Honda's Fireblade still sharpest

2012-03-15 09:53

With BMW’s S1000RR arguably stealing the limelight in the superbike stakes there were some who thought Honda's Fireblade, just launched in South Africa, would at the very least usurp its German rival in the kiloWatt stakes.

Whatever, Honda still seems content to trail BMW with slightly less engine output (albeit academic figures), but I guarantee you won’t ever feel the difference because there just aren’t any racing circuits (let alone highways) on the planet where one could honestly say one or other feels distinctly quicker or more agile.

I speak from experience: late in 2011 I spent a day at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia riding the revamped S1000RR Beemer and, in my mind, now that I’ve had the opportunity to ride the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade at one of the best circuits here in South Africa (Aldo Scribante in the Eastern Cape), one really is unable to detect a cigarette paper output of difference between the two bikes – on the back straight or accelerating out of the tightest of curves.


Yoshiaki Nakamura, president of Honda Motors SA, said at the launch: “What I can tell you with certainty is that Honda has, in this the bike's 20th year, produced arguably the greatest superbike yet by refining the Fireblade beyond comparison in many, many ways.

"My job is to satisfy all types of riders whether they be simply enthusiasts or maybe amateur or professional racers.”

If the above sounds a little like "media speak" it’s worth reflecting that 56-year-old Nakamura-san was once a factory rider for Honda and has a 250cc World championship title to his credit. In fact, only last month he was out at the Zwartkops circuit near Pretoria for a National Historic Race Day meeting and led the field by more than half a lap… apparently just to keep his eye in!

A little potted history of the Fireblade records that back in 1992 it was "just 893cc, along with its ultra-light chassis and competition geometry that created the Fireblade legend almost overnight. Since then it has increased in stature in just about every department through 919cc, 929cc and 954cc to the 999cc "beating heart" we know today.


Peer pressure aside, due mainly to a handful of South African motorcycle champs who turned up for the test ride in the Windy City, it was without doubt the most enjoyable track day I’ve ever had - here or abroad. Honda’s Fireblade has to be the easiest superbike yet to ride confidently after a few short laps – it’s that friendly.

It’s also worth recording some of the more salient and obvious details found on the bike: there’s a new nose, main fairing and tail section – not just cosmetic changes but designed to make the bike look even more assertive, dynamic and smooth.

The Honda R&D guys decided to fit a Showa rear shock system (as found on other Japanese thoroughbreds such as Suzuki’s GSX-R) while the inverted front forks on the ’Blade have Showa 'Big Piston' technology up front - improved damping front and rear. Factor in gorgeous cast alloy rims (now 12-spoked) that provide even further rigidity.

Gone are the conventional dials – in their place is an all-digital combo with built-in lap-timer, gear position indicator and a tachometer with four modes of display. Easy to read and check, if time permits!


The bike is essentially lighter, more compact and more powerful and it was time to get a few laps under my belt on the superb, but short (2.48km) Scribante circuit. Easing out on to the track, the infamous Firehawk Sweep beckoned.

Two laps to familiarise myself and warm up the tyres was always going to be a good idea – one that soon paid dividends because the ‘Blade is so simple to ride and control it encourages the rider to turn in safely yet go quicker and quicker.

I rarely do wheelies on purpose but coming out of the Goodyear Sweep on lap three up she came for quite a few metres. I hope that somebody took a picture if only for posterity’s sake! Easy to control with just a dab of the rear brake (Honda linked brakes are standard on the ’Blade), yet the bike still managed to reach 227km/h along the straight before the Luk Repco curve came into play.

The 20-minute session seemed to fly by. I was quickly gaining confidence in my own ability, and that’s not a bad thing. But that’s the rub with ’Blade ownership, methinks.

Prices start at R141 999 for the basic Fireblade; a R10K premium gets you the C-ABS version – and probably worth every penny …

2012 Honda Fireblade

Four-cylinder, 998cc, liquid-cooled
Power: 131kW @ 12 000rpm
Torque: 78Nm @ 11 000rpm
0-100km/h: 2.8sec
Top speed: 300km/h
Tank capacity: 17.7 litres
Seat height: 820mm
Kerb weight: 200 g
Wheelbase: 1407mm
Brakes: Linked discs
Final drive: O-ring chain

PRICE: From R141 999

  • jacques.koorts - 2012-03-15 10:40

    Kerb weight: 200 g wow a superbike out of nanotechnology ;)

      francis.viviers - 2012-03-15 14:51

      its pretty standard, the frame is made from aluminum

  • Cyrus - 2012-03-15 10:42

    hmmm... The blade (along with the Gixxer) has always been known for its all round capabilities and not for its hard core track manners. This is what makes it popular I suppose. I suppose each one to its own but BMW, Aprillia, Kawasaki, MV or even the new Ducati 1199 has moved the game on. The rest in my view has just conceded the lead to them.

