Honda Fireblade

Original Honda CBR900RR FireBlade

The Honda CBR900RR FireBlade changed the way sportsbikes were designed forever by being lighter and more agile, rather than more powerful than the competition. That’s not to say it lacked in the horsepower department, its 123bhp was plenty in 1992.

But the power was much less of a headline than the Blade’s unbelievable lightness and supersport-esque handling. The first FireBlade weighed just 185kg (dry) which was 50kg lighter than a Triumph Daytona 1000. To put that into perspective, the Triumph weighed the same as the Honda plus Dani Pedrosa!

The Honda’s closest rivals were the Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP and the Suzuki GSX-R1100 and they were both at least 15kg heavier.

Tadao Baba

Tadao Baba with his creation

The Honda FireBlade was the brainchild of Tadao Baba, whose motto, ‘light is right’ permeated the first bike and all the subsequent tweaks to the 900 model. The capital ‘B’ in FireBlade which appears in the name of the CBR900RR versions is for Baba.

Baba worked his way up through the ranks at Honda having joined as a Machinist in 1965. By 1989 he was asked to lead a project to make a sportsbike to outperform the Yamaha EXUP and Suzuki GSX-11 and the FireBlade was born.

Baba employed a European test team who he thought would be more willing to speak their mind about the bike, but he did a lot of testing himself and was known for regularly crashing.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade (N/P) 1992/93

  • Engine: 893cc
  • Weight: 185kg
  • Top speed: 160.9mph
  • Power: 122bhp @ 10,500rpm
  • Torque: 65ftlb @ 8000rpm

Designed by Tadao Baba, the first Fireblade broke new ground in terms of power and weight, decimating the 750cc sportsbike opposition with its agile handling and over-capacity motor.

The FireBlade name is actually a mistranslation of the Japanese word meaning 'lightning'. Everything on the original bike was designed for lightness, from the race-style drilled fairing to the plastic engine covers and the 16in front wheel.

Standard telescopic forks were used in preference to USD ones because they weigh less. The outcome of all this weight saving is that the FireBlade handled like a 600 and obliterated the competition.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade (R/S) 1994/95

  • Engine: 893cc
  • Weight: 184kg
  • Top speed: 161mph
  • Power: 124bhp @ 10,500rpm
  • Torque: 65ftlb @ 8000rpm

The most obvious update was the switch from twin, round headlights to foxeye units, but that wasn’t all that changed in 1994.

A side effect of the FireBlade’s 16in front wheel was a slightly twitchy front end which Honda addressed by adding compression adjustment to the forks.

The aluminium head was replaced by magnesium and an extra 2bhp was squeezed from the engine.

This was also the first version available in the Urban Tiger paint scheme and had a specific space for a U-lock under the seat.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade (T/V) 1996/97

  • Engine: 918cc
  • Weight: 183kg
  • Top speed: 173.4mph
  • Power: 126bhp @ 10,500rpm
  • Torque: 67ftlb @ 8000rpm

Despite not qualifying for a single race series and therefore having no promotion on the track, the 1994/95 FireBlade was the best-selling sportsbike in the UK. But that didn't stop Honda from trying to improve it.

A 1mm larger bore saw the FireBlade’s capacity increased to 918.5cc and the seating position was more relaxed, with 10mm taller bars and seat height. The chassis was also beefed up and the fairing redesigned. Honda switched from a four-hollow beam frame to a three-hollow version which was lighter without sacrificing rigidity.

To go with the revised fairing, a drag-reducing front mudguard was added using the same design as that on the Honda NSR500 GP bike. Phillip McCallen won the 1996 and 1997 Production TTs on the Blade.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade (W/X) 1998/99

  • Engine: 918.5cc
  • Weight: 180kg
  • Top speed: 174mph
  • Power: 128bhp @ 10,500rpm
  • Torque: 67.2ftlb @ 9000rpm

A minor visual update saw the Blade’s engine tweaked with a friction-reducing coating on the pistons, and new clocks fitted. The chassis geometry was relaxed, the forks spaced an extra 10mm and the swingarm was beefed up for stability.

