‘It’s a trick they first pulled 25 years ago’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Road Test - MICHAEL NEEVES SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

Honda’s new Fire­blade didn’t ar­rive with a head­line-grab­bing horse­power fig­ure, but it still has the beat­ing of the su­per­bike elite. The se­cret to its suc­cess is its light weight, bal­ance and re­fine­ment, a trick they first pulled with the orig­i­nal Blade 25 years ago.

We didn’t ex­pect it to be quite so good, but when you mea­sure it against its heav­ier ri­vals its qual­ity is clear to see. Less mass means bet­ter per­for­mance, and a ma­chine that’s sim­ple to ride. It’s as vel­vety smooth and re­fined as an RC213V-S and built with sim­i­lar at­ten­tion to de­tail. It’s in­volv­ing, loud, has a peachy gear­box, su­perb rider aids and sup­ple sus­pen­sion.

It’s a gem on the road and rapid at Rock­ing­ham. Fig­ure out a way of junk­ing the in­tru­sive ABS and it would make a se­ri­ous track tool.

The Suzuki has also made a big jump. It’s re­tained its beefy grunt for road rid­ing, but its VVT motor adds an ex­tra dose of top-end to sharpen its teeth on track. It cru­ci­fies its ri­vals on the quar­ter mile strip, but wasn’t as im­pres­sive as we’d hoped on the dyno. We also ex­pected it to be quicker on track, but its slightly harsh sus­pen­sion didn’t han­dle bumps so well, and fad­ing brakes were an is­sue.

The sec­ond-placed Pani­gale S is dev­as­tat­ingly quick on track and sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able on the road, but the an­gry twin ul­ti­mately lacks the new Blade’s magic car­pet ride and easy en­gine char­ac­ter. This is the last hur­rah for the big Pani­gale and Du­cati’s up­com­ing new V4 su­per­bike will no doubt move the su­per­bike game on again.

BMW con­tinue to defy the odds. The RR is the heav­i­est bike here and feels a gen­er­a­tion be­hind the light­weight Blade and R1M. But its mon­ster en­gine, bal­anced chas­sis and elec­tronic sus­pen­sion give it se­ri­ous speed on track, while crea­ture com­forts make it all­day prac­ti­cal on the road. But it’s cramped for taller rid­ers and lacks the char­ac­ter of the top two.

The wail­ing R1M wowed us with its looks and easy speed, but it’s un­com­fort­able on the road and was loose on track. The gem-like Aprilia has style, char­ac­ter and cut­ting edge elec­tron­ics, but its tall, hard rid­ing po­si­tion is more at home on the track. The ZX-10RR sus­pen­sion de­liv­ers a smooth ride and the motor is long-revving and friendly. It loves fast sweep­ers and is par­tic­u­larly sure-footed in the wet, but it’s far too cramped. The lack of bot­tom end power, slow steer­ing and fad­ing brakes also af­fected its lap times on track.

Above all – the Blade is back.

‘It’s as vel­vety smooth and re­fined as an RC213V-S’

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