Honda CBR1000RR and SP Fireblade (2017) - First Ride Review

Kane Dalton
By Kane Dalton

Club, Endurance and Isle of Man racer, been riding bikes since 1970 something, got the bug sitting on the back of my dad’s 400 Four. First ride was an Italjet followed by RM80 and YZ125 dirt bikes, current bikes range from agricultural to exotic. Writing about bikes for four years.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Honda's iconic Fireblade and sees the introduction of three brand new models: the CBR1000RR Fireblade, a more upmarket SP version and a limited run of 500 SP2s, a homologation special that will form the base for Honda's superbike and superstock racing activity around the world.

Today we tested two of the three new bikes - the 2017 base model Fireblade and the SP - back-to-back at Portugal's stunning Portimao circuit, a welcome break from the bleak British winter and we were honoured to be joined by the likes of TT hero John McGuinness, 'Fast' Freddie Spencer and Honda Racing's British Superbike riders, Jason O'Halloran and Dan Linfoot as they prepared to swing a leg over the new Frieblade for the first time. This was a dream weekend.

What are the differences though? Well, the SP has the same spec as the base model but its upgrades include semi-active Öhlins electronic control suspension, Brembo brakes and a Lithium-Ion battery.

Meanwhile, the SP2 is a road legal homologation special using the Fireblade SP as its base, but made ready for race use. The first thing you notice about that is the Honda Racing (HRC) paint scheme. Visually the carbon pattern insets and gold striping interwoven into the Tricolour paint distinguish the Fireblade SP2, along with the stand out gold Marchesini wheels. 

Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR 2017

The biggest news is the new electronics and more power! 

Honda CBR 1000 RR SP 2017 Fireblade Tracking

The biggest news is the new electronics. In road form the Fireblade has not been as cutting-edge as the latest breed of 200bhp superbikes and the 'blade has been crying out for rider aids and more power to take the fight to its rivals. Until now, that is.

The electronic control devices are the same on the SP and the SP2, though the SP2 has extra settings for both race and general circuit use. Further performance comes from the parts that can be added from the two race kits that will be available. What's included in the kits is still to be announced by HRC.

There is much debate about the use of rider aids. To me, it's like when photography moved from film to digital. The old school cried that the art was dead while the new school embraced the new technology and the art has reached higher levels. Photographers needed new skills too, like mastering Photoshop. The new electronics mean you need to tap into the parameter settings of the bikes to fine tune the best options. Honda have made the process simple and have new ''definitions'' to help the rider understand how to get the best from the bike. Ultimately rider aids allow you to ride faster, safer. On the road they may just lend a helping hand when you need it most.

Riders still have to find the optimum braking control and have confidence to the crack the throttle when leaned over. Rider aids can’t do any of these things for you. You still have to find the boundaries. It was really easy to find some limitations on the new track, although mostly those were of me, the rider. 

 

VIDEO REVIEW
BikeSocial's Kane Dalton reviews the 2017 Honda Fireblades
Electronics

While the electronic control is very much a new departure for the Fireblade, the combination of the other two factors draws faithfully on the philosophy of the original 1992 machine: namely the optimal balance of power and weight.

Riding Portimao, there were sections of the track where I knew the bike had taken over and was making me look good, for example coming through the last turn you are flat out in fourth with your eyebrow inches off the deck. As you stand the bike up (and have found the confidence to crank the throttle to the stopper rather than the usual feathered action) you clip fifth gear just as you hit a small ridge, the front wheel climbs and you just keep on the gas, the wheel lands as you clip sixth and 180 mph is showing on the dash. It's then that you realise that this bike just made you look like a legend!

We’re talking just-about-everything control. The new bikes are set up with a five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The term IMU is still a relatively new one but it’s fast becoming familiar. An IMU is the basis of the most high-tech of modern traction control, stability control and cornering ABS systems.

Using a combination of accelerometers and gyros in a small electronic box of tricks, it can measure the way a bike is moving, in each plane – its roll, yaw, pitch and lateral acceleration – and feed that information back to the main on-board computer.

Combining readings from speed sensors, throttle position sensors and dozens of other sources, it means that the computer can compare the bike’s behaviour to pre-programmed maps and limits and work out the best way to provide the rider with help.

The selectable torque control system manages rear wheel traction via the ECU and throttle by wire system. Incidentally, this is the first time Honda are using a TBW system.

