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Road test: Honda's CBR 1000 RR Fireblade

2018-01-30 10:56

Dries Van Der Walt

Image: Dries Van Der Walt / Wheels24

Johannesburg - When Honda launched the latest version of the CBR 1000 RR Fireblade last year, it wasn’t just a celebration of the ‘Blade’s 25th anniversary, but also the first major upgrade of their flagship bike in several years.

To up the ante in the face of increasingly stiff competition, the Winged H engineers focused on three areas: more power, less weight and improved electronics.

For the rider, the electronics part of the design brief comes together in the ‘Blade’s full-colour TFT instrument panel. It offers an easy way to switch between, and customise, the various riding modes.

But underneath this convenient interface, the CBR hides a new cutting-edge electronics package equipped with a five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which measures what the bike is doing in all planes every 10 milliseconds.

The IMU works in conjunction with the ECU and Ride by Wire system – the latter being Honda’s first venture into this territory on an in-line-four. Another source of input is the ABS system with new, more compact modulators and wheel speed sensors which talk to the IMU. Included in the electronic rider aids is rear lift control, which helps keep the rear wheel on the ground under heavy braking.

The second component of the design brief is lightness. With a wet weight of 196 kg, it is evident that the engineers have done well in this department. This is obviously a boon on the track, it is no less beneficial in day-to-day riding, which is what many superbikes as relegated to for the majority of their lives. It makes the bike surprisingly easy to deal with in traffic, allowing you to lane-split with pinpoint accuracy. Of course, superbikes are designed for fast cornering, and the ‘Blade impressed me with how well it kept inertia under control when ridden in anger.

And that brings us to the third parameter: more power. While the ‘Blade may not be up there with the best of them in the power department, it has received a very welcome boost over its predecessor, with 142kW on tap. But more important than raw power is the way it deals with the power delivery over the entire rev range, and the CBR is pretty good at that.

Although its peak torque is only developed at 11 000 rpm a good chunk is available low down in the rev range, which helps to limit gear shifts when you’re stuck in slow-moving traffic. The review bike did have a bit of a flat spot at just under 3000 rpm, but above that it delivers power in quite a linear fashion with a discernible kick at around 7500 rpm, before taking off like a scalded cat at around 9000 rpm.

Between the Showa BPF inverted telescopic forks and Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) rear shock, the ‘Blade cheerfully dealt with anything I threw at it during handling tests, while leaving me with the impression that there was a huge margin left which, in all honesty, I didn’t have any desire to explore on public roads. Both ends are fully adjustable for spring preload and rebound/compression damping, although the bike handled so well out of the box that I didn’t feel a need to fiddle with the factory settings. 

After spending a week with the test bike, I walked away with the impression that Honda has done well bridging the generation gap between the Fireblade and its competitors. The new ‘Blade handles and performs better than its predecessor, without sacrificing the user-friendliness it has long been known for. Kudos must be given to Honda for updating it to modern standards without losing the well-roundedness that has made the Fireblade so popular.


Manufacturer: Honda
Model: CBR 1000 RR Fireblade

Type:  Liquid-cooled four-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline-four cylinder
Displacement: 999 cm­­­³
Maximum Power: 141 kW @ 13 000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 114 Nm @ 11 000 rpm
Fuel supply system: PGM-DSFI electronic fuel injection
Fuel type: Premium Unleaded 95+ Octane RON
Fuel consumption: 6.8 L/100 km (actual)

Type: Manual 6-speed sequential
Final drive: Chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 1125 X 720 X 2065
Kerb weight: 196 kg

Passengers: 2 
Fuel tank: 16L

Front: Dual four-piston radial Tokico calipers, 320mm discs, sintered pads, Dual channel ABS
Rear: Single-piston caliper, 220mm disc, sintered pads, Dual channel ABS

Front: 43mm Showa Big Piston Front Fork with preload, compression and rebound adjustment, 120mm stroke
Rear: Unit Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper featuring 10-step preload and stepless compression and rebound damping adjustment, Rear Balance Free Rear Cushion

Tyre, front: 120/70 – 17
Tyre, rear: 190/50 – 17

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