Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade (2006 - 2007) review

It wasn't broken but Honda fixed it anyway. Niall plays 'spot the difference' with a freshly honed 2006 Fireblade

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Mon, 20 Sep 2010 - 12:09

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 8499
Overall
4
If I was going to take one out of all the 1000s to the south of France or Spain it'd be the Honda, simply because the riding position is the most comfortable
Tweaks, nips, tucks and alterations have improved this year's blade overall,<p> Better track manners.
Worth stumping up the cash for a fresh model, or wait for more radial updates?

Do you happen to be building 1000cc sports bikes at the moment? Then you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

How so? When Yamaha launched its original R1 in 1997 we congratulated it on giving us the most exciting road bike ever. Over the next four years it gradually sedated this fine tool before finally re-fitting excitement and character for '04. Since '02 Suzuki has been through a similar cycle with its GSX-R1000. What a fickle bunch we are - never pleased, it seems.

But when the first CBR1000RR Fireblade was launched two years ago it seemed almost perfect. Its DNA was a combination of original FireBlade (that's big 'B' in Blade; only with the underseat pipe did it become a small 'b') and the MotoGP RC211V, so it was fast and gorgeous. It also had a good chassis and suspension plus that trick electronic steering damper, so even your Grandad could enjoy a Sunday morning thrash in safety without the fear of spilling Werther's Originals all over the road.

So why fix it if it's not broken? Honda says Fireblade owners complained of a lack of midrange grunt, losing out to the competition accelerating from 70mph and above. They also felt the steering was a tad lazy and needed sharpening up to improve direction changes and corner exit. Fair enough, but personally I think Honda is hungry for success in Superstock racing and decided it was time to hone its weapon for the new season.

Honda has made many minor changes to the '06 Blade, but simply lowering the gearing and shortening the wheelbase have made the biggest differences. Okay, the new shape intake ports and bigger exhaust ports help the remapped ECU deliver efficient fueling, and the engine now revs 550rpm higher to12,200rpm with dual exhaust valve springs to deal with the increase. But, despite all these internal changes, plus a slightly higher compression ratio, the overall horsepower figure remains the same at 149bhp. Could it be a case of Euro3 creeping in and forcing changes to meet regulations? I reckon so, but at least Honda hasn't lost any power.

With any sportsbike it isn't just power that counts, it's weight as well. Like the fat kid at school, he may produce a lot of power, but there's a lot of pies to shift. Honda has further improved the Blade's power-to-weight ratio by shedding three kilos, mainly from a lighter seat rail, silencer, smaller radiator and camshafts, but also from a number of small weight saving features such as the aluminum pre-load adjuster. Okay, I know what you're thinking... But as any weight watcher will tell you, every gram counts.

From a distance the new model looks very similar to the one it replaces, but get up close and you'll notice a skinnier, more aggressive nose and side cowlings. Also the exposed right-hand side clutch casing is a very nice touch. At the rear the twin-exit silencer is rounder and tidier, and the swingarm is now black to match the frame. The controls and dash remain the same, apart from the tacho redline moving to 12,200. In my opinion the graphite black or iron nail silver look much more interesting than the 'winning red' design. I told the Honda people this but they still sent me out on the red bike...

The Losail circuit in Doha, Qatar, is dead flat and made up of 16 very similar-looking corners, and on the Fireblade second gear suited most of them. For my first sessions my bike had out-of-the-box suspension settings which, after a few laps, I could tell were too soft for the suspension-flattening, hard-braking circuit. Despite the BT015 Bridgestones coping well, hitting apexes didn't come easy. However, having not ridden the circuit before I was quite happy just to cruise round trying to piece together a lap. With the layout in my head I swapped to stiffer settings, which transformed the handling and got me hitting the spot lap after lap. For hard track use I found adding two clicks to the preload, compression and rebound front and back was all that was needed to turn the Blade from butter knife to butcher's meat cleaver.