The new ABS braking (also managed by the IMU) offers rear lift control, which is Honda speak for a system that allows hard, safe trail braking into corners.

Any difference measured between the front and rear wheel speeds engages wheelie control, depending on settings.

There is also a selectable engine brake system to change the engine-braking characteristic to match rider preference and a range of conditions.

The body roll calculation logic used by the ECU uses the same attitude detection technologies developed for Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot.

There are three riding modes preset from full performance of the engine to settings that offer maximum security, while there are nine intervention levels (plus off) offered to suit rider preferences.

Individual rider preferences can also be input manually via user options.

It is easy to scroll and operate the settings from switchgear on the handlebars. You can access your own custom settings with quick shortcuts and you can toggle between settings on the move.

Whether it’s by modulating the power or by altering the braking force and distribution, the overall system now stands a chance of saving situations that would have been guaranteed crashes just a few years ago

The SP and SP2 take the electronics one step further as they work with the new Öhlins suspension, adjusting both the compression and rebound damping force of the fork and shock.

Quickshift is optional on the base model, but comes standard with the SP and has the almost obligatory downshift assist with autoblipper.

I have always found that electronic steering dampers offer unpredictable damping unless they are set to manual but with the new Fireblades I found the damping so predictable that I never thought about it at all.

There is a huge elevation change going over a blind ride on the track, it feels like you are riding off the edge of a cliff. I would usually be really cautious under these conditions. If the front lifts you would naturally roll off the gas or even dab the back break to keep rubber side up. You are hard on the gas in third gear as you launch. The front wheel lifts and the wheelie control takes over, the more I rode this section the more confident I became in the bike doing all it needed to keep me flat on the gas and out of trouble. That said a few times the cut off was brutal and I slammed the tank on the way down. 

Riding Position

Minimal and dynamic are two words used to best describe the Fireblade SP’s new styling.

It’s lighter, narrower and shorter than previous models. To sit on it’s all 'blade, all good. The same comfortable but sports biased riding position, its has more compact proportions and the upper and middle fairing surfaces have been reduced. The knee grip area is also slightly slimmer while the 16 litre titanium fuel tank on the SP is 1.3kg lighter than steel.

The design contributes to the concentration of mass and reduction in the moment of inertia.

To sit on the 2017 models, it feels reassuringly Fireblade, just a little more compact.

Close up with the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
Instrumentation

The clocks do everything you need and there are three standard display modes – Street, Circuit and Mechanic. The information displayed can be fine-tuned and adjusted on the fly by using the left hand switch gear and the full-colour TFT liquid crystal dash display. It's the same display found on the exclusive RC213V-S, Honda’s road going version of its RC213V MotoGP machine.

The 'Shift-Up' LED indicator is reached really quickly when the throttle is cranked open. Displays include speedometer, tachometer, gear position, coolant temperature, riding distance and twin trip meters.

Another nice addition is the fuel information, the onboard computer calculates instantaneous and average fuel economy, trip fuel consumption, average speed and time after last ignition, plus remaining fuel after reserve light and distance to empty (when selected). This information is shown on the bottom right of the screen.

Engine

The new engines use magnesium and lighter parts, making it 2kg lighter than on the outgoing version. Honda say 90% of all components are new.

The result of the work is an extra 11bhp (8kW), and a raised rev ceiling of 13,000rpm.  Claimed peak power is 189bhp @ 13,000rpm with peak torque of 116Nm (85.6 ft-lbs) delivered @ 11,000rpm.

The SP’s Power to weight ratio is improved by 14% - reaching the best level ever for the Fireblade - thanks to a 15kg weight reduction and that bhp boost.

Bottom-end torque is improved with a significant increase in top-end power – the engine revs harder and higher, with a much higher compression ratio and revised cam timing.

The motor delivers power in a linear way and revs quickly up to the limiter, it doesn't all just kick in over 7,000 rpm which makes this bike user friendly. The power delivery is as smooth as any commuter in Honda’s range, yet lets you deliver 189 bhp in tiny increments. Honda always talks about ultimate control, and the 'blade certainly gives you that feeling. It’s the kind of bike you can ride all day long and it just gets on with it.

On the Portimao circuit you only ever need the first three gears, through the tight sections but it’s still enough to see triple figures on the speedo.

Entering the straight and clipping the higher gears the bike breezed to 180 mph plus before getting hard on those brakes.

