Living with a 2001 Honda CBR929RR Fireblade

Former TWO magazine editor, Bertie Simmonds, talks about his experience of owning a Honda CBR929RR Fireblade

August 2001

Ever since they first came out way back in 1992, I've lusted after a FireBlade. Loved the looks, the performance, the name, but hated the insurance costs and the prospect of having a target on your back because you've got the best sports bike under your arse.

But things have changed. Firstly, I can get a FireBlade now without having to lash out for sky-high insurance and secondly, as some seem to think it isn't King Dick anymore, I don't feel I have to perform as soon as anybody comes past me on the road.

The Blade, I've found, is all in the wrist. Like any good schizophrenic, the CBR has two sides to its character. Easy and manageable and mean and psychotic. Biking heaven and hell is encapsulated in one tubular bit of rubber under your right hand. It's up to you how hard you twist it, as to which side of the Blade's character you see.

So far with more than 2,000 miles showing, I've left the mean side to others, as mad racer John McGuinness et al took my precious Blade to the Isle of Man for this month's big road test.

The first 2,000 miles has certainly shown the Blade's practical side. Underseat storage hides my huge Oxford locks and the seating position and Honda-supplied bubble screen keeps me comfy - shame there's no integral hugger over the rear wheel, though.

Come high summer and a dose of high courage and I will begin to explore that darker side of the CBR's temperament at track days. One thing's for sure - I'll chicken out long before the FireBlade does...

September 2001

Long-term reports should be all about what we have done with our bikes in the last month. Instead, mine is going to be about what I should have done.

I should have fitted crash bungs, a hugger, tank protector as well as whacking on loadsa miles. But I haven't.

But I do have a good excuse. Honest. I was on holiday for a week you see, and then after that I was away for another week while I had the terribly hard task of riding the new Harley-Davidson V-Rod (see page 48) in Los Angeles. So there.

Despite two weeks under lock, key and cover chez Bertie, the Blade started on the button, first time of asking when I fired her up to get back down t0 the office after my time off. And since then I've eventually managed to put another 800 miles on the Blade in the last two weeks, which I really rather enjoyed. But I've unfortunately found that the vibration I complained a bit about last month has got worse. All is hunky-dory at 5,000 rpm or more, but dipping below this mark as the traffic piles up, the vibes come back to haunt me.

If I was a mechanical sadist, I'd leave the bloody thing in first gear everywhere, but I'm not. I'll conduct an investigation when it goes in for its 4,000 mile service.

Right then, this time I promise that things will be done for next month, including all the bits mentioned above, as well as a look at some slightly fruiter sounding end cans, oh, and maybe a track day or two, and perhaps a steering damper or three.

October 2001

The week that has constituted summer so far has been bliss with the Blade.

Long trips sees me equipped with my trusty Givi Voyager bag which sits on the pillion seat and I've now got a hugger from Pyramid Plastics, which stops the worst of the muck landing on the shock.

As promised, I've even braved the track, by managing to get on to a 100% Bikes track day at Cadwell Park. Having never been there before, I took the sensible option by popping to my friendly service centre BSD to fit crash bungs to the bike. Pessimist, me?

It was superb having a blast around Cadwell and I found the Blade is great for a nobber like me. It's got just enough straights for me to use the power to catch smaller bikes and yet the handling to go around the outside of the odd 600 or two. All this without a wobble from the standard (but squared off) Michelin Pilot Sports. Well impressive.

Road Test Ed Mackenzie had a pop on the CBR and reckoned it needed a little bit of tweaking. So for all you 18 stone Blade owners out there, my new settings are: Front preload now showing three rings. Front compression and rebound are one full turn out from maximum. Rear preload is now four down from maximum. After the changes, the bike felt much better under braking, which probably ensured I never needed those crash bungs!

November 2001

Getting my Blade serviced proved to be a bit of a problem. Asking around dealers and I was looking at a three-week wait!

Finally, my local dealer, Tippetts Honda, came to the rescue (020 8399 2417). They were busy too, although they managed to get it down to 10 days. So, my bike was around a thousand miles over the allotted 4,000 when it finally went in, but at least it got done and all for £76.18.

Still, what is interesting when ringing around is that you can get last year's Blade for around £7,000, instead of the 2001 RRP of around £9,000! Hell of a saving... no wonder I hadn't seen too many other bright yellow Blades around. One dealer even confessed that they were selling 2000 Blades with 2001 bodywork and still saving the customers a grand on this year's price.

Other things this month are tyres. I wanted to fit a pair of Pirelli Dragon Evo Supercorsas for the Blade, but again couldn't book the bike anywhere to get them fitted.