With the suspension sorted I really began to notice the difference the revised gearing has made to the bike. Although the Blade's handling remains very neutral, driving hard out of the lower-speed corners the front would go light and develop a mild headshake. Nothing serious, and the stiffer suspension setting all but cured it, but it shows three things. One, that this Blade is definitely sharper steering than the old model. Two, the HESD electronic steering damper is a wonderful bit of kit since it dealt with these wobbles instantly and with no fuss; three, the new gearing definitely drives the Blade harder out of corners. Honda says the changes are all due to customer feedback, and more specifically customers wanting more midrange power. Personally I think that as well as needing more midrange, what the customers really wanted was a bit more character in the midrange delivery. The old Blade pulled well enough in the midrange, but it just felt a bit bland. While the new gearing does perk up the midrange kick, Honda has also altered the fuel injection to smooth the delivery as well. I've never felt there was any snatchiness with the old bike's set-up, but just in case the lowered gearing highlighted any, Honda has softened any potential sharp edges with a new, more linear map.

The rest of the changes are mainly cosmetic or simply to help shed pounds, although one change isn't suited to the UK market: the new design cowling now directs heat away from the rider - not really much use for the UK! But one change worth noting is the new front brake set-up. The discs are larger at 320mm in diameter, up from 310mm, but to keep the weight down Honda has made them 0.5mm thinner. Now call me a penny pincher, but

I want a few quid off the price of the bike for that change. Does Mr Honda know how much a disc costs nowadays?

So it's time for the crunch. Is the '06 Fireblade going to knock the GSX-R1000 off the top spot? If I was going to take one out of all the 1000s to the south of France or Spain it'd be the Honda, simply because the riding position is the most comfortable. Compared with the old model? You could argue that some of the changes, especially to the gearing, could be done to your current bike easily enough, so there's no need to upgrade to a new one. But the chassis alterations do make a subtle difference, and the '06 Blade is definitely a much better track bike. Better than the GSX-R1000? Probably not, but I'd say riders would be less intimidated by it. What will be interesting is how the Blade gets on in Superstock racing. Will the changes be enough to notch up a few wins?

Speaking to Honda, it says the '06 Blade will be very closely matched in price to the '05 bike, which is only fair considering the small differences between the two.

Do you happen to be building 1000cc sports bikes at the moment? Then you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

How so? When Yamaha launched its original R1 in 1997 we congratulated it on giving us the most exciting road bike ever. Over the next four years it gradually sedated this fine tool before finally re-fitting excitement and character for '04. Since '02 Suzuki has been through a similar cycle with its GSX-R1000. What a fickle bunch we are - never pleased, it seems.

But when the first CBR1000RR Fireblade was launched two years ago it seemed almost perfect. Its DNA was a combination of original FireBlade (that's big 'B' in Blade; only with the underseat pipe did it become a small 'b') and the MotoGP RC211V, so it was fast and gorgeous. It also had a good chassis and suspension plus that trick electronic steering damper, so even your Grandad could enjoy a Sunday morning thrash in safety without the fear of spilling Werther's Originals all over the road.

So why fix it if it's not broken? Honda says Fireblade owners complained of a lack of midrange grunt, losing out to the competition accelerating from 70mph and above. They also felt the steering was a tad lazy and needed sharpening up to improve direction changes and corner exit. Fair enough, but personally I think Honda is hungry for success in Superstock racing and decided it was time to hone its weapon for the new season.

Honda has made many minor changes to the '06 Blade, but simply lowering the gearing and shortening the wheelbase have made the biggest differences. Okay, the new shape intake ports and bigger exhaust ports help the remapped ECU deliver efficient fueling, and the engine now revs 550rpm higher to12,200rpm with dual exhaust valve springs to deal with the increase. But, despite all these internal changes, plus a slightly higher compression ratio, the overall horsepower figure remains the same at 149bhp. Could it be a case of Euro3 creeping in and forcing changes to meet regulations? I reckon so, but at least Honda hasn't lost any power.

With any sportsbike it isn't just power that counts, it's weight as well. Like the fat kid at school, he may produce a lot of power, but there's a lot of pies to shift. Honda has further improved the Blade's power-to-weight ratio by shedding three kilos, mainly from a lighter seat rail, silencer, smaller radiator and camshafts, but also from a number of small weight saving features such as the aluminum pre-load adjuster. Okay, I know what you're thinking... But as any weight watcher will tell you, every gram counts.

From a distance the new model looks very similar to the one it replaces, but get up close and you'll notice a skinnier, more aggressive nose and side cowlings. Also the exposed right-hand side clutch casing is a very nice touch. At the rear the twin-exit silencer is rounder and tidier, and the swingarm is now black to match the frame. The controls and dash remain the same, apart from the tacho redline moving to 12,200. In my opinion the graphite black or iron nail silver look much more interesting than the 'winning red' design. I told the Honda people this but they still sent me out on the red bike...