The clutch has been designed to offer 17% lighter load on the clutch lever. I cover my clutch when I ride so it took time to dialling in using the clutchless change up and down change. Once dialled in it was seamless and smooth.

The new titanium exhaust muffler has a built in valve and when it reaches the right rpm it opens, converting the standard exhaust into something that sounds like a full blown race system. No competitor litre bike's standard system sounds like that of the new Fireblade.  

Suspension

The new Fireblade turns on a six pence and is super stable both under braking and mid corner. It's really easy to make and fine tune in the corners and oh so simple to pick the bike up on exit.

The standard model has the adjustable Showa 43mm big piston forks, with a fully adjustable Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion shock. Instead of a conventional single-tube layout, it uses a double-tube design and the damper piston has no valves – instead the damping force is generated as displaced oil passes through a separate damping component.

A defining difference is that the SP2 comes with semi-active Öhlins electronic suspension, which automatically adjusts damping and compression to riding conditions. It can also adjust the compression and rebound as you ride.

Handling is predictably excellent, the Öhlins suspension giving a taut and immaculately well controlled ride. Öhlins has been working with Honda for three years to develop this second generation system. They felt that was hard to understand and translate rebound and compression, so they have changed the way you look at the set up by introducing something they call objective based tuning interface. They have set up parameter setting based on braking, acceleration and cornering. If you want to tune or tweak your preference in each area you can.

The new system is easy to adjust. It comes with factory pre-set options, for track and road, with options to program your own manual settings.

On track I switched to manual mode and did a session with automatic suspension adjustment set to low, a simple matter of clicking buttons. I then changed to the road mode, followed by track. 

The bike worked well in each but improved as the semi-active suspension took over and ironed out little shakes and wobbles under heavy braking and acceleration. It tightened everything up in corners.

The result was light steering plus an outstandingly planted feel. The new bike is super agile.

You can rely on the factory settings or set your own custom options. On track stiffer suspension with some rider aids turned up. On the road you can switch to a more subtle power delivery with softer suspension and rider aids set according to conditions.

The 800g lighter hollow die-cast twin-spar aluminium frame’s rigidity balance has been significantly adjusted to give even sweeter handling with outstanding steering response, feel and stability. In some areas there they have added flex (the lighter frame, and subframe) and in other areas they have increased rigidity (swingarm) Being rigid, the concentration of mass creates a neutral handling feel with improved agility. You can feel the stiffer Pro-Link swingarm at work.

For the rider this means access to new level of handling ability, with suspension reaction.

Exiting a tight left hand hairpin I was fully committed and hanging off the bike, bringing it back across the track to set up for the next right on the SP I felt the back of the bike squirm and wobble under acceleration. This would usually want a manual tweak, I could feel the suspension compensating for what I was doing and I just kept the throttle on. 

Honda Fireblade in detail
Brakes

The new ABS allows for extremely hard braking while maintaining rear wheel contact with the ground, stopping the tendency for the rear of the machine to elevate or ‘back in’ around the front. For mortal riders this is a good thing, when you want to cheat the angle of the corner to get increase the maximum speed for the bend then this may be a less useful tool. The new ABS delivers smooth, effective braking into a corner. The ABS modulator controls braking force according to lean angle, even when emergency braking. But it also allows for hard trail braking.

The brakes are sharp and powerful.

The 2017 RR has new front Tokico four-piston opposed radial mounted brake calipers are which are more rigid, and 150g lighter and do without hanger pins. They also have newly developed brake pads that claim better performance at higher temperatures than standard pads.

The SP has massive Brembo four-piston monobloc radial mount brake calipers and the newly developed high-mu (coefficient of friction) brake pads – that have a greater performance parameter at higher temperatures than standard pads. The pads are built to suit aggressive riding. The awesome stopping power needs you to make a recalibration. It’s a Fireblade but it stops like something much more expensive.

The launch bikes were fitted with a revised version of Honda’s optional C-ABS. Front brake activation is smoother and the linked system is refined, the foot pedal now adding less front brake, and none at all when used gently. Feel through the lever is subtly different to a normal ABS system. For us mortal riders on track, the brakes are a bit compliant and when you brake really hard you can feel the back lift a touch. This feature will be perfect on the road. As a race bike the legends will be setting the bikes up a touch harder and may dial this feature down or turn it off.

