2008 Honda Fireblade gets a full makeover
October 3, 2007 Details have finally been officially released of the Honda Fireblade’s end-to-end 2008 overhaul... and here they are: wet weight drops 6kg to 199kg, power climbs 7hp to just under 180hp. The ‘Blade finally gets a next-gen slipper clutch, as well as a remodelled HESD steering damper. It’s also had a complete style overhaul – not to mention a stubby underslung exhaust. In fact, just about everything except the already-superb suspension has been completely redesigned. Honda’s clearly seeing this model as a big jump forward for the “friendly” superbike, a makeover they’re hoping will be as stunning as the one the GSX-R got in 2005.
With the worldwide launch at the Paris Bike Show, official images are finally here, and thankfully the 2008 Honda Fireblade doesn’t look nearly as bland as it did in the profile shots accidentally released by Honda America in a press embargo date blunder 2½ weeks ago. The new model is a ground-up overhaul of the phenomenally successful superbike, and little but the excellent suspension has been left alone in the update. We've seen it in the flesh, and it's quite an evil looking thing, absolutely tiny for the amount of power it packs. There's loads of images in the gallery.
Honda has followed the predictable “less weight, more power” mantra again, and the company claims that the new bike will have the best power-to-weight ratio in the superbike class. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s borne out by dyno and acceleration tests.
Weight has been stripped from the frame, the swingarm, the engine internals, the fairings, the brake calipers and even the front disc floaters, down to 6 from a previous 10. A smaller battery's been fitted, which given Honda's chronic regulator/rectifier problems doesn't fill me with confidence - but it helps the 'Blade drop another whole kilo. The tailpiece in particular looks positively anorexic; you can tell practicality has been sacrificed when a company mentions that the underseat storage is big enough for "a tool kit, gloves, paperwork and a small u-lock." At the end of the day, the new Blade’s absolute race focus is worn proudly on its sleeve – which is perhaps a pity as the Honda has always been the most road-friendly of the superbikes.
Either way, the weight loss, particularly in the removal of the underseat exhaust and larger tail section of the 04-07 models, has had a significant impact on handling – Honda claims the changes have resulted in a reduction in roll and yaw inertia of over 10%. Apparently the new bike changes direction and turns in so quickly we’ll have to experience it first-hand to believe it. Excellent – keys please!
After holding off on fitting a standard slipper clutch for several years, claiming they’re just not necessary on roadbikes, Honda has finally buckled to demand and fitted one to the 08 Blade. But the company has gone the extra mile to produce what they claim is a leap forward in slipper clutch design. Eliminating the uncertain feeling between reverse slip and forwards grip, the “Assist Slipper Clutch” sports an extra cam that forces the clutch plates together when the rider gets back on the gas. Effectively, the system delivers better feel at the rear wheel while allowing lighter clutch springs to be used. In fact, the clutch actuation is so light that they’ve been able to go back to a cable clutch, not needing the extra leverage of a hydraulic system.
The acclaimed Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) system has had its first real update – it’s now located under the tank and out of view. The clever system effectively changes the damping according to speed – there’s virtually no resistance to turning at slow speeds, resulting in light and nimble low-speed handling, and the resistance is dialled up as speed increases where headshake and large steering deviations can cause problems. The system has worked pretty much faultlessly in the past, delivering extreme confidence and stability, and there’s no reason to expect the update to be any less effective.
Always a couple of years behind the bleeding edge, the conservative company have adopted the underslung stubby exhaust made popular on Yamaha’s 2006 R6 and this year’s GSX-R600 and 750. Sadly it doesn’t have the good looks of the Yamaha or Suzuki, poking out as it does in an anonymous and angular fashion – but it’s all in the name of reduced weight and mass centralization – and as we all know, it’ll probably be junked in favor of aftermarket units from Akrapovic, Yoshimura and a dozen other excellent aftermarket companies who have the mystical ability to design good looking exhausts.
In all, this is the first serious upgrade to the Fireblade since the CBR1000RR took over from the 954 model in 2004. Clearly a superior track scalpel, we look forward to seeing if the new bike is able to keep its legendary road manners as well as making a splash in racing circles. It will also be fascinating to see whether such a track-focused update will continue to prove popular in showrooms around the world, selling to average Joe riders who will put it on a racetrack maybe two or three times a year.
