First Ride: 2002 Honda CBR954RR Fireblade

There are certain things you remember in life. Where you were when Kennedy was shot (I was on the potty), your first sexual experience (no comment) or when you rode your first Blade.

Posted: 29 March 2008
by Niall Mackenzie

There are certain things you remember in life. Where you were when Kennedy was shot (I was on the potty), your first sexual experience (no comment) or when you rode your first Blade.

I remember it well. I was staying over with Mick Doohan in early 1992 and he had to go out for the morning so he chucked me the keys to a new street bike that Honda had given to him. I had breakfast and took a peek in the garage, only to see this white, purple and red beast looking back at me. Scary!

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.



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