9 months ago

RideFast Magazine April 2020 issue

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  • April
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With the name, Honda has

With the name, Honda has also changed absolutely everything else. The looks now sport a new gawping, Stormtrooper mouth designating the opening of the new ram-air system. This new system takes the lead from the MotoGP bike by running through the steering column, making the path of the air to the airbox as direct as possible. Honda has taken this system seriously, even moving the position of the ignition to the side of the TFT dash. This is aided significantly by the inclusion of a keyless ignition system, so the starting procedure is to turn a switch to turn on the ignition, then push a button to start the motor. It feels delightfully jetfighter-ish. The throttle bodies on the -R are hugely improved by being huge, increased from 48mm from 52mm. Honda has always claimed that they give you wings, now they literally do; wings inspired by the MotoGP machine – not the bowtie ones that didn’t work during testing on the 2020 RCV, but the previous ones on the side fairing. Honda says that they create downforce over the front, limiting wheelies, increasing acceleration and making braking more stable. What Honda doesn’t say is how much downforce they offer, but it must be worthwhile. The -R is fitted with Showa suspension whereas the -R SP has semi-active Ohlins. They are bolted onto a frame that is entirely new and seemingly geared to stability rather than agility, and with the new motor, we can see why. They’ve chucked the old mill into the skip and stolen some goods directly from the MotoGP department to build something completely new. It features such advancements has titanium conrods, aluminium pistons, finger-follower rocker arms Honda is a strange company. They are the biggest, richest, most powerful motorcycle producer in the world, leading the way in Grand Prix victories and is generally held to be the world leader in motorcycle technology. With this set of ominous particulars in mind, why does their flagship superbike keep sucking? Before lynching torches are lit, allow us to explain – Honda pioneered big, light superbikes in 1992 when they graced us with the first Fireblade. We shall be eternally grateful for that, but since then they keep being outclassed. The 919 Fireblade was outclassed by the first R1, the 929 was outclassed by the first GSXR1000, the 954 was outclassed by the next GSXR1000 and the first CBR1000RR in 2004 was outclassed by, well, everything. In 2008 they released an updated Fireblade that was dwarfed by the announcement of the BMW S1000RR, marking the beginning of the 200hp age. And, again, it was outclassed. Then the financial crises struck and people were forced to eat their dogs, so there was no update until 2017 when Honda announced a new Fireblade. Sadly, they mostly used the previous motor, although with some serious performance upgrades, but still a yard short of the 200hp mark. Honda made up for this to their dear customers by making it extremely light. Obviously, it handled well but as soon as there was a long straight – such as circuits with long straights and, for example, the public road – it was once more outclassed. Yes, the Fireblade was largely outclassed in most tests and reviews, but the damn things kept selling. Lots of them. All the time. In fact, the only test it ever won was the sales charts. The reason for this is Honda’s policy of producing bikes that are easy to ride, for everyone. So, while pro-racers might lament Honda’s superbike efforts, water-cooler racers applaud it. This year, they might change their minds. For 2020, Honda has presented a fresh set of ‘Blades, and their first significant change is a new name; its first since 2004. The Fireblade models are now called the CBR1000RR-R and the CBR1000RR-R SP, a change that experts agree makes it significantly less likely that anyone will use their full names. “‘Blade” will now do more than ever. Rob on the base model in front of Shaun on the SP. Once the Master Ricky Morais did a bit of setup on the base model it handled quicker on quick change of directions. The SP felt a bit more solid in the fast turns though thanks to the self adjusting Öhlins Electronic Suspension. 38 RIDEFAST MAGAZINE APRIL 2020 RIDEFAST MAGAZINE APRIL 2020 3 9