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2012 Honda Fireblade leaked

CBR1000RR gets a facelift and other updates for 2012

PICTURES and video of what appears to be the 2012 Honda Fireblade have leaked – the bike apparently being shown in a dealer in Hong Kong.

Those hoping for a radically new 'Blade might be disappointed by what seems to be a gentle evolution of the current design rather than anything radical. New wheels, redesigned fairings, 'Big Piston' Showa forks (with a matching, new rear shock) and new all-digital instruments appear to be the big changes. The engine and frame look unaltered, although of course there could be internal engine alterations – something the Blade will need if Honda hopes to catch the power levels of the latest breed of superbikes, BMW's S1000RR and Kawasaki's ZX-10R, both of which offer a whole stable-full of extra horses.

There's also little sign of the expected electronic trickery that many expected Honda to reveal on the new Blade. With its rivals all getting deeply involved with traction control and multiple settings for power outputs, most rumours had the new Blade down to be fully kitted up with the latest gizmos. But the reality appears to be that this is a more traditional superbike, where the rider has to take responsibility for his own actions. The leaked pictures show the non-ABS version of the bike, so there's a chance that the anti-lock-equipped model will also get more toys, like traction control. However, Honda is at something of a disadvantage here, as its leading rivals – the BMW and Kawasaki, which both have high-tech electronics – share the same Bosch-designed ABS and traction control technology. Since Honda doesn't use the off-the-shelf Bosch kit, it has to develop its own versions if it wants to go down that route.

However, Honda's conservative move might be sensible. By effectively extending the life of the expensive-to-develop mechanical components of the Blade it should be in a position to keep the price relatively low while still proving profitable, and recent figures show that despite its age and power deficit, the Blade remains one of the world's best-selling superbikes – suggesting that the majority of buyers think that, regardless of numbers, it has 'enough' performance for them.

The new looks, which have a hint of VFR1200F in the way the lights and air intakes come together, plus a new tank cover, side panels and seat, could be enough, along with the undoubted handling improvements from the new suspension, to give the Honda a sales boost and keep it at the top of the superbike sales charts.

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