Road tests

Honda CBR900RR
May 2000

Fireblade 2000

Eight-or-so years down the track from its initial release the Honda Fireblade has got better.

It's not as scarily awesome as the first model - which was unusually light, powerful, and flighty for its time. Bikes such as Yamaha's spectacularly successful R1 have come along in the meantime, putting the Blade in its place - or in context.

Honda Oz released a particularly fine version of the Blade series in 1998 (the last model before this). While it had less sheer stomp than the R1, and more weight, it was a lesson to other manufacturers in user-friendly hi-po manners.

Roll up to year 2000 and my biggest concern was the Blade might have lost its easy "ride me hard" manners in pursuit of the R1's (now in its second generation) credentials.

It hasn't. Long-term Blade riders will find a lot to identify with in the new bike. A similar raw and angry feel. But they'll be genuinely surprised by the far slimmer between-the-knees profile (the old-gen Blades always felt 'fat'). It makes the bike feel like a biggish 600, even though the specs say otherwise.

Power spread has increased noticeably over the old bike - oh that old dunger that I really liked? Honda has introduced a couple of gadgets: 
1. H-Tev, which is a cable-operated exhaust valve in the exhaust system that is meant to alter the flow properties to improve power spread; 
2. H-Vix, which is apparently a shutter in the airbox with similar intention.
That goes with the in-house fuel injection system.

All fine so far, though the bike goes from mild to "who moved that scenery?" somewhere around 6000rpm. It's strong through the range, but the six to seven leap of urge is stunning and remains strong through to the 11,000rpm power peak.

My experience with the bike was a one-day back-roads blast, with one of two quick sessions thrown in. The upshot is that, while the Blade is not terribly comfy (oh, really?), it has not lost the user-friendly aspect. It has also gained some seriously good suspension which seems to get better as you turn up the wick.

We rode over some smooth, then some really snotty, roads and the bike's manner had "trust me" written all over it. (All-up, something like 600km by the time I returned the machine.) Feel at the brakes was good, the suspension exceptional, and steering among the best for a hard play in conditions that were often completely unpredictable.

A bonus is a stunning set of headlights, which work a treat in ordinary conditions - perhaps the best stock set out there.

Comfort is ordinary, and the pillion set-up a token effort. Which is about what you'd expect for the 900 sport class. It's a day-ride motorcycle, and a very handy tool for a track session.

I can't say whether it's better or worse than a current R1 or ZX-9R without direct comparison. But will suggest both the competitors have a very, very, competent bike to mess with. If you're a Honda fan, you'll love it.

(Note: a few of the first demo bikes copped holed radiators thanks to stone damage. Given Honda's good record with warranty claims, we wouldn't be overly concerned at this stage.) 
Guy Allen

Quick Specs
Displacement: 929cc 
Bore x stroke: 74 x 54mm
Compression ratio: 11.3:1 
No. of cylinders: 4 
Cooling: liquid 
Max power (claimed): 152ps 11,000rpm
Max torque(claimed): 10.5 N-m 9000rpm

Primary drive type: gear 
Clutch type: wet 
Gears: 6 
Final drive type: chain

Lubrication: wet sump 
Fuel capacity: 18 litres 
Carburetion: injection

Front/rear suspension type: USD 43mm cartridge fork with preload, rebound & compression adjustment/monoshock with preload, rebound and compression adjustment 

Front brakes: twin four-piston calipers on 330mm discs 
Rear brake: single-piston caliper on 220mm disc 

Front/rear tyre sizes: 120/70-17, 190/50-17 

Frame type: twin-spar alloy 
Wheelbase: 1400mm
Seat height: 815mm
Dry weight claim: 170kg 

Price: $18,090 (May 2000) 
Detailed specifications and images

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Article by Guy Allen

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