Thankfully, SOS Tyres came to the rescue and fitted my tyres for me, without the need to run the excellent (but shagged) Michelin Pilot Sports to the very carcass. SOS are specialists in motorcycle recovery, too, with a 24-hour hotline on (020) 8807 9003.

So what are the tyres like? Well, even on a damp track day they were superb. The sticky compound kept me black-side down, although I'd have hated to go out on track in a torrential downpour.

January 2002

Going out on the track is all very well, but you have to take into account the risks to all involved. These are: to you (bodily), and to you (financially).

Statistically you're safer on the track... although it could be said that although you are safer if you fall off (less to hit in terms of kerbs, dustbins, old ladies, etc), you're more likely to crash because you get a bit hot-headed and the old cross hairs come down on your mate up ahead.

So, financially it could be a big one...

Better then to use someone else's bike almost identical to your own. Hence my spin on an Elite Course FireBlade at the Ron Haslam Race School. To go on an Elite course you have to have first do a Premier course on a CBR600, but once you do that and you cough up your £325 you get one-to-one tuition and plenty of track time - sometimes even with the great man himself. I had a top time and learnt a hell of a lot, well worth the cash. I even got lucky and got taken for a spin on the back of 'The Rocket.' I couldn't believe how fast you can go around Donington Park. Take a laugh at pictures of me on the back of Ron in Back to Front... Chatting to Ron, he reckons the Blades are ideal for the school, because they offer performance and ease-of-use. Race school Blades simply have a set of Bridgestones whacked on (which I thought were superb on the day), race bodywork and a little bit of tweaking to the standard suspension.

On my Blade front, I've fitted a lovely Arrow end can (£338 from B&C (01522) 791369.) It took five minutes to fit and sounds superb. As the Blade was dynoed ages ago for the Isle of Man TT test, I'm going to take it back to BSD in Peterborough (01733) 223377 to see if it's liberated any more power. When  I was sorting the pipe, I decided to change the brake pads. Even with around 9,000 miles of road and track abuse, there was still a Rizla-thick amount of pad material on them, which is impressive considering they're so powerful. I've replaced them with EBC Double H pads, which feel at least the equal of the OE pads, but are cheaper. Reading last month's letters page, people have complained I've not changed much on the CBR. To be honest, how do you improve on such an excellent bike?

One thing that still annoys is the vibration that the Blade produces. I'm worried me 'nads are so thrown about on the weekly commute that I may not be able to father children.. One guy called when I was out and Shippey took the following message..

'Some bloke called about vibes on the Blade. He said to check the throttle bodies. Take out the airbox then pour petrol into each one. One will soak up loads of petrol with the throttle closed - this is the one that needs balancing/adjusting. Apparently, Honda has confirmed that this is a bit of a problem with some of their Blades and is not always properly remedied when the bike is serviced.' Best I do some digging around with Honda and find out then.

April 2002

Dear Y174 NLO,

It's hard to write this letter, but I feel we need some time apart. Before you say anything, it's not you, it's me. We've grown apart in the last few weeks.

I know it's my fault, it's just that in recent months you've become a bit too dirty for me. And despite my best efforts, I'm simply not the faithful type. You see, of late my roving eye has been taken by a younger creature, a number of younger creatures in fact. Your little sister for a start and by God she's hot. She looks lither than you and the rumour is she's a bit more of a goer too, if you get my drift. I've also spotted a right tasty Italian bird called April, with long golden legs who makes me harder than a granite dildo. To be honest, I reckon I may be able to get it up a bit easier, with something a little younger.

When I compare the two of you, well I can't help but feel the need for a change. You're starting to look a bit flabby in comparison, and let's face it, I'm a hell of a catch... But we've had some good times. Ah, the memories of warm summer trackdays, the smell of pollen-filled creatures hitting my visor at speed, the smell of cut grass as I ride into it having missed the corner completely. One thing I can say is you've never let me down. We've had our scary moments, but that's it, and even then they were always my fault and when conditions got tricky, you never dumped me on my arse.

Those Metzeler Sportec boots I got for you helped - sure they weren't the sexiest rubber boots about but they kept me vertical and you never lost you're your footing once through the worst of winter's blizzards. On the reliability front, you've not so much as coughed, spluttered, wheezed or farted in front of me - even when I plonked a sexy Arrow end can on you without fiddling with the fuel-injection system. Yup, you've never embarrassed me once. For all this and more, I will be eternally grateful.

Thank you for the good times. Lots of love, Bertie.