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Honda's Fireblade heart-warmer

2006-06-02 10:06

Honda's Fireblade - conventional heart-warmer

Brett Hamilton

Both styling and mechanical changes are slight as the Fireblade has been given a sharper look, but only by a bit.

Likewise the mechanics have only been slightly fiddled.

New side cowls reveal more of the motor and a few dimples on the front fairings gives the bike a more 'active' look.

Compare it to the Yamaha R1 and the Fireblade looks bland, compare it to the Kawasaki ZX-10R and the Fireblade looks conventional.

You've got to hand it to Honda, they have created a complete motorcycle. The mechanics and engine also offers the same bland conventionlism, but at full tilt on a bumpy mountain pass that's a good thing.

The motor features bigger exhaust ports and reshaped intake ports improve gas flow, making the bike breathe better and accelerate harder out of the corners. The compression ratio has been upped from 11.9:1 to 12.2:1 and the intake valves get double springs, increasing the redline to 12 200 r/min.

Rolling on the throttle in any gear sees ample reaction from the motor, a major plus when powering out of corners.

Weight has been dropped thanks to lighter camshafts, a magnesium ACG cover and a smaller radiator. A final step sees the new exhaust system shedding a full 1.5kg.

Gearshifts are clunky despite the revised clutch basket. In fact, this is just about the only area where the 'Blade is not a super-smooth cruise missile. Gear changes feel very mechanical and upchanges take more effort than you'd think.

The rear sprocket has been given two more teeth to help give the bike faster pull-offs and roll-on acceleration which is always a good thing when you want to up the ante.

The suspension and frame remains unchanged from 2005 but the front spring rate has been increased and the rear has been made softer.

Strangely, this noticeably improves the bike's handling, giving it better feedback through the front forks and a steady wallow when you roll on the throttle while exiting a corner.

Rake has been reduced along with the bike's trail and at the back the swingarm has been made 5mm shorter, in total shrinking the bike's wheelbase by 10mm to 1 400mm.

On the road this means the bike leans over on demand and then leans some more, give it a long-radius twisty and the bike is utterly predictable. Where other super bikes bump, weave and buck the CBR is more refined, faster, less involving and, ultimately, less fun to ride fast.

That doesn't mean that the CBR isn't fun. Anything that that can reach 100Km/h in about 3 seconds and clocks a top speed of 299Km/h has to be fun. However, the bike's forte is its ability to offer the rider exactly what he needs.

Whether you are a seasoned racer or a sunny-Sunday breakfast run breezer the CBR will be able to match your ability. Plotter along and the suspension offers comfort. Open it up and the bike is all about extreme lean angles.

In the saddle this makes the CBR one of the best motorcycles on the market. As with the 2005 model, the new Fireblade will be devastatingly quick, whether you are riding full out or when you're taking it easy, only putting in half the effort.

Slamming on the brakes brings about a rather effective deceleration, not entirely unexpected since the front brakes have been made 10mm larger compared to the outgoing model.

But, in order to save even more weight the front brake discs have been made thinner and the rear uses a lighter calliper.

Push it to the limit and it's like throwing a lit match into a can of rocket fuel. Whoosh.

Fireblade specs:

  • Price: R110 000.
  • Engine: 998cc, liquid-cooled in-line, 4-cylinder.
  • Transmission: 6-speed.
  • Power: 127kW at 11 250r/min.
  • Torque: 114Nm at 10 000r/min.
  • Top speed: 299Km/h.
  • Dry weight: 173kg.
  • Front brakes: Dual 320mm dual hydraulic disc with 4-piston callipers.
  • Rear brakes: Dual 220mm hydraulic disc with single-piston calliper.
  • Front suspension: 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge-type telescopic fork with stepless preload, compression and rebound adjustment.
  • Rear suspension: Unit Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper featuring 13-step preload and stepless compression and rebound damping adjustment.
  • Standard equipment: Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) and HISS ignition security system.

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