UK road test: Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

Honda Fireblade

Performance bargains don’t come much better than this

HAVE YOU seen how much you can pick up the current/outgoing Fireblade for?

Walk into a Honda dealer and you should be able to swing a leg over your own Fireblade for £99 a month and a deposit of £1000 on a PCP scheme. A scout online reveals that ultra-low mileage examples are readily available for less than £10k and a private sale will net you one for even less than that. Bargain.

So while the new ‘Blade is going to be the sharpest, most powerful and technologically advanced incarnation of Honda’s big bore super bike, the outgoing model is a performance steal, but exactly how much bike is it for the money?

A shit-ton. I mean, it makes 178hp at 12,250rpm and 84lb/ft torque at 10,500rpm, what more do you want?  As I blasted down to the south coast from London the other morning, I wasn’t lusting after any more ponies. Alright, compared to the BMW S1000RRYamaha R1, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Ducati 1299 Panigale and Aprilia RSV4, the ‘Blade is down on power but unless you’re riding with your mates on the those most modern of missiles, I reckon you’re unlikely to feel hard changed.

That’s because the engine is a peach. It’s loaded with a deep well of smoothly delivered, evenly spread torque; the reserve of shove from the pounds-foot is there as soon as the throttle is opened. Give it some stick and the engine note and induction noise become ever more aggressive as the revs hit 8,000rpm and the Fireblade bares its teeth.

And when it does that, it still thrills on the road because it’s bat shit fast and useable with it. But don’t think that the CBR’s smoothness and accessibility means it’s not capable of biting – on the road I found it could be as mad as I wanted and over damp tarmac, it wasn’t averse to spin the rear tyre at three figure speeds in sixth gear, which was the only time I found myself wishing for some traction control and new underwear.

Its connection to the road is impeccable. The fully adjustable Showa suspension and Unit Pro-Link shock worked flawlessly as I hacked along greasy, bumpy early January roads (the best time and place to test a superbike? Hmmm…). The suspension provides a good balance of comfort and poise – which I appreciated during the few times I got to a nice set of dry bends. The rear end is sublime and although I found myself missing some traction control and a couple of heartbeats when the rear tried to get away from me, when it came to powering out of a corner the rest of the time, the feel on offer from the shock always meant I felt sure of how much power I could wind on and how much grip I had. If riding a bike is all about confidence, then this is the machine to go for.

Classy suspension means the Fireblade always feels like it’s got loads of mechanical grip – even on cold, greasy roads at the start of the year it still manages to transmit an assurance that it’s tracking the road with unrelenting tenacity. It’s a combination that makes the it come out as one of the most well-rounded sports bikes I’ve ever ridden on the road.

In fact, it might just be the last true do-it-all 1000cc sports bike. I’m wary of calling it a workhorse because that’s not doing it justice but after spending the last week with this soon-to-be-replaced Fireblade, I think it could be the one bike I could own without wanting additional bikes to fulfil all my riding desires. It’s great day-to-day but still offers big thrills on a fun weekend blast and devours motorways in comfort, meaning touring isn’t out of the question either. I'm sure it could even do a bit of off-roading with a set of knobbly tyres. Probably.

It's not lacking comfort wither – with a big, not-too-hard seat and a riding position that, while still amicable after a couple of hours, also allowed me to pretend I was the Marc Marquez of West Sussex when the urge took hold and the mist descended.

Elsewhere, the twin four-piston Tokico stoppers have plenty of power from the moment you tickle the lever, backed up with excellent feel. I can’t fault the brakes at all.

It still looks good too, although if I was spending my own money, there’s no way I’d ever buy a Repsol bike because race reps just aren’t my bag - they’re too loud and all but a few date badly, but that’s just me.

This Fireblade is still a mental piece of metal for the money. The power deficit is going to be noticeable when an S1000RR or R1 comes past you on track, but on the road, I doubt that’s going to ruin your party. And neither is the lack of a colour TFT screen and electronics aids because even on salty, perma-damp January roads, it’s still possible to feel that the chassis and suspension are poised to generate maximum grip and drive – your unassisted riding skills just have to do the rest, and what’s wrong with that? There’s undoubtedly a lot of satisfaction to be had by embarrassing riders on faster, more techy bikes too. Lastly, the Blade’s wealth of power and usability make it hard to ignore in a climate where sports bikes have become more single-minded and while that’s good, it’s not for everyone, although the Fireblade could be.