Honda plan superbike double

Hot new road-focused Fireblade and exotic RVF1000 V4 for 2017

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Honda are planning to unleash two new sportsbikes with a heavily updated CBR1000RR Fireblade and an all-new RVF1000 V4, which will draw much of its inspiration from the RC213V-S MotoGP replica.

If given the go-ahead, the new Fireblade – expected to arrive in 2017 – would be based on the current CBR1000RR, but sporting a refresh that will drag it firmly into the superbike electronics war.

Regardless of the updates, the Fireblade would continue to be aimed at those owners who want a more affordable road bike that has been tuned and built to be usable, rather than focused on pure track performance.

Those wanting something that has been designed as a track weapon from the outset will have to dig a little deeper and set their sights on the RVF1000 V4. Providing it gets the green light, this bike is likely to target the likes of Yamaha’s YZF-R1M, Aprilia’s RSV4 RF, and the Ducati Panigale R – arriving with a price tag of around £25,000.

But, just like the troubled birth of the RC213V-S, Honda could take years to decide what specification and price to pitch the RVF at, and – as the firm nearly did with the V-S on several occasions – there’s every chance that this stalling could even kill the project.

Our factory sources have also hinted that the RVF could be usurped by a closer RC213V-S clone, built to a much lower spec than the road-going MotoGP rep released this year, and costing in the region of £50,000. That might sound expensive, but there’s enough people willing to pay that to make it viable for Honda.

MCN recently uncovered patent and trademark drawings and details for an all-new Honda RVF1000 V4 sportsbike, which was clearly destined to be a road bike, and revealed that it shared many basic elements and design solutions with the RC213V-S, while making use of far more cost-effective parts like its cast aluminium subframe. While Honda would neither confirm nor deny that an RVF will make it to production, the firm has now gone on to make trademark applications to re-register the famous RVF name.

At the recent Milan show, MCN quizzed Tetsuo Suzuki who is the head of Honda’s Research and Design department, which is responsible for road bike development and which also runs the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), about these discoveries.

In surprisingly candid form, Suzuki revealed: “There are three projects which Honda has raised and all of these are under serious consideration at the moment. The superbike market has changed a lot over the past few years and we need to make sure we take this into account in our decisions.

“The three options open to us include a new replacement for the Fireblade, the RVF1000 you have mentioned and also a cheaper version of the RC213V-S. We will be studying all three in parallel and all are under serious consideration, but it is likely there will be one or perhaps two of the three options made for production.

“In terms of the future of the Fireblade we do not want to make something that is as extreme as some bikes, like the Yamaha R1M for example. The performance and concept [for the Fireblade] is not aimed at track riders; that’s not the purpose of the bike. The concept is to have a usable road bike.

“As far as the possibility of an RVF1000 that will be derived from a cheaper version of the RC213V-S platform and engine, then that is one possible path.”


What’s likely to happen to the Fireblade?

The CBR1000RR is one of the last remaining dinosaurs in the superbike class, recently being demoted another step by the unveiling of Suzuki’s high-spec 2016 GSX-R1000. A comprehensive update is well overdue if Honda expects the bike to compete in the showroom, and regardless of the arrival – or not – of an RVF or budget RCV-S, MCN’s factory sources suggest that the new Fireblade will appear as a 2017 model.

The current model Fireblade’s family tree started in 2008 with the launch of an aggressive all-new model, which represented a radical departure from the 2004 to 2007 models. The snub-nosed ’08 bike was an instant class leader, but despite updates in 2010 and 2012, and the addition of an SP version in 2014, it’s essentially the same 2008 bike beneath. In contrast, rivals from almost all other manufacturers have leapt into a completely different league of performance, kick-started by BMW’s 2010 S1000RR.

MCN understands the focus of 2017’s Fireblade will be aimed at reducing internal engine component weight and friction, a new airbox, increased power, a new fuel injection system and exhaust. The new Blade is also expected to get a host of new electronics to add to the existing C-ABS system, including traction control and riding modes. A big question remains over how far Honda will go with electronics, having always maintained that they don’t believe in relying on electronics for control – a mantra Suzuki have also adopted for their 2016 GSX-R1000.


RVF1000 taking shape

MCN revealed Honda had filed a host of patents surrounding a V4-engined road bike back in October, and we have seen patents dated as far back as 2014.

No fewer than five patents were drawn up in 2014 and they all relate to a new V4 motorcycle which clearly bears a striking relationship to the
RC213V-S, but while the engine is familiar, the rest of the bike is quite new. The biggest differences can be seen in the chassis, which does away with the hand-built frame of the £140,000 RC213V-S, and replaces it with a cast aluminium version that works as a monocoque, incorporating the airbox, and leaving the engine as the widest part of the bike. Not only is the casting simple and cheap to produce – relative to the wildly expensive hand-made RC213V-S chassis – but it’s made of just a few parts, and the patents reveal that it’s designed with a pillion in mind.

While Suzuki-san wouldn’t be drawn further about the relative chances of a £25k RVF triumphing over an even more expensive RCV-S derivative, MCN believes that the RVF is the more likely route, and that a production version will be unveiled in 2017, arriving in dealers a year after the updated Fireblade.

Andy Downes

By Andy Downes

Former MCN Senior Reporter