Honda CBR954RR Fireblade (2002 - 2003) review

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Tue, 25 Aug 2009 - 12:08

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 8985
Overall
5
Here was this bike, giving me the sort of feedback through the front end that was almost comparable to a race machine.
The best FireBlade ever made
Thieves love them

When I took it out for a spin I was impressed. Here was a machine with a fast, but torquey motor and with a really positive front end to it. My knowledge of road bikes of the time was that they were mostly all over the place and yet here was this bike, with a 16-inch front wheel, giving me the sort of feedback through the front end and excitement that was almost comparable to a race machine.

I still remember it now as one of the first times I'd ridden a road bike and got such a positive feeling from it. Since 1992 the FireBlade was the machine that others had to beat and nothing could come close to touching it until the Yamaha YZF-R1 came out in 1998.

Now, I know the FireBlade has gone through many changes over the intervening years, but personally, I don't really feel it's changed that much - until now.

The new for 2002 FireBlade isn't just a face-lift. Honda's R&D department and the man behind all the various incarnations of the Blade - Tadao Baba - have gone through the machine extremely thoroughly to give the bike a new feel. Underneath the fresh styling is a bigger, cleverer motor, updated suspension and brakes, new swingarm, a refined frame and lighter wheels and exhaust system.

On first appearances, this sixth-generation CBR900RR looks slimmer, sharper, smaller and more purposeful than any of the previous models. I've always felt that after the first couple of versions, the Blade has gone a little bit stale and frumpy. I mean, just compare the 2001 version to the GSX-R1000 or R1 and they don't come close. On the other hand the new model's subtle curves, more feline looking headlights, slimmed-down tail unit and colour schemes really knock the current model into a cocked hat. My favourite is the red and black, very much like a race bike. Second is the yellow model and personally I'd burn the white and blue machine - it's a bit too anaemic for me.

And all this is thanks to you, as Honda's brief for the new Blade was simple: listen to what the customer wants. This was why the Blade went all soft in the past, as customers wanted something which they could go two-up on, or something that was more comfortable to ride. Now owners want something different. They say they want the best performance, less weight, sharper looks and a slimmer machine.

If looking at the bike makes you realise it's smaller and more compact than before, then it was all confirmed when I finally got to throw a leg over the bike in the pitlane in Estoril. It both looks and feels a lot more compact and racey - just like the SP-2. The cockpit is classy too, if the norm for sports bikes these days - you've got the normal analogue tacho and a digital speedo. One addition for the Blade is the use of a rear wheel hugger. Apparently, Baba was dead against their use before, but after listening to what the customers wanted for the new Blade they all said they wanted an integral hugger, rather than having to go out and buy one. After all, if an R1 owner can have one free, why can't they?

The engine is in the 150bhp claimed class, although Honda were stressing that this amount would be plus or minus 10bhp depending on what dyno you tested it on. Hmm... bit strange that. It almost seems as if they're getting their excuses in early, but the engineers really stressed this point, so we'll wait and see when we get one on test. Major changes internally include 42mm throttle bodies (up two mm from last year) and an updated PGM-FI ECU, which has a bigger memory and newly programmed control maps. This - along with a hike in capacity to 954cc - is the heart of the changes to the Blade.

Up in the dizzy heights of the rev range the bike peaks at a 11,500rpm redline, before hitting the limiter at 12,000rpm. To test the toughness of the motor Honda R&D boffins even kept the engine on the redline for 24 hours non-stop. It was still in one piece at the end, which is the kind of punishment even stupid journalists couldn't replicate. What's more impressive is the way the power comes in on the new Blade. On previous models - including Bertie's 2001 fuel-injected version - there's a hesitancy about the delivery, especially at low to medium revs. But on the new machine there's power a-plenty and that pregnant pause is replaced by tractable low to mid range pull, which tugs you up a completely linear slope towards a searing top end peak which is similar to the current model's. This big difference makes the new machine incredibly docile at low rpm, but also ensures that you get to max power quicker than a 13-year-old in a newsagents. It's handy to have these two modes of operation, softly-softly or balls out. Making this operation all the sweeter is the six speed gearbox, which warranted no extra words in my notes other than my future classic clichŽ, 'slicker than the Exxon Valdez.'

