From the Archives: A Blade Unsheathed – Honda CBR 1000RR review / road test

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The Fireblade takes us on a 2,200 km journey through rain and shine, leaving his soul completely discontent

11:00 am, Monday morning – it’s that time of the week when most offices around the globe will indulge in a group meeting to discuss the strategies for the week ahead. But at Motoroids, it’s different. Our Editor and I were laid back in our recliners, competing with each other on digital CBR1000RRs on a Playstation riding simulator. And that’s when this thought crossed our mind – the 2009 Fireblade has been here for more than 6 months, but still the bike hasn’t seen the sun rising on a race track; so why not do a good deed for once and set the caged bird free in its natural habitat? With a smile on his face, Amit agreed to the idea and out came his cell phone. And Viola! Come Wednesday and a fully-serviced CBR1000RR stood in our parking waiting to be cranked up for a journey down South to the Kari Motor Speedway!

Honda, CBR, 1000RR, India, images, motoroids,
I guess I was already missing my favorite online farming game, hence the picture with these sunflowers in the background.
Honda, CBR, 1000RR, India, images, motoroids,
At 200+ km/h a small dot on the road suddenly turns into a truck as big as this. And you thought this speed was no big deal.
Honda, CBR, 1000RR, India, images, motoroids,
The new model has chucked the hydraulic clutch for a conventional wire-actuated unit
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Thanks to the stability, taking a photograph while riding is no big deal

With everything packed and ready, it was time to roll. As I thumbed the ‘blade, I was expecting the typically refined Honda exhaust note coming to life. What I was greeted with however was a starter failing to crank up not because there was some mechanical issue, but because the battery had drained big time – blame that to all my friends who left the ignition key on while taking photos for their Facekut and Orbook albums. You see, the bike is a CBU-import from Europe where the EU follows a concept called ‘Daytime Running Lights’ (DRL) which needs one headlight to remain illuminated throughout to ensure visibility of the rider to the oncoming traffic even during the day. Since a bike like the 1000RR does not run on a daily basis, the always-on headlight takes a big toll on the battery mileage. A jump-start later, I was finally off, facing south-east as I headed down the NH4. The route was crowded as usual, and to make matters worse, twilight greeted me earlier than I expected. I treaded on through the swarm of twilight bugs to cross the language borders and enter Karnataka – an Indian state where the NH-4 suddenly transforms into a superbiker’s dream. Having ‘driven’ here many times before, I always longed to cane a multi-cylinder two wheeler on those fast flowing corners and the long long straights. Even though the night had fallen, I was able to maintain a decent 170-180 km/h on this road primarily owing to 1000RR’s unprecedented illumination and also because there was not a single soul on that stretch of the road. But then, it was a compromise. It’s a shame to waste the capabilities of a Fireblade by riding it at such slow speeds on a beautiful road like this. Without second thoughts, I pulled over at a motel near Nipanni where I spent the night. As the next morning dawned, I was filled with excitement! After heating the bike up to optimum temperature, I decided to whack open the throttle..

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
“I treaded on through the swarm of twilight bugs to cross the language borders and entered Karnataka”

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com

What I was expecting was a big surge of power to hit me in the face; and the extra gravitational forces rolling my tongue down the throat. But no, it wasn’t so! Instead the 1000RR hands you over a linear power delivery throughout the rev range. The only time you know that you are in the powerband and kicking some serious dirt is either when the windblast pushes mightily against your head and torso or when you have the balls to take your eyes off the road and onto the speedo! Fortunately the exhaust note is a saving grace. While the stub exhaust muffler is relatively silent at low revs, the larger butterfly valve opens itself when the revs go past the 4,000 mark and a serious growl comes in. Yes, it’s an angry growl, and not the typical sweet-talk of the Fireblade’s a couple of generations back. At this rev-mark, the second set of injectors gets activated too, which deploys armies of stallions down to the rear wheel propelling the bike over the 200-kmph mark in a jiffy.

On this highway there’s a particularly straight stretch where you can see at least 4 kilometers ahead of you. This is where I made the 999cc mill spool all the way to the shift indicator in the first five gears and close to 11,000 rpm in 6th-gear. If I know my calculations right the trap velocity should have been close to the maximum limits of this litre-class wonder. Top speed apart, the ‘blade’ reportedly finishes quartile mile in less than 10 seconds under stock fitments. I had no reason to doubt that considering the way she was swallowing the miles en route my next stop –Bangalore.

