Honda CBR 900 RR Fireblade

On the cutting edge with Honda's 'Blade

I have waited a long time for this. I am sitting on the best selling bike in the UK, the baddest, meanest thing on two wheels, it's Top Gun, it's the legendary 'Blade, and it's all mine for the next few days. I ease away from the dealers on the south side of Edinburgh, taking it nice and easy till I get the feel of it. A couple of miles down the City By-pass and me and the bike are loosening up when ... oh no! I don't believe it .... I get to the Gogar roundabout and hit a massive traffic snarl up. It's too thick to filter through, and besides there is a Police car ahead who would be unamused. We all know what happens to hypertuned engines when they hit traffic, and I have visions of the bike boiling over and fouling it's plugs and generally misbehaving. After all, anything that can extract 128 bhp from a mere 900cc deserves to be temperamental. Yet ten minutes later when we break free, it is only me that is uncomfortable, my wrists are aching due to the unaccustomed dropped handlebars, but the bike is as unperturbed as a milk float, and about as docile to putter through the traffic as a scooter. Honda ... how do they do it?

By the time I hit the M90 to head home, the bike and I are settling into a rhythm, when I notice a curious phenomenon. This thing can gain or shed 20 or 30 mph in the bat of an eye, or change lanes like a rat up a drain pipe, but in only a few miles I have gotten used to the speed and agility of this bike because it is so effortlessly easy, so that it feels quite normal. By comparison, the motorway traffic seems to be in slow-motion, as if time had slowed down for them and left me alone untouched, like one of those low budget sci-fi movies. The Cavaliers and Mondeos and BMWs are like so many wheezing cattle lumbering about. It is with this curiously comic little vision that it dawns on me just how devastating potent this bike really is.

A Fireblade can do 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds and can better 160 mph. You would expect then that every second on the bike would be a white knuckle terror ride, the power of the bike constantly fighting against you. You will be very surprised to know that nothing could be further from the truth. Just as it coped with the irritation of the traffic jam, the bike will leap from 40 to 80 mph to overtake a slower car with utter contemptuous ease. All engines are made of whirling pistons and valves and camshafts, but it is hard to believe that this engine even contains reciprocating parts at all, so fast and smooth is its response.The throttle has an action like a hair-trigger. It feels more like an electric motor, or even that you are tied to a stretched bungee cord and someone has just let you go. No fuss, no bother, just instant speed. Needless to say it stops just as faultlessly, with perhaps the most potent brakes I have encountered yet, albeit without the assurance of ABS. It whips round corners on its huge sticky tyres, although if you are new to this style of bike it takes a while to learn that moving your body weight around is actually more important than moving the handlebars. It is even surprisingly comfortable for such a focussed machine, although a little more stowage space would be welcome, and easily achievable.

As to looks, well beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think it has all the visual appeal of a box of frogs, but I suspect I am in the minority. I could live without the tacky stick-on graphics though. But looks are not the issue here, as with a few days practice, I am really starting to enjoy the virtuoso performance of the Fireblade. This is not a bike, it is a high precision, exquisitely engineered, military spec, machine tool.

The list price of all this technology is a little over 9,000, though some judicious shopping through the adverts in the bike comics might see you knock this down by over a grand if you are prepared to buy mail order, quite a bargain for such state of the art kit. There is also a healthy market for second-hand 'Blades which will cost even less. Petrol and road tax won't break the bank either, but there are some serious hidden costs. If you are the youthful side of middle age, you can expect a fairly hefty insurance premium, but the real killer is keeping it in shoe leather. Those big sticky tyres don't last and they are far from cheap, indeed one dealer told me a tale of a Fireblade rider who was getting through a back tyre every week, after a mere 1,200 miles, and those back tyres are 150 a throw. This is probably an extreme case, but I would doubt if most folk would get any better than 3,000 miles from a tyre. No one likes to think about accidents of course, but even a low speed drop which damages the panels would be eye wateringly expensive to put right. Ultra-high performance does not come cheap.

But hold on, these costs should be considered against just what you are buying. If the Fireblade had a true four wheeled comparison, it would not be a Golf GTi or an XR3 ... it would be a Williams Formula 1 car with headlights and mudguards, but which could also endure Gogar roundabout at rush hour, tick over in near silence at 900 rpm, and cost no more than a Ford Escort Not a very likely prospect you'll agree. Maybe that gives you some idea of just what an astonishing achievement the Honda Fireblade really is. It is a truly awesome piece of technology.

Whether it should ever have been let loose on the road is a moot point.