Used Blade What does £3.5k get you?
‘When people say ‘dry-miles’ you don’t usually expect them to mean it but this time they did’ With new, 1000cc sportsbikes costing close to £20k, what can just £3.5k get you? Quite a lot as it happened
The 2002-2003 model Honda Fireblade is a landmark sportsbike. It was the last Blade to be penned by the original 1992 Fireblade designer Tadao Baba, it was the last model before mass centralisation became de rigueur (and sportsbikes began to shrink) plus it was the last model Blade to tip the scales at under 170kg (the 2017 model weighs 196kg). While it’s true that later models are faster and more technically advanced, they’re arguably less involving and certainly less practical.
The 954 was a landmark bike for me too. For my 6ft 4in, 15-stone frame, it was the last four-cylinder 1000cc sportsbike made for normalsized people. I just didn’t get on with Japanese sportsbikes after 2002, they were all too cramped and track biased for my taste, and there was nowhere to stash my waterproofs and sandwiches!
So what would a 954 be like to ride and own today? I asked for feedback on www.motorcyclenews.com and MCN’S Facebook page and received an impassioned response from current and previous owners. Comments such as: “Truly confidence inspiring, fast and faultless” and “the best bike I’ve ever owned” were the norm. I couldn’t find anyone who had a bad word to say about them.
With a budget of £4000, finding a clean 954 wasn’t hard. After seeing a couple of overpriced Ebay horrors we found the perfect bike on www. mcnbikesforsale.com. All the bikes on the site come theft checked and, for complete peace of mind, the MCN Bikecheck service (www. mcnbikecheck.com) offers a full history check on any bike at any time – including whether it has outstanding finance, has ever been written off or has mileage anomalies that may indicate clocking. An MCN bike check starts from £5.33.*
With just 9543 ‘dry’ miles on the clock, three owners from new and in standard trim apart from a period Akrapovic end can and neat tail tidy, the bike looked very clean in the online ad but it was even better in the metal. When people say ‘dry miles’ you don’t usually expect them to mean it but this time they did. Even the exhaust downpipes are mint. A check with the DVLA’S online MOT history confirmed the low mileage as genuine.
The seller is a director of the bike accessory firm Evotech Performance and the bike has spent much of its life tucked up in his office. The tail tidy was the first product produced by Evotech (sadly it’s no longer available) and the bike also boasts Evotech crash bungs and bobbins. The standard end can is long gone but the original number plate hanger and seat cowl were included in the deal.
The only flies in the ointment are some corroded front brake caliper bolts and odd chips in the frame paint. I’ve seen other Blades of this era with the same paint problem and it appears to be a manufacturing issue rather than damage caused by a previous owner or accident. A good paint shop should be able touch up the damage. We shook on £3500.
Sportsbikes have fallen out of fashion over the past few years so the used market is rich pickings for clean, low mileage machines. If you’re prepared to pay a little over the average and ignore the bikes that have been ‘improved’ by well-intended but misguided owners, solid bikes like our Blade aren’t difficult to search out.
Plans include small upgrades that we know will work. First on the list, though, is a thorough service including engine, coolant, fork and brake fluids. Looking at the colour of the brake fluid I suspect it’s 2002 vintage. We’ll also check for grease in the suspension and head bearings. With those jobs done the bike should be back to as close to new as we can get it.