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Nicholas Frankl Contributing Editor

“I’ve never seen you ride so fast”. That was Andrew, my Aprilia petrol head buddy, after nines miles of flat out back-to-back, throttle jammed wide open, knee-down riding over silky smooth deserted highway. Usually I let Andrew go ahead of me. He knows the roads better and sets a consistent and fast pace that is both safe and exhilarating. This particular Saturday however I was armed with the latest iteration of the worlds most successful and sought after sports bike. The 954 “Fireblade” or just “Blade” to its legions of fans. This is an involving motorcycle to ride, fast or slow. The power is seamless and explosive once you start to reach into the upper echelons of the 12,150 available revs. Peak power of 154 bhp coming on around the 11,250 mark with 74.6 lb./ft of torque at 9,000 revs. At this point, and in fact some time prior to reaching it, you will already be traveling very quickly indeed aided along the route to motorcycle nirvana by one of the sharpest and lightest chassis on the market. Having come off the sublime RC51, I found getting to know the new “Blade” quite easy having been given the opportunity to test it with racing guru Kenny Roberts at his Las Vegas racing school when Honda invited a selected group of media to size up the new machine last November. But to know the depths of its extreme handling capabilities on the road was not plane sailing. For my particular riding style the bike seemed initially nervous on the transition from lean to knee down. This may well have been down to scrubbing in the new tires – but it wasn’t until I had ridden 100 miles or so before I felt comfortable enough to begin to explore the depths of the chassis at high speeds on the back of Angels Crest highway – Gods own personal gift to motorcyclists in Southern California.

Once I had crossed the getting to know stage – it was fun, fun, fun all the way to the redline. This bike just screams out of slow and fast corners, sprinting along straights like a Top-fuel racer on the drag strip and diving into the next corner. 2nd and 3rd gears pull so hard you swear that if you release your grip for just a second the bike will be gone. If you think this is the only card the 954 can play – that it’s an out and out racer for hard-core one-piece Mick Doohan imitators, well you are mostly correct. However, this would be selling it short. The 954 is also a consummate cruiser, able to haul you and a passenger in acceptable comfort over long distances. 80mph will only run you about 4,000 revs in top and that gives you a good 150 miles to the (4.8 gallon) tank. The riding position is improved over the out going model and although you will never mistake it for a VFR in comfort terms, the controls fall easily to the touch, the front screen providing above average protection from the elements. The new smaller and lighter instrument binnacle is a work of art. Measuring only an inch and half in thickness and weighing about as much as a packet of cigarettes. It features LCD readouts for speedometer, coolant temperature, odometer, two trip meters and a clock. The rev counter is standard electric, and black faced. Narrow-eye multi-reflector headlights illuminate the highway with a stadium like coat of light. There is nothing worse than a deserted highway at night and being unable to ride it properly for lack of good long distance vision. Stacked up against the likes of the Yamaha R1 and Suzuki GSX-R 1000, the 954 has some formidable competition and for many the R1 is now the benchmark for sports bikes. Ironic that without the Blade and the genius of its creator, Tadao Baba, it is very likely that none of these bikes would exist in their current form. Baba-san, a fag smoking, karaoke signing, soccer player and later day cult, started designing the original CBR 900 RR in 1989. By the time it was released into the hands of an expectant and nervous media corp in Australia in February 1992, the Blade weighed in at a mere 183kg propelled by a 113 bhp engine. The 900 was lighter and smaller than most 600’s of the day and compared to Yamaha FZR 1000 with 117bhp and 214 kg represented a revolution in power to weight ratio. It took six years for Yamaha to catch up and finally launch the R1 in 1998.

Now 10 years on and even with more powerful and lighter machines on the road – for many enthusiasts there is still only one real sportsbike – the Blade.


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Specifications Model: CBR954RR On Road Price; $10,955.00 Engine Type: 954cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder Bore and Stroke: 75mm x 54mm Compression Ratio: 11.5:1 Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder Carburetion: PGM-FI with automatic enricher circuit Ignition: Computer-controlled digital with three-dimensional mapping Transmission: Close-ratio six-speed Final Drive: #530 O-ring-sealed chain Suspension Front: 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 4.3 inches travel Rear: HMAS Pro-Link single shock with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 5.3 inches travel Brakes Front: Dual full-floating 330mm discs with four-piston calipers Rear: Single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper Tires Front: 120/70ZR-17 radial Rear: 190/50ZR-17 radial Wheelbase: 55.1 inches Rake (Caster Angle): 23.45 Trail: 97mm (3.8 inches) Seat Height: 32.1 inches Dry Weight: 370 pounds Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve Colors: Metallic Titanium/Black