It seems almost sacrilegious to entertain the notion that a superbike is easy, even likable. But, what the hell, the Fireblade is all of that. Easy, as in easy to ride. And yes, likable. There’s more to it, of course, much more. For, how else can one account for the Fireblade being one of the longest running superbike series. And it’s still going strong.
It’s also the bestselling litre-class superbike in the world and it’s not hard to see why. Since the time I started riding superbikes, the Fireblade has been the smoothest and the easiest to ride. The first Fireblade I rode was the 954, and although the following three generations have become progressively sharper, they have retained the same civilised character.
The current generation is the third variant since the Fireblade became a full- blown litre bike. The previous model was accomplished but the styling was uninspired, earning it the nickname, ‘Bunny’. It was too soft and lacked the aggression that bikers look for in a superbike. The new bike betters that to a large extent. The front fairing is still stubby and compact, but more aerodynamic. Edgy headlamps have replaced the older teardrop units and given the bike a more serious personality. The ram air intakes sit below them and the chin spoiler integrated in the design creates more downforce.
The side fairing features Honda’s prevailing layered design theme and is minimalistic, revealing a lot more of the powerful 999cc engine. Although this translates into a more efficient channeling of air to cool the engine, it also means that hot air hits the rider’s legs. It won’t matter if you’re used to super bikes but it’s still disconcerting when stuck in traffic. The tail is pretty slick too. It’s slender and is inspired by Honda’s RC212V MotoGP racer. The short, side-mounted exhaust not only adds to the looks, it also aids in mass centralisation.
A new feature is the full digital display. Also new are the exotic Y-spoke alloys. One thing that I’ve always liked about the Fireblade, and still do, is the ergonomics. No, you still don’t want to take it touring but it’s a whole lot better than some of its counterparts if you do. The seating position is committed, the high footpegs are perfect for the racetrack but are accommodating at the same time. The seat is comfortable and there’s enough room to stretch out for long rides.
For the 2012 bike, Honda didn’t fiddle much with the engine, which was already a strong point. Still, new engine mapping boosts mid-range power delivery, which you’ll immediately notice if you’ve spent some serious time with its predecessor. It certainly has improved the bike’s performance.
The most remarkable development is the all-new suspension. Honda and Showa devised a design wherein the damping piston inside the shocks now moves within a cylinder. There are no valves and the shocks’ fluid is pushed through special ports. This provides constant damping and eliminates the flat spot between compression and rebound strokes of the suspension, which is good; flat pots, although they last for microseconds, can make the rear wheel prone to spinning. The new design eliminates it completely, making the bike much safer to ride.
All this comes together to make the Fireblade so much fun on the road. The bike makes 176bhp of power and 112Nm of torque. Peak power comes in at about 12,000rpm but there’s a gush of power at 5,000rpm that continues till the top. The acceleration is heady. You hit 100kmph in just about 3 seconds (Yes!) and hit the rev limiter doing close to 150kmph in first gear. Under saner riding, there is so much power everywhere that the bike pulls in almost any gear.
There’s no traction control or any electronic wizardry, but the power delivery is so well sorted that you’ll never miss it. All those attributes work together to make the Fireblade the controlled riot that it is. I’d sum it up as fine dark chocolate, maybe blended with some dark rum. It’s smooth, refined and yet potent. If you’re a novice looking to graduate to a 1000cc superbike, this is the one to choose. A bestseller can’t be bad, even it’s likable. - Hezeri Samsuri
999cc inline-four, 176bhp, 112Nm, 211kg
RM109,900 (with C-ABS), RM98,900 (non-ABS)
Doesn’t intimidate you, like other litre-bikes. Easy to master and ride fast.