      Sean - 2012-03-15 13:01

      Honda's talent lies in building a well refined bike that the average rider can get the most out of. Kawasaki has always built strong engines but what is the point of bigger power figures if very few people can use them.

  • Cyrus - 2012-03-15 10:43

    PS: That Torque figure looks off. Are you sure its not 112nm instead of 78nm

  • Keith - 2012-03-15 16:29

    The torque figure is actually 112Nm, weight 200kg for non-ABS model only

  • Marek - 2012-03-15 19:55

    I do feel that Honda has 15 HP less then S1000RR! Who wouldn't? This article is totally rubbish - Japanese bike speedo over reads by +-20km/h and the same goes for all Japanese bikes (had 100 different bikes to date), where BMW is only 1-2% out and this was tested with GPS and you comparing speedo readings when riding Honda on the truck?LOL!!!That's why you thought you are going fast and the bike was handling good, my frends also thought that until S1KRR came around. How much did they pay you or what did they give you to wright that crap. One day I wake up and my bike feels faster and on the other its not- I love this guy he feels that Honda is almost as fast as BM ?!? God one! and very professional! Honda is developing this bike for 20 years promising power, speed and handling and disappointing with every model (new model were never as much better as it was promised by them e.g.: lust six models were good for 300km/h standard and to be honest even this model will not get there 280km/h on GPS maybe) We are feed lies and Honda can't still come even close to S1000RR( New Kid on The Block) and the same goes to all other Japanese bikes. Feeding us stories and we paid for small and worthless improvements. Thanks BMW for opening our eyes! Goodbye Honda for ever!!! You want to do the test come and test it with me and don't listen to this crap. Disappointment and empty promises all the way!

      Erik - 2012-03-16 08:46

      Not sure what you on about Marek but I do agree with you to a certain point.BMW did up the game.Some of us havent ridden hundreds of bike as yourself so someone upgrading from a 600 to a 1000 wont know the difference between the Honda and BMW.I have always been a Suzuki man so I dont even care what a BMW rides like or how much faster it is,I want a Suzuki and trust me mine goes 300 easily (measured on gps)

      Trevor - 2012-03-16 13:20

      Japs have for the last 20years had a monopoly and every year we have become used to the odd little tweek, now the Italians and Germans have JUMPED ahead and the Japs are still thinking they can do these little improvements. You fit a full system,filter power commander and flow the head, it takes almost 5-6 YEARS on before the stock bike makes the same power...now with the Europeans, take ANY japs bike, spend R20-30 000 on the same mods and you MAY JUST make the same power as a stock BMW/1199...so what does that tell you...

  • matthews.bantsijang - 2012-03-16 00:56

    Love it!!!!!

  • Trevor - 2012-03-16 13:12

    Oh hell, you can see Honda worked hard on Dave at Scribante...anyone who has raced there KNOWS, Scribante feels feathers for power, it's all about handling...power means NOTHING there so don't be so mis-leading Dave.Fireblade is a brillaint machine but it's definitely a generation behind the 1199 & BMW...Japs still milking the consumers...

      Marek - 2012-03-16 18:39

      I did ride at Scribante (Raced not just a track day) i did ride many bikes (had a bike shop before) what gets me is when some one is misleading potential byers by saying something idiotic like the title "Honda's Fireblade still sharpest" this should be punishable because Honda wasn't the sharpest anyway. It is commonly known that manufactures do invite reporters and they do receive different incentives to get the best write ups possible, but no one writes so much bull s**t! Does he even know how to ride the bike? NO! and this is the problem! Just see the test he did with the S1000RR and this is the proof. Any bike will be good enough for his limits and riding abilities, how can he judge which would be better or safer for a average or a good rider if he himself is maybe just a average rider? Think about it! BMW with the biggest power is still the safest of them all (most advanced integrated traction control and ABS) and that is 100 x more important than any think else. BM has 100 other advantages which he never mentioned too! I do not work for BMW but I want you to go and test drive one and you will newer look back!

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