Honda is bringing us a new Blade, as our artist’s impression shows. It’s an entirely new machine, not due to hit the streets until 2004.
But there are also major changes coming this September, as our other pictures show.
It’s just part of a company-wide shake-up of the entire range.
The 2002 Blade gets an increased capacity – up to nearly 1000cc from the current 929cc – as well as styling changes.
However, as shown in our artist’s impression, the 2002 machine will still bear more than a passing similarity to the current version, which went on sale in 2000.
The upgraded engine will still be based on the same design as the current bike, but with revised internals to give the capacity hike. The frame, too, will be virtually unchanged – retaining the foreshortened design of the 2001 machine, which dispenses with the usual swingarm pivot, instead relying on the engine cases to carry the stresses from the swingarm to the headstock.
The bike’s styling takes cues from the current CBR600, with a pair of ram-air intakes – one on each side of the fairing. The lights are also expected to echo the CBR600 – with twin lamps replacing the 2001 bike’s large, single unit.
The extra capacity should increase the Blade’s power to around 160bhp – putting it on a par with the GSX-R1000 and Yamaha’s all-new R1, which is also due to be launched later this year.
While these updates should keep the Blade in the running for the next couple of years, the bike is also due to be replaced by an entirely new model in 2004. Little is known about the design of the 2004 machine, but sources close to Honda’s Japanese research and development department suggest the bike will gain a new family look derived from the firm’s top-level race bikes – the VTR1000 SP-1 and the new RC211V four-stroke GP racer.
Both the 2004 FireBlade and the next-generation CBR600 – due in 2003 – will share the new look, as well as some advanced new technology.
The styling is expected to follow the design of the SP-1 by introducing a centrally-mounted ram-air intake, positioned between the headlights. As on the SP-1, this will channel air directly through a hollow headstock and straight into the air box.
Technically, both the Blade and CBR600 are likely to receive a variation of the firm’s V-TEC variable valve timing and lift system, which optimises the power and torque output throughout the rev range. By effectively changing the cam profiles on the move, the system means engines have the top-end power of a race-tuned motor without sacrificing low-rev torque.
Honda is known to be working on a version of the system to fit to sportsbikes, and the first V-TEC machine to be sold outside Japan is expected to debut later this year. As reported in MCN earlier this month, the 2002 VFR800 replacement is likely to be the first to gain this technology.
More on this story in MCN on sale on Wednesday, May 30.