PRO­JECT FIRE­BLADE

The Fire­blade is run­ning, and every­thing is fit­ted. Time to test the MoT man’s sense of hu­mour

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Ja­son Critchell

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

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