NEW BLADE BREAKS COVER

Honda’s se­cret new CBR1000RR scooped on track in Croa­tia ahead of Oc­to­ber un­veil

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week in Mcn - By Richard New­land

Honda have a fair amount of catch­ing up to do in the race for sports­bike suc­cess – both in sales and on the track. The 2017 Blade has been hotly an­tic­i­pated and now we have man­aged to get our hands on su­per-se­cret pic­tures that tell us a lot about the new ma­chine. Here, we spill the beans!

Honda will re­lease a new CBR1000RR Fire­blade for 2017, and these spy shots of a pro­duc­tion-ready bike be­ing rid­den on track in Croa­tia last week fi­nally re­veal more about how the CBR will look, and the me­chan­i­cal changes that will un­der­pin its as­sault on the su­per­bike crown.

The 2016 ver­sion of the Fire­blade dy­nasty couldn’t con­tinue into 2017 as the model is not Euro4 com­pli­ant, and as one of the very last bas­tions of rel­a­tively tech­nol­ogy-free su­per­bikes, the Blade also now looks de­cid­edly out of date against its peers.

Three new Blades

Cur­rently avail­able in stan­dard and a higher spec SP form, the 2017 line-up will also boast a cus­tomer race-spec ver­sion, tak­ing the Fire­blade fam­ily to three mod­els. It’s un­clear how these mod­els will be named be­yond CBR1000RR Fire­blade, but var­i­ous leaked doc­u­ments and in­sider com­ments have re­ferred to them as SP-1 and SP-2 for the road mod­els – which might sim­ply be in­ter­nal codes for the mod­els, but may also make it on to the fair­ings as a nod to the pre­vi­ous Hrc-de­vel­oped V-twin su­per­bikes from the Noughties.

Elec­tron­ics revo­lu­tion

MCN’S re­search all points to a fam­ily of new Fire­blades that break with the firm’s his­tor­i­cal re­luc­tance to fes­toon their flag­ship su­per­bike with elec­tron­ics. All the ev­i­dence points to an ex­ten­sive elec­tron­ics pack­age, while the firm also look set to ditch some of their own tech in favour of third-party so­lu­tions. Lead amongst the ca­su­al­ties ap­pears to be the C-ABS sys­tem, which – while ef­fec­tive – is very heavy, and a step or three be­hind the sys­tems avail­able from German brak­ing sys­tem gi­ants Bosch. So it’s lit­tle sur­prise that our sources sug­gest the 2017 Fire­blade will use the Bosch 9ME Plus sys­tem, which de­liv­ers com­bined anti-lock brak­ing with trac­tion con­trol, anti-wheelie, and Mo­tor­cy­cle Sta­bil­ity Con­trol (MSC), all gov­erned by the six-axis In­er­tial Mea­sure­ment Unit (IMU) al­ready be­ing used by the Fire­blade’s ri­vals. It’s also un­der­stood some of the elec­tronic con­trols from the road-le­gal Mo­togp rep RC213V-S will be put in place on the Fire­blade. This will in­clude se­lectable torque con­trol, en­gine brak­ing con­trol and power modes.

Mass re­duc­tion

The re­tire­ment of Honda’s C-ABS will con­trib­ute to a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in weight, sug­gested to be as much as 10kg, mak­ing the 2017 model around 5% lighter than the 2016 ver­sion – re­duc­ing kerb mass to around 200kg.

The bike seen on track in Croa­tia ap­pears to be the base model – as it boasts none of the high-spec parts that sources sug­gest will be present on the flag­ship road ver­sion. The big­gest vis­ual clue to the spec is the more ba­sic sus­pen­sion. The top-spec ver­sion is ex­pected to boast semi­ac­tive Öh­lins sus­pen­sion, while this bike is clearly run­ning a Showa Big Pis­ton Fork, as fit­ted to the cur­rent model. In­ter­est­ingly, con­sid­er­ing the spec of its com­peti­tors, Honda ap­pear not to have opted for the Bal­ance Free Fork fit­ted to Kawasaki’s ZX-10R – and ex­pected to ap­pear on other 2017 su­per­bikes – which could point to how keenly the base model Fire­blade will be priced.

