It's high time. We need better bikes. While a majority of the population is still more or less a concentrated commuter crowd, the existence of a market for bigger, high capacity machines that justify a limited number import run cannot be ruled out. The inroads have already been made by a manufacturer that we in India least expected to take the lead - Yamaha. The tuning fork logo-wielding brand started what seems to be an inevitable revolution when it brought in the awesome, race-bred R1 and the torque monster MT01 to select showrooms across the country. That's now been followed by Suzuki when it revealed the massive Hayabusa and the Intruder to Indian audiences recently. Why then, has Honda stayed back in the shadows? With worldwide reputation at stake one wouldn't have been too much off the mark to expect Honda to have led the big bike revolution in India instead of any other. Well, better late than never.
Early 2009 will see two of the best from the Honda stables being unloaded from cargo ships and heading straight for Honda showrooms in the country. But which two models would Honda be bringing was the question. While guessing one of the models was an absolute no brainer, it's the second one that Honda has kept us guessing on. Lined up with ignition keys slotted in under a shed in the pitlane of one of the many road courses within the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan were eight bikes - two CBR1000RRs, one CB1000R, one CB1000F, one CBR600RR, a goldwing, a silverwing and one DN01. Our amazingly ?well sorted' import laws meant that the CBR600RR was present only as a showpiece, we set out to evaluate which one, according to us, should be available for legal sale in India. A quick look and the first of the two choices was more than clear. In fact, it was staring at us wide-eyed straight in the face.
One lap on the '08 CBR1000RR was more than enough to make everyone out there realise that this Blade was sharp enough to put a pack of Wilkinson Swords to shame. With one of the most sorted chassis setups and suspension combos available on litre bikes today, the 1000RR is also the easiest to ride - which is where the magic of the Fireblade truly lies. 178 PS of power erupting out of the 999cc inline four mill is tamed with the help of a slipper clutch - which means that even if you're not too delicate with the clutch lever, the bike will forgive you and not have you end up in a hospital bed with casts all over - itching and scratching underneath wishing you'd been more careful earlier. In more subtler words, this bike is novice-proof. While the short distance of the track meant that we got nowhere close to the top speed of the bike, Honda claims a 288 km/h top whack - a figure which a lot of our peers from abroad will well and truly agree the Blade can achieve. To put things in perspective though here's a bit of an experience.
The track had a 150 metre-odd straight coming out of a swooping left. Accelerating hard exiting the curve, most of us managed to see 120 km/h at about three-quarters down the straight before having to jump on the anchors with all our might to slow down enough to make it cleanly into the hard left-hander in one piece. Which brings me to the brakes - dual radial mounted 320mm discs up front and a 220mm disc at the rear wheel are more than enough to stop that truck load of power. Honda's even offering combined ABS as an option now for a little more of the price - an option many will take.
Pictures haven't really done too much justice to the '08 CBR1000RR - especially the side profile that makes the front fairing look like a vertical wall of fibre instead of the aerodynamic chunk of function it really is. Watching the bike in the flesh, especially in motion brings a whole new meaning to 'bird of prey' though. The front is cute, yet aggressive and the minimalist tailpiece hints ever-increasingly toward its Moto GP DNA. And then there's the low lying stubby exhaust that not only is designed well visually but helps keep centre of gravity all the way down. Sometimes, looking at the bike, it makes me wonder how anyone could stuff a litre worth of displacement in the narrow dimensions that the Fireblade has, but Honda have done it, and they've done it well.
The 1000RR is Honda's flagship motorcycle and even though there are other more practical bikes in their kitty, getting the big Blade to India is the most logical of things the Japs can do. There are already quite a few 1000RRs from over the years in the country as grey imports and if offered through the legal route it will definitely attract buyers who are seeking a more easy-to-live-with option to Yamaha's R1. For the ones who can't afford the 1000RRs legal price tag, it will help Honda demonstrate their prowess for which they are known across the world - a manufacturer of some of the best sports bikes in the world that are not only easy to ride, but are extremely reliable as well, thus helping them sell more of their smaller machines as well. The Fireblade is not going to be cheap though - all thanks to the humungous import duties involved. If your budget is under Rs 10 lakh, look elsewhere.
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