Read more: http://www.visordown.com/road-tests-first-rides/first-ride-2002-honda-cbr954rr-fireblade/4130.html#ixzz0xcmkaze9

When I took it out for a spin I was impressed. Here was a machine with a fast, but torquey motor and with a really positive front end to it. My knowledge of road bikes of the time was that they were mostly all over the place and yet here was this bike, with a 16-inch front wheel, giving me the sort of feedback through the front end and excitement that was almost comparable to a race machine.

I still remember it now as one of the first times I'd ridden a road bike and got such a positive feeling from it. Since 1992 the FireBlade was the machine that others had to beat and nothing could come close to touching it until the Yamaha YZF-R1 came out in 1998.

Now, I know the FireBlade has gone through many changes over the intervening years, but personally, I don't really feel it's changed that much - until now.

The new for 2002 FireBlade isn't just a face-lift. Honda's R&D department and the man behind all the various incarnations of the Blade - Tadao Baba - have gone through the machine extremely thoroughly to give the bike a new feel. Underneath the fresh styling is a bigger, cleverer motor, updated suspension and brakes, new swingarm, a refined frame and lighter wheels and exhaust system.

On first appearances, this sixth-generation CBR900RR looks slimmer, sharper, smaller and more purposeful than any of the previous models. I've always felt that after the first couple of versions, the Blade has gone a little bit stale and frumpy. I mean, just compare the 2001 version to the GSX-R1000 or R1 and they don't come close. On the other hand the new model's subtle curves, more feline looking headlights, slimmed-down tail unit and colour schemes really knock the current model into a cocked hat. My favourite is the red and black, very much like a race bike. Second is the yellow model and personally I'd burn the white and blue machine - it's a bit too anaemic for me.

And all this is thanks to you, as Honda's brief for the new Blade was simple: listen to what the customer wants. This was why the Blade went all soft in the past, as customers wanted something which they could go two-up on, or something that was more comfortable to ride. Now owners want something different. They say they want the best performance, less weight, sharper looks and a slimmer machine.

If looking at the bike makes you realise it's smaller and more compact than before, then it was all confirmed when I finally got to throw a leg over the bike in the pitlane in Estoril. It both looks and feels a lot more compact and racey - just like the SP-2. The cockpit is classy too, if the norm for sports bikes these days - you've got the normal analogue tacho and a digital speedo. One addition for the Blade is the use of a rear wheel hugger. Apparently, Baba was dead against their use before, but after listening to what the customers wanted for the new Blade they all said they wanted an integral hugger, rather than having to go out and buy one. After all, if an R1 owner can have one free, why can't they?

The engine is in the 150bhp claimed class, although Honda were stressing that this amount would be plus or minus 10bhp depending on what dyno you tested it on. Hmm... bit strange that. It almost seems as if they're getting their excuses in early, but the engineers really stressed this point, so we'll wait and see when we get one on test. Major changes internally include 42mm throttle bodies (up two mm from last year) and an updated PGM-FI ECU, which has a bigger memory and newly programmed control maps. This - along with a hike in capacity to 954cc - is the heart of the changes to the Blade.

Up in the dizzy heights of the rev range the bike peaks at a 11,500rpm redline, before hitting the limiter at 12,000rpm. To test the toughness of the motor Honda R&D boffins even kept the engine on the redline for 24 hours non-stop. It was still in one piece at the end, which is the kind of punishment even stupid journalists couldn't replicate. What's more impressive is the way the power comes in on the new Blade. On previous models - including Bertie's 2001 fuel-injected version - there's a hesitancy about the delivery, especially at low to medium revs. But on the new machine there's power a-plenty and that pregnant pause is replaced by tractable low to mid range pull, which tugs you up a completely linear slope towards a searing top end peak which is similar to the current model's. This big difference makes the new machine incredibly docile at low rpm, but also ensures that you get to max power quicker than a 13-year-old in a newsagents. It's handy to have these two modes of operation, softly-softly or balls out. Making this operation all the sweeter is the six speed gearbox, which warranted no extra words in my notes other than my future classic clichŽ, 'slicker than the Exxon Valdez.'

Read more: http://www.visordown.com/road-tests-first-rides/first-ride-2002-honda-cbr954rr-fireblade/4130.html#ixzz0xcmkaze9

Score Breakdown
Overall
5

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