PIC: MARK MANNING
Much had happened in the intervening years. The war may have been relegated to a battle of the also-rans (behind the Suzuki GSX-R1000), but the quality of both bikes had grown – some times by small steps, during other years by giant leaps.
The FireBlade continued on its platform until 2004, when Honda conceded that it had to join the litre brigade proper. 954cc was never enough, so the bike was redesigned from scratch to create a machine that shared the FireBlade name, but none of its former components. This 2007 bike is the second generation; a brilliant bike polished – but not quite to perfection.
The R1 hadn’t gone through the same revolution, and Yamaha’s continuity with the R1 is clear – near constant revision could never generate huge changes given the time available. In 2004 fashion dictated the exhaust be slung under the seat, and by 2007 Yamaha claimed 172bhp with a 172kg weight and this fifth generation was the first to throw electronics at the engine, with a ride-by-wire throttle and adjustable air intake funnels.
The Yamaha seems immediately familiar. There haven’t been wholesale chassis changes made between this and today’s machine. It feels big, but purposeful, and you know there’s so much dependability in the front that you feel assured in the sketchy conditions. Yamaha like to give a rider confidence in the front, and pitch more weight forward than any other.
It’s funny sparking up an R1 that looks current and then hearing a conventional note sung out. Though the aftermarket cans and lack of fuel module have dulled the immediacy of the delivery, there are no surprises lurking in the lower reaches, all aiding the ailing Dunlop D208 rear as best it can.
Talking of conditions, it seems a crime to let the Fireblade out in this weather. If you could call a five year old bike a museum piece, then this is it. With under 4,000 miles on the clock this really is as Noriaki Nakata intended – the 954 was Baba-san’s last ’Blade before retirement.
This was the connoisseurs choice. Never the fastest or best handling bike, the Fireblade excelled at nothing – apart from offering sublime proficiency. This proficiency has matured over the last five years to create a machine comfortable in its own clothes. It’s so smooth, running stock exhausts and fuelling, and the way it delivers its power is a huge boon to a rider.
Having shed weight over the chunky 2004 bike, this bike is more agile than before – but it still retains its stability in a turn. The electronic damper mops up any indiscretions and the suspension at both ends is damped well for road use.
It’s nearly the perfect road bike, built at a time when 150bhp at the rear ruled and for those that were after a rewarding riding experience – rather than riding on the seat of your pants. But this was also a high point for the R1. Yamaha kept the core chassis elements of this bike and then made radical changes to the crank to create a unique selling point – exactly what the class needed. Honda, however, went on to smaller and better things...
3kg weight loss
In WSB trim, otherwise stately.
FAST ROAD 8
Keeps things in check.
To refined for this.
NEW RIDER 4
The best of the year’s bunch.
Finally getting recognition.
Fly by wire throttle
Six piston brakes
After a manful effort...
FAST ROAD 8
Loves playing chase.
Partial to some tricks...
NEW RIDER 4
Still on the sharp side. desirability
Looks like a new ‘un!
DON’T BE FOOLED BY
Racing. The Suzuki ruled on the road, but never really fulfilled its potential on track. Tickled, these bikes rock!
It’s close. Very close. But the refinement on the Honda has stood the test of time better – although the Yamaha is hardly a shonker...
+ SLICK MOTOR, EASY HANDLING, LOOKS
- STILL BIG, NOT THE BEST OF THE YEAR