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

BIKE (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Mike Ar­mitage Pho­tog­ra­phy Honda

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

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