Owning a Blade SP Is there really anything wrong?
Is there really a problem with the new CBR1000RR SP? Time to find out...
‘The new Blade floats across all but the most brutal potholes’
In the weeks since a 2017 Blade arrived in my garage (with just 20 miles showing), Honda’s first electronically managed sportsbike has become a big story. A worry even. TT factory riders John Mcguinness and Guy Martin have had high-profile crashes on theirs, with the bike very publicly withdrawn from the Senior race and even described by Martin on TV as a ‘Jonah’. It has been hopeless in WSB, too.
Social media has loved it. Are the throttle maps to be trusted? Is the gearbox dodgy? Are the new electronics rubbish, or dangerous even? Questions Honda probably hadn’t anticipated in what was supposed the Blade’s glorious 25th anniversary year.
In the absence of an official response from Honda, the information vacuum has continued to fill with more swirling conjecture until you can’t help but give in and assume that there probably is something wrong with the Blade.
As I said, for those who’ve bought one, either the stocker or the SP, it’s a worry – and confusing too. But I’m glad to say that out on the M20, semitucked and chasing the Tunnel train to Calais, things are definitely a little clearer. This, I tell myself, is a Honda, and Hondas haven’t gone disastrously wrong since the chocolate camshaft debacle of the 1980s. Furthermore this a not a race-prepped Fireblade SP2 like Martin’s and Mcguinness’s superbikes but a standard road-going SP. Right now my main concern is the Kreiga US-30 tailpack I cunningly grafted to the single seat tail unit and whether it will still be there when I arrive in Spa Francorchamps tonight.
Here I can shut out the noise and focus on what the new Blade actually does – on the road I’m riding. And despite a Force Six square on the Blade’s nose and only a slip of a fairing to deflect the blast I am well balanced and will stay pain-free for 450 miles. It feels like a true Fireblade should: light, compact and agile, but with the rider’s needs put first.
Across the Channel I fuel up with croissants and pull my summer gloves out of the rucksack. Cruising on near empty sweepers at a silky 100mph, and making me feel like anywhere is possible today, the Blade easily manages 150 miles to the fuel light despite its 16-litre tank and is slowly revealing what it is: a drama-free, batshit-quick stealth bike. There are few wheelies and minimal emotion as it executes its plan, while the steering and the throttle – yes, I did say the throttle – are simply precision on wheels. When I glance at the TFT dash’s speedo I go, “Ohmygod, how did that happen!”
Just like the first Blade in 1992, it’s the SP’S lack of kilos that energise the ride. Every time I pull it upright I am pleasantly surprised while every roundabout or corner is a minimalist operation. The Blade’s engine is just as raucous as the original, too, but that’s where the similarities finish. As we head into the Ardennes, an area of heavenly sweepers with a hellish surface, I customise ‘User 1’ mode to supply full fat power with the EC Öhlins set in super-compliant waft mode, and the new bike floats across all but the most brutal potholes like a 176bhp, 195kg computer controlled Goldwing.
It’s a dream come true. An R1 is fast but it’s not as comfortable. A Panigale is comfortable and lights you up like no other bike, but roasts your legs and needs fuel every 120 miles. I don’t like the Blade’s agricultural gearbox or the dull reaction from the Brembos when the brakes are cold but I arrive in Spa as fresh as I can remember after a day’s ride. I love the SP’S lightness and efficiency – its own undramatic and sumptuous way of doing things very quickly. In fact, the only drama has been, of all things, a sticking mode button. My SP has no problems. O Next week in MCN: 25 years of the Fireblade – every model rated.
The Blade turns tourer for the day
The Blade is a fast and accomplished bike, capable of all types of riding
Happy to stay in the saddle and take in the view of Spa after a long day of riding