2022 was always going to be a special year for Honda and the Fireblade brand. That’s because it’s 30 years since the first ones started appearing in showrooms. Since 1992 the Fireblade has seen umpteen iterations; some world-beating, others not quite, but they’ve all enjoyed their fair share of popularity. So to celebrate 30 years-worth of Honda’s flagship superbike, they’ve released a special 30th Anniversary edition of the Fireblade SP. And they invited us along to Donington Park to take it for a spin.
What’s so special about the 30th Anniversary Honda Fireblade, I hear you ask? Well, in all honesty, compared to the ‘normal’ Fireblade SP, not a lot. On top of the (albeit considerable) spec of the SP, the 30th Anniversary comes with a special Tricolour paintjob (designed by Mr Hiroaki Tsukui, the same bloke that designed the original 1992 colourway), a numbered top yolk, and some special 30th anniversary logos dotted around the bike (and on the key fob).
If you’re wondering, what the SP has over the standard ‘Blade, it’s Brembo brakes, electronic suspension and gold wheels (although the 30th Anniversary model doesn’t have the gold wheels, to match the original model).
2022 updates for the entire Honda Fireblade range were focused on making the bikes power easier to use. They’ve done a load of work on the engine to improve the mid-range, including redesigning the intake ports, airbox, airbox funnels, and exhaust pipe. The bike still makes a claimed 214bhp (at 14,500rpm), so you don’t get anything extra at the top end, but I was hopeful that the extra mid-range will have sorted out the scary power curve.
To sharpen up acceleration even more, they’ve gone up three teeth on the rear sprocket, which is now 43 teeth. That’s a big jump, and I was looking forward to seeing how noticeable it was on track.
And it didn’t take me long to realise that it was very noticeable. In a good way. The first session that Honda gave us on the ‘Blade was a bit soggy (and the bikes only had dry tyres on) so it was a very tentative ride indeed. For some reason, when you’re riding a bike with a numbered headstock, the fear of crashing is considerably greater. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that even though I was a lot slower than I might have been in drier conditions, I still didn’t need to use first gear for even the tighter corners. On the old bike, second gear wouldn’t work for the slower stuff because of the fact that the gearing was so tall and the mid-range was a little lacklustre.
That leads me onto my next point. The mid-range. Again, I was pleasantly surprised, even in the damp conditions. The motor was definitely more user friendly with that hike of mid-range power. Not only did it mean you could accelerate harder, from a lower RPM, it meant that the two-stroke-esque powerband that blighted power delivery on the old bike was no more. It actually made the bike feel less exciting, and if I’m being honest, a little bit slower; I don’t think it was slower, I think it’s just because you don’t get that sudden rush of high-side-happy power at 8,000 rpm any more.
Honda put some wet tyres on the bikes for our second (and last) session (just as the track was nicely drying up) which meant I could ride the ‘Blade with a bit more confidence. But only a little bit more. Donington Park is notoriously slippery when it’s wet, and I’ve been caught out a few times there before; in fact I’ve actually crashed at every single corner at Donington Park, as it happens. Anyway, I digress.
Despite the conditions, the Honda was smooth and as easy to ride as a Fireblade should be. The riding position was as sporty as anyone needs a road bike to be, the chassis was neutral and the suspension compliant. I wasn’t able to ride the bike as hard as I would have liked, but in those conditions, the blade was nigh-on faultless.
Because of the way the power is delivered now, the whole package does feel slightly less ‘focused’. But the fact is, you still get that dreamy Fireblade chassis and plenty of power when you need it. So although we were a long way from lap record pace in the wet with dry tyres, and then the dry with wet tyres, I’m fairly sure that in normal circumstances, most people would be able to lap quicker round most circuits on the new Fireblade, be it the standard one, the SP, or the 30th Anniversary edition.
And not only that, because of the fact the gearing is shorter and there’s now a sensible amount of mid-range, the 2022 ‘Blade will definitely make more sense on the road.
So would it be worth spending an extra £500 on the 30th Anniversary Fireblade (£23,999) over the Fireblade SP (£23,499). Well whilst you’re not actually getting anything technically, or dynamically better, it is a little bit special, isn’t it? Or a lot special. And it’s only another £500. For comparison, the standard Honda Fireblade is £19,999. I know spending an extra £4k over the standard ‘Blade would be a tough pill to swallow, but you can bet you’re bottom dollar that the 30th Anniversary version would hold strong money, if and when you did decide to sell it. So there you go; it’s an investment, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.