This model had a new problem to contend with in the form of the new kid on the block, the Yamaha R1. As a result, Honda claimed over 80% of the Blade was redesigned but it still felt familiar due to it having the same tank dimensions and stretch to the bars.

In 1999, Sanyo Honda Britain built the Evo Blade. Costing £18,000 it came with a tuned engine, single-sided swingarm and upgraded suspension.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade (Y/1) 2000/01

  • Engine: 929cc
  • Weight: 170kg
  • Top speed: 168mph
  • Power: 152bhp @ 10,750rpm
  • Torque: 80ftlb @ 9000rpm

A radically altered Blade came with a new 929cc motor and a pivotless frame that saw the swingarm mounted directly to the back of the engine, as well as fuel-injection replacing the carbs of previous generations.

As well as inverted forks, the 2000 Blade featured a 17in front wheel for the first time and debuted Honda’s variable exhaust control system.

This was Honda's first opportunity to properly respond to the Yamaha R1 and they reverted to the ethos that made the original Blade so great. The bike has shed 10kg since the previous version and thanks to some engine tweaks it made 24bhp more.

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 2002/03

  • Engine: 954cc
  • Weight: 168kg
  • Top speed: 166.3mph
  • Power: 155bhp @ 10,750rpm
  • Torque: 82ftlb @ 9000rpm

Baba’s swansong FireBlade saw engine capacity increased via a 1mm larger bore, the fuel injection updated, chassis geometry tweaked and a new swingarm fitted. Honda reponded to the Yamaha R1 with the previous version, and this time it's the Suzuki GSX-R1000 that has been released. It really was a golden age for fast motorbikes.

Honda retired the capital B in the name as a mark of respect for Baba leaving the project. He was presented with a piston from every model on a plaque as a retirement gift. The 2003 Blade was the last model to come with a hinged pillion seat.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2004/05

  • Engine: 998cc
  • Weight: 179kg
  • Top speed: 178.5mph
  • Power: 169bhp @ 11,250rpm
  • Torque: 85ftlb @ 10,000rpm

The Blade became a litre bike with a 998cc motor in a new chassis with Unit Pro-Link swingarm. Honda’s HESD electronic steering damper was debuted and the bike gained radial brakes and a radial master cylinder.

This generation of Blade almost suffered for being too easy to ride at speed, many feeling that it lacked drama.

HM Plant Honda’s Michael Rutter won the 2004 Blade’s first ever race at Silverstone in the BSB opener, and also became the first rider to top 200mph at the North West 200.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2006/07

  • Engine: 998cc
  • Weight: 176kg
  • Top speed: 178.9mph
  • Power: 172bhp @ 11,250rpm
  • Torque: 86ftlb @ 10,000rpm

A tweaked engine with new pistons and an altered head boosted power, while lower final drive ratios improved acceleration. These changes, combined with a painstaking weightloss regime regained the Blade some of its former glory.

This Fireblade had the unenviable task of responding to the barn-storming Kawasaki ZX-10R which had come out of the blocks like a wild animal in 2004.

On the track, James Toseland took the 2007 WSB title on the Ten Kate Blade, its first world championship and on the roads, John McGuinness broke the 130mph average TT lap barrier in 2007, with a 130.354mph lap.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2008/09

  • Engine: 999.8cc
  • Weight: 199kg
  • Top speed: 172.1mph
  • Power: 175bhp @ 12,000rpm
  • Torque: 83.9ftlb @ 8,500rpm

The brand new bike had a new motor with titanium valves and forged pistons helping it make a claimed 175bhp. The chassis featured monoblock brakes and a new stubby, side-mounted exhaust.

The 2008 Blade’s back torque limiter was the first slipper clutch to be used on a Honda production bike since the RC45.

