The ’Blade takes the front running
All over the world, the Fireblade just keeps on winning. It knocked the Suzuki GSX-R1000 off its pedestal when it took out the International Bike of the Year 2008. And it’s winning on the track as well, although that’s not so much of a consideration for us – a fraction of a second’s advantage on the track does not make a better bike, to us. In many ways these bikes are just too good for us ordinary mortals to choose between.
But there is one very obvious advantage that the ’Blade offers. Honda has the first Supersports anti-lock braking (ABS) system and it works, first up.
Even apart from that, though, everyone loves riding the Fireblade. Keep in mind that this bike is now more than a year old, because apart from the ABS, in effect there has been no update for the 2009 model. But everyone still loves it. The power comes on smoothly, the clutch and gearbox work beautifully, it turns and handles superbly and above all it is utterly consistent.
The anti-lock braking system has been kept really unobtrusive, both visually and in operation. There’s no pumping of the brake lever or jerking. And because the front brake is linked to the back, that stabilises the bike in extreme conditions whether the rider knows how to do it or not.
And the bike is pretty as well. The fairing treatment works better than ever, especially with the almost vertical line in front of the engine and the cartridge-look exhaust is a knockout. Are you as grateful as I am that the incredibly ugly race-style can has breathed its last exhaust gases?
For such a successful race bike, the Fireblade is remarkably easy to ride. I’m used to having to learn new high-performance bikes individually but with the RR it’s just a matter of ride away, no more to learn. Consistent, as I said above, and predictable. Even the fact that you can’t feel the ABS when it works is reassuring.
The ’Blade is a little slower to 100 km/h than the Yamaha R1 but it’s a matter of a small fraction of a second – and it’s impossible to pick for a rider like me. As far as I’m concerned, I’m at a standstill and then I’m at 100 km/h (and then I’m going much faster) and I have not been aware of any effort on the part of the bike or myself.
Sadly the pillion seat is just an uncomfortable pad and the pillion’s riding position is just as bad. Very few bikes in the class are better, of course, and some (like the R1) are actually worse. There is absolutely nowhere to carry luggage, either. But if that matters to you, you’re looking at the wrong bike.
Model: Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
Price: $19,499, $19,990 for the (non-ABS) Repsol replica and $20,490 with ABS (plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 130.7kW @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 112Nm @ 8500rpm
Engine: Liquid-cooled, inline across-the-frame four, four valves per cylinder DOHC, electronic fuel injection and digital ignition
Bore x stroke: 76 x 55.1mm
Transmission: Six-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, (slipper clutch) final drive by O-ring chain
Suspension: Front, 43mm upside-down telescopic fork, steering damper, fully adjustable, travel 120mm. Rear, link-type monoshock, fully adjustable, 135mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 830mm, curb weight 209kg (wet with fuel), fuel capacity 17.7 litres, wheelbase 1410mm
Tyres: Front, 120/70 ZR 17. Rear, 190/50 ZR 17
Frame: Aluminium alloy twin spar
Brakes: Front, twin 320mm discs with radial mounted four-piston calipers. Rear, 220mm disc with single-piston caliper.
Top speed: 293km/h
0-100km/h 3.3 sec
60-100km/h 3.5 sec
Fuel consumption: 4.9 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 361km
Colours: Red; black and yellow
Verdict: First-degree burns.