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Review: Honda Fireblade

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The Honda Fireblade was the sports bike of the 90’s. Every time you read about it, the Blade, was No1 in sales, No1 in desirability – the must have biking accessory. That was true right up to the point when Yamaha snuck in the back door and stole the mustard with its embarrassingly quick R1. The critics poured praise like sweet honey over the light, nimble Yamaha and the punters snapped them off the forecourts. Much to the disgust of Honda and its dealers.

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For the year 2000 we have to thank Yamaha for bringing us the Fireblade 929. As any one in business knows there’s nothing like strong competition to stop one resting upon old laurels, concentrating the mind and redoubling ones efforts to create an even better product. The CBR 929 RR is completely new. A new liquid cooled DOHC fuel injected 929cc inline-four which pumps out 20% more horse power (up to a claimed 160bhp) and 12% more torque. A redesigned chassis that incorporate a 21mm longer swing-arm, 28% more rigid than the outgoing model, a twin spar aluminium frame that utilises Honda’s pivot less technology and which helps to reduce overall weight by some 28 pounds. Easy you might think, not when the whole bike weighs in at an Alle McBeal waifish 379 pounds and you consider that 10.6 ounces was shaved off each camshaft by the tech heads. Add to this a new 17 in front wheel, new inverted forks and a steeper steering head angle and you have a transformed motorcycle with the best steering precision in the industry.

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Face to face with the new Blade the first thing that you notice is its lack of aggressive styling cues. It isn’t an intimidating bike to look at, not in the same way the first Blades introduced in the early nineties wear. The colour scheme especially in red is boring, the yellow at least giving the thing a bit more life. The other surprise is a package that looks more like a 600 than a 900/1000. Do you remember the good old days of thumping great 1000cc bikes – they had attitude – now, as we advance, we shrink like micro chips in computers. Great. But something has to suffer and it’s down to comfort normally. After 5 hours in the Malibu canyons I can tell you that despite an incredible adrenaline filled day – everything hurt. And I’ve done two Olympic Games in a very small steel tube called a bobsled!! What we define as comfort today when riding sports bikes is really just total compromise.