Last of the pure Blades
electronics-free The last incarnation of the the the finest road-going CBR1000RR might just be just how good it is... sportsbike ever. MCN investigates
As Honda gear up to launch an all-new Fireblade we take a fresh look at the old model – the last of the great electronics-free litre sportsbikes and assemble a group of owners at the excellent Loomies bike café to find out what makes the Blade so special. And Ron Haslam, who’s been using Blades at his school for 20 years, delivers his verdict on the last of the old-school Fireblades.
are t’s finally happening: Honda I And releasing a new Fireblade. about bloody time. Their spangly new model will and mark 25 years of the Blade it will be lighter, more powof erful and come with a host first time. electronic rider aids for the three verWhat’s more, there will be standsions to choose from next year: trick SP2. ard Fireblade, SP and super- changed The current Blade hasn’t essentially since 2012 and even that was still the 2008 machine underneath, The new with a nip, tuck and facelift. coming, machine has been a long time the wait. but it promises to be worth someWhen Honda decide to do are special thing properly the results Blades: the – just look at the landmark the RCVoriginal ’92 bike, the ’02 954, the stubby inspired ’04 machine and are utterly nose ’08 model. All of them before we superb road bikes, and that’s like the even think of Honda legends S. RC30/45, NR750 and RC213V- the The 2017 Blade is all set to bloody but noses of the 200bhp establishment, really you know what? Honda didn’t building a need to go to the trouble of Fireblade new bike because the current of the best is still right up there as one
road-going sportsbikes you can buy.
Granted, it can no longer cut it against the latest superbikes on track and the likes of the R1, ZX-10R, RSV4, S1000RR and 1299 Panigale are seconds faster over a lap. The last time we ran all the 1000s together, at Jerez in 2015, the 178bhp Blade SP was three seconds a lap slower than the R1 and behind all of its newest rivals. It was a couple of tenths faster than the GSX-R1000, but of course that’s getting an even more overdue overhaul for 2017, too.
As fun as it is to test these bikes to the limit on track, most of us ride on the road and it’s here where today’s Fireblade impresses most. It has bags of easy grunt, a smooth throttle, a flawless power curve and balanced handling. And this Brembo-wearing SP version has even stronger brakes, and the Öhlins serves up the kind of polished ride only top quality suspension can. There’s more grip than you can shake a Pirelli at, too, thanks to the standard Diablo Super Corsa SP trackday tyres.
And with its blueprinted weightmatched pistons, reshaped polished inlet and exhaust ports, large diameter slash-cut inlet trumpets and revised mapping it’s the smoothest Fireblade engine ever.
Ride any one of the current crop of 200bhp, ride-by-wire superbikes on the road and you’d never guess they’re 1000s unless you revved them like highly-strung 600cc supersport racers. They don’t have much in the way of low-down grunt.
It’s a different story with the Blade. Sixth gear is meaty enough for just about any occasion on the road. Select top and use the Blade like some supersonic twist-and-go scooter. And of course, when you choose to stir that slick six-speed gearbox there’s more growling power and speed than you’ll ever need, and enough to keep up with your mates – no matter what they’re riding.
If the engine is a lesson in glossy sophistication, so is the chassis. Offering the same kind of easy balance as an RC213V-S or an RC30, but at a fraction of the cost, the Blade’s handling is still up there with the best.
You feel every grain of tarmac, every jagged stone and each shiny pebble through your feet, bum and hands as you waft along. Getting the Blade to turn is as easy as rolling a tennis ball around a smooth table under the palm of your hand. The Blade might not have traction control, but there’s so much feel you never miss it.
Blasting through the countryside, the Honda slices through corners like a scalpel and glides serenely off whoops and jumps in the road. But the Blade is just as adept at the humdrum and its comfy seat and natural riding position cosset you on long journeys.
The rider’s eye view is pure, classic Honda Racing. The short, flat-profile screen could be lifted off an RC45, there’s no wasted space around the compact clocks and the riding position cants you right over the front, ready for action. The cockpit is sparse and lacking the full-colour, multi-function displays and switchgear buttons of its electronically-enhanced rivals, but the Honda tells you all the important stuff.
You know how fast you’re going, how hard the engine is spinning, what gear you’re in and what time it is. You’ve also got a brilliant electronic ABS system that’s packed with feel and power.
After a week zipping around the country on this Blade SP, visiting Ron Haslam at Donington Park, meeting the nice people from the Honda Fireblade Owners Club at Loomies Café near Winchester, and enjoying an MCN trackday at Snetterton, I’ve got nothing but admiration for the Blade.
It might not be the fastest superbike out there, or loaded with electronic rider aids but it never fails to impress.
‘ When you choose to stir that slick six-speed gearbox there’s more growling power and speed than you’ll ever need’