Honed to perfection

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HAVING honed and refined the FireBlade over the eight years since its introduction in 1992, Honda entered the new millennium with perhaps its most radical incarnation of the model yet.

Although always adhering to the original design concept of ‘Total Control’, the project now had a new development theme of ‘Lightest and Rightest’. What this has produced is the most powerful and best-handling Blade ever.

With an R1-matching 150bhp and a claimed weight of just 170kg, the Honda has regained some of the attitude and aggression that originally made it such a hit with the buying public. But despite this it’s still easy to ride, with a forgiving nature even when cranked over onto the footpegs.

This is a completely new bike, sharing only the indicators and switchgear with previous models. It’s physically much smaller than any of the old versions and returns to the slightly cramped racer crouch of old – the footpegs are higher, but the seat’s longer so at least there’s a bit more room to move around.

The most radical departure from the familiar bike of old is in the ‘Semi-Pivotless’ frame design, first seen on the VTR1000 FireStorm. This separates the swingarm pivot from the main frame spars and leads to the unique ‘gap’ appearance at the back of the frame.

But the changes don’t end there. The all-new engine displaces 929cc and is equipped with fuel injection for the first time. There’s also Honda’s first take on a variable exhaust power valve, dubbed the H-VIX… now that Yamaha’s patent on the EXUP has expired.

In fact, Honda have several firsts on this model, including the use of upside-down forks for the first time on any of their street bikes, and a swingarm based on the NSR500 Grand Prix bike. This has the dimensions of the Forth Road Bridge and is tougher than an angry Vinnie Jones.

But despite all these developments it’s nice to see that some things never change – the lockable underseat compartment’s still there, and continues to be capable of swallowing a carton of curry, a packet of tabs and a U-lock. It might be more focused and back to the sharpness of old, but it’s nice to see the Blade still has some practicality about it.

Alternatives: Yamaha R1; Aprilia RSV1000 Mille; Suzuki GSX-R1000; Kawasaki ZX-9R, Ducati 996, Triumph 955i.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff