The original Blade went on sale in March 1992 – almost exactly a decade before the latest version will hit the showrooms. With a 122bhp, 893cc engine mounted in a race-style alloy frame, it had the power of a contemporary litre bike, but at 185kg it was the weight of a 600cc machine.
Ever since its launch, the Blade has been subject to regular updates every two years – making the new bike the sixth generation.
For 1994, the Blade got it’s now legendary fox-eye headlights and " Urban Tiger " paintjob as part of its first batch of revisions, which extended to new suspension – but at that point Honda still didn’t see the need for more power or less weight.
All that changed in 1996, when the bike’s first capacity increase – up to 918cc – saw power rise to 128bhp, while the weight went down to 183kg. At the same time, the bike got totally new bodywork and a less extreme riding position. Despite new competition from bikes like Suzuki’s RF900 and Kawasaki’s first-generation ZX-9R, the Blade was still the top of the class.
In late 1997, Honda launched the fourth-generation, 1998-model Blade with updates including a new swingarm and styling. Although the weight went down again – to 180kg – there was another bike launched at the same time that took the spotlight off the Honda for the first time – Yamaha’s R1.
Honda has been playing catch-up ever since, despite the launch of the best Blade yet for the 2000 model year, with a totally new engine, styling and chassis. Weight dropped to 170kg – the lightest in its class – and power went up to 152bhp thanks to its new, 929cc capacity. But the R1, which was also updated in 2000, stayed on top.
This year, the GSX-R1000 has moved the goalposts again – but Honda won’t be happy to let that situation continue. The 2002 Blade could be the answer.