While I had covered almost 300 kilometers from Nippani in less than 2 hours, the final 200 kms till Tumkur took me over 4 hours- thanks to broken roads ahead of Davengeree. From Tumkur, I was back onto a good stretch of road where I was happily above the 200-km/h mark again when, suddenly I saw a black spot panning perpendicularly towards me. I didn’t know what it was, but for a second I did feel a slight jitter in the traction. After a refill on the other side of the road and a U-turn later, I realized that the black spot was actually a bird that I had reduced to mince-meat. With a sad heart, I carried reached Bangalore to spend the night. For the party animals here, sighting a superbike is no big deal. Hence, I decided to ask for a few opinions regarding this Fireblade’s looks – and I can comfortably conclude, chicks dig this bike! It may look like a parrot in the pictures, but in flesh, this machine is a chick magnet – trust a fat biker when he tells you this.

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
A picture speaks a thousand words. The Blade took those surfaces in its stride rather well
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Since my paunch prevents me from from ducking down completely, the helmet had to eat some bugs too
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
If this light stays on you are good-the bike won’t skid even if you slam the brakes on road surfaces like the one in the first photograph. If it starts blinking though you are in trouble
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Since i didn’t have access to a wind-tunnel to analyse the blade’s aerodynamics, I decided to use a swarm of bugs to mark the aero lines

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
South Indiia has some amazing people carriers. The one in the first photogarph is a simple state transport bus while the uniquely painted bus above is a private one
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Thanks to perennially under-construction-roads such sights aren’t unusual
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
This road is suposed to be two-way but truckers will never give way-even to a 1000RR. Perhaps you need a bullet here.
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Muscle, curves, strength, speed, ability to fly and utter loyalty-guess who i am talking about?
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
At last, a self-potrait
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
No photograph can do justice to the Fireblade’s real beauty

Next day, it was business as usual as I set off for Coimbatore. Since the lazy me planned to exit Bangalore during the rush hour, I had to pay for it by being stuck in kilometers of slow moving traffic. It was a nightmare! The Fireblade sure has a large radiator, but it needs a constant wind gush to maintain an optimum temperature. In traffic conditions, the coolant will boil to 109 degrees in no time and within a couple of minutes of riding at that temperature, the clutch will start slipping, the bike will return unnerving jerks and the engine will finally stall. Happened to me a couple of times. With finally acclaiming the traffic, I found myself onto one of the most brilliant stretches of road so far! Forget all those straights on NH4, it was time for some sport riding…

The road ahead of Hosur has bumpy yet sticky tarmac laid out in a curvaceous manner. Some curves allowed me to be in the 130-150 km/h range without the slightest hint of nervous! After almost an hour of riding, I stopped for a chai. This is where things took a wrong turn. Did I say ‘business as usual’ sometime back? My foot! I’m sorry if I’m hurting any sentiments here, but I feel that the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments do not want tourists to feel at home in their States. I’m not exaggerating, but not a single road sign was in Hindi or English. Everything was in the local languages which meant I had to ask for directions. But since the helpful people out here and I don’t understand each other’s language, everytime I asked for Coimbatore, I got fingers pointing in varied directions. After toiling around for quite some time, five people guided me in the same direction which was kind of reassuring. A soothing country road followed, but for hardly 5 kms. What greeted me further was more than 120kms of dirt-road, which surprisingly wasn’t all that difficult for this bike.

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
This road sign bought a huge smile on my face. Sport riding with all the luggage is an experience in itself
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
That’s the kind of road surface i pushed the bike on for over two hours
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Two shady characters who claimed there was no fuel at the station apart from the 1-litre bottles which cost Rs.110 each. Talk about daylight robbery!
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
The ‘blade meets some friendly monkeys on the way
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
I can understand that sign, but there also needs to be a sign to warn you about the big cats in the wildlife reserve

But then disaster struck! The reserve warning came on – giving me hardly 10kms in hand before the CBR dried out. I pushed the 190-odd kilo bike with my entire luggage to a nearby village, where I got a refill for 110 Rs. a litre! The shady bloke granted me only 3 litres of petrol; with which I toddled further. With no road signs or civilization, I still didn’t know where I was when suddenly, like an oasis in a desert, I saw a nice stretch of tarmac disappearing into a forest. There was a huge barricade which I had to cross but there wasn’t a soul who could unlock it. I saw a small sign that read ‘Hasanur range’. I didn’t know what it meant, but the road was inviting. I had less than 3 litres of fuel which meant I had to keep the throttle under check till I found a fuel pump. So, without wasting any more time I went off road and hedged the barricade and got on to the tarmac.

As I continued further into the dense forest, I saw a stag running across the road. I had started sensing that I was in some kind of a wildlife reserve. I was elated. It was one of the most scenic avenues to ride through. Soon I spotted a small waterfall at a distance which seemed like the perfect frame for a scenic shot. As I coasted closer to the spot, I felt some movement on the tree near by. To my horror it was some big cat, – am guessing a leopard, which was resting on the big branch. Even before I could gather my senses, my wrist had already wrung the throttle and I was set to flee! Fortunately I covered the entire stretch with the little fuel I had.