The Losail circuit in Doha, Qatar, is dead flat and made up of 16 very similar-looking corners, and on the Fireblade second gear suited most of them. For my first sessions my bike had out-of-the-box suspension settings which, after a few laps, I could tell were too soft for the suspension-flattening, hard-braking circuit. Despite the BT015 Bridgestones coping well, hitting apexes didn't come easy. However, having not ridden the circuit before I was quite happy just to cruise round trying to piece together a lap. With the layout in my head I swapped to stiffer settings, which transformed the handling and got me hitting the spot lap after lap. For hard track use I found adding two clicks to the preload, compression and rebound front and back was all that was needed to turn the Blade from butter knife to butcher's meat cleaver.

With the suspension sorted I really began to notice the difference the revised gearing has made to the bike. Although the Blade's handling remains very neutral, driving hard out of the lower-speed corners the front would go light and develop a mild headshake. Nothing serious, and the stiffer suspension setting all but cured it, but it shows three things. One, that this Blade is definitely sharper steering than the old model. Two, the HESD electronic steering damper is a wonderful bit of kit since it dealt with these wobbles instantly and with no fuss; three, the new gearing definitely drives the Blade harder out of corners. Honda says the changes are all due to customer feedback, and more specifically customers wanting more midrange power. Personally I think that as well as needing more midrange, what the customers really wanted was a bit more character in the midrange delivery. The old Blade pulled well enough in the midrange, but it just felt a bit bland. While the new gearing does perk up the midrange kick, Honda has also altered the fuel injection to smooth the delivery as well. I've never felt there was any snatchiness with the old bike's set-up, but just in case the lowered gearing highlighted any, Honda has softened any potential sharp edges with a new, more linear map.

The rest of the changes are mainly cosmetic or simply to help shed pounds, although one change isn't suited to the UK market: the new design cowling now directs heat away from the rider - not really much use for the UK! But one change worth noting is the new front brake set-up. The discs are larger at 320mm in diameter, up from 310mm, but to keep the weight down Honda has made them 0.5mm thinner. Now call me a penny pincher, but

I want a few quid off the price of the bike for that change. Does Mr Honda know how much a disc costs nowadays?

So it's time for the crunch. Is the '06 Fireblade going to knock the GSX-R1000 off the top spot? If I was going to take one out of all the 1000s to the south of France or Spain it'd be the Honda, simply because the riding position is the most comfortable. Compared with the old model? You could argue that some of the changes, especially to the gearing, could be done to your current bike easily enough, so there's no need to upgrade to a new one. But the chassis alterations do make a subtle difference, and the '06 Blade is definitely a much better track bike. Better than the GSX-R1000? Probably not, but I'd say riders would be less intimidated by it. What will be interesting is how the Blade gets on in Superstock racing. Will the changes be enough to notch up a few wins?

Speaking to Honda, it says the '06 Blade will be very closely matched in price to the '05 bike, which is only fair considering the small differences between the two.

Do you happen to be building 1000cc sports bikes at the moment? Then you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

How so? When Yamaha launched its original R1 in 1997 we congratulated it
on giving us the most exciting road bike ever. Over the next four years it gradually sedated this fine tool before finally re-fitting excitement and character for '04. Since
'02 Suzuki has been through a similar
cycle with its GSX-R1000. What a fickle bunch we are - never pleased, it seems.

But when the first CBR1000RR Fireblade was launched two years ago it seemed almost perfect. Its DNA was a combination of original FireBlade (that's big 'B' in Blade; only with the underseat pipe did it become
a small 'b') and the MotoGP RC211V, so it was fast and gorgeous. It also had a good
chassis and suspension plus that trick electronic steering damper, so even your Grandad could enjoy a Sunday morning thrash in safety without the fear of spilling Werther's Originals all over the road.

So why fix it if it's not broken? Honda
says Fireblade owners complained of a
lack of midrange grunt, losing out to the
competition accelerating from 70mph and above. They also felt the steering was a
tad lazy and needed sharpening up to improve direction changes and corner exit. Fair enough, but personally I think Honda
is hungry for success in Superstock racing and decided it was time to hone its
weapon for the new season.

