Honda’s CBR1000RR is one of the most popular Superbikes of the last three years and it’s not hard to see why. Great build quality, a flexible spread of power and a reasonable amount of rider comfort. Which is something you don´t always get on rival 1000cc road rockets.
But Honda are rarely content are rest on their laurels and the 2006/7 CBR1000RR Fireblade has had a selection of tweaks and updates to keep it right on the pace. Is it still the champ, or has the CBR1000RR got a bit softer with age? Alastair Walker spent a week trying to find out.
The Fireblade was the bike which raised every other manufacturer´s game in the early Nineties. Sure, the FZR1000 EXUP was arguably a smoother handling machine, maybe it even braked marginally better too, but the original `Blade was a fearsomely fast, compact missile, a shot of pure adrenaline that few bikers with fire in their soul could resist.
Of course the 900 Blade got a bit softer, more roomy, less twitchy to ride on bumpy roads, as it evolved through the 1990s. The 2000 model was my favourite version, mainly because it got a bit of its true spirit back and it began to look sleeker, more aggressive too. But compared to an original 1998 R1, TL1000S or a Ducati 996, the Fireblade still seemed a touch nice, marginally bland perhaps, just not as mad, bad and dangerous to know as the first Fireblades were.
Fast forward to 2004 and a ride to Darley Moor on the brand new CBR1000RR, which proved devastatingly quick, and eerily stable at high speed, even when I deliberately aimed it at the rumble strips on Darley´s faster chicane. The 2004 CBR1000RR was rock solid, the HESD steering damper actually worked – I was impressed. More importantly, the bike went like the clappers on the road just as well as on the track, felt very comfortable, supremely torquey and was possessed of demon brakes. One of the testers that day actually went out and bought the demo bike we used the very next day – he was utterly hooked on the revamped Fireblade. I could understand why…
Understand that is, until I rode the 2005 GSXR1000, which made me seriously consider losing all reason and buying one. It growled at tickover, it sent shivers up your spine when you gassed it hard out of roundabouts on A roads and the fit and feel of the machine was pure racer, no compromises, no quarter asked or given. The Gixer 1000 just made me feel like I was riding a pukka BSB racer with lights on – it was deeply addictive, yet strangely comfortable to hoon about on for a long day´s ride too.
So far as I was concerned, the Gixer 1000 made the CBR1000RR seem like a VFR800 by comparison, even though I´d lapped Darley just one second slower on the `Blade than on a 2004 Gixer1000 or a Kawasaki ZX-10R, and two seconds slower than the `04 Yamaha R1; the Honda didn´t feel anywhere near as fast as its rivals, even though in truth, it was.
You see that´s the thing about motorcycles – it´s all emotional response in the final analysis. You have to love the machine, the experience it floods you with as you ride it at speed, to put up with the grief from the government, ex-partners, busybody neighbours etc which all comes with the biking life. The 2005 Gixer 1000 is one of those bikes which made me go all emotional, craving riding the thing like Z list celebrity craves an appearance on GMTV.
Bringing it all back home
So what have Honda done to the 2006/7 CBR1000RR to make it a serious contender, a true player in the sportbike premiership division?
It´s fiendishly simple really, they´ve turned it into a GSXR1000, only more so. It pulls at your arm sockets, it hoovers in vast quantities of air when the throttle opens a fraction and it sweeps through corners with the finesse and precision of a professional speed skater.
The Fireblade has gone back to its roots, re-discovered its pure, raw, meat-eating nature. It snarls angrily at traffic, sneering at cars to get out of the way, and God, I love that in a motorcycle. Yet it still has a modern gloss, a sublime, laid back confidence and ability that defies the laws of physics. It shouldn´t feel so safe, so secure, at illegal speeds on any motorbike, but the CBR1000RR amazes the rider with its stability, its sheer usefulness.
From the moment you get onto the latest Fireblade, you feel like this is a totally different animal from the previous models. It is very, very light, with all the weight centralised and somehow placed exactly where you want it within the chassis. It´s easy to push around on your driveway and the seat isn´t too high at 820mm either.
