Honda’s FireBlade is getting the big-bore makeover it needs to match Suzuki’s GSX-R1000.
The heavily revised 2002 FireBlade will have to be a fair-sized step forward because Yamaha’s now legendary R1 and Kawasaki’s ZX-9R are also scheduled to be replaced next year.
The exact capacity of the 2002 FireBlade is still a closely guarded secret, but to be competitive with the most powerful machines in the class it will have to come close to 1000cc.
One Honda insider said: " Logically, it’s the way to go. However, it might not be 1000cc as I’m not sure the current engine can be bored out that much and Honda will not be introducing a totally new engine. "
While the bike might not reach a true 1000cc, it will come close. The current machine is already 929cc, so an increase of just 60cc would give it slightly more capacity than the 988cc GSX-R1000. With this extra capacity and the right tweaking to the rest of the motor, there’s nothing to stop Honda from reaching a power output close to the GSX-R’s. The current Blade makes a claimed 152bhp at the crank, so it only needs another 8bhp to be on par with the class leader.
Like the engine, the bike’s chassis will be based on the current model – no bad thing as it’s already one of the lightest and sharpest around, with a dry weight of 170kg (374lb). Expect to see revamped suspension to improve the handling, and possibly a small weight loss.
One area where the bike is expected to get more radical alterations is the styling. Since its introduction in the 1993 model year, the Blade has been restyled to varying extents every two years, so a redesign is likely to be part of Honda’s standard program of upgrades.
The VFR is also getting a major change this Autumn. It is likely to be the first mainstream bike to use Honda’s V-Tec variable valve timing system.
Honda has used V-Tec, which alters both the valve timing and lift depending on the engine’s revs, on all the firm’s high-spec cars since the late 1980s, but the bulky design has never made the transition to main-stream bikes. One Japan-only model, the CB400, is available with a simplified V-Tec system, but the VFR is expected to be the first machine to take advantage of all V-Tec’s benefits.
The V-Tec engine is likely to be joined by a totally new chassis and styling. So far, no information has been released about the bike, but design traits like the VFR’s single-sided swingarm are likely to be retained.
Other Honda launches for 2002 will include a replacement for the ageing ST1100 Pan European, as reported by MCN earlier this year. The bike will still use a longditudinal V-four, like the current machine, but it will be completely reworked for more performance. A totally new chassis and bodywork will complete the package to create a tourer capable of taking on Yamaha’s new FJR1300.
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