Honda has made many minor changes
to the '06 Blade, but simply lowering the gearing and shortening the wheelbase
have made the biggest differences. Okay, the new shape intake ports and bigger exhaust ports help the remapped ECU deliver efficient fueling, and the engine now revs 550rpm higher to12,200rpm with dual exhaust valve springs to deal with the increase. But, despite all these internal changes, plus a slightly higher compression ratio, the overall horsepower figure remains the same at 149bhp. Could it be
a case of Euro3 creeping in and forcing changes to meet regulations? I reckon so, but at least Honda hasn't lost any power.

With any sportsbike it isn't just power that counts, it's weight as well. Like the
fat kid at school, he may produce a lot of power, but there's a lot of pies to shift. Honda has further improved the Blade's power-to-weight ratio by shedding three kilos, mainly from a lighter seat rail, silencer, smaller radiator and camshafts, but also from a number of small weight saving features such as the aluminum
pre-load adjuster. Okay, I know what
you're thinking... But as any weight
watcher will tell you, every gram counts.

From a distance the new model looks very similar to the one it replaces, but get up close and you'll notice a skinnier, more aggressive nose and side cowlings. Also the exposed right-hand side clutch casing is a very nice touch. At the rear the twin-exit
silencer is rounder and tidier, and the
swingarm is now black to match the frame. The controls and dash remain the same, apart from the tacho redline moving to 12,200. In my opinion the graphite black or iron nail silver look much more interesting than the 'winning red' design. I told the Honda people this but they still sent me
out on the red bike...

The Losail circuit in Doha, Qatar, is dead flat and made up of 16 very similar-looking corners, and on the Fireblade second gear suited most of them. For my first sessions my bike had out-of-the-box suspension settings which, after a few laps, I could tell were too soft for the suspension-flattening, hard-braking circuit.
Despite the BT015 Bridgestones coping well, hitting apexes didn't come easy. However, having not ridden the circuit before I was quite happy just to cruise round trying to piece together a lap.
With the layout in my head I swapped to stiffer settings, which transformed the
handling and got me hitting the spot lap after lap. For hard track use I found adding two clicks to the preload, compression and rebound front and back was all that was needed to turn the Blade from butter knife to butcher's meat cleaver.

With the suspension sorted I really began to notice the difference the revised gearing has made to the bike. Although the Blade's handling remains very neutral, driving hard out of the lower-speed corners the front would go light and develop a mild headshake. Nothing serious, and the stiffer suspension setting all but cured it, but it shows three things. One, that this Blade is definitely sharper steering than the old model. Two, the HESD electronic steering damper is a wonderful bit of kit since it dealt with these wobbles instantly and with no fuss; three, the new gearing definitely drives the Blade harder out of corners.
Honda says the changes are all due to customer feedback, and more specifically
customers wanting more midrange power. Personally I think that as well as needing more midrange, what the customers really wanted was a bit more character in the midrange delivery. The old Blade pulled well enough in the midrange, but it just felt a bit bland. While the new gearing does perk up the midrange kick, Honda has
also altered the fuel injection to smooth the delivery as well. I've never felt there was any snatchiness with the old bike's set-up, but just in case the lowered gearing highlighted any, Honda has softened any potential sharp edges with a new, more linear map.

The rest of the changes are mainly
cosmetic or simply to help shed pounds, although one change isn't suited to the UK market: the new design cowling now directs heat away from the rider - not really much use for the UK! But one change worth
noting is the new front brake set-up. The discs are larger at 320mm in diameter,
up from 310mm, but to keep the weight down Honda has made them 0.5mm
thinner. Now call me a penny pincher, but

I want a few quid off the price of the bike
for that change. Does Mr Honda know
how much a disc costs nowadays?

So it's time for the crunch. Is the '06 Fireblade going to knock the GSX-R1000
off the top spot? If I was going to take one out of all the 1000s to the south of France
or Spain it'd be the Honda, simply because the riding position is the most comfortable. Compared with the old model? You could argue that some of the changes, especially to the gearing, could be done to your
current bike easily enough, so there's
no need to upgrade to a new one. But
the chassis alterations do make a subtle
difference, and the '06 Blade is definitely
a much better track bike. Better than the GSX-R1000? Probably not, but I'd say riders would be less intimidated by it. What will
be interesting is how the Blade gets on in Superstock racing. Will the changes be enough to notch up a few wins?

Speaking to Honda, it says the '06 Blade will be very closely matched in price to the '05 bike, which is only fair considering the small differences between the two.

Score Breakdown
Overall
4

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