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1998-'99 Fireblade Chassis Tuning
(Courtesy of Performance Bikes - July 2003)

1. Buying 5. Rear Shock
2. Improving The Looks 6. Wheels and Tyres
3. Ground Clearance 7. Chassis Steering
4. Brakes 8. Finish


BUYING

Honda have a prestigious reliability tag around their necks and they didn't get that by building bikes that
fall apart - the CB9OOF and VF750 era is thankfully a distant memory.
This was the fourth incarnation of the Blade and as well as developing the bike, Honda were constantly refining it and ironing out any wrinkles.
Ross Thurlow, service manager at Fowlers says: "There's not much to say about these bikes, it's typical
Honda, it works well and lasts well if looked after It's not a particularly hard bike to service and the only odd problems that crop up are sloppy gearboxes from too many wheelies."

The '98 bike cost a staggering £9265 and came in three colour schemes. The following year's model only changed in as much as there were three new schemes to choose from and a price drop to £8,495. Expect to pay as little as £3250 for a '98 model and around £4200 for a mint '99 model.

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IMPROVING THE LOOKS
This was not the best looking Blade. That sounds harsh, but with its bulbous fairing and tailpiece, it's fair
comment A bonus is that this model still carried the trademark Blade drill holes in the front fairing. There's not a lot you can do about it unless you fancy spending serious money grafting alternative bodywork on.
But new paint is a good way of completely changing the appearance of your bike. Some of the most popular paint schemes are from Honda's racebikes. There's the classic Repsol look in either Doohan era or current Rossi regalia; the Castrol Honda scheme always looks nice as do the old HRC factory colours, Conversely however, another trend is to keep the bike's original design - in this case lots of Blade and RR graphics - and just change the colours of it.

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GROUND CLEARANCE
Even though some people in the biking press dubbed this the 'sports-touring'Blade, it was still a sportsbike at heart. What they meant was the riding position had changed from extreme 'racebike on the road'to a comfier roadbike orientation. Partly because, like the Blade itseIf, Honda's customers were growing up.
Peg position is still high up and pat yourself on the back (Dr hang off more) if you manage to touch them down on the road.
On the track you may find the hero blobs touching down; give it some real stick and the standard can might kiss the asphalt.
Remedies come in the shape of budget jack-up plates to move the original pegs up half an inch Dr so, Dr
if you really want to splash out, lit some adjustable rearsets on it. A decent set will be lighter and stronger than the originals and give you several positions of adjustment to get the best riding position for you and your bike.

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BRAKES
One of the biggest criticisms of the FireBlade was the brakes suffered badly from fade. Not what you want on a fast sonofabitch like this. Honda rectified it for the '98 model with all-new 4-pot Nissins clamping a pair of bigger 31O mm discs with sintered metal pads. Bobba Gray rode the bike at its Misano launch and the big lad reckoned you could get away with using one finger. But what of the brakes Bob?
If they're still not good enough, improve them with some braided hoses as standard rubber hosing will flex. EBC 'HH'sintered pads come highly recommended, but remember the original pads are best on the stock discs. A Brembo master cylinder will give more feel and power, and not much change from £200. If you want to go the whole hog you can fit a AP or PFM superbike brake kit You could opt for mammoth 6-pots on the front with cast iron or stainless rotors - then you'll stop faster than editor
Simon spotting a McDonalds.

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REAR SHOCK
If you ride any single shock bike all year round and don't have a hugger fitted the rear shock is going to be subjected to all sorts of shite. It'll soon start to look pretty second-hand if not regularly cleaned. The Blade is no exception to that as it is hugger-less in standard trim.
The standard unit is a gas-charged Pro-link jobby with seven steps of preload, compression and rebound adjustment Not bad for stock equipment and what you'd expect on a bike of this calibre.
The general belief on www.honda-fireblades.co.uk is that an Ohlins rear shock works very well indeed, giving you more feedback from the rear tyre and therefore letting you gas it up earlier. But Ohlins don't come cheap and they're also off-the-sheIf items - not always the best option. If you are going to spend money on rear suspension, best results may come from shocks tailored to your weight and riding style. Experts at firms like Maxton and Nitron can do this for you.

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WHEELS AND TYRES
As mentioned earlier the Blade 11m a 16in front wheel in true 1986 superbike style until the 2000 model arrived. We can't be sure why that was, but rumour has it Honda bought a job lot prior to final testing and kept plonking them on Blades 'til they ran out of the things. Bridgestone and Ounlop both developed tyres with taller sidewalls to make it nearer a 17in set-up and it was deemed satisfactory. '
Some people say the small wheel makes the front end lively, but Bridgestone tyre expert Bryn Phillips reckons: "You'd only notice it on the track, a 17in front wheel would give more feedback"
So there you go, Possibly not worth changing as tyres are still available for the 16in, and after all, the Blade was a top seller for eight years on that wheel.
If you want to opt for a 17in front you can use early CBR600 wheels as all the discs and gubbins bon straight on. A late model Firestorm front and rear should go on using the Blade's discs and spacers, Dr you could try the front wheel off a late VFR750 as they had the same spoke pattern. If you are feeling really fancy some lightweight wheels like Dymag, OZ or BST will shave some unsprung weight off the bike and help it change direction faster.
Tyre-wise you still have loads of choice for the 16in front. For fast road/trackday tyres, try the Pirelli Dragon Evo Corsa or Bridgestone 012SS, or for a good sports road tyre which is also suitable for the occasional trackday, give the Metzeler Sportec M1, Pirelli Diablo or Bridgestone 010 or 012 a try. You're looking at around £200 fitted for any of the above.

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CHASSIS AND STEERING
When the Blade reached our shores in '92 it quickly developed a reputation for somewhat twitchy handling. Some blame the silly little 16in front wheel fitted until 2000 (see Wheels and Tyres, above). Every new model Blade got more planted but less racey - more a manageable, fast roadbike. Nevertheless, fitting a steering damper will make it easier to ride the bike hard on bumpy roads.
Forthe '98 model the frame was changed: material thickness was slimmer to save weight, yet stiffness was increased. Rake and trail stayed the same (24°/90mm), as did the wheelbase, but there was a longer frame for increased stability without losing the quick, responsive steering.
If you want even quicker steering, raise the forks 2mm through the yokes, or jack the rear up with some suspension wishbones - or a ride height adjuster if you have a fancy shock. More weight on the front will make turning quicker, but is likely to make it twitchier.

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FINISH
Honda are renowned for making high quality bikes. The standard of paint and plastics is good and fasteners and bolts aren't as quick to rust as on most other Japanese bikes.
"Hondas are always very, very good. The build quality is second to none. If looked after and serviced regularly they will age well," according to impartial observer, John Ireland of Honda dealer Abingdon Motorcycles.
It's like anything though, if the bike is used as a pleasure tool (ahem), garaged and only gets taken out in fair weather, chances are it's gonna stay in reasonable shape.
A workhorse on the other hand, used in all conditions, is a different story. Brake calipers can corrode and
their performance can deteriorate - make sure calipers are stripped and cleaned on a regular basis to ensure they stay on form. And the rear shock will look awful, plus the performance is likely to go off, if it's not kept clean - so get in there with a toothbrush.

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