Big sportsbikes are separated into two eras. Pre-Blade and post-Blade. You see, some big sports machines may have won more races, plenty have cost an awful lot more and, at times, others have bested the 'Blade, but no bike has set the sporting cat among the race-replica pigeons like the Honda FireBlade.
The big H realised there wasn't a great deal either 'super' or 'sporty' about the supersports class at the beginning of the '90s. The company's own CBR1000F was plenty quick, but about as exciting as tea at your nan's, while Kawasaki's ZZ-R1100 - although frighteningly fast - was out of its overweight and underbraked depth at the track. Even the racetrack choices of the class (Suzuki's GSX-R1100 and Yamaha's FZR1000) required a blend of rider skill mixed with brute force, bloody-mindedness and the blessing of whichever god the rider favoured.
Life was looking gloomy for big sportsbikes in 1992 and with 750s at the time not only making up the lion's share of larger sports sales, but also dominating production racing into the bargain, it seemed inevitable that the big boys would soon be shuffling off to the sports-tourerdom that surely beckoned.
And perhaps this would have happened, had Honda in its wisdom not decided to turn everything on its head. All that was needed was a litre bike that handled like a 750. The fact that no one else had managed this miraculous feat eluded Honda's R&D men who, led by the now legendary Tadao Baba, set about making the FireBlade.
Unlike today's crop of big bore sportsters, the 'Blade's original design wasn't led by racing. Obviously the bike had to be a serious track performer (it would be one duff sportsbike if it wasn't), but developing a world-beating superbike platform was never the plan with the FireBlade. After all, winning WSB races was what the RC30 was for and it was doing very nicely thank you. Instead, the Blade's aim was simply to be the best mass-produced sportsbike the buying public had ever had dangled before them.
Looking back now, you'd wonder how the FireBlade could ever have failed. With 1000cc power, 750cc weight, a super-cool name even your dad could remember and a fearsome reputation from the off, this bike had 'modern classic' written all over it.
And a modern classic is exactly what it's become. So we lined up one of each generation of FireBlade for a damned good road, track, strip and dyno thrash in the finest sunny weather this paltry summer has yet seen fit to offer us.