Honda CBR900RR Fireblade (1996 - 1999) review

Not a bad bike necessarily, but very much the least bad-assed Blade in the family tree and no doubts about it.

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Fri, 15 Apr 2005 - 12:04

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 9265
Overall
3
Need Insurance?
A bike that's fast, pleasant and that can boogie hard when asked. The only thing is that it just doesn't quite make you feel like asking it to
Comfortable and still fast by today's standards.
Too much excess weight for a sportsbike.

Big and bulky Blade beaten by Yamaha's R1. By now Honda had a problem. The Fireblade had been at the top so long that everyone had ample chance to take it apart, scrutinise it and attack it from whichever angle they could.

It was Yamaha's R1 which finally wrested away Honda's sports kingpin crown, with Kawasaki's ZX-9R in hot pursuit.

We were treated to the biggest Blade yet at the start of '99. Admittedly, it was also the most powerful and lightest to date, but it had ballooned physically, and against the ever shrinking competition - especially the super-squat and aggressive R1 - it suddenly looked very old and very sensible.

That is if you can call anything in turquoise, red and orange sensible. This bike has to stand trial as perhaps the most misguided colour scheme since someone at Fieldsheer decided fluoro pink and yellow would be a good option on their legendary 'worm' suit.
Honda are no turkeys when it comes to making motorbikes work and although the '98 bike smacked of a make-do-and-mend stopgap effort while they worked on something really serious behind the scenes, it could still do the business when asked.

The first thing you notice riding it now is that it's the first FireBlade knocking on the door of modern litre-bike shove, thanks to a myriad of lightening and tweaking measures in that 918cc mill. Where the previous incarnations feel fast enough but muted in their overall firepower, this one's got a bit of kick to it, even if the redline does still seem to appear too soon.

It's also a deceptively light bike that can still be flicked through a tight set of esses with remarkable ease for something that looks about as large as the Titanic, especially with those of smaller stature on board, like our very own Daryll Young who almost needed a step ladder to get on and off the thing.

Brakes seem no better than any of the previous bikes, despite the larger discs (up from 296mm to 310,) which just highlights how impressive those early efforts really were. What we're left with here is a bike that's fast, pleasant and that can boogie hard when asked. The only thing is that it just doesn't quite make you feel like asking it to.
Not a bad bike necessarily, but very much the least bad-assed Blade in the family tree and no doubts about it.

MICHAEL RUTTER'S SECOND OPINION

I rode one of these to a win at the Northwest 200 road race just after it had come out.
Then for the TT, I had the same bike but they did a bit of work to the engine. I'm still not exactly sure what it was, but if the thing was fast before, now it was a missile. The front hardly touched the floor - I remember firing it off the start line and the front was off the ground until I was halfway down Bray Hill. That was fun - you wouldn't think that something that started life as a road bike could go that quick.

Big and bulky Blade beaten by Yamaha's R1. By now Honda had a problem. The Fireblade had been at the top so long that everyone had ample chance to take it apart, scrutinise it and attack it from whichever angle they could.

It was Yamaha's R1 which finally wrested away Honda's sports kingpin crown, with Kawasaki's ZX-9R in hot pursuit.

We were treated to the biggest Blade yet at the start of '99. Admittedly, it was also the most powerful and lightest to date, but it had ballooned physically, and against the ever shrinking competition - especially the super-squat and aggressive R1 - it suddenly looked very old and very sensible.

That is if you can call anything in turquoise, red and orange sensible. This bike has to stand trial as perhaps the most misguided colour scheme since someone at Fieldsheer decided fluoro pink and yellow would be a good option on their legendary 'worm' suit.
Honda are no turkeys when it comes to making motorbikes work and although the '98 bike smacked of a make-do-and-mend stopgap effort while they worked on something really serious behind the scenes, it could still do the business when asked.

The first thing you notice riding it now is that it's the first FireBlade knocking on the door of modern litre-bike shove, thanks to a myriad of lightening and tweaking measures in that 918cc mill. Where the previous incarnations feel fast enough but muted in their overall firepower, this one's got a bit of kick to it, even if the redline does still seem to appear too soon.

It's also a deceptively light bike that can still be flicked through a tight set of esses with remarkable ease for something that looks about as large as the Titanic, especially with those of smaller stature on board, like our very own Daryll Young who almost needed a step ladder to get on and off the thing.

Brakes seem no better than any of the previous bikes, despite the larger discs (up from 296mm to 310,) which just highlights how impressive those early efforts really were. What we're left with here is a bike that's fast, pleasant and that can boogie hard when asked. The only thing is that it just doesn't quite make you feel like asking it to.
Not a bad bike necessarily, but very much the least bad-assed Blade in the family tree and no doubts about it.

MICHAEL RUTTER'S SECOND OPINION

I rode one of these to a win at the Northwest 200 road race just after it had come out.
Then for the TT, I had the same bike but they did a bit of work to the engine. I'm still not exactly sure what it was, but if the thing was fast before, now it was a missile. The front hardly touched the floor - I remember firing it off the start line and the front was off the ground until I was halfway down Bray Hill. That was fun - you wouldn't think that something that started life as a road bike could go that quick.

Score Breakdown
Overall
3

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