2020 Fireblade SP:


If you’ve yet to experience any of the previous models of Honda Fireblade, now is the time to take a ride on one of the most iconic sports motorcycles of the last three decades. The 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP is all new and is serious about retaking the top spot in the super sports bike sector.

The focus is on absolute performance and everything from the sculpted winglets to the RC213V derived rider geometry tells you that the lucky rider has access to an incredible piece of equipment.

Before we explore the benefits of this tech rich machine with the UK press who attended the Losail circuit riding launch, let’s touch on the heritage and importance of the Fireblade name.

Arguably the founding father of the modern sports bike scene, when the Honda CBR900RR Fireblade was launched way back in 1992, it changed the landscape of sports biking forever. Total control is a term that Fireblade fans might associate with the 2017 model, but it was first used all the way back at the Phillip Island launch of the first generation Fireblade, twenty-eight years ago. Much like the 2020 model, the original machine focused on a design ethos that combined acceleration, rider feedback and a lightweight feeling. The perfect foundations on which the building blocks of subsequent Fireblades were laid on, that focus has always remained.

This latest CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP takes things leaps and bounds further though. Gas pressurised semi active forks from Ohlins, fully adjustable and waiting to be tailored to suit you and your style using the TFT dash and easy to navigate control systems will be an absolute revelation for road riders. Coupling that suspension technology with power modes and levels of electronic adjustability that less than a decade ago would have blown the minds of most riders, as well as the budgets of most race teams.

The following media reviews tell their own story, but it’s clear to see that the UK motorcycle press feel that the advances made over the previous model will help push this 214.5bhp machine back to the top spot. Back to where it belongs.

With the amount of work that has gone into the 999cc inline four-cylinder motor, it was clear that it would grab headlines as much as we hope it’ll grab race wins on track this year and beyond. The 81mm bore and 48.5mm stroke is identical to the mighty road going MotoGP replica, the RC213V-S. Peak power is now at an all-time high for Fireblade.

Michael Neeves, Chief Road Tester for Motorcycle News

“For the first time the Big H have chased the big bhp figures and employed every weapon in their armoury to challenge its rivals - from clever chassis tech to electronic rider aids and advanced aerodynamics, all overseen by Project leader, Yuzuru Ishikawa, who knows his onions having developed Rossi’s '02 RC211V and the RC213V-S road bike.”

The new short-stroke motor dominates the riding experience. It’s now a rev-monster - so much so that the good stuff doesn’t really start to arrive until its screaming at 11,000rpm. That’s 500rpm more than the redline on the original '92 Blade. From there the inline four keeps on pounding your senses, all the way to 14,500rpm where it’s making a very un-Blade-like 214bhp at the crank.

Far from being uncontrollable, the relationship between tyres, brakes, chassis and Ohlins suspension is better than ever before.

"The Swedish firm have got the hang of producing the right hardware and electronic damping control for their semi active units over the years and it shows. The new SP never shakes, wallows or weaves, it just hunkers down and lets you get on with it, with a limit that’s impossible to reach for riders who don’t race for a living."

We couldn’t skip Michael’s mention of the wings: “Do the wings work? Well, you could bounce off the limiter in fifth along Losail’s start/finish straight one-handed if you wanted and Honda says the new bike is a second faster around Sugo with them than without, so it’s probably a yes."

Before we move on to the next review, a final note from MCN on the quality and finish of the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP.

Pictures don’t do justice to the Blade’s to the top drawer fit and paint finish and as for dependability, there’s a reason the Honda has consistently topped the superbike sales charts around the world over the years.

Bike Social Editor, Michael Mann certainly seemed to be impressed with the all-round package that the 2020 CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP offers.

“Significantly, we’re looking at a massive overhaul with a new chassis, engine, electronics and aerodynamics and some massive power claims as a result. Never has the motorcycling world sat up and paid so much attention to a forthcoming Fireblade as now, particularly since the new Honda adopts the latest fashion accessory for 200bhp+ machines: aerodynamic appendages. Integrated wings make the Honda road bike debut and look far more stylishly put together than those of rivals as opposed to stuck-on afterthoughts.”

Delving a little deeper into the six-axis IMU and the levels of control and adjustability available, Michael got to grips with what was possible around the Qatari MotoGP circuit.

"Nine settings of torque control may seem a little overbearing especially when alongside so many other electronically controlled options but overall, the full suite is there to offer the rider the very best and safest experience for any riding situation. It’s an incredibly complex and exquisite system made relatively easy to understand and operate via the dash. On track and even with minimum intervention (without turning things off), I still felt brave thanks to its flattery. Pushing a bike harder at lean or under braking has rarely felt this achievable and it will make riders feel a little more daring in their lap time pursuit."

Of course, it’s not all about punching out of corners and firing down the straights, there are some monstrous braking sections to cope with at Losail. The Brembo Stylema four-piston radial mount brakes are coupled with a Brembo master cylinder, offer fantastic feel and optimum performance in every kind of riding scenario.

The Honda engineer responsible for the brakes asked at lunchtime how I felt about the ABS. My reply was simple; despite being a hard braker, I had zero intervention that I could feel, and therefore I congratulated the engineer. Even at the end of the session I felt no fading nor was the lever coming back to the bar. It’s nice to be able to put so much confidence in a system designed to reduce speeds of 300kph to 100kph in little more than 250 metres.

The general feel throughout the press launch was one of confidence that the ‘Fireblade was back’. Michael captures that well in part of his summary.

“An achingly good, highly sophisticated, power-laden bike that every track-day rider should try. With dimensions akin to a 600 alongside an astonishing and rev-hungry engine plus a top-quality chassis, Honda have struck gold and the mantelpiece had better be clear for plenty of race winning trophies.”

Simon ‘Toad’ Hancocks at Visordown certainly didn’t sit on the fence when it came to his opinion of the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP’s six speed quick shift assisted gearbox.

“For many armchair critics of the last generation Fireblade, most of which hadn’t ridden the bike, the main problem was the gearbox and the dreaded false neutrals. I’m happy to report that the six-speed gearbox in the new CBR is excellent with a decent throw of the lever and a nice positive feeling as you snick through the gears. After about five sessions on track and riding all day I didn’t once have an issue going in either direction. The quick shifter is excellent, and it’s standard on the SP and an option on the standard machine. I was particularly impressed with the smoothness of the downshifts when carrying some lean angle, helped by the improved slipper clutch gobbling up some of the rear wheel’s torque.

Despite all the changes, all that extra power and tech available, the press knew that many people would be wondering if this new machine had managed to retain that familiar Fireblade feeling of quality”, Simon answers that perfectly.

Other than the riding position everything else about the bike still feels distinctly Fireblade. It’ll pootle along in third on very little throttle and give no complaint and the switchgear and dash layout is a typical case study in finding the perfect location for every button and piece of information.