The Fireblade is running, and everything is fitted. Time to test the MoT man’s sense of humour
173kg wringing wet, and now with MoT!
2008 HONDA FIREBLADE CHRIS NEWBIGGING
SPARKS WERE THE last part of the equation missing with the Fireblade: we’d made it roll, stop and support bodywork, but we handed the wiring duties over to the talented John Ewles at Track Electronics last month to trim and modify the loom – partly to lose a few redundant items and connections, partly to suit new or relocated components. It’s very similar to the sort of work he does for race looms, but with a few twists and more aggro because the lighting circuits are still present.
The manipulation of the wires and connectors went hand-in-hand with the reflash work on the ECU – John’s favoured Woolich ECU programming software lets you turn off the most of the redundant stuff and eliminate it from the loom, as well as set up the quickshifter unit.
It all went fairly smoothly – everything is fitted or cut as necessary, and it ran first time... but not well. When we rebuilt the motor, the cam timing was one tooth out on one cam – enough to confuse the cam sensor and cut the motor. An embarrassed Whitey corrected it in short order: don’t worry pal, it happens. Just don’t invoice for it, though...
With that done, the fuel and ignition maps have been tuned to suit the overhauled motor as well as the Termignoni system. There was an unexpected curve ball in there – the newer cylinder head and cams appear to have slightly different timing, despite the cam sprockets now being correctly aligned. There’s no reason they should be different that we’re aware of, but it appears there are slight differences between model years, or even individual motors. It’s no big deal, as power has never been the object here – we’d have stuck with the OE header and the Hawk silencer if they weren’t made from stainless. The desire for titanium demanded a change, and while it’s achieved a decent weight loss, the performance isn’t outstanding. I’m not overly impressed with the fit or look of the can, so that might get a last-minute change.
So we’ve not fitted the bellypan yet, because it’ll need cutting to clear whatever exhaust we use. But that’s no obstacle to a MoT, so Whitey buttoned up a few little details (like a horn, though he’s trying to find a lighter one to tuck away more discretely) and handed it over to me for a shakedown ride across town to the Motorcycle Works for the vital bit of paper saying it’s safe and fit for the Queen’s Highway. My road testing experience is broad, but the Fireblade is new on me again. Raw like a race bike thanks to the race seat, lack of mirrors and committed riding position, yet smooth like a road bike because it’s not fitted with a fire-breathing motor that rattles like hell and ticks over at 2500rpm. And clearly, it’s stupendously light. I don’t think the full sensation can be felt yet – a simple visual check reveals the static sag is practically zero at the back, and far short of the 28-30mm it should be at the front. There’s also sod-all rebound damping, with much less weight to resist the extension force of the springs, the damping setting that worked fine for a 196kg bike is no longer sufficient. Honestly, it’s handling badly, but at least we’ve got quality parts that will allow that to be rectified when that’s a priority. Now, the priority is a bit of paper from tester Pete. Some funny looks, questions and confusion open the exchange, but demonstrating the (EC-approved) combined stop/tail/indicator/running light function of the Rizoma indicator units and how the Breese controls operate them all, the quizzical brow relaxes to a normal position and it gets a regular MoT. The ZX-6R headlights, attached to an HRC race front subframe by SF Services, have a beam pattern and height to satisfy the machine. The scooter caliper we fitted only just
‘Without fuel it’d weigh 160kg, and fail post-race checks in WSB...’
stops the brake test machine sufficiently, but just enough is still enough. It should break in a bit more, though it’ll never lock the rear. Fortunately, the front brakes are superb and satisfy the machine (and me) immediately. Whitey’s donated Brembo RCS master cylinder squeezes DP pads in the original calipers hard on to the Motomaster discs. The jury is out on the sawblade design, but they do the job very well.
We get the ticket, and I go for a few more miles to see how it’s all handing together. Slightly iffy set-up aside, it’s as good as gold. The new radiator is keeping it cool, it’s fuelling well, and is operating exactly as a motorcycle should... just a lot ruder.
No mirrors, incredible agility and a crisp motor through a fruity pipe are a recipe for fun. The weight distribution is very front-heavy (54% is race bike territory) so it doesn’t try to flip backwards everywhere, but if the front lifts by accident or design, it has the most unusual weightless feel, like anything from an inch off the floor is the balance point. Half an hour is well spent knobbing around Peterborough, with a quick check here and there for loose parts, leaking fluids and all the other items on the paranoia checklist for any big
project. But it makes it back to the lock-up exactly as it was. I just need to make up my mind on the silencer, cut the fairing to suit and then it can be wrapped: the paint-prepped tank cover looks horrible and, in our book, bare carbon-Kevlar looks shit. The fairing/seat were made years apart (by the same company) and the weave isn’t quite the same, and even if it was, it’s still snot-coloured. I’ve seen a not-dissimilar Fireblade in bare Kevlar with a few stickers, and that looked shit, too. We’ll cover most of it.
Oh, and we weighed it, too. When we started, we targeted the Ducati 1299 Superleggera as a road bike ( just) of extraordinarily light weight. Ducati claim 178kg brimmed with fuel. We’ve yet to get one on the scales (holler if you’ve got one...), but assuming they’re not lying through their carbon-fibre teeth, we needed to find 15.3kg to beat them from the Fireblade’s final pre-strip weight, which was 193.3kg when we’d stripped off a few bits of trim and other non-essentials.
We did it, and then some: including the weight of the bellypan still to be attached, it’s 173kg exactly – 20kg lighter. Without fuel, it would be 160kg, and would comfortably fail post-race checks in WSB. Even a MotoGP bike is subject to a minimum weight limit of 157kg, and may only carry 20 litre of fuel (roughly 15kg) – 172kg in total. And we’ve got full lighting gear.
I’m stunned. It’s not been a simple transformation, nor has it been cheap in places. But similarly, there’s lots that has been more simple, and it still has a standard frame, engine, swingarm, forks, brakes. Best get it looking pretty and see what it’s made of on track...
It looks and feels out of place, but it just about works on the road
The only thing missing is a bellypan
10-year-old CBR, made lighter than a BMW HP4 Race, road-legal and now ready to take on all-comers
Race seat pad saves vital grams, and reminds you you’re sitting on something special Chris talks MoT man Pete through the various functions of our Breese switchgear Triumphant monos are lent an otherworldly feel by the front end’s extraordinary lightness This horn is approximately as loud as a crosschannel ferry’s