Honda’s Fireblade. It seems everyone’s either got one, had one or knows someone who did have a ‘blade’ was dead quick on it. Hardly surprising really, given their dominance during the early to mid nineties.
They were the bike to have and come 1997, Honda more or less had the jap 900 sports bike class sewn up, despite valiant efforts from the other 3 manufacturers in the form of 9Rs, the YZF 750 and the mighty GSXRs.
This model is the 1997 " RRT " effort. 918cc, around 114hp at the rear Michelin and a very light bike for its vintage, tipping the scales at around 189kgs wet.
Out on the open road and the Honda induces a grin form the first crack of the throttle. After an initial harsh clunk into 1st at the traffic lights, subsequent gear changes are smooth enough if a little long in throw of the lever.
That’s ok though because unless you’re riding with real inspiration, you wont find yourself needing many gear changes. There is useable power from around 5000rpm but the horse really bolts at about 6600 and from there on is a strong, seamless delivery of power right to the redline and a little beyond.
Ham-fisted over exertion on the right twist grip will lead to forward vision being satisfyingly impaired by the clocks and screen as the nose points skyward but it’s a largely predictable and controllable lift, even in first gear.
It is worth noting at this point that the test bike has been modified with a K&N air filter, carbon race can and bigger jets. Throttle response has now been improved over the original but it has led to a somewhat disconcerting hesitation in the power delivery when reapplying the gas through a corner after throttling back to enter it.
More time on the dyno would help to iron this out and for now the problem can be ridden around with some getting used to.
Hauling up is taken care of with four-pot Nissins. This bike has had sintered metal pads added over original spec and while its done little to improve the previous lack in initial bite, power and feel has improved markedly and flashing the underside of the pillion seat at the traffic lights is an all too easy option.
The rear is rarely called into service which is lucky cause with a bent lever from a previous spill, feel and power from the rear stopper is deader than Big Brother Jade’s modelling career.
Blades of this ilk managed to get a reputation for being flighty and nervous. Some folk attributed it in part to the quirky 16 " front wheel – apparently Hondas attempt at reducing unsprung weight and gyroscopic effect on the front end, thus quickening the steering. I myself have never found this to be the case.
Perhaps its cause I haven’t ridden much older than this, or I’m spoilt by being used to the relative handling quantum leap that was the R1 and bikes after it.
Regardless, I’ve always found it to be quite predictable and stable, even on our suspect road surfaces. The shocks on this one have been revalved front and rear improving feel no end over the old 35,000km jobbies but the front does still feel a little vague mid corner and doesn’t really inspire the way a 9R would for instance.
Mid corner changes of direction are no problem though either with the throttle or by leaning it and it dares you to wind on more power through the exit of bends. Grip levels are excellent and while I had no complaints about the previous BT010s that were on it, the Michelin Pilot Sports it’s now shod with seemed to be just a little bit stronger as long as you take the time to get some heat into them.
In typical Honda fashion, the blades styling is just enough to be different without offending the in-laws. The ‘Foxeye’ layout proved popular and was retained right up until the RRY version in 2000.
The lack of any aerodynamic consideration though does lead to the bike hitting a kind of wall at around 260-65kmh where the engine appears to still have something in reserve if it could just get through the air a bit more efficiently. As expected though, the Honda has proved itself to be comfortable bike for most any trip I’ve done on it, right up to around 370kms, stopping just for fuel. (which will be roughly every 200kms till reserve from the 18ltr tank) The riding position being not too focused in the race style but remaining purposeful and comfortable.
All in all the Fireblade is everything I need in a sportsbike. You don’t need to be Valentino Rossi to get the best from it and despite doing nearly 20,000kms on it in a year it still holds a few surprises and many rewards as I push to find the limits of myself and the bike. As it is I’m sure mine will become apparent long before the bikes do……