FIRST BLADE + GUZZI BUY­ING GUIDE

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Revo­lu­tion­ary mo­tor­cy­cles, by their very na­ture, don’t just have a pro­found ef­fect on a few – they have a huge in­flu­ence on the whole of mo­tor­cy­cling. Kawasaki's GPz900R, for ex­am­ple, with its pi­o­neer­ing, liq­uid-cooled, 16-valve mo­tor and in­te­grated, fully-faired de­sign, set the tem­plate in 1983 for all su­per­bikes to fol­low. While Honda’s 1969 CB750K, for an­other, in­tro­duced the very con­cept of the four-cylin­der ‘UJM’ – or Uni­ver­sal Ja­panese Mo­tor­cy­cle – which dom­i­nated bik­ing for the next two decades. But the very best of these also af­fect us per­son­ally, in­di­vid­u­ally… as reader Dy­lan Owen re­calls of his early Honda Fire­Blade. “I had a ’96 Fire­Blade,” he told MCN. “It was my first real su­per­bike. I’d rid­den a few bikes be­fore but noth­ing with the power or rep­u­ta­tion of the Blade. I re­mem­ber think­ing it wasn’t all that spe­cial as I rode away from the deal­er­ship. Un­til, that is, the first long stretch of road. The bal­lis­tic surge of power at 6000rpm just blew me away. It’s an amaz­ing work of en­gi­neer­ing and a bike I’d love to have in my garage again.” That ‘amaz­ing work of en­gi­neer­ing’, of course, didn’t come easy. The first CBR900RR was con­ceived as a road­go­ing su­per­sports ma­chine (hence its slightly un­usual 900cc des­ig­na­tion af­ter orig­i­nally be­ing penned as a 750) with the goal of putting Honda firmly back on the street su­per­bike map – some­where Big H hadn’t been since the days of the CB900F. Reader Gra­ham hasn't looked back since he bought his first Blade

'I’VE HAD FOUR'

"I was rid­ing a Yamaha FZR600 when a Ja­panese earth­quake halted Bridge­stone tyre pro­duc­tion," reader Gra­ham Ni­cholls told MCN. "Un­able to get the rub­ber I wanted, I went in search of a so­lu­tion. Into the show­room I strode, to be greeted by a six-month old Blade. 'Why is that here?' I asked. 'Owner brought it back be­cause it scared the liv­ing day­lights out of him,' came the re­ply. It was mine half-an-hour later. The power and han­dling were awe­some. Smile fac­tor 10. I've had four Blades since and still have my orig­i­nal." The man Honda tasked with this tall or­der was Tadao Baba. And it was Baba-San’s brain­wave of pur­su­ing, GP-style, ex­treme light­ness in­stead of sim­ply bru­tal power that rewrote the rule­book, cul­mi­nat­ing in a stag­ger­ing per­for­mance sea-change mo­ment with a ma­chine that was as light, man­age­able and fine-han­dling as a 600 yet had the ac­cel­er­a­tion and speed of a thou’ and, like the GPz900R of a decade ear­lier, set the tem­plate for all su­per­bikes to come. Sim­ply, with­out the first Blade the R1 would never have hap­pened. Nor would BMW’s S1000RR, Kawasaki’s ZX-10R, Suzuki’s beam-frame Gixxers or many oth­ers. What’s more, the orig­i­nal Blade was such a leap for­ward it took Honda’s ri­vals years to catch up. That first R1 didn’t ar­rive un­til a full five years later, long enough for the Honda to be­come a best seller, ce­ment its rep­u­ta­tion, evolve not once but twice, and be­come hugely sig­nif­i­cant to a whole gen­er­a­tion of bik­ers. Reader Martin Py­bus was one of them. “I owned a 1993 Fire­Blade and still do!” he told MCN. “Why is it so spe­cial? Well firstly it’s the bike that changed the world and gave birth to sports­bikes as we know them. "And there is noth­ing more spe­cial and eye-catch­ing than the Ur­ban Tiger paintjob that my bike has. I of­ten get peo­ple want­ing to buy it, but it’s part of the fam­ily.” MCN #ride5000miles mem­ber Ian Speight is an­other Blade man. “I've owned six but the first two were a 1997 model fol­lowed by a 1998,” he told us. “Both were amaz­ing: com­pact, fast, great-han­dling and both had the hinged pil­lion seat which had a sur­pris­ingly good-sized stor­age space un­der­neath! “The '98 bike took me to Switzer­land on a 10-day tour with throw-over pan­niers and di­rec­tions taped to the tank (there were no sat-navs in those days!) I went on to own a fur­ther four Blades over the next 10 years and still get tempted ev­ery time I'm in a Honda show­room!” Nor does the story end there. As we all know, the Blade lives on to­day as one of Honda’s great­est ever models. By 1998, how­ever, the model's orig­i­nal bub­ble had most cer­tainly burst. The ar­rival of the even lighter and more pow­er­ful R1 that year stole the Honda’s thun­der and left the Blade seem­ing bloated and bland. The first GSX-R1000K1 in 2000 then had the same ef­fect on the Yamaha. Then came the first ZX-10R, later the first S1000RR and so on. All of them raised the bar in their own way. And yet all also owed a debt of grat­i­tude to the orig­i­nal Blade, with­out which su­per­bikes, cer­tainly, would have fol­lowed a very dif­fer­ent path.

‘I of­ten get peo­ple want­ing to buy my Ur­ban Tiger, but it’s part of the fam­ily’

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