Sired by a MotoGp champion and tempered in the fires of World superbike and endurance competition, the all-new CBR1000RR Fireblade vividly brings to life searing performance, omniscient control, thrilling beauty and simplicity of form that sets heart and minds racing.
Every line of the new Fireblade's form reveals its inherent function. Honed for a sleeker, more potent slice through the air, its aggressive, race-inspired design features a more compact front fairing and miniscule tail. Its gleaming, smooth finish and mirror-integrated LED indicators maximise its visual impact... I'm in love!
With the digital speedo reading a sedate 80kph I twisted the throttle wide open, and I could feel the front-end climb skyward. The new Blade is awesome!
At 135kph, with
the yellow rev-limit light staring me in the face I zap the gear lever into
second... on a stock 2008 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade.
Honda defined the modern day open-class sportbike category with it's ground breaking CBR900RR. When the first RR hit the streets in '93, it was the perfect blend of a nimble, lightweight chassis stuffed with a compact, high-performance engine and wrapped in flashy race-replica plastics.
Honda's open-classer has evolved quite a bit over it's fourteen years. In 2000 it evolved into the 929, and then two years later it saw another displacement jump to 954 in pursuit of the ideal balance between lightweight agility and open-road performance.
Honda's flagship sportbike finally made the jump to full-fledged superbike status with the introduction of the CBR1000RR in 2004 and two years later the Fireblade was tweaked again, in an effort to keep pace with the other Japanese big-bores nipping at the double-R's rear tyre... and coming in behind its Japanese rivals just doesn't sit well with Honda.
After all the hype for the new Blade, I was really excited to ride the all-new 1000. So when the e-mail finally arrived with the details for my ride, I was about as giddy as as teenager on his first date.
Honda explained three primary design focuses of this year's 1000: First, engineers sought to integrate proven race technologies born on-track in the highly competitive realm of MotoGP. Second, power-to-weight has always been a key fundamental of the CBR pedigree, so it comes as no surprise that engineers continued on their never ending quest to trim weight and bump up power. And with a claimed curb weight of .......kgs, it appears that Honda has again raised the power-to-weight benchmark. And lastly, it's obvious that Honda is an innovative company. That being said, engineers desired to incorporate new trend-setting technologies that will make the bike easier for the rider to control both on the street and on the track.
At the heart of the CBR is an all-new engine that is not only 11.35kg lighter, but also more compact and according to Honda, 6.5% more powerful than its predecessor. Internally, the liquid-cooled, Inline-four has a slightly more oversquare bore/stroke layout of 76 x 55.1mm, equating to a displacement of 999cc's. Compression has received a minor boost to 12.3:1 (up from 12.2:1) New forged pistons with a special low-friction coating retain the same weight as before and now reside in an innovative separate, sleeveless cylinder block, which allowed engineers to increase cylinder bore without increasing engine width.
Although last year's CBR had a tremendous mid-range punch, its top-end performance was a bit limited. The solution: A significantly revised valvetrain specifically designed for improved high-rpm performance. Larger 30.5mm titanium intake valves replace last year's 29mm steel units. Exhaust valves have been slimmed to 24mm (down 3mm), which in turn allows the use of a 15mm shorter cylinder head. Controlling the updated valves are a set of lighter camshafts.
Fueling the new powerplant are 46mm throttle bodies featuring Honda's Dual Stage Fuel Injection. All eight upper and lower 12-hole Denso fuel injectors are controlled via twelve unique 3-D fuel-injection maps. The lower, primary injectors power the engine during low rpm, while the upper "showerhead" injectors come alive during mid-to-high rpm.
Exhaust gasses are now expelled via a unique stainless-steel 4-2-1 MotoGP-style exhaust system that sits beneath the bike just like Nicky Hayden's RC212V. The low-slung system is positioned as close as possible to the center of the motorcycle in order to aid handling and to allow maximum cornering clearance. Inside the lightweight three-chamber muffler, both electronic and pressure exhaust valves are used to reduce noise and enhance power output at any rpm setting.
Cradling the engine is an entirely new chassis. Like its middleweight sibling (the CBR600), the Fireblade is now bestowed with a more compact four-piece twin-spar aluminium frame that utilizes Honda's Hollow Fine Die-Cast manufacturing process, allowing frame wall thickness to be as narrow as 2.5mm. Not only is the frame more rigid, it is also lighter and slimmer than the one it replaces.
In the suspension department, a fully-adjustable 43mm inverted Showa fork returns, but the distance between the fork tubes has been reduced by 10mm in order to help slim the front profile. Offset has also been increased 2.5mm (from 25mm) in order to sharpen steering response.
RC211V inspired Pro-Link rear suspension features a new, 12mm longer gull-wing
shaped aluminium swingarm that stretches wheelbase to 1407mm. Housed inside, a
fully adjustable rear shock boasts updated spring and damping rates.
