’17 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
Just as I thought my superbike riding days are over, Honda Wing Umhlanga drops the new Fireblade off with me to nurse for a few days. I just managed to stop the growth of horns before I get on a bike like this, and here we go again. Gladly!
Well, enough of that, let the horns come I’ll give it some because this bike addressed my soul the moment I saw it in my driveway. I’ve been on a few blades, but this model comes with such a vast amount of upgrades, that excite even the oldest of us.
Superbikes have always been special machines, offering levels of power, handling, and refinement no other street bikes can match. With this latest model, you the rider comes first. Where you get a degree of connection unlike anything in the class.
Here’s a quick taste on some of the model changes: 90% of major components are new. Power to weight ratio is improved by 14% – reaching the best level ever for the Fireblade – thanks to a 15kg weight reduction and 8kW power boost. It’s also equipped with Honda Selectable Torque Control, Selectable Engine Brake, new ABS, Riding Mode Select System and Power Selector, full Showa suspension and RC213V-S MotoGP derived technology.
In 1992 something new stunned the motorcycling world. Radical thinking from Honda focused on the ratio between power and weight and the CBR900RR Fireblade arrived fully formed at the perfect balance point between the two.
Physically smaller and much agiler than the larger capacity competition, its four-cylinder engine also packed a real punch. The Fireblade reset expectations of just what an open-class sports bike should be, and what it could do in an era when outright horsepower and straight-line speed had long held centre stage.
Over the following 25 years the Fireblade has seen many changes and been through many evolutions – each underpinned by the concept of Total Control. Each generation has built on the legacy of the original Fireblade, providing a superbly balanced package that works incredibly well on track and, even more importantly, is both exhilarating and uniquely rewarding to ride out on the open road.
The fact the Fireblade is so good when actually raced on real roads – at the Isle of Man TT, for instance, where it is the most successful 1000cc machine ever with 23 wins to its name – is testament to its speed, handling and ability to perform in the most testing and extreme of ‘real world’ conditions.
Scroll to 2017 and there is a new CBR1000RR Fireblade. Three of them in fact: the CBR1000RR Fireblade, CBR1000RR Fireblade SP and CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2. And Honda’s engineers have remained true to the first principles of the original project – power to weight – with the focus on handling, cornering and acceleration.
Thus, the benchmark CBR1000RR Fireblade is significantly lighter than the outgoing model, makes more power and has a cutting-edge electronics package that underpins the project’s development concept of Next Stage Total Control.
It is everything that a Fireblade should be. Wouldn’t you agree?
Three factors are key to the essence of the new CBR1000RR Fireblade: less weight, more power, and electronics to help the rider wherever and however they’re riding.
The new electronic control system provides constant, selectable and fine-tunable rider support. Central to the system is the 5-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which measures exactly what the machine is doing, in every plane. It works the Honda Selectable Torque Control system (HSTC) that precisely manages rear wheel traction via the FI-ECU and Throttle By Wire (TBW). The new ABS braking (also managed by the IMU) offers Rear Lift Control (RLC) and the ability for hard, safe trail braking into corners. Any difference measured between the front and rear wheel speeds engages Wheelie Control, depending on settings.
Three standard display modes – Street, Circuit and Mechanic – provide all the information required for the rider relevant to the type of riding. The information displayed can be fine-tuned and adjusted while riding by using the left-hand switchgear and TFT liquid crystal display, just as on the RC213V-S, Honda’s road-going version of its RC213V MotoGP machine.
While the electronic control is very much a new departure for the Fireblade, the other two factors draw faithfully on the philosophy of the original 1992 machine: the optimal balance of power and weight. Ninety percent of the main components have been changed in a relentless search for incremental weight reduction in every area. The engine revs harder and higher, with a much higher compression ratio and revised cam timing, and uses the TBW (a first for an inline four-cylinder Honda) and Accelerator Position Sensor (APS) also developed for use on the RC213V-S.
Bottom end torque and power are improved, with a significant increase in top-end power – up 8kW to 141kW @ 13,000rpm and 3 modes of engine output character can be selected.
These are, Track (1), Winding (2) and Street (3) that offer different combinations of HSTC, Engine Power and Engine Braking level. Riding mode 1 (Track) gives full power, with linear throttle response, low HSTC and EB intervention. Mode 2 (Winding) controls output through first to third gear, with fairly moderate power increase, medium HSTC and strong EB. Mode 3 (Street) controls output through first to fourth gear, with moderate power increase, high HSTC and strong EB.
Thanks to the use of magnesium and careful assessment and lightening of individual parts the engine also carries 2kg less. The new titanium exhaust muffler saves weight and aids mass centralisation. Overall the Fireblade is a full 15kg lighter than the outgoing model, with a wet weight of 196kg.
The twin-spar aluminium frame’s rigidity balance has been finely adjusted, and the swingarm is stiffer to match. A new rear subframe is lighter, as are the redesigned wheels, while new Tokico four-piston front brake callipers use high-performance track-ready brake pads.
The Fireblade’s bodywork outlines an aggressive, functional minimalism, and the machine is slimmer and much more compact. All lighting is LED and two stunning paint options – Victory Red and Matt Ballistic Black Metallic – will be available.
Here are the highlights:
- 196kg wet weight
- Showa 43mm Big Piston Forks (BPF) and Balance Free Rear (BFR) shock
- Adjusted rigidity balance for the frame
- Stiffer swingarm
- Lighter subframe
- New Tokico four-piston radial mount brake callipers
- Redesigned wheels
- Minimal and aggressively styled bodywork
- Throttle By Wire (TBW)
- Accelerator Position Sensor (APS)
- Power Selector
- Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)
- 9 level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC)
- Wheelie Control
- Selectable Engine Brake (SEB)
- Riding Mode Select System (RMSS)
- 8kW power increase
- Revised valve lift and cam timing
- Magnesium covers and detail redesign saves 2kg
- 4-2-1 exhaust with titanium muffler
- Redesigned slipper clutch
Of course, I can say a lot more about my experience with this amazing model upgrade, but it is hardly just an upgrade – this is one major leap for our kind. You have to ride it to truly experience the thrill and superb technology the Japs bestowed on the new 2017 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade.
Case closed; I’m blown away!