HONDA has opted to update the Blade rather than reinvent it. Its move into 2002 is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. On paper, at least.
It isn’t until you ride it that you realise the changes are actually very significant ones, each with a dramatic effect on the bike’s overall character and capabilities.
This is the sixth generation of FireBlade and the changes are as follows:
* 1mm increase in bore size to 75mm, new pistons with shallower skirts, a compression ratio of 11.5:1 compared with last year’s 11.3:1. This all gives an extra 2bhp, much stronger low and midrange power, and easier rideability, too.
* The crankshaft and cases have been reworked, improving ground clearance, and there’s a new oil spray which fires lube toward the undersides of the pistons, to reduce heat.
* The fuel injection system has been heavily revised and now features a cleverer computer that dials into more throttle and rev positions than before.
* The fuel injector bodies have grown from last year’s 40mm to 42mm.
* Weight drops by 2kg to 168kg, of which 300g in total is saved from the wheels.
* The front brake calipers sport bigger pistons, although the discs remain the same as last year’s model at 330mm.
* The swingarm is built using data made available to Honda Japan by Honda Racing Corporation – the firm’s track-based arm. It resembles a 500GP bike’s and is torsionally more rigid. There wasn’t a lot wrong with the old one.
* Honda UK is importing all three colour options – red (with black), white with metallic blue, and yellow with metallic blue. The red generally got the thumbs up at the bike’s launch, the white one was less popular.
* The front fairing has been slimmed down following demands from customers. Honda hadn’t planned to do this. The rear seat unit is also more trim and there’s a love it or loath it LED tailight.
* The fairing’s side panels are one piece instead of the last model’s two pieces for a cleaner look and, theoretically, less wind resistance.
* The fuel tank is wider at the top but shortened by 10mm front to rear. That puts the seat and rider 10mm further forward, placing more weight over the front end, making the bike easier to turn.
* There’s a new rear hugger as standard and you’ve got the option of an aftermarket seat hump, which requires removal of the pillion seat, too. There’s also an aftermarket taller fairing screen and a motion and vibration-sensitive alarm system. No prices for any of the three accessories have been announced.
* The headlamp is new, as is the instrument display panel, though it’s visually similar to the old one. The first thing you’ll notice when you ride it is a fuel consumption indicator, which tells you how many miles you’re doing to the gallon. If you’re accelerating hard in first, only look at it if you’re brave.
* The pillion seat still sits on top of enough under-seat storage to take a U-lock.
* Titanium lovers will get excited by the new exhaust – it’s made of the lovely stuff and looks the part.