Handlebar slap Honda Fireblade
The final kick
Now it’s out: Honda is converting the Fireblade worldwide. MOTORRAD was able to exclusively test whether the dangerous kickback is finally a thing of the past.
In its ten-year construction period, the Fireblade rarely had to admit defeat to the competition. But the youngest year, the 2002 model, came last in the comparison test in MOTORRAD 7/2002. Main reason: dangerous knocking of the handlebars, especially on special motorway sections. After MOTORRAD criticized the critical driving behavior several times and Honda had developed various countermeasures, the Japanese technicians have now adopted a solution. Worldwide, all Fireblade in the area of the control head (see MOTORRAD 9/2002) are to be converted. Components of the 2000 model replace the steerer tube including the lower triple clamp, the steering head bearings and the central nut.
In order to be able to make a clear statement about the success of these measures, MOTORRAD wanted to drive a Fireblade in direct comparison, i.e. before and after the conversion. For this purpose, representatives of the editorial team met with a Honda delegation at a rest area on the A 81, which had proven to be critical in the past (see MOTORRAD 9/2002). With a standard Fireblade with 500 kilometers on the speedometer, the critical driving behavior could be reproduced straight away. When accelerating and on bumps in a slightly inclined position, the Honda repeatedly hit the handlebars from 200 km / h. And even on the straight, the steering system often began to vibrate around the steering axis, which only calmed down again when the throttle grip was suddenly closed.
After this test drive, the Honda workshop set up on site went into action. Two trained mechanics got to work: removing the front wheel, the complete braking system, the fork legs and dismantling the fork bridges. Only then can the steering head bearings be replaced, which can only be professionally replaced with special tools and meticulous care. Duration including assembly: a good hour. The setting of the exact breakaway torque ?? to do this, the upper triple clamp has to be removed ?? took another half an hour.
Second test drive. Full throttle on the Autobahn and ?? long faces. The driving behavior had not improved a bit, the Fireblade still reacted treacherously to the extreme demands of the A 81. Only after releasing the fork by loosening the clamping screws on the triple clamps and the wheel axle, retightening, tightening and increasing the breakaway torque on the the upper tolerance limit finally resulted in the desired success. The Honda athlete only reacted to bumps with a slight twitch in the steering, and on the straight the driver could now drive at top speed without any nasty surprises.
After this successful performance, the Fireblade was ready for the MOTORRAD test procedure. In the criterion of handiness, the upgraded variant received good marks. In contrast to the original solution with tapered roller bearings, the now installed angular contact ball bearings are less sensitive to high preload. They do not cause any impairment of the steering on winding terrain. On the other hand, there was clearly perceptible handlebar flutter in the range of 95 to 80 km / h. The next criterion: the MOTORCYCLE route to test the kickback. Here the Fireblade still left an ambivalent impression. After two or three bumps in quick succession, the handlebars wedged out sharply.
The balance in the 1000-point evaluation: still 25 points in the criterion of maneuverability, with handlebar slapping / shimmy, so far given zero points because of the critical driving behavior, the Honda receives because of the still existing but now more controllable handlebar slapping and the shimmy eight points. Makes a total of 669 points, one less than the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 and Kawasaki ZX-9R, one more than the Yamaha R1.
However, Honda is walking a fine line. As the tests showed, the Blade reacts extremely sensitively to the setting of the steering head bearings and the correct implementation of the conversion measures. The workshops have to spend a lot of time and care for the meticulous adjustment. The cheaper and safer method: a steering damper. Fixed assembly time for an editor: just under four minutes. That would have prevented shimmy and handlebar flapping, at most marginal disadvantages in handling and brought Honda’s athletes to the top of the comparison test.
I.At least Honda reacted, even if MOTORRAD’s last kick was necessary. Fireblade drivers will be spared that in the future, at the latest when the conversion campaign begins in June.
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