Externally, the CBR1000RR sports lighter, aerodynamically efficient bodywork that utilizes smoother shapes, alterations which Honda claims actually help the bike change directions at speed. Additionally, the archaic stalk-style front turn signals have finally been integrated into the mirrors and add to the CBR's clean look.
OK, OK... enough with the techno stuff! How does the thing ride? As I suited up, ready to experience 1000cc glory, I could hardly contain my excitement. With the beautiful Black Blade glistening under the crisp winter sun, I climbed aboard.
The first thing that stood out was how small the new CBR feels. The bike feels significantly narrower and almost 600-like. Seat height measures 820mm (same as the 2007 model) and despite it being the same on paper, it feels lower and closer, as if you're sitting in the bike rather than on top. The reach to the handlebars isn't quite as much a stretch as before and like the current generation CBR600RR, the riding position feels very relaxed, more neutral.
Pulling in the super-light feeling cable-actuated clutch is easier than ever due to Honda's unique thrust cam-assist, in which a set of cammed surfaces within the clutch basket automatically increase the amount of pressure generated on the clutch stack.
Once you're moving it becomes immediately apparent just how silky-smooth the engine is, even at low rpm. Climb on the gas and the bike really takes off... with a large dose of acceleration that only a modern liter-class machine can provide.
After a few easy clicks on the road, I started to wind her up. Right away I was impressed with just how effortless steering was. Similar to Honda's middleweight class stunner, the new 1000 changes direction ridiculously easy. No doubt in part to its revised steering head angle of 23.3-degrees (reduced from 23.45) and decreased 96.2mm of trail (down from 100mm).
With those aggressive chassis numbers, one might presume that things can get out of hand quickly, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Despite the massive amount of power the CBR pumps out, the chassis stays remarkably well planted.
This is due in part to the second generation HESD (Honda Electronic Steering Damper). The ultra-compact piece mounts neatly and unobtrusively under the front of the fuel tank. In function it's almost completely unnoticeable. That is until you whack the throttle open, unleashing all 999cc's of fury on the 190/50R17 rear tyre which simultaneously sends the front 120/70R17 skyward, struggling to maintain contact with the road.
And speaking of acceleration, when those throttle bodies are opened the new Honda engine is devastatingly fast. Considering that you have roughly 150 horsepower just a twist of the wrist away, it's amazing how smoothly the new 1K mill pumps out the power. Power wheelies in the first three cogs are standard issue courtesy of the powerful mid-range, but where last year's engine would fall off the new one continues to pull like a freight train all the way until the small, yellow rev-limiter light ends the fun.
Throttle response on the new Blade is a massive leap forward not only over its predecessor but for all sportbikes. On/off abruptness has been completely eliminated and you now feel a more direct connection to the engine then ever before. This is due in part, to Honda's Ignition Interruption Control System (IICS). This technology, which is a first of its kind on a Honda motorcycle, uses sensors that compare engine speed to the speed of the countershaft sprocket as well as the degree of throttle input. When engine speed exceeds countershaft speed by a certain limit, IICS retards the ignition, which thereby eliminates unwanted drive lash.
Another piece of
technology which passively assists the rider is IACV (Idle Air Control Valve).
First launched on last year's CBR600RR, IACV smoothes out throttle response on
both acceleration and deceleration by allowing intake air to briefly elevate
engine idle speed, which allows smoother throttle transitions when the throttle
is opened or closed.
Keeping tabs on what's happening beneath you is a new instrument package that is both elegant and functional. A large analog RPM gauge, digital speedometer, coolant temperature, clock, dual trip-meters, odometer and average fuel consumption, are paired with assorted engine warning lights, including a yellow over-rev light is also integrated into the cluster.
year's Fireblade was already renowned for its potent set of binders, but even a
good set of brakes can be improved and that's exactly what Honda's done. New
lighter, more rigid radial-mount Tokico monobloc four-piston calipers grab on to
a lighter set of six-point mount floating 320mm rotors powered by a radial-pump
master cylinder. Keeping front wheel height in check while rowing through the
first few gears is a single-piston rear caliper gripping a 220mm disc.
Feel through the rubber lines is fantastic and similar to the setup found on the 600RR. Power is equally as pleasing with only two fingers needed to haul the bike down from speed.
Finally, Honda has made the leap into the slipper-clutch arena, and its first attempt is an absolute winner. Changing down was simple and predictable. Simply change down two to three cogs and let the slipper-clutch do the rest. Rear-wheel chatter is a thing of the past. And, engine braking continues to be reduced, allowing the rider to more accurately gauge their corner entry speed.
Like the original CBR900RR, Honda has taken a tremendous step forward with the new CBR1K. The handling differences between 1000s and 600s is getting closer by the year. By incorporating new technologies such as IACV and IICS, Honda has made a bike that is not only more capable in the hands of a skilled rider but also far easier for a novice to ride.
photos by Kenn and Dylan
Thanks to Joeline Dobrowski and her team at Honda South Africa for the ride,
They had to send four large guys to fetch the Fireblade - We absolutely LOVED it!