New Blade SP is being put through its paces in a bid to find out if it’s proper!
Just so we’re clear, a proper Fireblade has to be six things: light, precise, energised, useful, reliable and above all the most ruthlessly efficient sportsbike you can buy. Through six epic rides, six classic race tracks and six months of daily grind, we’re going to find out how proper the new SP is.
It’s here, and it’s tiny. Where the tank meets the seat it’s barely a stretched hand across and as narrow as a Panigale. There’s not a fastener or weld, curve or colour on which my gaze doesn’t linger, and only the rubber brake hoses make it look less than factory. Appropriately, given the electronics, it smells less like a bike and more like a luxury appliance warming up for the first time.
I find an old-school, printed owner’s manual in the tail unit and as expected most of its pages are dedicated to those electronics. Reading through is hard work but I grasp the basics: basically, three pre-set combinations of power, traction control, Ec-smart suspension settings, engine braking, etc, plus two to customise for myself. The brains of the outfit is a crisply rendered TFT dash, which is easy to navigate and beautiful. Cracking bike, so far. Might even start it up tomorrow.
With just 20 miles showing, week one is about running in. As the miles slip by I realise how I keep scrolling (on the move, though the throttle must be closed) to the suspension settings (or ‘parameters’?) in Mode 2, Honda’s electronic idea of what a twisty road should feel like. This is the one that glides and wafts along bumpy B roads like a sportsbike shouldn’t, and I love it.
On the coldest May morning ever, and with 300 miles on the clock, we head 80 miles across Norfolk to Snetterton, the Blade’s first track of the year, for an MSVT day. Snetterton is so arctic I don’t feel confident enough to turn the Blade properly, and even with the ‘torque control’ (traction control to you and I) in track-focused Mode 1 the orange telltale light flashes as it intervenes and the power surges like the engine’s starved of fuel. I love the compact riding position and the steering’s precision but today, even on OE Pirelli Supercorsa SPS, the vital connection between throttle and rear tyre is lacking. Is the problem the freezing temperature, or should I be making some electronic adjustments? Or maybe I should just have a word with myself and get on with it! Decent start, lots to think about.
Q MSVT trackdays are friendly, slicklyorganized and with great coaching available. Next date: June 24 (£105). www.msvtrackdays.com
The Blade didn’t fill Thompson with confidence, but maybe he just needs to man up