The updated engine has an incredible amount of low-down grunt and pulls hard from as low as 3500rpm.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2010/11

  • Engine: 999.8cc
  • Weight: 210kg
  • Top speed: 171mph
  • Power: 173bhp @ 12,000rpm
  • Torque: 83ftlb @ 10,000rpm

A very small update saw the Blade gain a more rigid crank and bigger flywheel to improve the engine’s drive out of bends, as well as slight styling alterations. Power, torque and weight remained unaltered from the previous model.

On the track, the Honda Legends World Endurance team become the first team to run ABS at world championship level, using the C-ABS system at the Le Mans 24-hour.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2012/16

  • Engine: 999.8cc
  • Weight: 200kg
  • Top speed: 175mph
  • Power: 176bhp @ 12,000rpm
  • Torque: 83.9ftlb @ 8,500rpm

With the motor left virtually unchanged, Honda added a bit of spice thanks to a sharper look and new Showa Big Piston forks, a new Showa shock, 12-spoke wheels and an LCD dash.

The new dash featured a digital gear indicator for the first time, but in an effort to keep the rider feeling like a hero, Honda opted not to add traction control (this was the last Blade without it). Jonathan Rea won the Suzuka 8-Hour on this version of the Fireblade.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade 2017/18

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

  • Engine: 999cc
  • Weight: 196kg
  • Top speed: 186mph
  • Power: 189bhp @ 12,500rpm
  • Torque: 85.6ftlb @ 10,500rpm

The 2017 Fireblade came with all the electronic bells and whistles you would expect from a flagship superbike.

A five axis IMU measures exactly what the bike is doing and works in partnership with the 9-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). This manages rear wheel traction using the ECU and Throttle By Wire (TBW).

The new Bosch ABS braking (also managed by the IMU) offers Rear Lift Control (RLC) and Wheelie Control.

As if that's not enough, there are three rider modes, five levels of power delivery, three levels of wheelie control and engine braking.

The systems are impressive but some complained that they were too intrusive and Honda look to have addressed this with the 2019 Fireblade, which was unveiled at Eicma 2018.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP 2014/16

  • Engine: 999.8cc
  • Weight: 199kg
  • Top speed: 177mph
  • Power: 180bhp @ 12,000rpm
  • Torque: 84ftlb @ 8,500rpm

The first SP version of the Blade arrived, with Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and a lighter subframe with no pillion provisions. A ported head and new exhaust headers boosted power to a claimed 180bhp.

Honda claimed the Blade’s cylinder head porting increased flow efficiency by 6.5%. The SP was also the first Blade to feature Brembo brakes.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP 2017

2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP wheelie

In 2017, Honda released a second verion of their Fireblade SP special which was smaller, lighter, faster and more agile than its predecessor without sacrificing stability.

The 500 model limited run homologation special SP has semi-active Ohlins suspension, a quickshifter/autoblipper and Brembo radial calipers. 

Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP 2020

Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP

The 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP is more track-focussed than ever before; crammed with electronics, a new revvier engine and a headline performance figure of 214bhp. 

Still beautifully finished and stunning to look at, it's now as focussed as they come, with only the most skilled trackday pilots and racers getting the most from it. 

Honda Fireblade competitors

The Fireblade has been made for over 25 years in one form or another and has seen competition from a lot of machines in that time.

The First Honda CBR900RR FireBlade came up against the Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP, Suzuki GSX-R1100 and Triumph Daytona 1000.

From left to right: Honda CBR900RR FireBlade, Suzuki TL1000S, Yamaha YZF1000 Thunderace, Kawasaki ZX-7R, Suzuki GSX-R750

In future iterations it would have to face the Aprilia RSV1000, a host of Ducati models, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Triumph Daytona 955i, Yamaha R1, Aprilia RSV4 and BMW S1000RR to name but a few.

The Fireblade has maintained a reputation for being fast and stable throughout its lifetime, but is considered to be less exciting than some of the competition by some.

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