I've always hankered after a Blade. Had my beady dreaming teenage sights on one back in '92 when the very first twin-headlight bad boy burst onto the scene, and have kept a close watch on its progress ever since.
My interest took a dive in '96 when the GSX-R750WT came out as the hooligan to have, and then a further slump in '98 as the R1 made its entrance. But I never forgot the Blade. I watched slightly aghast as she porked out a bit, then had my skirt blown up again as she did the heavy dieting thing and turned up leaner than ever in '99.
And when this year's model was revealed late last year, I knew she was the one. Power was up, weight was down, the lines looked purposeful again, and you could just tell she was going to be as easy to live with as every Blade before her. Yup, 2002 was going to be my Blade year. Reckon I made the right choice too having just done this month's 1,000cc big guns shootout (see p54), because the Blade turned out just three bhp less than the Suzook, packed tauter handling and was a devastating tool full stop that gave me more wood than a pencil factory. And when my own longtermer turned up a few days later and matched my Alpinestars jacket so perfectly, well, life just doesn't really get any better does it? If anyone's waiting to hear about my R6, well it's up for sale, so check out the Fast Show to see if you want to buy her. Good home only. No wheelies...
Well after a month together, I have to say that life with a Blade is pretty damned sweet indeed.
On a day-to-day basis she really is ludicrously practical, managing my half-hour daily commute through grim traffic in a fuss-free fashion and not even crippling my wrists into the bargain. Nope, she's smooth and easygoing even at sparrow fart in the morning when I'm anything but.
Then of course there's the boot. Granted, if your car had a boot this small you'd be pretty upset, but on a bike as sharp and fast as this it's the icing on the cake, happily swallowing my massive Oxford Monster chain and Boss disc lock which help ease my worries when parking the Blade up in town.
But to own a bike like this just to potter about would be to miss the point by a country mile. All I'm getting at is that using this bike every day isn't the headache it can be with some other superbikes.
So enough of the practicalities already. After all, this is a FireBlade, an evil demon of a bike capable of chewing up and spitting out pretty much anything foolish enough to get in its path, so let's get onto the juicier stuff.
For starters, I slapped her on Little Dave's dyno down at First Bike as soon as the first service was out of the way just to make sure all was in order. And with 141 genuine bee aitch pees at the back wheel I'd have to pronounce myself more than happy. And shortly afterwards, with 2,000 mundane town and motorway miles behind us, I decided it was time to use the Blade the way nature intended so we caned it cross-country to Lincolnshire for a 100% Bikes (www.100pc.co.uk) trackday at Cadwell Park.
Cadwell full circuit's one of my favorites anyway, and on the Blade it was no exception. The handling's stunning for a 1,000cc bike and the brakes still absolutely killer. The only limiting factor all day were the oe Michelin Pilot sports, but with the pressures dropped to 34 at the back and 32 at the front there was still plenty of feel which let me get a wiggle on and stay out of the gravel. But they're a compromise fast road/track tyre anyway and on that level I can't fault them. Only thing I would say is that the recommended road pressures (46 rear, ?? front) don't help the Blade's friskiness and I've found that 36 in the back and 34 in the front keeps the bike a little more planted on the road without the tyres becoming too soggy.
On the subject of friskiness, this is a lively bike. Although on our recent 1,000cc shootout this never got worrying despite the levels of abuse we put the bike through my longtermer has kicked out of shape on one occasion in a big way. A stone in the road while coming out of a corner on the power at 100mph (closed roads m'lud, ahem) sent the bike into a proper lock-to-lock slapper that was enough to shove the pistons back in the front calipers and kick my feet off the pegs while the chirping front tyre left a series of black marks across the road. There's nothing to say any other 130bhp-plus superbike wouldn't have done just the same under similar duress, but if you only buy one thing for your Blade this summer, may I recommend a steering damper. Make sure it's fully-adjustable so you can turn it right off though, because unless you really are going bananas, you won't need it. I'll try a couple over the next few months and keep you posted.
Good points: Very fast, very easy to live with, cavernous boot
Bad points: Can get a bit too lively at the front
Bits: Oxford sports humpback tailpack (£84.99), Boss disc lock (£44.99), 2m Monster chain & padlock (£184.99), (01865) 852000, first service courtesy of Little Dave at First Bike in Tooting, (0208) 946 9466
Stuff Chariots of Fire, I'll take my Blade of fire any day of the week. And anyway, those chariot things can be a right pain - always wearing out their horses, getting stuck in traffic, Ben Hur wannabes coming at you with massive blades stuck to their spindles trying to take you out while you're minding your own business at the lights. Nope, for me it's got to be Honda's flagship finest any day of the week.
Anyway, gibberish over so let's get down to Blade business.
I plumped for the 2002 Blade as me longtermer for this year because I just knew we were going to be good together. Okay so I had the benefit of doing the group test with the GSX-R thou and co just to make sure I'd done the right thing before taking delivery of my personal mount, but even if I hadn't had my socks blown off by the Honda those few road and track days, I'd still have one in my keep now - my order had gone cap in hand in to Honda HQ months previous.
I like my bikes to be fast (Blade turns in a genuine 180mph and a 10.38s standing quarter during speed testing), I like them with power (141bhp at the back wheel, bog stock and out of the box thankyou very much), I like them to earn their keep at the track (Blade steers so fast it makes my ears bleed while the motor and brakes make it a truly explosive package), and, boringly enough, I want them comfortable through town and down motorway (Blade lets me laugh my way through the daily South London gridlock that is my 'ride' to work, and eats motorways for breakfast when asked). This year, there ain't any other sportsbike about that can give me the big kicks I want with the practical concessions I need apart from the Blade.
