There are some great perks to working in the motorcycle trade. Being around bikes all day, talking about bikes all day, and of course, being able to ride all of the tasty new metal!
As a huge sportsbike fan, I have always loved the Honda Fireblade. Not only is it a stunning looking motorcycle, it’s also the most ‘sensible’ choice out of the litre class. Extremely quick, but easy for a chimp like me to ride fast!
Since I work for Honda, I was excited about the arrival of the new Fireblade SP1, and when it was delivered to our dealership, I was not disappointed! Once the technicians had been out on in and scrubbed the tyres in, I had to get out on it! Unfortunately I didn’t really get to use the bike to it’s full potential as I only had chance to nip round the block on it.
So when I got an email one morning at work inviting me to a Honda UK organised dealer launch for the ‘Blade at Cadwell Park, I knew I had to go!
Cue an early start, as it was a 3 hour drive from Suffolk to the Lincolnshire countryside. My colleague picked me and another salesman and we were on our way!
We arrived at a bright, sunny Cadwell at around 8:30, signed on and grabbed a coffee before realising we were sat next to Honda Racing’s BSB rider, Dan Linfoot who was sat there tucking into his brekkie!
After a quick brief, we were split up into groups for the day’s activities which included a tour of Honda Racing HQ in Louth, a walk round of the bike and the technology that has gone in to it, a comparison between the Fireblade and it’s competitors, and of course, since we’re at one of Britain’s finest circuits, some track time on the bikes!!
We got on the minibus to take us to Honda Racing HQ for the tour and were welcomed in the foyer by some of Honda’s finest racebikes, including Ryuichi Kiyonari’s championship winning BSB bikes and one of only two Mike Hailwood 250cc race bikes on the planet! We were taken around the building and shown where the Honda World Endurance Championship, British Superbike and Isle Of Man TT bikes are built! We also saw where parts are machined and where the engines were built and stripped!
We then went back to the circuit where we then did an walk around of the CBR. It was really interesting and useful as a Honda salesman to learn where how different the 2017 bike is compared to the outgoing model and to learn about the technology the new bike has such as the Ohlins active adjustable suspension on the SP model and the weight saving measures Honda have taken such as using titanium instead of steel for the fuel tank.
We then had lunch, and Honda UK do not disappoint with the spread they put on!! Burger, chips and curry as well as cakes, pastries and soft drinks. All the millions of Yen Honda spent developing a lightweight performance machine, and we ruin it with a fantastic lunch!!
Then it was the moment we’d all been waited for…time to get the leathers on and head on down to pit lane! When we arrived, we were greeted by instructors from the Ron Haslam Race School and a line of gleaming CBR1000RR’s. We split up into smaller groups and the first group went out. The bike, even with the standard exhaust, sounded fantastic as they howled down the start/finish straight!
It was then my turn. I swung my leg over, dropped my visor and followed the instructor and another salesman out onto the circuit. We spent the first lap sighting the track and getting the tyres warmed before opening the taps! I had left the electronic aids on as I didn’t want to be that YouTube sensation that bins a £15k superbike but I was blown away by the performance, and how well the electronics worked, especially the anti-wheelie control over the Mountain section of the circuit which lets you keep the throttle pinned with the front wheel pointing skywards without the fear of flipping it!
After 4 fantastic laps, the chequered flag was waved and we rode back into pit lane. where the SP1’s were being warmed up. We took a minute to get our breath back, and to discuss what we liked and disliked about the bike. Needless to say, we were all extremely impressed by the performance and the ease of use!
We then set off out of pit lane on the SP, and after another sighting lap, we then went off for another 4 laps. Brimming with confidence, we all pushed the SP a little bit more, and rode even faster. The SP1 comes as standard with a quickshifter, which makes a hell of a difference! Keeping the throttle wide open and banging up the gears without using the clutch means quicker, smoother gear changes, and it also works for the downshift! The bike’s computer auto blips the throttle, matching the revs for you! The Ohlins electronic suspension is also awesome. Easy to adjust without jargon like ‘compression’ and ‘rebound’ that means nothing to most of us.
We were then waved back into pit lane, where again, we discussed what we liked and disliked about the bike which was pretty unanimous – awesome!! We were asked if we had anymore questions, in which we all asked if we could go again!
After the thrills of riding the bike on track, we then got out of our leathers for the final activity which was the CBR’s competition. We compared the standard RR against the latest Yamaha R1, Kawasaki ZX10R, BMW S1000RR, Ducati Panigale and the Suzuki GSXR1000. All fantastic bikes, and all have features and quirks that make them unique but if it was my money, I’d go for the sensible choice. I’d go for the ‘Blade
We also compared the SP1 to Yamaha’s R1M and the Panigale R from Ducati. Again both awesome bits of kit, but Honda are two years ahead of the competition with the electronic suspension which I think makes it stand out from the competition!
After a long day, it was time for the long journey home. I would like to say a massive thank you to Honda UK for putting on such a brilliant, well organised event and I cannot wait for the next one!