The mid­dle one

Owner Ped Baker (49), MCN Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Road Test -

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?’

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