There’s no change in the chassis department from the 2017 model. Stable, responsive, supple and grippy the Blade has one of the best chassis set-ups out there.
On the road it floats through corners and in previous superbike shootouts, only the Ducati Panigale V4 S can lap faster.
Just like the '17/'18 Blade SP you can’t get close to troubling the cornering ABS on the road, but it’s always there to bail you out in an emergency.
For the track the 2019 system is less intrusive, which lets you brake harder, but like on every current Japanese superbike, it still panics too early when it senses the rear wheel lifting too far and momentarily lets off the brakes, leaving you with no choice but to brake lighter and earlier.
Engine revs now drop faster when you shut off into a corner. It’s undetectable on the road (where you release the throttle gently anyway), but on track it stops the Honda from 'pushing on' into corners.
Honda’s inline four-cylinder motor remains unchanged for 2019. It might not have the big-bhp headline power figures of its rivals, but it’s packed with grunt and isn’t slow, by any stretch of the imagination. The Blade is also one of the lightest superbikes you can buy, with a mind-boggling power to weight ratio.
This 2019 upgrade is all about its electronic rider aids. Honda’s nine-stage Torque Control (they don’t call it traction control) dulls or cuts power when the rear wheel starts slipping but the 2017 system was never designed to be ‘leaned on’ to go fast, which is why the Blade could struggle on track, unless you switched the electronics off.
On its standard Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SPs tyres there’s so much grip you’ll never bump into the electronics on the road, but push hard on the track and now when the rear tyre slides the torque control doesn’t grab and release as harshly as before. But Honda’s electronics are still too conservative and slow you down too much when you’re pushing for a quick lap on anything less than super-grippy rubber.
New throttle maps allow the 2019 Blade SP to accelerate harder in the raciest of its power modes (1), but it’s hard to notice much difference without riding it back to back with the ‘17/’18 model. The throttle response is smoother and cleaner than before and gives the Honda and even more polished, sophisticated feel around town and in slow corners.
Torque and wheelie control were tied together on the '17/'18 Blade, but now they can be adjusted separately. The anti-wheelie has three levels (but can’t be switched off) and is better at taking the sting out of a hovering, high-speed wheelie, without having to shut the throttle.
In the lower gears, where the front comes up faster, there’s still too much intrusion, but it’s far smoother than before. Pull a deliberate ‘show off’ wheelie with the clutch and the front will only stay in the air for three or four seconds before the electronics brings it gently back down again.
Problems with highly modified racing Blades have been well documented, but there are no problems with the road versions – it’s a Honda, after all. Gearboxes can take their time to bed in, but that aside they’re bombproof.
With its achingly swish build quality and a high level of standard equipment it’s easy to see where your hard earned goes, but when you can have an M Package BMW S1000RR, with carbon fibre wheels, more power, less weight and more advanced electronics, the Honda doesn’t seem such great value for money.
It’s still the same Blade SP we all know and love, fitted with a TFT colour dash, semi-active Öhlins and Brembos.