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Honda CB1000R vs. Fireblade - Streetbike vs. Superbike

Would the average rider be better off on one of the latest generation of super-fast streetbikes instead of their usual superbike? We hopped from a CB1000R to a CBR1000RR and back again to find out...

The typical formula for success when it comes to unfaired versions of sportsbikes is to throw the fairing in the bin, strangle the motor, swap the quality suspension and brakes for cheapy replacements and then simply tuck away any wires and plumbing that looks out of place.

Each time a new one is launched we convince ourselves that we really are just about to get a fire-breathing litre sportsbike with big bars and bigger attitude. Unfortunately, until now the Japanese haven’t quite been able to quench our thirst for fairing-free litre lunacy. That has changed with the new CB1000R though. Honda started with an already amazing bike from which to pilfer the required parts for the CB: the 2008 Fireblade, which has managed to claw back some of the edge that had been knocked of it in recent years.

The tractable 998cc engine, the adjustable forks and amazing radial mount brakes have all been borrowed for the CB. There are two questions you need to ask yourself when considering these bikes. Firstly how good are they compared to each other? And more importantly - how good are you compared to them?

No two riders are the same but in the office where I work, I am probably the slowest. I can cut the mustard on most UK tracks in the intermediate group and do okay on the road. I am about as normal a rider as you can get for someone that spends all day around bikes, which makes my opinion on this test far more valid to you than Niall and James’ 10/10ths insight. I used a slightly damp and very cold Silverstone national circuit to see if the CB thou’ was anywhere near as good as the Fireblade.

Looks wise neither of them are particularly stunning. The droopy snout of the CB couldn’t be any more different to the flat nosed face that the Fireblade has. From the seat back they are fairly similar, save for the horrible rear wheel on the CB. I can’t see why Honda went to the trouble of running a single sided swingarm so that they could show you just how bad they have managed to make a wheel look. Shame on you Honda.

CB1000R

From the comfort angle the CB kicks the ‘Blade square in the knackers. Both bikes have loads of seat room, more than you think you need. The seat height is a tiny 8mm higher taller on the CB, though you notice it when at a standstill, once your moving it isn’t an issue.

The peg position feels completely different on the two bikes, and to be honest I only really felt that I preferred the position of the Blade when I was turning into the fairly fast Copse corner and found myself weighting the inside peg a fair amount. That said, after only a couple of hours riding my thighs were aching the next day, which told me I was working my legs harder on the CB than the ‘Blade. The bars are within easy reach on the CB, and thanks to their wide gait they give you loads of leverage, every corner started with a gentle tug of counter steer, though the input needed was greater than that of the Fireblade. It felt much easier to dial in exactly how much angle I needed on the naked bike.

Protection at higher speed was easier to find behind the controversial looking Blade, which for what it’s worth, I think looks good, completely different to all the other litre sports bike out there, as well as still doing what it should. I was blown all over the parish on the CB. While it wasn’t exactly hard to keep the thing in check it was definitely easier to cut through a gusting side wind on the faired bike.

Braking hard is where the first major difference shows, the performance of the brake set-up is staggering on both bikes. The way the bikes react feels different. The ‘Blade stays fairly level, the forks quick to react to my ham-fisted loading up of them. On the CB the bike does pitch you forward more thanks to the higher centre of gravity, but again the big bars are a good place to hang off while you and the bike sort out your differences.

Mid corner it was really easy to get both bikes to do what I wanted, and though I wanted the CB to really prove its muscle it couldn’t match the Fireblade. I just enjoyed the feeling of being cranked over the inside of the faired bike more than I did being perched up in the stands on the CB.

Corner exit and getting the power down is where I found the biggest differences. Coming off Maggots in second gear onto the Club straight the CB egged me on, adding more gas showed the stomp that the bike has in the bottom to midrange, it was easy to lay the power on as well as deal with the odd s q u i r m (weather induced, not rider prowess). It really rips out of corners and I found myself taking lengths out of the Fireblades out in the same session. The rev limiter is more a reward for your persistence than an indication that you might want to change up.

CBR1000RR

Along the Club straight we managed to get up to a fourth gear 120-something miles an hour before dipping under the bridges and getting ready to tickle round the damp Brooklands section. The Fireblade couldn’t be any more different.

Exiting Maggots in second gear and winding on the power-induced fairly instant wheelspin, a shaking head, then a convincing power wheelie. Where the CB torque feels like having a rug being ripped from underneath you, the power on the ‘Blade is delivered like a really good punch in the face.

You can see it coming but can do little to avoid it, once it hits home you are left under no illusions as to who is in charge. If you are an intermediate track day rider like me, it won’t be you either. Where the CB was settled going under the two bridges before Brooklands, the Fireblade was intimidating its way to an easy 140mph. Exciting? Definitely. Scary? Er, yep. Maybe a little too scary for my road-biased mind.

SO WHICH IS FOR YOU?

I think that is one of the major factors that buyers need to consider when looking at these two. If you’re completely honest with yourself, of all the reasons you have for buying a litre sportsbike, ‘needing’ the power for the road is stretching the imagination of even the bravest and most talented road riders. Most Fireblades will spend the majority of their lives commuting, trickling round town looking good while they give the riders bad backs and achy wrists.

On the odd weekend you may get the chance to get out for a fast road ride and on even rarer occasions you will get the chance to venture on-track to exploit your hardware. But all that does is highlight how much better than the rider the bike is. The CB will do most things as good as the Fireblade, some even better. It would make a better everyday bike by a mile. The one thing that it definitely does is save on pennies. There is just over £2k difference in the list price for these. Factor in the extra you will have to spend on insurance, the cost to replace all that plastic when you drop the thing will far out weigh the extra enjoyment you might have on the odd occasion when you get to go nuts.

Lap times were fairly irrelevant thanks to the weather. The ‘Blade was quicker by a couple of seconds, had it been drier the gap would have been marginally bigger, that said the CB was nowhere near as intimidating as the Fireblade to get round and more fun because of that. If it was dry I would have been able to exploit my own limits, which would’ve been way more rewarding than pretending that I needed a faired sportsbike.

The two bikes are singing off the same song sheet, but at a completely different pitch to each other. The CBR is quite an angry bike, especially for a Honda. It’s compliant, begrudgingly. Whereas the CB will surprise you with the ease at which it gets the job done. If you are an everyday rider the CB makes more sense than pretty much every other bike out there, let alone the Blade. It makes a better unfaired bike than the Fireblade does a sportsbike, simply because as a package it’s much more versatile. When it comes to getting a full fat fix of sportsbike, accept no

imitations, faired or otherwise. The only remaining question is whether you have the confidence to get naked in front of your mates..

Price and specification

HONDA CB1000R

Price: £7,071 (£7,571 ABS)

Engine: 998cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve inline four

Power: 115bhp @ 9,300rpm

Torque: 65 lb.ft @ 9,000rpm

Dry weight: 221kg

Top speed: 153mph

HONDA CBR1000RR

Price: £9,299

Engine: 998CC, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve inline four

Power: 168.5bhp @ 11,700rpm

Torque: 78.8lb.ft @ 8,700rpm

Weight: 199kg

Top speed: 178.3mph