Hooked in with those front forks, the bike stops rapidly and on track I felt the C-ABS coming in. I was more aware of this braking really hard downhill. This can be tested well at Portimao with is steep gradient changes. In places you can feel the lever pump but pulling harder still gives you more brake. 

The truth is that every lap on the new Fireblade sees you getting faster and faster as you work out how to respond to the incredible feeling you get from that suspension. Get it in on its ear and power out. It’s quick to steer.

On its own the Fireblade base model is a delight. When you move to the SP the upgraded suspension it gets even better.

The bike always found grip no matter how hard I tried.

It gives you the kind of compliant plush feeling you only get from well set-up suspension and never feels harsh under pressure. It’s what you pay for.

The base models aluminium wheels are a new five Y-shape design, offer a 100g weight saving. The SP's have the light weight Marchesini wheels.

We ran Bridgestone S21 – street racing tyres on the base model (without tyre warmers) and VO2 competitive slicks on the SP (with tyre warmers) Running the warm slicks allowed further exploration of the bikes abilities with more confidence.


The Expert Verdict

Honda invited some of their racing legends to join the journalists for the launch of the new Fireblade. Here are their first impressions:

John McGuinness – TT Legend

"The new bike is slick and refined, they are absolutely planted on the brakes and in a straight line. Under extreme braking you can feel the ABS kick in but there is no judder from the lever. The back lifts slightly then the ABS takes over. The slipper clutch and engine braking works really well. The quick shift and autoblip work really well. There are no glitches in the smooth power delivery. The electronics have a vast amount of parameters and adjustment. The new bike is a sweet ride''

Freddie Spencer –Multiple Grand Prix world champion

"This is everything you know and love about the 2008 Blade, except it that much better. Its sharper, feels smaller and ultra precise. You can make focused mid-corner adjustments. The new bike is more agile. This bike is better as the feedback I got from the bike is great especially at lean angles. With the new bike I did not feel I had to lean it over as far. The thing I liked about riding the bike today. I was riding the most challenging track I have never ridden before, a track that has every element and elevation, a track that tests every element of the bike, after three laps it felt like I had ridden this bike yesterday! There were lots of elements with the bike that made learning the race track easier. The feedback I had helped me fix some of my little errors. The perfect combination of feedback and agility.  I had a blast, I rode with John andSteve for at least another two hours''

Steve Plater – Isle of Man TT winner

"I enjoyed some success on the old bike. After blowing the cobwebs off with Freddie and John, the best thing about the bike is it’s typical Fireblade. Its very user friendly and easy to ride. Once you have worked out the electronics the bike gives you great feel"

Jenny Tinmouth - the fastest woman at the Isle of Man TT

"I have never ridden a bike with electronics. I am not sure how confident I will be cranking opening the throttle and letting the electronics do their thing. Now that I have tested the bike I am confident and the electronics allowed me to open the throttle earlier. I love the bike"


The electronics package means that the Fireblade has caught up. It is degrees of craziness that split hairs between the top five or six superbikes and later this year we'll be bringing you a massive head-to-head group test pitching the new Honda against its rivals from Yamaha, BMW, Kawasaki, Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia to see if we can split those hairs?

But back in the real world, the Fireblade has more than enough performance. With 189 bhp it's now one heck of a fast bike.

 

Colours:

CBR1000RR - Red and Black

CBR10000RR SP - Red and Tricolor

Prices:

CBR1000RR - £15,225  

CBR10000 RR SP - £19,125  

CBR1000RR SP2 - TBC

(Available in dealers early March)

Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR 2017 SP
Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR 2017 SP
Honda CBR 1000 RR SP and 2017 Fireblade

SPECIFICATIONS

Model name

2016 SP

2017 YM

SP

2017 SP 2

 Overall Length

2075m

 

2065mm

2065mm

2065mm

Overall width

720mm

720mm

720mm

720mm

Overall height

1135mm

1125mm

1125mm

1125mm

Wheelbase

1410mm

1405mm

1404mm

1405mm

Minimum groundclearance

 

130mm

129mm

129mm

Seat height

820mm

832mm

834mm

834mm

Weight

210kg (wet)

196 kg

196 kg

£195 kg

Maximum number of riders

1 person

2

1single seat

1 single seat

Combustion Cooling Chamber

No

 

