, Marchesini wheels – this is the limited edition SP2