By: Dave Abrahams
Cologne, Germany - Over its 25-year history as Honda's sports flagship, the Fireblade has generally evolved in measured, rather conservative steps, echoing the engineering philosophy of company founder Soichiro Honda. However, the 2017 CBR1000 SP, revealed this week at the biennial Intermot Motorcycle Show and due in South Africa in March next year, is more of a leap than a step.
It has 8kW more power - up to 141kW at a screaming 13 000rpm, although it must be said that's still a long way short of the 150-plus claimed by some of its rivals - and it's a radical 15kg lighter, thanks to a lot of detail work all over the bike, a lithium-ion battery, and the first titanium fuel-tank on a production motorcycle, which saves 1.3kg by itself.
But the big leap is its astonishingly complex electronic rider package - so complex, in fact that even its set-up programme has three display modes to choose from: Street, Circuit and Mechanic.
Built around a Bosch five-axis gyroscopic inertial measurement unit, it includes Ohlins electronically controlled semi-active suspension with six modes to choose from, five levels of fly-by-wire power output control, nine levels of torque control and three levels of engine braking control, linked to a quick-shifter with automatic throttle blip on downshifts.
A new ABS with both wheelie and stoppie control also modulates braking at both ends according to the bike's lean angle and weight transfer at the rear wheel to prevent or permit rear-wheel slides under braking, depending on the rider's preference.
All of this can be adjusted on the fly, via a mode switch and an up-down rocker on the left-side switchgear, using the digital dashboard as a monitor.
The engine is 2kg lighter than its predecessor, thanks to extensive use of magnesium and the lightening of individual parts. A new titanium tailpipe is 2.8kg lighter than the previous version, while the rear sub-frame without pillion seat or footpegs, is 800g lighter.
Thinner main-frame walls save 300g; the frame's transverse rigidity is unchanged, but it's 10 percent more flexible in the torsional plane for quicker reaction to rider input. Even the fairing is 24mm narrower across the top section and 18mm narrower across the engine thanks to a new, curved radiator that holds 30cc less water.
But wait, there's more:
Literally. Still to come (May next year, apparently) - is the CBR1000 RR SP-2, a genuine homologation special, limited to just 500 examples worldwide, with bigger valves and even lighter Marchesini forged-alloy rims.