‘All 1000cc sportsbikes are extraordinary examples of high performance engineering. But for us, for our new Fireblade, we want extraordinary to be the pleasure of handling and controlling such a machine. Its true purpose – wherever it’s ridden – is to enjoy something that is not normally experienced in everyday life, something that cannot be surpassed,” says Mr Sato-san, large project leader for the new Fireblade. Well, that sounds good.
2017 is the 25th anniversary of the Fireblade, and while we all hoped Honda would do something special to mark the model’s quarter-century, we couldn’t have dreamed that they’d go this far. Rather than simply replacing the exiting stock bike and SP, it looks like we will be treated to three new models for 2017. The mystery omission here is the base model – but who cares about that when there’s this new SP version, and the even more stunning SP2 (turn over for that) on offer?
While Honda’s engineers have certainly remained true to their first principles of the original 1992 project – optimal power to weight ratio, with the focus on cornering, acceleration and braking – they’ve ditched the Honda rulebook on how to achieve those goals. The result is a stunning specification that hints at the Fireblade being back in with a shot at the superbike crown in 2017. Honda call this ‘Next Stage Total Control’. We call it Fireblade.
CBR1000RR handling revolution
Leading the decimation of the rulebook is the introduction of a wild array of electronic control systems – all knitted together by the new 5-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which measures everything the Blade is doing, in every plane, and delivers electronic assistance to the rider to help them do what they’re trying to do, better.
The SP is also the first Honda motorcycle to be equipped with Öhlins S-EC suspension front and rear, using a NIX30 fork and TTX36 shock.
The Suspension Control Unit (SCU) receives roll rate, yaw rate and lean angle information from a 40g 5-axis (3-axis acceleration and 2-axis angular velocity) Bosch MM5.10 IMU gyro located close to the machine’s centre of gravity. It also gathers wheel speed, engine rpm, brake input and throttle angle from the FI-ECU and, depending on the suspension mode selected by the rider delivers optimal compression and damping force (adjusted via each step motor) during normal riding, plus hard acceleration, braking and cornering.
There are three Active modes and three Manual modes for the rider to choose from. When set in Active the damping force is controlled and optimised to suit the riding conditions. Within the Active Modes the rider can also make fine personal adjustments.
There’s also Rear Lift Control (RLC) to help keep the rear end under control when braking hard, especially into corners, while there’s also Cornering ABS which controls braking force according to lean angle, even when panic braking. This is a massive departure for Honda, having ditched their own C-ABS system in favour of a third-party solution – saving around 10kg in the process.
New CBR1000RR dash
Like the RC213V-S, the Fireblade SP uses a full-colour TFT liquid crystal dash that automatically adjusts to ambient light and features three display modes; Street, Circuit and Mechanic – so you can choose what you see.
Street mode displays riding modes, plus the settings for Power, HSTC, Selectable Engine Brake and Suspension. The onboard computer calculates instantaneous and average fuel economy, trip fuel consumption, average speed and time after last ignition plus remaining fuel after RES light and more.
Circuit mode adds a lap timer, number of laps and difference from the best lap, while Mechanic mode displays the digital tacho, gear position, grip angle, coolant temperature and battery voltage.
CBR1000RR chassis talk
The SP is 14kg lighter than the old Blade, weighing in at a kerb mass of 197kg. Rake and trail remain 23°/96mm but the hollow die-cast twin-spar aluminium frame’s rigidity balance has been significantly adjusted to improve steering response, feel and stability. The frame walls have been thinned to deliver a 500g weight saving, and while its transverse rigidity is unchanged, the frame is 10% more flexible in the torsional plane, which is claimed to deliver a faster-reacting chassis.
To complement the frame changes the aluminium Unit Pro-Link swingarm’s hybrid structure has had the thickness of each section adjusted, saving 100g. The die-cast aluminium subframe gets the same treatment, and now weighs 800g less. The wheelbase is 1404mm; seat height is 831mm.
New wheels shave off another 100g, and wear 120/70 R17 front and 190/50 R17 rear Bridgestone RS10s.
In terms of girth, 24mm of width has been squeezed from the upper fairing, 18mm has been saved across the middle fairing and the knee grip area is 15mm slimmer on each side.
Fireblade electronics and engine
The SP is the first inline four-cylinder engine from Honda to use Throttle by Wire control and is driven by an Acceleration Position Sensor integrated into the right handlebar switchgear.
There are now three rider modes. Mode 1 gives full power, with linear throttle response, low HSTC and EB intervention and high damping force. Mode 2 controls output through first to third gear, with fairly moderate power increase, medium HSTC, strong EB and medium damping force. Mode 3 controls output through first to fourth gear, with moderate power increase, high HSTC, strong EB and low damping force. In USER mode all parameters can be combined and adjusted independently.
A quickshifter is fitted as standard for clutchless upshifts and there’s also Downshift Assist – and auto-blipper – for clutchless downshifts.
Honda’s engineers have ripped the engine apart and hunted for every possible gain. The result is an additional 11bhp, the loss of 2kg and raised rev ceiling of 13,000rpm.
Peak power is now a claimed 189bhp @ 12,500rpm, with peak torque of 81.79ftlb @ 10,500rpm. Bore and stroke remain 76 x 55.1mm but the compression ratio is up from 12.3:1 to 13:1.
We would say that this is the best equipped Fireblade ever, but then we’d look foolish when you see the SP2 version.