Which all means a sunny Sunday afternoon sees the two of us pottering up the M6 to meet the rest of the crew for this test. Some proper scorchio has been injected into the day and having thrown my leathers into the support van (Ben's kindly offered to drive this so he can text his burd on our way up North), I'm well-protected in my finest Fox MX shorts, trainers and t-shirt. With the odd wheelie down the quieter stretches of carriageway thrown in for the benefit of bored kids staring out the back of mum and dad's saloon, me and the Blade are having a spot-on time, the only downer being forgetting my lack of proper apparel during one fuel stop and burning my left knee on the frame - that side gets bloody hot for some reason. Otherwise all is well with our world.
Sonic may scoff at the dinner-plate original numberplate and quiet standard can still adorning my bike, but there is method in my madness. My licence is hanging by a knife edge as it stands and the last thing I need is unwanted attention from the boys in blue. As things are me and my Blade slip quietly, unobtrusively and with as little fuss as possible under the noses of this country's many law enforcers. She's a stealth tool is all. You'll still need you wits about you to ride like a drongo and avoid a tug, but it's made so much easier when you're not riding something that screams 'look, look, look! Over here! I'm going to break the law me!'. She could do with some better mirrors though - unless you're going minimal in a t-shirt, the elbows of your leathers are going to be all you'll see behind you on the move.
Bar the Translogic superbike-spec quickshifter adorning the Blade (looks trick, keeps me amused on long journeys, comes into its own at the track), and the Scott steering damper (bloody essential if you want to ride your Blade proper fast, road or track), she's as standard as the day she left Japan in a big cardboard container with my name on it.
I keep toying with tweaking, but right now for every plus I can think of, there's a minus to stop me. Paintjob to liven the admittedly dull colourscheme? Would be luvverly, but means no bike for six weeks while it gets done. Saucy full race system, with Power Commander mods to pep power delivery to perfection? Well, more power's never to be sniffed at, but what about all that noise giving me a headache on the way home the morning after the night before, eh? How's about some lower gearing? Go on, you know you want to. Just think of all that extra lowdown shazam? Okay, I'm tempted, I admit it. Maybe a few sprockets couldn't hurt in the name of research. Next month perhaps...
One thing the Blade has used is tyres. Not too many. But the OE Michelin Pilot Sports really were rather splendid, if a touch slimy when cold. So when they went to the great tyre shop in the sky after 5,000 miles' frivolities, top gadge Arthur at Bridgestone UK winged over a set of 012SS's. And for the summer we've had they are bloomin' perfect. They grip alarmingly from cold, let you ride for real in the wet (extra silica-rich compound or something quoth Arthur), and still stick good and plenty in the dry and on the track, upright or pegs down and on your ear. Most versatile supersports tyres around I'll say. Only downer is they don't steer quite as fast as the Michelins, but then on a fast-steerer like the Blade this isn't exactly a worry.
And despite the weather's best intentions to wash us both into the nearest ditch, the Blade came up good as new with an hours' TLC back at TWO towers after this test. Something for the weekend, sir? Yes please, I'll take the Blade ta.
This month's Blade story ain't about performance-enhancing goodies, nor is it about ripping tracks or foreign roads to pieces because this month the Blade and I have mostly been jolly sensible indeed.
I used to like nothing more than plastering my longtermers with as many trick bits as possible but have come over all grown-up this month. But there is a reason for it...
See, I've just bought a house and as I don't earn a million quid a year, haven't got a garage - in London even a lean-to behind the kitchen adds fifty thou' to the asking price as it represents a 'fantastic development opportunity' according to estate agents.
Anyway, all this means the Blade lives outdoors - not a good place for one of the country's most nickable sportsbikes. I chose a gaff in a quiet area where bikes could at least be tucked out of obvious sight, but even so security suddenly became an issue.
A bike cover was first on the list - if thieves can't see your bike they're more likely to ignore it and Motrax came up trumps with a nice big one. A large chain was next so ta to Oxford for the heftiest one I've seen in a long time and a chunky disc lock.
A ground anchor completes the package. Blade now lives under the cover and locked to the anchor. Not foolproof, but 10 times better than sitting in the street on the steering lock.
So what next to ease my day-to-day Blade life?
Well, my Karrimor rucksack was beginning to ming after five years hard service, so a replacement was on the cards and it had to be a Kriega one. I nicked Shippey's a few weeks ago and was well impressed - it was supremely comfortable, looked cool and swallowed a helmet faster than a porno starlet on a diet.
Pyramid sent me a double bubble screen which I duly slotted on, but to be honest I couldn't tell the difference over the standard one. But then I'm tall so the standard screen's fine for me anyway deflecting wind into my chest and leaving my head pleasantly buffet-free already. I'll send stumpy Gus out on the Blade and get his views before swapping the thing back.
Then there are the Carbon Lorraine SBK3 pads to go in. The originals still have plenty of meat left despite a few trackdays and my crap stoppies and childish skids but I thought testing some others out in the name of research wouldn't be a bad idea - I'll let you know more next month. The same goes for the Metzeler Sportec M1's which I'll be throwing on at the same time.
And for next month? I've got my eye on some lovely slippers and a really comfortable armchair...