The design of the Superbike was generally thought to have been well sorted during the transition from the 80s to the 90’s. Alloy beam frames, ever widening tyre sizes, and four cylinder engines were the norm, and technical revelations few. Then, completely out of left field came the CBR900RR and changed it all, causing a never-ending power struggle that continues unabated 20 years on.
With the introduction of the Blade the Japanese manufacturers scuttled off and redesigned their idea of a Superbike, the larger machines in their respective stables being consigned to sports-tourer status while most had to start from the ground up just to stay on a par with Honda. Some great machines came out of the time however all spurred on by the CBR900RR.
It is important not only to look at what came after the Blade but also what preceded this ground-breaking machine. The class leading Superbikes of the late 80s and early 90s all saw huge increases in power year-on-year, but with it came equally large all up weights. The head of the class before the CBR900RR, the Yamaha FZR1000, thought by all at the time to be a very advanced machine, weighed in at over 200kgs making it one big lump of a bike when it came to throwing it around. Honda Design engineer Tadao Baba, the man who single-handedly penned the CBR900RR knew that saving weight was the answer for the next generation of Superbike, effectively he created a racer on the road, an ethos that has lasted 20 years to date.
First seen in 1992, the Fireblade was in existence many years before its arrival on the world scene, an internal competition, between Honda design departments to create the ultimate 750cc sports bike during 1887, led to two designs being taken forward, one a V4 that we now know as the RC30 and the then unsuccessful CBR750. The latter machine was not chosen as it was too similar in many ways to the opposition, but it did share more than a passing resemblance to the bike that became the Blade, basically a scaled up, and far more powerful CBR400RR, a machine that pre dates the first Fireblade by four years. Incidentally the CBr400 was forst of all named the hurricane but gained the Fireblade tag too later in the machines life.
Tadao Baba, the head of that competition, was later rewarded a year later when a full-blown version was given the go ahead, this resulted in the first CBR900RR model of 1992. It was also among the first machines to have a real name instead of a set of numbers and digits indicating its model designation, soon everyone know what a Fireblade was and, despite costing over 7K, most wanted one too.
The first model broke several moulds, seeing a return to the early 80s thinking of a 16inch front wheel for lighter steering and huge savings in weight seeing the finished model tipping the scales just 4kgs more than Hondas own CBR600F. The Yamaha FZR1000 of 1991 weighed in around 36kgs more than that first CBR900RR, leaving the Honda engine with far less work to do and the rider even less so.
Upside down forks where forsaken for a much lighter pair of conventional tubes, although the lower castings did look, from a distance, like a pair of upside downers just to stay fashionable. The engine stayed true to the general Honda thinking of the time, a relatively simple 893cc four cylinder DOHC affair that produced 122bhp but thanks to clever design work the power plant was little larger than a CBR600F. The chassis, once again broke few rules looking much like that of any other leading machine of the early 90s but there was a handful of innovations tucked away in the dark recesses. Mass centralisation became the watchword (before this point it had been a purely Italian thing to do) and Tadao Baba produced a road machine that was stable at speed and yet supremely agile and easy to throw around.
Baba used a single-minded approach to the design, personally track testing each and every incarnation during that four-year development period, usually alongside the top Honda race pilots of the time. Clearly Baba is no mean rider as the first Blade took the world by the scruff of the neck and changed the expectations sports bikes riders forever. Baba remained on the Fireblade project for the next twelve years until the 2004 version, even now, overseeing every new model and helping out the designers in his position as quality controller of all Honda two wheeled machines.
As each and every new model marched on, usually following a two year development pattern, the Fireblade developed into the hi-tech machine it is today, the first models were raw and brash so much so that few could really appreciate or even use its full potential. These days however the Blade is a different animal, not sanitised or fully tamed into submission but more approachable to a wider audience. Even so if one were to sample a 1992 model against a 2007 version the basic elements would still be evident, light weight, superb manoeuvrability, but in more recent times these attributes have been joined by comfort and a wider talent base.
More aggressively designed bodywork.
Larger-displacement 954cm3 fuel-injected engine.
Larger yet lighter new ‘Works’ type hybrid aluminium swingarm.
Specifications 1992 Honda Fireblade
- Engine – Liquid-cooled inline-four four-stroke DOHC
- Capacity – 893cc
- Bore/stroke – 70 x 58mm
- Power – 122bhp @ 10500rpm
- Torque – 65ft-lb @ 8500rpm ft-lb @ rpm
- Carburetion – 4 x 38mm Keihin CV
- Transmission – 6-Speed wet clutch chain final drive
- Frame – Alloy twin spar
- Suspension – 45mm telescopic forks, Pro Link single shock rear
- Brakes – 296mm discs 4-piston calipers, 220mm disc single piston floating caliper
- Wheels – 130/70 x 16 180/55 x 17
- Weight – 185kgs
- Top speed – 167mph
- Wheelbase – 1405mm
- Fuel capacity – 18lts
Honda CBR900RR Fireblade