Honda joins the power race with the all-new, 214hp Fireblade
The wraps have just been pulled off the new Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade and Fireblade SP – and it finally has the cojones to tackle the BMW S1000RR and Ducati Panigale V4 in terms of horsepower. With an extra R in its name, an all-new engine and some serious involvement from Honda Racing Corporation, this is the most exciting update to Honda’s stalwart sportsbike in years.
Let’s pick through the pieces to see why you need to be excited about the new Blade.
In a bit of a bold move, the Fireblade looks a lot more like the now-deceased CBR600RR, with a gaping air intake between the headlights – an intake that Honda promises provides a proper ram-air functionality. The new bike has keyless go, which means Mr Honda’s been able to whip out the ignition barrel and totally clean up the flow of air into the airbox.
Speaking of airflow, the Blade’s also grown wings. Well, inboard winglets supposedly inspired by the 2018 Honda MotogGP bike, and they’re designed to keep the front tyre closer to the ground when you’re giving it some. Likewise, the front mudguard has convex dips on each side to clear air away from the front tyre.
You also get a longer swingarm inspired by the one on the limited-run and horrifically expensive RC213V. That extra length should help improve the new Blade’s stability, and with 18 different thicknesses of metal in its construction, it’s been tuned for more feel when you’re leant over – likewise the new aluminium frame is 11 per cent less rigid across the width of the bike for more flex and feel. Rear tyre size is up to a 200-section to improve traction.
Honda says the whole bike feels smaller than the already diminutive outgoing Blade – they’ve dropped the 16.1-litre fuel tank 45mm in the chassis to help you get down behind the screen.
This is the big news. While the old Blade was a peach to ride on track and was pretty fast back in 2016 when it arrived on the scene, it was quickly outpunched in terms of outright power by the BMW S1000RR, Panigale V4 and Suzuki’s GSXR-1000R.
That phase looks to be over with the new Blade, thanks to an all-new engine with a significant hike in power. It’s a 999.9cc inline four-cylinder engine that pumps out a healthy claimed 214.5hp at 14,500rpm and 113Nm of torque at 12,500rpm. Compared to the old bike’s claimed 192hp, the new bike should feel significantly stronger, and it’s 7hp up on the new BMW S1000RR. Honda has essentially asked racing experts HRC to work their magic on the engine and come back with something that can finally compete at the higher end of the litre-bike market.
That means it’s packed with tech, despite being physically smaller than the old engine. It has a much shorter stroke and wider bore than the old engine – it’s gone from 76mm x 55mm to the same 81mm x 48.5mm as the RC213V, making it much more oversquare than the old bike – so it should rev even more quickly.
Honda’s also claiming they’ve invented some new metals – namely the type of titanium used for the con-rods and the chromium molybdenum vanadium that makes up the con-rod bolts. The engine’s also littered with surfaces with a diamond-like coating (DLC) to reduce friction. Honda says that the use of DLC on the cam lobes is a world first in a production road bike, and they’ve applied for a patent for the new blade’s ‘semi-cam’ gear train, which allows for a shorter cam chain than normal.
Forged aluminium pistons top off a list of engine tech that’d make most race engineers a bit dribbly.
Chassis and electronics
The new Blade tips the scales at 201kg wet, thanks mostly to a new aluminium frame that saves weight, and the fact that the rear shock is now mounted off the back of the engine rather than using a weighty cross-member.
As you’d expect, the Blade SP is sprung at both ends by Ohnlins’ gen-two active suspension, with pressurised damping in the NPX forks. Naturally you can adjust the suspension using the Blade’s standard-fit five-inch TFT screen and the left handlebar switchgear. The non-SP version gets Showa’s Big Piston Forks and shock.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of the outgoing Blade from track-nutter journos is that the ABS was too intrusive on track. Honda’s promising that they’ve sorted this, and every version of the new Blade will come with sport and track settings for the ABS. Which is good, because braking performance looks to be better than ever – SP bikes get Panigale V4-spec Brembo Stylema front calipers, whereas standard models get Nissin calipers, and they grip bigger 330mm discs on both models.
Remember when the Fireblade was the last superbike to really get electronics? Those days are long gone with the new one – the old bike’s five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit’s been ditched in favour of an all-singing and dancing six-axis one, ensuring that the nine-stage traction control and cornering ABS keep you shiny-side-up for as long as physically possible.
Both the SP and normal 1000RR-R include launch control – called Start Mode in typical Honda conservatism – which will let you peg the rev limiter at 6,7,8 or 9,000 rpm, allowing you to hold the throttle wide open and just concentrate on your clutch release as you fire yourself at the horizon using the standard-fit quickshifter to churn through the gears.
What do you think?
On paper at least, it feels as if the new Blade is a significant leap for Honda’s flagship sportsbike. Have we seen the end of the big H trailing everyone else when it comes to outright power? Can they still make the Fireblade as easy to ride quickly as it always has been? We’ll have to find out when it goes on sale in 2020.