The CBR1000RR´s handlebars feel set a little bit lower than I recall from a few years back, but it isn´t quite so `full-on´ as say a Kawasaki ZX-10R or the Yamaha R1. The seat doesn´t look too comfortable, although – just like the GSXR1000 – it is surprisingly good on long journeys. The bike definitely has a sense of purpose about it, a functional quality, which it lacked before.
On the move, even in town, you feel it in the engine response. It snaps forwards with the slightest trace of throttle, in any gear. The airbox makes a similar noise to the Gixer 1000 as it accelerates, a kind of eager growl. The latest `Blade seems to want to rev harder, get to where it’s going before all the dawdling muppets in their Micras `n´ Corsas stop for another phone text party.
For 2007 Honda have raised the compression of the engine a tad, and it revs higher too, with a 12,200rpm redline, but the engine isn´t peaky, like the CBR600RR, neither does it have a discernible `step’ in power like the ZX-10R, which goes all giddy around 8,000rpm and feels like someone’s let off a hand grenade in each engine cylinder. In fact, just like the Gixer 1000, the Blade really has loads of effortless, flowing torque, it lunges at the horizon and yet never feels like it will overwhelm the chassis. It has poise and panache, an elegance in its execution that inspires the rider to push on that fraction harder. That is a good thing, a very good thing.
As you escape the urban sprawl and give the bike some stick you notice two things; firstly, the whole bike feels like it´s gliding along effortlessly, yet giving you all the feedback you need. It´s in synch with the road. Secondly, the fairing screen is flapping and vibrating at the very edge of its curve, like the bodywork is so light, so shaved down to the last gram of weight that it can barely cope with the wind pressure. That tiny detail made me think back to the 2005 GSXR1000, because it feels exactly the same – a motorcycle pared down to the bare essentials; power, handling, braking.
USD 43mm forks, a supple monoshock rear end and outstanding brakes ( featuring radial callipers ) make the twisty sections of road a piece of cake. The HESD electronic damper does its job without even making its presence felt, it is a very clever piece of technology. You won’t need to change gear too often on the open road, but when you do, you’ll notice how beautifully precise the gearbox is, each of the six ratios seems perfectly spaced and the clutch is typically Honda – light `n’ easy.
A long afternoon’s ride, taking the scenic route, back from Slough to Chester showed me how comfortable the `Blade is, plus it did more than OK on fuel consumption, returning around 45mpg on a 200 mile run of motorways, A and B roads, better than my old VFR800 could manage at slower speeds to be honest. Over the week long test the Fireblade gradually became more familiar to me, seemed to fit me pretty well (although I think tall riders over 6 foot would struggle with it) and the whole bike had a quality feel which models like the CBF600, XR enduro machines or the smaller 125 Honda range definitely lack these days – some of the fasteners and parts used on Hondas now just make the brand look like penny-pinchers. It will prove a mistake in the long run.
But the CBR1000RR has no annoying cheapo bits sticking out like sore thumbs. This is a superbly made, incredibly adroit, supersport motorcycle. It puts a grin on your face first thing in the morning, and you feel confident that owning one will prove stress-free in the long term. It also looks a bit stunning, less garish than the latest R1 or Gixer 1000, with their scooped and chopped up bodywork and an official TT Centenary edition in McGuinness colours would be a smart marketing move for 2007/8…hopefully that’s on its way Mr. Honda?
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda cbr1000rr.
|ENGINE||In-line, liquid cooled, four cylinder, four stroke, 998cc|
|BORE AND STROKE||75mm X 56.5mm|
|FUELLING||PGM Fuel injection|
|CLAIMED PEAK POWER||170bhp @ 11.250rpm|
|FRAME||Aluminium alloy twin beam type|
|FORKS||43mm inverted cartridge type, multi-adjustable. HESD electronic steering damper.|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Monoshock, multi-adjustable|
|BRAKES||Twin 310mm front discs, 4 piston calipers, single 220mm rear disc brake, single piston caliper|
|WHEELS/TYRES||120/70 ZR17 front, 190/50 ZR17 rear|
|FUEL CAPACITY||18 litres|
|PRICE||£8999 (June 2007)|