Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Honda Sharpens Blade for 20th Anniversary

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Honda Sharpens Blade for 20th Anniversary

Article excerpt

Byline: HARRIET RIDLEY

HONDA has revamped its 1,000cc Fireblade for 2012 in time for the 20th anniversary of its flagship superbike. Until its 1992 launch, the focus was on superbikes to be as powerful as possible with little thought given to weight. So although the big bikes were fast, much of that power was sapped by heavy chassis that made handling bus-like. But then came the FireBlade (the capital B was dropped in 2002 when its creator, Tadao Baba retired) with its relatively small 893cc engine.

It has gone up to 999cc, but super-lightweight build enabled it to maximise power and made handling.

The Fireblade changed the way manufacturers developed their superbikes forever, making weight and handling as important as all-out power.

And so it seems odd that 20 years on, while the manufacturers focus on maximum power, awesome handling and electronics, Honda is making its Fireblade heavier without increasing power.

The 2012 model has put on a kilo, while the version with C-ABS - the electronically-controlled Combined-Anti-lock Braking System introduced in 2009 - is 12kg heavier at 211kg.

In fact, there's no increase in power and torque from the same 999.8cc in-line-four engine either - these remain at 175bhp and 827lb/ft - and neither does it get the race-derived traction control technology that all the other superbikes are getting.

This is because while all other manufacturers are focusing on turning their production bikes into uncompromising track machines, Honda has been focusing on making its Fireblade the perfect sportsbike.

The strategy's working as despite the lack of classleading power or headline-grabbing electronics, the Fireblade is a top seller, outstripping sales of technology-laden rivals. However, this latest model still gets changes, for instance the latest Big Piston Forks as seen on the 2011 Kawasaki ZX10-R and Suzuki GSX-R1000, as well as a rear shock that uses similar technology. …

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