The middle one
Owner Ped Baker (49), MCN Managing Editor
My 954 cockpit has an almost utilitarian feel to it. With exposed headlight wires, uncovered support brackets, analogue rev counter and basic LCD speedo you could accuse it of being unfinished. I prefer to think of it as purposeful. It has just what it needs to get the job done and no more.
Take a step back and you could easily say the same about the entire bike. If the 954 Blade were an athlete it would be an 800-metre runner. Under eight percent body fat and up to speed in five strides.
From a cold start the engine rattles alarmingly for five seconds (a cam chain tensioner issue but perfectly normal I’m told) then settles to a recognisable CBR rumble. High-ish pegs and a firm seat slide you into the tank, the bars are just far enough away for a natural, comfortable reach. Vibes from the engine aren’t instantly apparent but an hour’s spirited riding tells another tale. The resulting pins and needles take 30 minutes to subside. But when a bike handles this well, turns so eagerly and exudes sublime mid-corner confidence who cares about the possible onset of White Finger?
The 954 model Blade wasn’t always well loved. In 2001 Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 stole all the headlines with its huge power, walloping midrange and top-end rush. The Blade didn’t lack bells and whistles of its own though, with a re-designed, engine-mounted swingarm from the previous 929 model, the fuel injection was improved, midrange boosted and the whole bike was honed to feel more controllable.
Alongside the blistering GSX-R and R1 of the time journalists misinterpreted Baba’s approach to the 954 as the safe and sensible option. Perhaps that’s true but the bike is definitely a shrewd buy today. My 954 was a steal at £3500 in a private sale (it’s not stolen, I did check). It’s in stock condition except for the Akrapovic end can and has covered just 9500 dry miles. Owners simply love them and previous owners always regret selling them. The definitive fast road bike.
‘When a bike turns so eagerly, who cares about getting Finger?normalwhitefinger?’