Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade Review
By Trevor Hedge
Honda has chosen a path of evolution rather than revolution in developing their 20th Anniversary Fireblade. Already a well-honed product, engineers have turned their focus to implementing the latest improvements in suspension technology along with some aesthetic tweaks to keep the Fireblade fresh.
Tasty new 12-spoke rims and a few nips and tucks across the Fireblade’s flanks and nose have definitely provided a fresh face and profile, with the white coloured model particularly tasteful.
An updated rear shock features improved damping circuits that allow for a smoother transition between compression and rebound, translating to a smoother ride and improved traction. The science makes sense and on the track the benefits are felt, as I am sure they would be on the road (we only rode on track) in regards to bump compliance: very handy on Australia’s pock marked roads.
The Showa shock damping circuitry is much the same as Ohlins’ widely heralded TTX series of shock absorbers. Preload is adjusted from the bottom of the shock via a conventional collar system while the separate compression and rebound adjusting screws are easily accessed from the shock reservoir.
At the other end of the Fireblade, Showa’s latest generation big-piston forks are currently all the rage and their benefits are obvious, particularly in the initial part of the suspension stroke where small bump compliance is greatly improved. Rebound and compression is easily tweaked from the fork caps while preload is dialled in from the bottom of the fork tubes.
While no internal changes have been made to the engine, a new dual-intake system is claimed to have improved the ram-air effects and – along with refined ECU mapping – boosted mid-range power. I did find the overall power curve to be smoother than I’d remembered, with less artificial steps to satisfy noise and emissions regulations than previously.
Tall standard gearing, however (a fate all sportsbikes suffer), masks any noticeable mid-range increase, if there is any. The long-stroke nature of the engine already endows the Fireblade with more mid-range grunt than most competitors, always a useful boon.
Overall, the Fireblade’s power delivery is creamy smooth and throttle response is sublime, effectively masking all but the most ham-fisted mistakes, which helps to boost rider confidence.
On reflection, that last sentence is the standout feature of the Fireblade; like most of its predecessors it is so well executed and refined, that it is a supreme confidence inspiring machine that helps riders of modest or average skill levels to feel more in control, and thus safer and faster than flopping off the back of something not quite as polished that is threatening to rip their heads off.
That being said, however, Honda still refrain from entering the brave new world of sportsbike levels of traction control. ABS is available as an option (we didn’t get to sample an ABS equipped bike), leaving only Honda and Suzuki still behind in the traction control game and it is time to step up to the plate. Systems offered by competitors are highly advanced and genuinely useful; for a company like Honda to be behind the curve, is not a good look.
By comparison, Honda’s electronic steering damper is a wonderful piece of kit, allowing for light steering efforts at low speed while firming up as speeds rise and helping to keep the Fireblade settled. Combine that reliable damping with the outstanding new suspension package and you have perhaps the most sure-footed sportsbike on the road.
Full LCD instrumentation now features a gear position indicator, programmable shift-light and full lap timing system. It certainly is one of the nicer and more intuitive implementations of LCD technology and even the LCD bar tachometer is not completely naff.
The brakes offer good initial bite and a steadily progressive ramp up of braking force as the lever is squeezed harder. Nothing to complain about there.
The gearbox on our test bike, however, was at times a little recalcitrant, which was hopefully due to its virginal 200km on the odometer rather than some other problem, as Fireblade boxes have been sweet for many years now. The slipper clutch is effective and useful and Honda has not seen fit to employ a quick-shifter mechanism, unlike many of their competitors.
While the 2012 Fireblade breaks no new ground in the sportsbike world, it does bring a polish and overall user-friendliness that is lacking in most of the competition, while remaining a true racetrack scalpel with scintillating performance.
The Fireblade exudes an air of quality and refinement that is only achieved through thorough attention to detail; in 2012 that is the ace up the Fireblade’s sleeve that keeps it sportingly competitive against an onslaught of Superbike competition, the likes of which has never before been seen, from not only its traditional three Japanese competitors, but also a European triumvirate that is employing every advance in technology to break the Japanese stranglehold on this segment of the market.
The latest iteration of the Fireblade keeps pace through smart engineering, but in a market where many buyers crave the latest and greatest levels of electronic trickery, Honda must join the traction control party soon.
For now, at least, Honda can claim a significant price advantage over the European competition with the 2012 Fireblade retailing for $18,490 plus on road costs which, along with the Fireblade’s proven reliability, will almost certainly keep the Fireblade atop the sales charts.
NB: For the Fireblade launch we also took along our faster compatriot, Antti Papinniemi, for his first taste of modern sportsbike traction control. Check out Antti’s second opinion here. While he is no road race champ, his 63s at Broadford on a 100,000km stock TRX850 suggest that he is about as fast as trackday punters get.
Specifications – 2012 Honda CBR 1000 RR Fireblade
- Displacement – 999.8cc
- Engine Type – Type Liquid-cooled four-stroke, in-line, four-cylinder
- Bore x Stroke – 76 x 55.1mm
- Induction – EFI
- Transmission – Six-speed
- Final Drive – Chain
- Dimensions (LxWxH) – 2,077mm x 826mm x 1135mm
- Wheelbase – 1,407mm
- Seat Height – 820mm
- Fuel Capacity – 17.7 litres
- Kerb Weight – 200kg with fuel (Claimed)
- Front Suspension – 43mm fully-adjustable inverted BPF forks
- Rear Suspension – Fully-adjustable single shock with ‘Balance Free Rear Cushion’
- Front Brakes – 320mm disc rotors, radial four-piston calipers, Race ABS
- Rear Brake – 220mm disc, single-piston caliper, Race ABS
- Warranty – Two years, unlimited kilometres
- RRP – $18,490 + ORC (ABS model retails for $19,490 + ORC)
- Download – Full Tech Brief and detailed specifications PDF
- Pictorial – 2012 Honda Fireblade Feature Image Gallery Including Desktop Wallpaper
- Pictorial – 2012 Honda Fireblade Technical Illustrations & Detail Images
- Video – Video footage from 2012 Fireblade Australian Launch
- Video – Video covering the 2012 Fireblade Technical Highlights
- Second Opinion – Read Antti’s thoughts on the 2012 FirebladePositives
– Refined performance
– Electronic steering damper
– Excellent suspension
– Nice power deliveryNegatives
– No traction control system
– No quick shifter