Out and about on the RIDE fleet bikes
The two Fireblades in Si’s shed are split by 21 years and £17,000. And it feels like it…
PERHAPS, HUNDREDS OF thousands of years from now, cockroach-based archaeologists of Earth’s then-dominant species will debate the pivotal moment when Homo sapiens flipped from striving for technical and social enlightenment into a self-destructive parody. Some may conclude it was 2016 – partly because that was when David Bowie stopped and President Trump started but also, it was the year Honda announced the final version of the inline four Fireblade (before launching a V4-powered superbike in 2020, ahem).
As hypothetical evidence, a senior cockroach might give a TED talk at which he scuttles out a 1996 Fireblade alongside the 2017 CBR1000RR SP and invites his audience to compare the elegant simplicity of the earlier classic against the disposability of the newer machine.
Of course, our insectoid intellectual will probably never exist. But the point of his imaginary presentation lives on in my garage. And, as the owner of a 1996 CBR900RR-T Fireblade and custodian of a 2017 CBR1000RR SP, it would be remiss not to lay a few comparative myths that may, or may not, mislead a SPEC HONDA CBR1000RR FIREBLADE SP £19,125 + 999cc inline four + 189bhp + 196kg + 16-litre tank + 832mm seat + Miles so far: 1653
future six-legged Tony Robinson. Which one deserves to be considered classic?
The older bike’s smoother, rounded shape is more pleasing to the compound eye than the new bike’s angular chaos; lines cost less than curves. And the CBR900RR’S elemental design economy is contrasted by the CBR1000RR’S overt technical complexity. Firing up the clunker’s intimate, analogue mechanicals, all hollow camchain rattle and unbalanced carbs, fills ears with more primeval joy than the digital waveform of the new bike. Although that’s loud too, tripping the noise meter at a Mallory Park trackday. But go for a ride, back to back, and it’s clear the older bike is nostalgic guff; reliving ancient battles with vintage derring-do. It’s quick, and handles well on Mct-tuned suspension and Bridgestone S20s. But the 2017 Blade is all, entirely, about moving as fast as insectoidally possible. Dynamically, it’s an exponentially more advanced life-form. The CBR1000RR SP’S performance and control is
“Which one deserves to be classic?”
phenomenal. Öhlins semi-active is like gliding on buttercream, chassis feedback is immense and the engine’s barely-contained fury is terrifying. I wish the new Blade was physically bigger – especially the comedy fairing; might as well be a naked bike. Suzuki’s GSX-R, BMW’S S1000RR and even Ducati’s Panigale have a more civilised hyperspace game.
When I rode the base model Blade a few months ago, I complained - loudly that the relationship between throttle and engine was odd. Disconnected and random coming out of a corner, the engine’s pick-up never seemed in the right place to get back on the gas. It was subtle but disconcerting; the bike didn’t feel dangerous but was hard to trust. It was easy to point at the Honda’s ride-bywire (only its second, after the VFR1200) and sophisticated engine management. Maybe the bike was too clever?
By chance, I found myself riding a few 2017 Blades including my current SP. But they all felt different; my base bike was poor, another I tried was better, an SP I had a go on felt sublime and finally, this SP is also faultless. Which set me thinking: the only differences are the tyres: the first, bad, Blade was on Dunlop D214s. Not ideal. The next was on Bridgestone S21s; better tyres, better throttle feeling. The first SP was on Michelin Power RSS and this one, Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPS. Both amazing.
So here’s a theory: put the new Blade on poor tyres, dial up the traction control (because that’s sensible, right?) and the bike detects lower grip and translates your TC setting as a request to intervene early – it’s super-sensitive, subtly holding the motor back by limiting throttle opening even at modest speeds and lean angles. Result? Even in the full power engine mode, you still don’t get the expected throttle control.
However, stick the Blade on proper sports tyres, drop the traction control to near-minimum and the bike works out there’s lots of grip and that you’re happy to use it. So it lets you get on with the job in hand without interfering.
So far it’s only a theory. I’m hoping to turn it into fact with an experiment next month. Unless the cockroaches get there first.
Classic or modern? Si’s hairstyle could easily be either
As time has gone on, the Blade’s been on a diet, slimming down and getting a bit more buff at the same time While the bodywork has slimmed down, the muscles have bulked up, with the latest version sporting a larger clutch housing