Honda Fireblade: Everything you need to know about the superbike game-changer

The lightweight sportster that rewrote the superbike rule book in 1992 before being repeatedly updated and improved, the Honda Fireblade remains one of the greatest sports bikes of all time.

A red, white and blue 2014 Fireblade CBR1000RR-SP being ridden around a racetrack

There’s no more iconic name among Japanese sports bikes than that of the Honda Fireblade.

With a punchy four-cylinder engine and, at the time, revolutionary compact, lightweight dimensions, the Fireblade is the bike that brought true race bike dynamics to the rider on the street, all backed up by ease of use and reliability that is hard to match.

The original 1992 CBR900RR version not only changed superbikes forever but it was the start of a Fireblade dynasty that has since evolved through over a dozen different models. The latest may have grown to 1000cc but it retains the same transverse four-cylinder engine layout and lightweight ethos, complete with howling exhaust note, remains among the superbike elite, has spawned homologation special racing ‘SP’ variants and is certain to stay as Honda’s flagship superbike for years to come.

History of Honda Fireblade

YearModelCapacityPowerTorqueDry weightTop speed
1992CBR900RR FireBlade89312265185kg160mph
1994CBR900RR FireBlade89312265185kg164mph
1996CBR900RR FireBlade91812668183kg161mph
1998CBR900RR FireBlade91812868180kg160mph
2000CBR900RR FireBlade92915276170kg170mph
2002CBR900RR FireBlade95415475168kg178mph
2004CBR1000RR Fireblade99817285179kg176mph
2006CBR1000RR Fireblade99817284.5176kg174mph
2008CBR1000RR Fireblade99817584179kg179mph
2014CBR1000RR Fireblade SP99917884201kg (wet)186mph
2017CBR1000RR Fireblade99918985.6196kg (wet)186mph
2017CBR1000RR Fireblade SP99918985.6195kg (wet)186mph
2020CBR1000RR-R Fireblade100020181201kg (wet)186mph
2020CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP100021583201kg (wet)186mph

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 1992-1995

For many, the 1992 Honda Fireblade CBR900RR (early machines had a capital ‘B’ at the start of blade) is the FireBlade to own. Prices in recent years have rocketed for well looked-after examples of this iconic motorcycle. Using a stroked out 750cc engine, Honda created a machine that was lighter and nimbler yet almost just as powerful as the sportsbikes of the time. When it came down to the act of riding on road and track, the other manufacturers didn’t see which way the diminutive ‘Blade went.

The FireBlade’s first major update came just two years after the original bike’s launch and saw the inclusion of adjustable forks, an updated engine and extensive use of lightweight parts such as aluminium fairing supports, and head and a magnesium cylinder head cover. The bike also gained its distinctive ‘tiger eyes’ or ‘foxeye’ headlights, a feature that would be synonymous with the machine until the late 90s.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 1996-1999

The theme of the two-year lifecycle continued, with the next update for the machine arriving in 1996. This time the engine and frame got a thorough going over. The new frame was lighter and more ridged that before, while displacement was increased from 893cc to 918cc. The boost in capacity naturally brought an increase in power, with the 1996 Honda FireBlade producing 126bhp, an increase of 3bhp over the previous model.

This bike was also the lightest FireBlade to date, slimming down by 1kg thanks to a new fuel tank design, stainless steel exhaust and the elimination of the fuel pump.

1998 saw the first major overhaul of the bike’s styling, with more work carried out beneath the skin. Honda claim that 80% of the parts used in this bike were redesigned over the previous version, with the primary focus being on saving weight. To that point the ’98 model came down to 180kg, saving 3kgs over the ’96 version.

The new bike included a redesigned swingarm that boasted lower weight and increased rigidity, while the engine made further gains putting out 128bhp.

The sportsbike pond got a little more crowded in 1998 though, as this was the first year of production for the Yamaha YZF-R1, a bike that many believe was the first true competitor for the all-conquering Fireblade.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 2000-2001

The 2000 Honda FireBlade was the first in the line to use electronic fuel injection, with the adoption of the PGM-FI, Programmed Fuel Injection system. Capacity again to a jump forward, with output increasing significantly to 145bhp.

A redesigned swingarm pivot helped to increase cornering stability and the new bike wore a titanium link pipe and muffler, resulting in a dry weight of just 170kg. 

