History of the Fireblade: Part 2

Posted: 16 Dec 2013

With Honda unveiling the first SP Blade in the bike’s 22-year lifespan, Bike Social thought the time was right to look back over the evolution of the bike that defined the sportsbike class. You can check out Part 1 which includes the 1992-2002 Firebladeshere.

2004/05 Honda CBR1000RR 4/5 Fireblade

Honda CBR1000RR 4/5 Fireblade

With Baba no longer at the Fireblade’s helm (a fact that saw the capital B in the name replaced with a lowercase b as a mark of respect), Honda turned to its racing arm HRC for inspiration for the next generation of Fireblade. Aware WSB was changing its rules to allow 1000cc inline fours to race, Honda built the Blade a brand new engine as well as a revolutionary chassis.

Based around the technology used in their RC211V MotoGP bike, the CBR1000RR’s die-cast frame was stronger than ever before and also sharper handling and came with the same Unit Pro-Link swingarm suspension as the racer. Add to this an electronic steering damper, radial brakes and an underseat pipe and you had a stunning looking machine that went like stink. Almost…

Despite the brand new 998cc engine making 169bhp with 85lb.ft of torque thanks to lightweight forged pistons, twin fuel-injectors per cylinder and numerous other technical updates, the Blade felt lethargic. The handling was sensational, but alongside the new underseat pipe Yamaha YZF-R1 and insane Kawasaki ZX-10R the Blade felt a bit lackluster and safe. Honda needed to inject some spirit into their bike, which is what they did in 2006.

Specs

Engine:  998cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 75 x 56.5mm
Power: 169bhp @ 11,250rpm
Torque: 85ftlb @ 10,000rpm
Weight: 176kg

2006/07 Honda CBR1000RR 6/7 Fireblade

Honda CBR1000RR 6/7 Fireblade

Faced with criticism about their bike lacking character, Honda tweaked the Blade slightly to give it some more grunt. Well appear as if it had more grunt anyway…

A larger rear sprocket dropped the gearing and injected some spice into its acceleration while new pistons increased power by 3bhp and altered brakes delivered more bite. Alongside a new fairing with a sharper look the Blade was certainly better than before, and sales picked up, but it still wasn’t enough to take the Blade to the top of the sportsbike tree. A whole new redesign was needed and a controversial look arrived with the new model in 2008.

Specs

Engine:  998cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 75 x 56.5mm
Power: 172bhp @ 11,250rpm
Torque: 86ftlb @ 10,000rpm
Weight: 176kg

2008/09 Honda CBR1000RR 8/9 Fireblade

Honda CBR1000RR 8/9 Fireblade

With everyone upping the technology in their litre bikes, Honda totally redesigned the Fireblade. Gone was the underseat pipe look, replaced by a stumpy fairing and side mounted exhaust that wasn’t that well received. Although while the new Blade’s look was controversial, its performance was anything but…

A brand new chassis with a gull-wing swingarm was not only lighter than ever before, it was more agile, narrower and housed a new motor with titanium inlet valves, forged pistons and electro-plating to increase the power. With a claimed 175bhp the Fireblade was now able to challenge for the spot of top litre bike, something it achieved thanks to its turbine-like power delivery and excellent chassis.

Against the latest breed of litre bikes the Blade excelled, not only proving devastatingly capable on track but also a brilliant road bike. Owners soon forgave the odd look and the Blade was regarded as the best ‘all-round’ litre bike.

Specs

Engine:  998cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 76 x 55.1mm
Power: 175bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 84ftlb @ 8,500rpm
Weight: 179kg

2010/11 Honda CBR1000RR 10/11 Fireblade

Honda CBR1000RR 10/11 Fireblade

With the economic crisis hitting the Japanese hard, Honda decided to refine the Blade slightly in 2010 rather than totally redesign it. Still top of the tree, there was the constant threat of the BMW S1000RR’s launch in 2010 hanging over the Blade however Honda simply tweaked the styling and fitted a more rigid crank and bigger flywheel. While it is fair to say no one could have predicted just how good the BMW was going to be, these changes were aimed at making the Blade a better road bike rather than a track-focused monster. With litre bikes split between full-on performance and all-round practicality, the Blade sat in the happy middle ground between these two camps. Fans of the Urban Tiger were delighted to see Honda launch an updated Tiger paint scheme for 2010, although it wasn’t as cool as the original…

Specs

Engine:  998cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 76 x 55.1mm
Power: 175bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 84ftlb @ 8,500rpm
Weight: 179kg

2012/13 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

Still fighting a down turn in the world economy and the staggeringly good BMW S1000RR, Honda looked for a cheap fix to update the Blade in 2012. A more angular look, Showa Big Piston Forks, 12-spoke wheels and a cool new LCD dash were never going to bridge the power gap between the Honda and the BMW, but at least the Blade now looked more modern. Although lacking the electronic trickery of the BMW, Kawasaki ZX-10R and Yamaha YZF-R1, the Blade remained a great road bike that was still extremely good on track. Thanks to its huge fan base this model of Blade sold well, although riders did start to question why when faced with such touch competition there wasn’t a full-on version of the Blade…

Specs

Engine:  998cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 76 x 55.1mm
Power: 175bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 84ftlb @ 8,500rpm
Weight: 179kg

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