When the Honda FireBlade hit the market in 1992 it changed the world of sports bikes forever, but over 25 years on how are these bikes to ride today?
An original FireBlade will set you back silly money, so we looked a little newer for a slice of the 90s Honda heydays. To our surprise the mid-90s FireBlades, without the scene tax of the original bike, can be picked up for around £1500 if you’re not looking for concours.
As a bonus the particular example we stumbled across had the popular 17inch front wheel conversion and later front suspension. The original 16inch front wheels are expensive to get a good modern sports tyre for.
Having ridden a fair number of modern sports bikes getting on the old FireBlade is a strange experience to start with. You sit in the bike with a big fuel tank in front and rear seat lump behind. The riding position feels more akin to a tourer than a sports bike.
Within a month or so of commuting I was soon used to the riding position and enjoying the incredible engine. The silky smooth throttle response from the carburettor fed engine makes the 120BHP feel like so much more. Plus it commutes pretty well with the comfortable riding position, plenty of space under the rear seat for lunch (although your sandwiches get wet if it’s raining), reasonable fuel economy and, other than a leaky fork seal, reliable, but how does it fair on a track?
A trip to the track at Castle Combe would answer this question. A track day at Castle Combe is usually very affordable and the circuit has a friendly small town feel about it. They are however strict on noise limits, so take your spare baffle.
After getting through noise control and catching up with some old friends it was time to put the FireBlade to the test.
Our particular example is a well used machine. The rear shock lacks damping and the front forks were still leaking a bit of oil. In an attempt to improve things we fitted a set of tyres that weren’t squared off and made rear shock adjustments but the old FireBlade was definitely showing its age.
The first right hander at Castle Coombe, Folly, is fast and a little bumpy, the FireBlade wallowed and bounced its way round plus it really didn’t like the hard braking through the following left hander over the crest into the right, Quarry corner. Although this sounds like a nightmare it really wasn’t. Trying to ride round the wayward handling with smooth turning, gentle throttle and brake control certainly puts your skills to the test.
My gentle smiles continued right up until I stole a session on a friends Honda CB500 race bike. All that being careful on the big old FireBlade wasn’t nearly as much fun and trying to push yourself to ride faster on something that feels predictable. Despite the CB500 not being originally intended for track riding a little bit of setup on of these old commuters and they are a proper barrel of laughs round a track. I think I know what my next bike will be… to the Ebay machine.