Here we look back at Tadao Baba’s last FireBlades – the 929 and the lovely 954cc CBR900RRs!
The original Honda CBR900RR FireBlade hit the sportsbike world like a thunderbolt in 1992 and it took a good six years for the opposition to really catch up.
With the arrival of the Yamaha YZF-R1 in 1998, things changed for Honda – they weren’t top dog anymore so things needed to go up a notch. For the year 2000 in came a major overhaul for the FireBlade. Firstly, the motor went to 929cc, in came fuel-injection, a new ‘semi-pivotless frame’ longer, stronger swingarm and (for the first time ever) upside-down forks and a 17-inch front wheel (Baba-san reckoned they were too heavy, previously.) The looks were quirky and while it didn’t topple the R1 outright, it did prove to be a very ‘together’ package compared to the opposition on both road and track.
The bike got even better for 2002/03. The package was refined still further, giving the bike a 954cc motor and placing it in a sweet-handling, fierce-braking, good-looking package that still commands respect now alongside the very latest sports tackle. It’s a modern classic, for sure!
Prices are strong with the 954, less so with the 929, so you’ll find a half decent 929 for around £2500-£3000 and a slightly ropey-ish 954 for the same price. Avoid aftermarket tat and poor paint jobs! Oh and be warned on the 2001 ‘silver’ special edition 929 – while it was ‘limited’ it wasn’t any more ‘special’ really… Either way both are great bikes and – for many – the 954cc FireBlade is one of the best sportsbikes ever made… but what are the 929 and 954 like as used options in the modern classic world?
WHAT GOES WRONG?
Can often suffer from neglect. Serious degradation of braking performance can be the result of detritus in the pads and calipers on both models. So if you feel any lack of bite, power or performance, strip and clean.
Older/harder worked bikes will need checking for past-its-best fork oil. There was a front fork recall (Jan 2000-Dec 2003) where Honda identified the possibility that water/moisture can creep into the bottom-end of the inverted forks and cause corrosion and in extreme cases cracking. Should be sorted by now, but ask!
Can take a bit of a beating, so check before you buy. If you can get the front wheel in the air, check for movement back and forwards. Or, on the test ride brake hard and see if there’s a mushy clicking under braking.
Many 929s and even some 954s can have a snatchy feel at low rpm, while 929 owners have reported a vibration/buzzing at 5-7000rpm. Often this is improved with suitable Power Commander fitting/dyno work. Other owners have said it’s due to either loose engine bolts or a fuel-injector that needs adjusting. The 929 and the 954 sometimes sound clattery on a cold start. If the bike makes a noise, check to see which side of the engine the noise comes from and whether it ceases when the clutch is pulled in. If the noise continues with the clutch in, then take it to a dealer as it may need tappet adjustment.
On the 929 some owners say they can suffer from weakness, especially with second gear. There was a clutch recall (Jan-Dec 2000) following reports that clutch disc judder can lead to disintegration and thence rear-wheel lock.
If the bike is on its side-stand you often can’t see any oil in the sightglass. If the bike is on it’s sidestand, after five mins or warming up the oil level should rise into the window.
Excellent on both versions – especially if well looked after!
Honda 2000-2003 machines with long hero blobs like the SP1/2 but they aren’t as easy to touch down, but be warned. Remove for track days!
HONDA CBR900RR-Y/1 (2000-2001)
Price new: £8699 (2001)
Price now: £2000-£3500
Engine: 929cc, liquid-cooled, inline four-cylinder
Power: 150bhp (claimed) @ 10,750rpm
Weight: 172 (dry) kilos
HONDA CBR900RR-2/3 (2002-2003)
Price new: £8399 (2003)
Price now: £2500-£4000
Engine: 954cc, liquid-cooled, inline four-cylinder
Power: 154bhp @ 11,250rpm
Weight: 168 (dry) kilos
WHY WE LOVE IT: Quality bike, classy lineage
WHY WE DON’T: Early FI jitters, 929 is a bit FUGLY…