PH2 ridden: 2012 Honda Fireblade

Can you believe the Fireblade is 20 years old? Yep, Tadao Baba's baby is nearly old enough to get the key to the front door - how time flies. Remember the impact the 1992 Blade had on the two-wheeled world? The first bike that truly brought handling, performance and beauty together in one package.

The first 'proper' sports bike and a machine that shaped a generation. Twenty years on, what has changed? Carbs have died, the 123hp of the original model (nearer 110hp at the rear) looks paltry compared to the 2012 bike's claimed 177hp (about 167hp at the rear), ABS has entered the sports bike world and analogue dials are so old hat - digital is the way forward. Oh, and 16-inch front rims are (thankfully) a thing of the past!

What's new?
Since the 'new-style' Blade was launched in 2008, bar a slight modification to the flywheel to alter the engine's inertia in 2010, the Blade has remained virtually unchanged. Considering how fast the superbike class moves, it's a hell of an achievement that the Honda is still one of the best-selling bikes in the UK. So what's different for 2012? Again, not a lot. The styling is more angular, the suspension overhauled with a new design of Showa shock and Showa's Big Piston Forks, the wheels are now 12-spoke hoops and the dash has been given a cool LCD look with a gear indicator and lap timer included. The motor is essentially unchanged, aside from the usual ECU updates.

Does it feel any different?
I've ridden the 2012 Blade a few times in the last couple of weeks, once on track at Portimao and another time on the UK's roads, and to be honest it feels a hell of a lot like the old model - which is no bad thing. Sitting on it, the riding position is sporty without being too extreme and, if it wasn't for the superbly dtyled new dash, you would struggle to spot the differences.

On the go, the engine also feels virtually identical. The Blade's motor is quite unlike the GSX-R1000 or ZX-10R in-line fours. Where the Suzuki and Kawasaki have distinct power bands, the Blade is just one huge turbine of power that drives seamlessly and with a smooth and fluid build-up of torque. It's a motor that makes lazy riding remarkably easy and is deceptively fast - on the road it's very easy to accidentally go very, very, fast indeed on the Honda!

On track, this fluid nature and excellent chassis make the Honda feel superbly balanced. Like the GSX-R1000, it's not a hard bike to ride fast on track and, although it feels a little less agile than the Suzuki, it is certainly an easier and more natural bike to ride. Honda claims the Blade delivers 'total control', which is a marketing-speak way of saying it's very user-friendly - another Honda trait.

The updated suspension certainly adds to this feeling of balance. The new design of Showa shock is basically the same technology that Ohlins uses in its TTX and the BPF forks are also excellent in their performance, helping the tyres dig in for grip and soaking up the bumps. Compared with the 2011 Blade, the 2012 model feels more secure in corners with improved damping qualities, too. I'd be interested to drive the two models back to back; I suspect the differences would become even more apparent.

Where does it stand?
I asked the same question of the 2012 GSX-R1000, and with the Honda the answer is the same - not at the top on track but up there on the road. The BMW S1000RR will dominate on track, but on the road the Blade's easy-going engine and balanced chassis will make it one of the top contenders. Where do most of the sports 1000s spend their days? On the track or the road? The answer is in the sales figures and is the reason why the Blade continues to be one of the best selling bikes in the UK...

: 998cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel injection
Power: 177hp @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 84 lb ft @ 8,500rpm
Top speed: 181mph (est)
Weight: 200kg (dry)
MPG: 45 (est)
Price: £11,175 (£11,675 ABS)

Jeremy McWilliams on track in the 2012 Fireblade



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Comments (26) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dai1983 04 May 2012

    For some reason, this is the only current 1000cc and above i would seriously consider owning. Tested a 09 model and it was awesome, interested in seeing what the new suspension has done. I think its the nicest looking sportsbike on sale today which is strange since I though the bergundy 08 was disgusting.

  • spareparts 04 May 2012

    This Blade seems to be an ace bike judging by the reviews. Fully agree about how the Blade engine is a turbine with ultra smooth power delivery. Everywhere. It has such a different nature to the GSXR which is raw firepower, whereas the Blade is effortlessly fast and smooth. My fave IL4 thou at the moment.

  • moto_traxport 04 May 2012

    spareparts said:
    Blade engine is a turbine with ultra smooth power delivery. Everywhere. It has such a different nature to the GSXR which is raw firepower, whereas the Blade is effortlessly fast and smooth.
    Latest litre bikes seem to be dumbing down midrange power. Haven't ridden 2012 'Blade but if its anything like 2008 to 2011 as indicated in the article it'll be gutless at the bottom end, gutless with a bit more noise when the exhaust valve opens, then picks up a bit, then goes mental at 9k plus. Full system and re-mapping sorts it but not what you expect from a 1000cc.

    I think BMW S1000RR is better in this respect. But GSXR1000 way more midrange wooosh again - this actually not good for proper (WSB / BSB) racers and tuners but for normal folk much more satisfying.

  • sprinter1050 05 May 2012

    I keep threatening myself to get one of these-or at best the 2011 bike. Can't see it happening in current climate at new prices especially. frown

    p.s. is that a head cam or a chest cam he used? Bloody shakey.

  • Gixer_fan 06 May 2012

    Just to digress: What's going on with those down-changes? Don't sound crisp at all. Sounds like the rider's just engaging lower gears, letting out the clutch with shut throttle, leaving the slipper clutch to sort it out. I've noticed this on lots of on-board footage - even motoGP. OK I've never had a motoGP podium, but it doesn't sound right - is blipping the throttle on down-shift so last decade.. ??
    PS. I think I'd be happy with any superbike of the last 8 years.

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