Although many el­e­ments of the new bike are in­stantly recog­nis­able – such as the frame and the iden­ti­cal look­ing swingarm and wheels, there are many me­chan­i­cal changes. These in­clude a huge new ram-air sys­tem util­is­ing a new head­stock in­take, a new air­box, a re­vised fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem and a lot of work un­der­taken on the en­gine to re­duce in­ter­nal fric­tion.

Road and race

The air­box mod­i­fi­ca­tions are im­por­tant to the in­creased per­for­mance, which is partly needed to off­set the in­creased tight­en­ing of emis­sions reg­u­la­tions – which are also re­spon­si­ble for the en­larged, re­shaped, and repo­si­tioned ex­haust. It will also ben­e­fit from rideby-wire throt­tle con­trol, which is a first for Honda on the Fire­blade.

These changes have been done with both road and track per­for­mance im­prove­ments in mind. While the Blade has al­ways been pitched as a road-ori­en­tated ma­chine, rac­ing is of cru­cial im­por­tance to the firm.

Aes­thet­i­cally, the big­gest im­me­di­ate give­away that this is the new model is the re­designed face of the Blade. Sharper and more fo­cused than the out­go­ing model, it boasts a clear fam­ily re­sem­blance to the CBR250RR Honda un­veiled last month. The head­lamps com­prise a com­pletely new quad-led light­ing sys­tem, which ap­peared to be be­ing used by Honda’s en­durance rac­ing teams at Suzuka last month. The bike spied on track has the same head­lamp pro­file, although the head­lamp has been care­fully taped over, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to see any de­tail.

Evo­lu­tion game

The frame looks far more sub­stan­tial, but this is in part due to re­designed fair­ings which ex­pose more of the frame. How­ever, we do ex­pect the

‘Race teams have asked Honda for greater chas­sis con­trol’

frame to be lighter and stronger than the out­go­ing model’s. Race teams have asked Honda for greater chas­sis con­trol, and with so much of the bike’s de­vel­op­ment aimed at race suc­cess, it’s un­likely that Honda have failed to de­liver on this. The rest of the fair­ing de­sign ap­pears to fol­low the out­go­ing model closely, while sharp­en­ing and re­duc­ing the body­work in every area to de­liver a more an­gu­lar, and Euro­pean look­ing stance.

This may be an evo­lu­tion rather than a revo­lu­tion, but the in­gre­di­ents are there for the re­sult to be far greater than the sum of its changes – and the top-spec SP is cer­tain to move the dial far more ef­fec­tively than the slightly apolo­getic out­go­ing model could ever have hoped to.

Both road ver­sions are ex­pected to be of­fi­cially re­vealed at this year’s In­ter­mot show in Cologne, Ger­many – while the cus­tomer spec track ver­sion will ar­rive shortly after. We’ll bring you the whole story in the Oc­to­ber 5 edi­tion of MCN.

SHOCK TACTICS This ap­pears to be the lower spec base model, with Showa’s Big Pis­ton Fork, and match­ing shock. Both will be fully ad­justable, while the top spec model is ex­pected to gain Öh­lins semi­ac­tive sus­pen­sion. RACE READY While the main frame looks neari­den­ti­cal, we ex­pect it will of­fer more rigid­ity, giv­ing race teams more con­trol at the cut­ting edge of su­per­bike rac­ing.

The re­shaped front of the Fire­blade is sim­i­lar to the new CBR250RR

SOUND SYS­TEM The much-en­larged sys­tem al­lows for a larger cat­alytic con­verter, and sound con­trol. It’s very sim­i­lar in size to the new item fea­tured on Suzuki’s GSX-R1000. EURO FLAVOUR Sharper, and more min­i­mal­ist, the fair­ings fea­ture large cut­aways on each flank, ex­pos­ing much more of the main frame. The fair­ings and tail unit all ap­pear far more Euro­pean in taste, which is hardly a shock con­sid­er­ing the shift in buy­ers’ tastes to­wards Euro­pean bikes. HEART OF THE MAT­TER Not an all-new unit, but the ex­ist­ing mo­tor has been given a thor­ough over­haul to bring it into line with Euro4 re­quire­ments. It will be cleaner, more ef­fi­cient, and more pow­er­ful, while we don’t ex­pect it to match the cur­rent class leader’s 200bhp out­put.

CUR­RENT MODEL Euro4 reg­u­la­tions spell the end for the cur­rent Blade, which was in need of an over­haul any­way

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