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Its rejuvenating sometimes to take a break and appreciate the natural beauty you missed while zooming through the highway
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Is it just me or these headlight impressions really look like those of a’08 Goldwing
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
She stood there like a statue for two days. It was one of the most frustrating sights ever
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
With the bike comfortably parked in the Honda exhibit, i spent some time judging my riding skills on the riding trainer. I crashed on every corner: do I really know how to ride?

With my heart still pounding, I at last reached a petrol pump where I not only got the much needed fuel, but also got the right directions to Coimbatore. It was a smooth ride hereafter till the race track where I handed over the bike to the Honda blokes. It was to stay there as a showpiece for the race weekend, after which I could have it back.

5.30 A.M, Monday morning –that time of the week when everyone wants to hide under their blanket, wishing that the weekend was not yet over. At Motoroids, it’s different. I was up, about and raring to take the bike to the Kari Motor Speedway –the place where I was going to unleash the power of the ‘blade in whatever meager capacity I had. It was an emotional feeling, when the friendly guard at the race track opened the gates especially for the ‘blade and me. As I stepped onto the empty race track, I could feel shivers running down my body. I have ridden a respectable amount of laps on both the Indian race tracks, but today was different. I wanted to set the bike free, but at the same time, I had to make sure it wasn’t her first AND last time on the track. I had to be careful, and so I was – throughout the first two laps, I did not exceed the 6,000 rpm mark. By lap three I was starting to get into the groove. This was the first time I was riding a litre-class bike at Kari. On the long straight I was already clocking close to 250 km/h. But as I braked something felt weird as compared to bikes I have ridden before. While braking into the first right hander I was expecting the habitual nose dive – but I was taken aback when the bike showed no drama what-so-ever. The Combined-ABS was constantly dabbing a portion of the rear brake to distribute the braking forces equally, thus eliminating any nose dive. For hardcore racers, this facet can get unnerving till they come to terms with it; but for a newbie like me, it’s a blessing in disguise, especially when you are not trying to squeeze out every bit of power from the machine. Then is the rock-solid stability of the Honda that we have been talking over for decades now.

Thankfully, the ’09 ‘blade takes to a whole new level with the HESD2 steering damper – Kari speedway is known to be a bumpy bitch, but no matter what part of the track, the CBR1000RR didn’t lose its calm. After having spent a decent amount of time I started dropping almost a second per lap, with my fastest timing at the end of the afternoon being a 1min22s. It was rejuvenating!

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
On a straight like this the ‘blade can spool all the way to 260km/h before braking for the next corner
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
One of India’s best track tools paid us a visit on track
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
Yes, i have fallen in love all over again. Couldn’t help but kiss her to my heart’s content.

What continued after this splendid time on the track was a 500 km ride to Chennai, for the FIM Asian GP. It was a simple highway from Coimbatore to Chennai. But after the action packed track day at Kari, the highway felt more like a city commute.

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
This bike defines handling,stability,quality,reliability and ease of use. Be it a newbie like me or a hardcoree racer, the Fireblade will never dissapoint
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
I couldn’t help but take some time out and keep staring at the bike in awe for everything that both of us went through in those few days. She never betrayed me, no matter what situation or terrain I was treading. She is the most loyal friend you can ever find on two wheels.
First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com
A couple of hard riding laps on the track are enough for a brand new tyre to start shredding apart

First Ride / Road Test Review of the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade by Rohit Paradkar for Motoroids.com

I will blame that to the CBR. I may sound self-pompous, but I have ridden a lot of such bikes, but this one has a charm of its own. If you were to close your eyes and dream about the perfect sports bike, this would be the one. Why? Because this baby can be what you want her to be. She can be your companion for the day-in day-out city commutes, thanks to its comfortable seating, a decent cooling mechanism, dual-stage fuel injection which can return fuel efficiency of close to 20 kmpl, and an exhaust note that will not make your neighbors think of you as an irritating dawg. On the highway she is a dream with a smooth power delivery, an aural masterpiece and a safe ride even at top speeds, thanks to the wonderfully potent combined anti-lock brakes. And should you decide to shed your poseur hide and get this CBR onto the track, it will be a confidence-inspiring companion for a newbie as well as a hardcore track tool for the experienced racer. For, me it was 2,200 kilometers worth of experience that I can never forget. After all, you don’t unsheathe a blade only to make a cut, sometimes you unsheathe it to appreciate and restore the beauty of its sharpness. This blade however, was so beautiful in all respects, that it leaves me discontent – for I don’t own one of these.