The History of the Honda Fire Blade
We are all sad that now the warm weather of Spring is coming around we can’t go out an enjoy our beloved machines, but this is for the health benefits of everyone. From all of us here at VMR Paints, please stay safe. In the meantime, enjoy this new article, or maybe give your bike a new look with a fresh coat of top-quality professional motorcycle paint.
When you ask any rider about top superbikes throughout history, the vast majority will mention a Honda motorcycle. And with 60 years of racing experiences it is easy to see why. It is also impossible to talk about Honda superbikes without mentioning the FireBlade, and here is why.
1992 – Honda CBR900RR
Honda debuted the FireBlade in 1992 and it instantly changed the superbike landscape. Tadao Baba and his team had developed a revolutionary machine in order to try and beat the brand’s own RVF750 on the track. What they did was make the lightest and most compact bike of its class. It was initially developed as a 750cc, the displacement of the inline four increased that to 893cc. What made the bike special was that it maintained the same 600cc proportions with a 1405mm wheelbase and only 185kg dry. What they ended up with was a machine with enough acceleration to make a GSX-R11 look like it was standing still and even better handling.
These bikes are now appreciated as classics and a well looked after example can sell for a fair amount.
Fun Fact: The name FireBlade was a mistake, it is a mistranslation from the Japanese word for ‘lightning’ into English.
1994 – CBR900RR- R/S
It only took Honda two years to revisit and update the incredibly successful FireBlade. The most obvious change was the front fairing with revised twin headlamp design. This new design earned it the nickname ‘Fox Eye’. That wasn’t the only update though. They increased engine power by 2bhp, changed the cylinder head from aluminum to magnesium and added compression damping adjusters to the front forks in order to keep the lively front end. The liveliness came from explosive performances alongside short dimensions and an unusual 16-inch front wheel, whereas the rest of its class prefers 17-inch wheels.
Fun Fact: The color scheme for the MK.II, ‘Urban Tiger, is the most popular choice amongst ‘Blade owners.
1996 – CBR900RR- T/V
For the third version, Honda made the FireBlade lighter and more powerful, but some riders said it also lost its ‘edge’. The bore was 1mm larger and took the capacity to 918cc, helping to raise the power output to 128bhp. They also added a lighter stainless-steel exhaust and a reshaped tank, eliminating the need for a fuel pump and cutting the weight down to 183kg. They also installed a new seat unit, with two air vents, one on each side. This was the most obvious visual change of the MK.III. The new seat unit and reshaped tank meant riding position was also changed, to a more upright, roomier and almost softer rider position.
Fun Fact: The seat and the bars where 10mm higher than the previous model.
1998 – CBR900RR-W/X
It is a sad fact that this version of the ‘Blade was overshadowed by the release of the Yamaha R1, because this version had the most changes of them all. Yamaha reset all the standards for lightness, power and handling which the 1992 FireBlade had laid down.
However, that doesn’t take away from the changes and greatness of this version. It has 2bhp more and less weight than previous models but compared to the R1 is was almost a tourer, with more room, comfort and practicality. This is the most affordable and least desirable of all ‘Blades. It was time to go back to basics.
Fun Fact: Honda claimed this version had 80% new parts.
2000 – CBR900RR-Y/1, the 929
It was time for Baba and his team to create a whole new machine thanks to the success of the R1 and the relative flop of their previous bike. The new ‘Blade intended to return to its core values and take the crown back. It just fell short.
This bike had a whole new 929cc engine, now fuel-injected. A clever chassis had the swingarm bolted onto the back of the engine cases. They also replaced the 16-inch front wheel with a 17-inch one (finally). The restyled the bike, sharpened the handling and cut the weight down considerably. The lightweight full titanium exhaust system and silencer sounded amazing too.
Fun Fact: This was the first version of the FireBlade to have a 17-inch front wheel.
2002 – CBR900RR-2/3, the 954
After the 929 got so close to regaining the crown, Honda felt confident that the 954 would be the one to take the top. However, Suzuki launched the GSX-R1000 and once again, Honda fell unexpectedly short of the mark.
But let us not forget that the 954 is considered one of the best FireBlades out of all the generations. The 954cc capacity was thanks to an extra 1mm bore, and again, upped the power. The road handling on this bike was sharp but considered to be the best in the class. It also had amazing styling with typical Honda refinements everywhere. While the 954 may not have gone out on top, it was, and probably still is, the superbike for the thinking man.
Fun Fact: This was the last version overseen by Tadao Baba, as he retired shortly after.
2004 – CBR1000RR-4/5
With Baba gone, Honda looked at their racing department, HRC, for the next generation ‘Blade. Inspired by the new and successful MotoGP, four-stroke machine, the RCV211V, and desperate to create a bike to compete in the Superbike World Championship with new 1000cc, four-cylinder regulations, HRC jumped on the opportunity to create something completely new.
The result was a bike mimicking the RCV styling, including angular fairing and under seat exhaust. It had a new 998cc engine, a new die-cast frame, a ‘Unit Pro-Link’ rear suspension, electronic steering damper and radially mounted brake calipers, which was a first in Honda history. However, despite the improvements, Honda was once again overshadowed by the R1 and the new Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Fun Fact: This was the first ‘Blade to drop the capital B (Fireblade instead of FireBlade) as a token of respect to Baba.
2006 – CBR1000RR-6/7
At first glance, this version looked no different to the previous one, however it was far more refined. There was new porting and different valves on the engine to increase torque and raise power by 3bhp. It had larger discs, because more power needs better brakes. It had a new sleeker and refined bodywork. There was nothing better to ride on the roads, but on the track, it couldn’t keep up with its Japanese rivals. This bike is still highly in demand today because of its sleek looks and refined ride.
Fun Fact: This is only version of the Fireblade to win a SWC, ridden by James Toseland in 2007.
2008 – CBR1000RR-8-11
In 2008, Honda ditched the under seat exhaust and received a bulkier look with weren’t well received. However, this did not stop it from being one of the best bikes to ride on the road. It was lighter, handled better and produced 175Bbhp, which was delivered sublimely.
In 2009 in got a new ABS braking system and in 2010 the bike got a lighter flywheel and a more compact fan motor in the radiator. Although it was still a great road bike, it still fell behind the likes of BMW’s S1000RR.
Fun Fact: The 9th generation was the first ‘Blade with monobloc brake calipers.
2012 – CBR1000RR-12-16
A new update on the 2008 bike, the 2012 ‘Blade marked the 20th anniversary of Fireblade history. It came with a new nose, revised front and rear suspensions, lighter 12-spoke wheels and a whole new LCD dash. But not even the introduction on Ohlins on the 2014 SP version could help the ‘Blade compete with the likes of Kawasaki and BMW. Furthermore, the launch of the ’15 R1 was the reason why there is an all-new 2017 version of the Fireblade.
Fun Fact: The SP version was the first Honda production to come with Brembo brakes.
2020 – CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
For years, the CBR1000RR has been the go-to bike for those riders looking for a superbike with smooth and civilized performance combined with reliability, rather than straight-up performance. But Honda are changing that. They are going back to their roots for the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, with anew design and more horsepower than ever before and more than any of its rivals. It is the most anticipated Honda for years!