1998-'99 Fireblade Chassis
(Courtesy of Performance
Bikes - July 2003)
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
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
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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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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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
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
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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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
Simon spotting a McDonalds.
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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
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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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
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
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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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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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