Water Jacket around combustion chamber

Water Jacket around combustion chamber

Engine type

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC Inline-4

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC Inline-4

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC Inline-4

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC Inline-4

Total displacement(cm3)

999.8cc

999cc

999cc

999cc

Bore × Stroke

76mm

76 x 55

76 x 55

76 x 55, 1mm wider head

Compression ratio

13.0.1

 

13.01

13.0.1 New Valve & Chamber Shape

Maximum output

Honda estimated to be 178 bhp+)

189bhp/13,000rpm

189bhp/13,000rpm

189bhp/13,000rpm

Maximum torque ft-lbs @ rpm

114Nm/10,500rpm

114Nm delivered @ 11,000rpm

116Nm/11,000rpm

116Nm/11,000rpm

Max Power

133kW/12,250rpm

 

8kW to 141kW @ 13,000rpm

141kW/13,000rpm

141kW/13,000rpm

Intake Valves

Exhaust Valves

29.5mm

 

24.5mm

 

 

31.5mm

 

25.5mm

Pistons

n/a

 

 

Heat treated crown design2.5mm shorter (and 8g lighter per cylinder) piston pin.

 

Camshaft

26mm

 

 

high-lift camshafts 28mm, reduced height and weight

Clutch Slipper

Yes

Wet, multiplate with diaphragm spring with assist slipper

Yes

Yes

Transmission

Six

Six

Six

Six

Torque Control

Engine Braking

ABS

Riding Mode Select

Power Selector

Quick Shift /

Downshift Assist

Throttle by Wire

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

 

No

Yes

Yes

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Yes

Starter

 

Spark Plug

Electric transistorised with electronic advance

Electric

Electric

Electric

Elongated Spark Plug

Fuel tank Consumption

17.5 litres 50.8mpg (claimed)

 

16L titanium fuel tank

16L titanium fuel

Wheel: Tyre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel

Front: 12-spoke cast aluminium, 120/70 ZR17 M/C (W)

 

Lightweight 17 inch,

120/70ZR17 58W

Aluminium 120/70 R17

Marchesini

Rear: 12-spoke cast aluminium, 190/50 ZR17 M/C (W)

 

 

Lightweight 17 inch,

190/50ZR17 73W

 

 

 

Aluminium 190/50 R17

Marchesini

Brake

Front: eC-ABS - 320 x 4.5mm dual hydraulic disc with 4-piston Brembo Monobloc calipers and sintered metal pads

 

Tokico four-piston

high-performance track-ready brake pads.

Brembo four-piston radial mount monobloc brake calipers

Brembo four-piston radial mount monobloc brake calipers

Rear: eC-ABS - 220 x 5mm hydraulic disc with single-piston caliper and sintered metal pads

 

 

 

 

Suspension

Front: Telescopic inverted fork with an inner tube diameter of 43mm, and a NIX30 (OHLINS) Front Fork with preload, compression and rebound adjustments, 120mm stroke

 

Showa inverted 43mm Big Piston Forks, preload, compression and rebound adjustment, 120mm stroke

Telescopic inverted fork with an inner tube diameter of 43mm, and a NIX30 Smart-EC (OHLINS) Front Fork with preload, compression and rebound adjustments, 120mm stroke

Telescopic inverted fork with an inner tube diameter of 43mm, and a NIX30 Smart-EC (OHLINS) Front Fork with preload, compression and rebound adjustments, 120mm stroke

Rear: Unit Pro-Link with gas-charged TTX36 (Öhlins) damper featuring 8 mm preload and 22 click compression and 22 click rebound damping adjustment, 60mm stroke

Showa Pro- link, gas charged HMAS damper, 10 step preload and stepless compression and rebound damping adjustment, 138,2mm stroke. Rear Balance Free Rear Cushion with preload, compression and rebound adjustment, 62mm stroke

Unit Pro-Link with gas-charged TTX36 Smart-EC (Öhlins) damper featuring preload and compression and rebound damping adjustment, 60mm stroke

Unit Pro-Link with gas-charged TTX36 Smart-EC (Öhlins) damper featuring preload and compression and rebound damping adjustment, 60mm stroke

Frame

Diamond; aluminium composite twin spar

Diamond: Aluminium Composite Twin Spar

Diamond: Aluminium Composite Twin Spar

Twin-spar Aluminium

& stiffer Swingarm

 

Honda CBR1000RR SP
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