We, together with other members of the motorcycle media, were recently invited by Honda SA to sample their stunning new Fireblade at Red Star Raceway. The SP version was on display in all its high spec glory but due to homologation issues not being finalised, it was the lower cost and spec RR-R version that we got to ride.
The latest ‘Blade has created a real stir amongst superbike riders. For a while, Big H relied on honing their Fireblade into an incredibly well balanced and rideable package. Problem is, the goalposts were being continually moved by the other manufacturers. The 180 odd horsepower of the ‘Blade started looking a bit ‘light in the loafers’ compared to heavy hitters from other manufacturers. Rather than do more fettling, Honda decided on a totally new bike that could form a worthy platform on which to build a race-winning superbike. To achieve this they have leaned heavily on engine and chassis technology gleaned from Marc Marquez’s all-conquering RC213V MotoGP bike. Enter the 2020 Fireblade RR-R and SP.
Resplendent in HRC colours, the new ‘Blade is stunning to look at. MotoGP derived winglets for high-speed downforce and all, it is a magnificent looking weapon. Specifications also show a massive jump in horsepower to around 214 ponies @14500 rpm and 113 Nm of torque @ 12500 rpm. The power and torque arrives significantly higher up the rev range than on the previous model. Not really an issue on the racetrack, where gearing is shorter and motors are kept permanently on the boil. It does compromise road use to a degree as you need to ride the bike more like a six hundred than a litre bike. When revs ride to over 6 or 7000 rpm then the motor really comes alive. An intoxicating powerful thrum is felt through the bike accompanied by a corresponding shriek from the exhaust as the ponies start champing at the bit and straining to get into a full gallop.
Please understand that a bike that weighs just over 200 Kg’s and generates the power that the ‘Blade does is really only for seriously experienced riders. Banging the bike through the gears with the superb quickshifter is not an experience easily forgotten. The Honda SA guys had geared and set the bike up for Red Star in a generally rider-friendly way.
The limiting factor in my ride was never going to be the bike anyway! Suffice to say that the ‘Blade delivers in absolute spades. Hard on the throttle, it carries the front wheel barely skimming the tarmac until you brake for the next corner with eyeball popping power from the radially mounted Brembo Stylema brakes. The bike turns with no apparent effort and holds its line to perfection. I was totally impressed with the Showa suspension setup on the Triple R. Feeding on the power elicits that growl which transforms into a tyre shredding shriek and reels in the next corner faster than the ANC can destroy an economy.
The bike feels tiny for a 1000 and the riding position is pure race bike. My 6’3″ frame takes serious strain piloting the ‘Blade for any length of time, but that is no negative as far as the Fireblade is concerned. It is a pure Sports weapon designed primarily for racetrack functionality. I would have it no other way. Only a very select handful of riders will have the skill to extract everything that the RR-R has to offer.
With the previous ‘Blade there was a marked difference in feel and ability between the common, versus SP, model. With this Fireblade, the ‘commoner’ feels as good as the SP of old, with a double espresso shot of power thrown in. Heaven only knows how the SP can possibly be that much better, other than in the hands of a really skilled track rider. Herein lies the truth of the current crop of sports bikes from which the well-heeled can choose.
The Sportbike that you buy will probably be determined more by brand loyalty or preference than the limitations or abilities of the bike. As has always been the case with the Fireblade, Honda has built a bike that is ridiculously easy to ride fast. What they have now added to that mix is a challenge to you as a rider to up your skill level to a point where you can extract everything that the ‘Blade has to offer. That club will be really exclusive! Honda now has a new Fireblade which is an extremely competitive weapon in the hands of a really capable and discerning rider.
For more information visit – www.honda.co.za