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