Amit Chhangani tries to find a bit of love in the ‘Blade’s mechanical brilliance
Photography Sanjay Raikar
The windy roads of Lavasa are a biker’s delight. Riding the 1000RR is easy on the wrists and shoulders. The riding position doesn’t make you feel as if your hands have swapped the weight bearing duties from your legs. Unlike the R1, and some of its other Italian counterparts, the CBR’s riding position doesn’t make a newbie wonder how he can manage to turn those bars with so much weight biased to the front.
The new ‘Blade is an incredibly compact machine for its power. All the machinery between the wheels has been packed as tightly as possible in order to keep the dimensions small and shave off a bit of weight. The wheelbase is a tad longer to enhance stability but look at those minute details like the closer front forks, the tiny subframe and the stubby exhaust and you understand how far Honda have gone to keep this bike compact.
The ‘09 ‘Blade produces a whopping 178PS of neck snapping power at the crank which translates into a crazy 164PS at the wheel. With a bit of caution and relatively poor quality of fuel available in India, we managed a 0-100km/h acceleration timing of 3.44s.
This 1000RR has the most progressive power delivery I have ever experienced on such a bike. There’s not one sudden bump or dip in the power curve – it keeps on building power in an incredibly linear manner – right up to the peak of its power curve at 12,250rpm. Even the front wheel would lift up in a graceful, controlled manner as you power the bike hard in the smaller gears – no abrupt prancing here.
I was a bit surprised when I found myself struggling to turn the bike smoothly around slower, tighter corners. Also, I found that every minute bump on the road was getting translated directly into my buttocks trying to pop me off the bike. It didn’t take me much time to understand that the 43mm upside down front forks and the rear monoshock weren’t adjusted properly. You have to have the suspension setting right if you were to experience its magical virtues. Setting rider sag correctly cured the problem and the Honda felt much nimbler and easier to point and shoot around curves.
The compact dimensions, the low weight, the easy riding position and above all the evenly spread power delivery make this Honda a newbie’s dream.
To make the ‘09 1000RR even more idiot proof, Honda have introduced the C-ABS system on the bike. The rear wheel of other such bikes points skywards in no time under emergency braking but the C-ABS distributes the brake force to both wheels to prevent that from happening and provides additional stability under harsh braking.
Onto the bike’s design then. I preferred not to discuss the aesthetics of the new ‘Blade at the outset as it’s one of the very few areas where this bike doesn’t absolutely outclass its competition. It wouldn’t have been right to begin talking about such a brilliant bike on a negative note. To be honest, I am not very fond of the ‘09 ‘Blade’s design. I have heard people say that its design grows on you. I don’t dispute that – it probably does. But it’ll never draw the attention of a neutral eye when it passes it alongside something like an R1 or even a Gixxer. Even a piece of stone has enough details for one to examine and appreciate, but there’s something about the visuals of a diamond that makes it special. If something doesn’t snatch attention, you may have a hundred ways to justify its lack of charisma but it ideally should be an eye magnet if it is to be called beautiful. And the new CBR 1000RR isn’t a beautiful looking bike by that definition. It’s a shame that this bike is so understated, so devoid of visual and aural drama, so unrepresentative of its brilliance at first view.
As I blasted down the straight road leading up to the expressway, I saw the speedo needle nudging 220km/h. It’s a trivial chore for this bike to attain that sort of velocity. But from within that middle-of-the-road KBC helmet, the deafening roar of the wind blast, the blurred hedges on the median and the perennial worry of witnessing the legendary Indian dog that emerges out of thin air made sure that I rolled off instantly. I have done this earlier too, numerous times, but all the perils of a typical Indian road aside, this Honda felt the safest. The ‘09 1000RR is a brilliant machine. To me, the 1000RR is an achingly beautiful dame, unaware of her sex appeal. To make matters worse, she has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Yale and a technical job in the world’s top investment banking firm. She applies no makeup, hardly smiles and sleeps in her formals bought strictly from Marks & Spencer. If only she’d let her hair loose. If only she wore Prada. If only she had a husky, seductive voice. If only…