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 2002-2003

The last to wear the CBR900RR moniker was the 2002 Honda FireBlade. It was also, predictably, the lightest and most powerful version of the bike so far, claiming 147bhp and 168kg dry.

To achieve this capacity grew to 954cc, with the bore growing from 74mm to 75mm. A new crank and crank casing helped to reduce rotational mass and frictional losses, also helping to bring to the total dry weight for the machine down to 168kg.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2004-2005

The 2004 Honda Fireblade represented another major overhaul, losing the single, side-mounted exhaust in favour of a MotoGP style underseat option. The swingarm was also all-new, featuring a Unit Pro-Link set-up, designed and executed with help from the Honda World Superbike team.

Now with their sights set firmly on WSBK glory, the 998cc ‘Blade fell neatly within the homologation rules for the biggest production racing championship on the planet, With Chris Vermeulen taking four wins and fourth in the championship for the Ten Kate Honda WSBK team.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2006-2007

With Honda seemingly onto a good thing with the new bike in World Superbike, the changes to the 2006 Fireblade were more about evolution rather than revolution. The engine gained straight intake ports, bigger exhaust ports and revised cam profiles resulting in better combustion and stronger bottom and mid-range torque.

The front brake discs grew from 310mm to 320mm, with the thickness of the discs reduced by 0.5mm to help reduce un-sprung mass.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2008-2013

Another end of an era bike now, in the form of the last Fireblade to feature no traction control or electronic rider assistance systems. It was though the first of its kind to feature an assisted slipper clutch, the design of which is said to be very close to that of the RC212V MotoGP machine.

It was also the first Fireblade to get an underslung exhaust system, aimed at centralising the mass of the bike and helping it to corner quicker on road and track.

The 2008 Honda Fireblade brought another visual overhaul, taking on a headlight design that was a stylised look back at the original ‘fox eye’ headlights of the second gen FireBlade.

A number of more subtle updates then happened over the next few years. 

The 2009 Fireblade featured the first electronically-actuated ABS system ever fitted to a sportsbike – C-ABS. And in 2010 it gained a series of tiny updates with a smattering of lightweight parts used across the engine and frame to help increase everyday riding comfort.

While in 2012 Honda celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Fireblade with new Showa Big Piston Forks and a Balance Free Rear Cushion also from Showa. The fuel injection was also updated, in an effort to smooth out the initial opening of the throttle when riding the 2012 Honda Fireblade on the road.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP 2014-2016

The next big development came in 2014 when, for the first time, the CBR1000RR was joined in the line-up by the SP version of the iconic sportsbike. The ethos for the SP machines was simple, take a Fireblade and make it lighter and faster, with better handling.

The 2014 Fireblade SP gained Öhlins suspension front and rear, Brembo Monobloc calipers, a blueprinted engine, lightweight seat rails, a single seat and came in classic Honda Tricolore racing livery. Both the SP and the standard version also featured a restyled front fairing cowling.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade & SP 2017-2019

This all-new, electronics-laden generation of Fireblade promised to be the bike that would help Honda recapture the glories of past performances on the roads and racetracks of the world.

In reality it became somewhat of an ‘enfant terrible’, with high-profile accidents at the TT and NW200 crowning what was a bit of a disaster for the new machine. The problems were linked to the bike’s race-only ECU, although by then the damage was done.

With this model Honda also offered a standard Fireblade, an upspecced 2017 Honda Fireblade SP, and a homologation special SP2.

Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade & SP 2020-date

With the latest 2020 Fireblade, Honda has not just added an extra ‘R’ to the bike’s name, they’ve created the most powerful, most technologically advanced and possibly the fastest Fireblade to date. With Top-spec Showa Big Piston Forks on the stock bike, and super-trick Öhlins electronically controlled suspension on the SP variant, the new machine looks every inch the race winner on road and track.

With a claimed 214bhp on tap, it’s also the most powerful Fireblade ever produced by the factory, placing the new bike firmly in the 200+bhp club that for so long had been missing a bike with a winged badge on the tank.

Again, it was also offered in SP form, with the 2020 Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP.

What to expect from the next Honda Fireblade

At the time of writing, this is the latest model of Fireblade, although there have been subtle updates since. A 2022 Honda Fireblade received a few updates including being offered in special 30th anniversary livery.

There is also considerable speculation that, following Honda’s usual two-year update cycle, a new Fireblade is coming in 2024. For the meantime, though, we’ll have to sit tight and see.