- New lighter, more compact and curvaceous bodywork design places stronger emphasis on highperformance function over form.
- Lighter-weight, more mass-centralized design emphasised by radically shortened nose and tail embodies the highest Super Sports performance.
- Shorter, more compact nose cowl positioned closer to the steering head for lighter, more responsive handling.
- New, more aggressive-looking line beam headlights and cowl design.
- New rear-view mirrors with integrated indicator lights.
- New, more compact and aggressively stylish instrument panel design.
- New ram air ports integrated into front cowl replace central intake above radiator for more efficient induction of cooler air at front of machine.
- Smaller, lighter and more compact seat and tail cowl take design cues from the RC212V MotoGP racer, made possible by new underslung mass-centralised exhaust system.
- Manual, toolbox & small HACE U-lock fit in compact locking tail cowl storage space.
- Tail light/licence holder integrated into slim, one-piece resin moulding hanging under tail cowl.
- New 2.5kg lighter, more compact engine features 1mm bigger bore and 1.4mm shorter stroke for stronger power delivery.
- Redline extended from 12,250rpm to 13,000rpm.
- New separate cylinder block with lighter new sleeveless JCP (Jet-flow Circulation Plating) cylinders replaces current integrated cylinder/upper crankcase and ceramic composite sleeves.
- Lighter new titanium intake valves with dual concentric valve springs for precise actuation at high revs.
- Lighter, higher-strength forged pistons with 1mm larger bore and same weight for higher, faster revving capability.
- Newly developed Assist Slipper clutch achieves smoother, less abrupt engine-braking downshifts and quicker, more efficient re-acceleration.
- Cable-actuated clutch provides lighter, more comfortable action and more responsive feel.
- New taller and narrower radiator enhances engine cooling efficiency while reducing fairing width.
- Compact, new underslung exhaust system improves mass centralisation while optimising cornering clearance for sharper, more responsive handling.
- Electronically controlled intake and exhaust valves for reduced intake noise and enhanced performance.
- Lower exhaust noise and emissions achieved while still reducing weight.
- Overall weight greatly reduced relative to both current model and competition, for the strongest power-toweight ratio in the litre-displacement Super Sports class.
- New chassis design further improves mass centralisation for significantly sharper, more competitive control and enhanced handling ease. 600cc-class handling backed up by litre-class power.
- New 4-piece cast aluminium frame achieves lighter weight while being fully 30mm narrower for greatly enhanced riding ease and manoeuvrability.
- New frame construction reduces width while significantly increasing rigidity (lateral +13%; torsional +40%; vertical +30%).
- New shorter and more compact cast aluminium seat rail.
- New, lighter-weight hybrid extruded/pressed aluminium swingarm features new gull-wing design and 15mm longer effective length while maintaining essentially same wheelbase.
- Swingarm-integrated Unit-Pro-Link rear suspension system with fully adjustable HMAS damper essentially unchanged from current model.
- Front fork span reduced by 10mm (from 214mm to 204mm) for quicker response to turning inputs. Front fork offset increased by 2.5mm (from 25 to 27.5mm) for optimised balance of handling performance. Front axle holders feature new, more centred design that increases rigidity while maintaining light weight.
- New hollow-section triple-spoke wheels feature thinner spoke castings for reduced weight (F: -240g; R: -370g).
- New, 101g lighter RK X-ring drive chain.
- New front disc brake calipers feature one-piece monoblock construction for lighter weight and increased rigidity. New chrome-plated aluminium pistons replace steel units for lighter weight and enhanced durability. Unsprung weight reduced by a total of 430g.
- New brake rotors feature 6-point floating mounts, compared to current 10-point configuration, for lighter weight. Variable rotor hole sizes improve braking feel while reducing weight.
- Front brake lever ratio modified slightly for enhanced braking response. New front brake hoses also of lighter construction.
- New, smaller and lighter second-generation steering damper adapted from CBR600RR. Mounts behind steering head rather than above it.
- New, more compact 7AH battery is over 1kg lighter than conventional 10AH batteries. Modified starter ratio and revised starter motor characteristics ensure torque and starting capacity maintained with less current draw.