I had bagged an invite to the illustrious Bruntingthorpe proving ground to ride the brand new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP1 thanks to the people at Bennetts bike insurance.
For those that don’t know, Bruntingthorpe is an airfield circuit. Up until a few years ago, it was home to the Vulcan to the skies project. But since the Vulcan fledged its nest, Brunters is used as a private testing ground. It consists of a 2 mile long straight, a nice flip flop chicane, two tight right-handers and then a pair of left and then right delicious long radius sweeping corners with another straight and then another nice flip flop chicane.
Fireblade road racing gearbox failure
Now to the bike, the latest evolution of Honda’s game changing bike. Luckily for me I was riding it a few days after IOM TT 2017, you know the one where Guy Martin had a “moment’. The race bikes on the road racing scene have been plagued with issues. John McGuiness ended up playing a round of 9 at the northwest 200 weeks before, and with Guy’s issue, the internet was alight. What keyboard warriors don’t know that the race bikes run a completely different gearbox to the road bikes. Not just gearbox, but superbikes also have different engine ECU’s, quickshifter mechanisms and everything else. Nothing is standard off the road bike, far the mainframe, and the base engine. But everybody knows what social media is like, rife with speculation, and as we all know, misinformed rumours of what the issue was spread like wildfire.
I’m not one to believe until I see it first hand. I couldn’t form any valid opinion of it without actually giving it a go, so as normal I rode the bike with a completely open mind. Until it dawned on me that this was a top of the range £20K special edition bike, which wasn’t mine.
The HRC paint job is special
Arriving I saw the bike parked up and it looked absolutely beautiful. Remember what it was like when you saw that one girl, who your pulse raced for? It was like that all over again. The HRC colour scheme sets this bike on fire, gold wheels and the classic, but revised HRC branding certainly make it a looker. The CBR1000RR Fireblade SP1 is exceptionally well equipped as you would expect. Full-colour TFT dashboard, Ohlins electronic adjustable front suspension and up and down quick-shifter.
Being a race bike for the road, the windscreen on the SP is tiny. I am 5”7’, and I couldn’t get fully tucked up behind it, so there is quite a lot of wind. I get why the screen gets replaced with a double bubble on the race bikes.
Electric Ohlins soak up bumps on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP1
The Ohlins electronic suspension is a real piece of kit, but the CBR1000RR Fireblade isn’t the only bike employing such a system. It is becoming commonplace on a lot of the top of the range bikes. The blade soaks up the bumps nicely although I haven’t been on the standard Fireblade to compare it to the non-Ohlins version. Settings are all adjustable, but for a thicko like me, it was all too complex.
The dashboard truly is a work of art. It gives clear and concise information but then also some real novelty items too such as lean angle and lap timer features, and changes to the suspension, traction control and engine modes.
The autoblipper is another thing of beauty. With the throttle completely closed, and with a proper click down with the left boot, it clicks into gear and rev matches nicely. Not a hint of buckaroo or any other drama. Take that internet troll warrior people.
Having never been on “track” before it was quite unnerving. Even more when I remembered it was a borrowed bike. The long straight and twisty wide corners had me wondering what was coming the other way, before remembering there was nothing but clear tarmac. Good experience though nonetheless and I definitely have the itch to do a proper track day now.
The quickshifter works flawlessly
The CBR1000RR Fireblade SP1 was lapping this up despite my nerves. I started off slowly gradually building speed and confidence. This wasn’t the fireblades fault. The bike itself was well capable and just wanted to go, all the time, more a new track on a new bike I preferred to build into it. Much later I decided to start twisting the throttle to the stops and smashing it up through the box, with the quick-shifter working, it’s magic, I hit 175 indicated on the speedo. Good going, but I was determined to hit the magic 180 barrier. I got a second wind and twisted again to the stops, tucked my tiny frame in as much as I could chin on the tank and hoped. The engine just kept pulling, it sounded amazing all the way past my 180mph indicated goal. That was when I backed it off.
From watching the footage back a full-throttle third gear roll-on from 45mph to 180 took around 14 seconds. Mental.
The engine on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP1 is tweaked over the standard blade. It revs harder, faster, and is lighter. The revs seem to build and build and just keep going. I didn’t get anywhere near the redline, not because I didn’t want to, but because it just wasn’t needed. The way it builds speed is insane. By the end of the day, I was getting really confident and letting it go full chat down the long straight, fully tucking behind the tiny screen and grinning from ear to ear.
Black flags ahoy!
Going back the past few years, designers haven’t really been on form when designing nice looking exhaust systems. Some of them look bloody awful, like sick in your mouth hideous. Fortunately, though the fireblade exhaust looks the part, and it sounds fantastic too. The engine note really howls, both from behind the screen and also when spectating from afar. There are various aftermarket systems available and I can only imagine that they sound unreal judging by how good the stock is. I have heard mutterings that some tracks are pretty unhappy with the noise made by the standard SP can so be careful when putting that full system on as if it’s hard to pass noise tests on the standard can, then that shiny new Akrapovic is definitely going to blow the noise meters, and people with flags will give you evils.
With hindsight now, my thoughts go back to the internet trolls, making jokes about endless false neutrals on fireblades. For the full day, I had nothing of the sort. The bike ran flawlessly all day. I guess the joke is on them. All I have said to anybody who has brought it up was that they need to get on a blade themselves and try it out.
Is the price tag too expensive?
Price-wise the blade does seem expensive I have seen used ones for around 16.5k with low mileage and some tasty goodies already fitted. A bargain to the circa 20k new, IF you can get your hands on one. (prices correct at time of writing June 2017). Price is steep because of the quality components equipped. Electric Ohlins, colour displays and all the other electronic aids are certain to bump the price up, but Honda has gone all out with this bike. Competition like the R1M and the V4S is all around the same price tag. It is worth every penny, I’m going to have to get saving, or failing that, does anybody want to buy a kidney?