Introduced in 1992, the CBR900RR Fireblade has come to dominate
the litre-class Super Sports category with a heady combination
of hard-charging engine performance and smooth, responsive
handling, all in the remarkably compact weight and proportions
of a 600cc-class machine. Originally introduced as a ‘no-holds-barred’
high-performance Super Sports machine meant to appeal to a
relatively small segment of the motorcycle riding public,
the Fireblade soon gained an astounding level of world-wide
popularity, becoming a highly-regarded best seller that played
a central part in reviving the 900cc SuperSports category.
One man with a vision for the future, first started his quest
in 1989. Being disillusioned with the then, current crop of
'sports bikes' he set out to design a new breed of sports
bike, one which was light in weight, had the power to thrill,
and yet which was easy to control by the rider.
Honda chief's had originally wanted the bike to be a sport's
750 and only became the bike we now know and love because
of Baba's insistence in a big bore sports bike, Babasan won
out and the term 'TOTAL CONTROL' was born. somewhere in the
bikes early development the name FIREBLADE came alone, through
a misinterpreted translation from French to English for the
Japanese word for lightening.
In March 1992 the bike that was to change
the face of sports bikes forever was released on an unsuspecting
public, The Honda FIREBLADE was here, and was a name that
was to become permanently etched on the mind's of motorcycle
riders for years to come. Happily for Tadao Baba and Honda
motorcycles the Fireblade was set to dominate not only the
hearts of rider's but also the sales charts for the next decade
and then some.
The first 893cc Blade, sold like hot cakes,
even at the list price of £7390, and demand soon out stripped
supply, as riders could not believe just how fast, light weight,
a class breaking 185kg and easy to ride this new bike was,
but in the hands of rider's more used to the heavy weight
bikes of the time; like the Kawasaki ZX10, Suzuki GSX-R1100,
and Honda's own CBR 1000F, This new Fireblade soon found it's
self with a fearsome reputation.
Over the next few years, the Fireblade saw
some minor updates as the bike received some new cloths in
the shape of a redesign to the bodywork, as the now familiar
Foxeye/ Urban Tiger, came along in December 1993, and soon
sold out, as it had the year before, even at the list price
November 1995 saw a big revamp unusually for Honda, as the
RRT model was released with an all new dedicated 918cc engine,
not the previous Japan only bored out seven-fifty engine,
the bike also received a revised suspension package and other
updates to the riding position, giving the rider a little
more civility. List price was a massive £9265.
In 1997 The RRV was released but little had changed from the
'96 bike, except a new set of colour schemes and a slight
weight loss now 183kg, due to a new aluminium silencer.
In 1998, Honda resisted the temptation to
build a radical Blade in defence to the then released Yamaha
R1, instead further refining the look, with a redesigned fairing
and headlamp and a wider seat/ tail light unit. The biking
press were unkind, giving the '98 Blade a sports tourer tag.
In 2000 the millennium year, while every
one else was still partying Honda had been busy further refining
the Fireblade, which now saw the Blade with an all new fuel
engine, Usd fork's and at long last a much awaited 17 inch
front wheel. Baba had also given the bike a squarer look,
with a dry weight of just 170kg, the bike had been on a serious
diet, loosing 9kg in the process. But again lost out to the
Yamaha R-1 in the sales charts that year. Was it time for
a rethink for Tadaosan.....
2002 dawned, Honda had been busy once again
This year Honda were taking no prisoners and released the
"all new" 954cc Fireblade to a rapturous welcome, with an
altogether much leaner sleeker, tougher look due to every
body panel being altered from the previous years bike. The
new 954 Blade also made serious power 149 bhp and 77 ftlb
torque, due to a heavily improved Efi system with bigger injectors
and more processing ability. It also handled better due to
frame and headstock strengthening, and a more rigid swing
arm. Weighing in at a class leading 168kg, it also weighed
less than Honda's own CBR600. And for many is the best looking
Fireblade since the first Foxeye model in 1994.
2003 saw the last pre 1000cc model off the production lines, with minor tweeks to the 2002 model, considering the CBR1000RR was about to become the next milestone in Sportsbike lore.