A quick look at Baba-san's favourite FireBlade — the Honda CBR954RR FireBlade.
A few days ago I had a chance to pick up a mint yellow Honda CBR954RR FireBlade (yes, the B is capitalised... though it wasn't from 2004 onwards after Baba-san left the project) from a dealer on the Gold Coast.
I prevaricated, and may have missed out I think — another guy made a deposit on it though hasn't collected.
Here it is. It is listed for $5,995 with a full service behind it, 35,000 kilometres (about 20K miles) on the odometer, and everything — service history, factory toolkit, and spare key.
I'm still looking for a 954 FireBlade — although ideally in red and black livery.
But first a quick word about why the CBR954RR is the best Honda FireBlade.
In a nutshell, the CBR954RR is the best Honda FireBlade to get because
- It's the lightest. With a wet weight (fully fuelled) of only 192kg, the CBR954RR weighs about what a modern day Honda CBR500R weighs!
- It's a sought-after classic. Prices have barely moved in the last ten years — they'll hold, and if anything, go up.
- It was Baba-san's favourite. Tadao Baba, designer of the original CBR900RR FireBlade through to the CBR954RR FireBlade, considered this to be the pinnacle.
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Reason 1 — The CBR954RR is the lightest Honda FireBlade (or Fireblade)
Pictures — well, charts — tell a thousand words.
Baba-san designed the original CBR900RR FireBlade with aggressive focus on weight reduction. He wanted it to have a 900cc engine, but fit into a 750cc motorcycle's chassis. He was reportedly ruthless in his obsession.
But despite this, subsequent generations of the FireBlade not only got powerful, they also got lighter.
After Baba-san's departure from the team, the CBR1000RR continued to get more powerful, but they were all heavier.
The power-to-weight ratio did continue to climb (except for a small dip with the C-ABS-equipped 2012-2016 series), but the CBR1000RR lost its edge as a lightweight sports machine after the 954.
Reason 2 — the CBR954RR is a sought-after classic.
Partly for the first and third reasons, the 954 is a recognised classic.
When I googled "Honda CBR954RR Classic", I found quite a few old threads from 10 years ago speculating whether it would be a future classic.
In those threads the advertised price was exaclty what it is today for a bike of higher mileage today! This means that people held on to the motorcycles, put on kilometers, maintained them, and then are able to sell them for the same price.
The one above is listed at A$6,000, which is not expensive. It's about US$4,000 these days. That's about the price you'd pay for one in good condition in the US, too.
The CBR954RR is not in the same league as something like a Ducati 916 SPS in terms of collectability. If you're looking for a classic Honda, I'd look more towards something like the VTR1000 SP2, which are so rare that any time they come up for sale, they get snapped up.
But there are definitely ads out there where people are looking for them.
Reason 3 — the CBR954RR was Baba-san's favourite
Tadao Baba, father of the FireBlade, retired from the product after the CBR954RR. The last of his work was his favourite, and became his personal motorcycle.
“I own a 2002 Fireblade 954; it was the last model of FireBlade I designed, and in my opinion it is the best 'Blade as a total package. The first 'Blade has the best image and memories for me, but the final one is probably the best. Although I don’t have a garage – it lives in my parking lot!” — interview with Baba-san PistonHeads
So even if the man himself, Tadao Baba, put his FireBlade up for sale — you probably wouldn't want to own it. The thing hasn't even been "always garaged"!
There are, of course, other amazing FireBlades (or Fireblades).
In 2017 for example Honda made a huge splash with their CBR1000RR SP. And their 2020 CBR1000RR-R is ridiculously powerful and comes with all the rider aids that the Yamaha R1 has been touting since... 2015?
These days, the mantle for the best superbike is typically battled between the Ducati Panigale V4R, the Yamaha R1M, and the BMW S1000RR. I mean, the other litre-class motorbikes I haven't mentioned are amazing in their own individual rights. If the Honda isn't competing in that league, it's not because it's far behind. I just mean that in magazines and forums it's not one of the main contenders unless you ask the Honda faithful.
And for me, that's the attraction of the Fireblade. As i pointed out in my story, the CBR900RR kicked off the entire Litrebike
So... Why didn't I buy the CBR954RR?
At time of writing it's actually still available at Gold Coast Honda.
I'm contemplating it. There are two things holding me back: a) I have three motorcycles in my garage already (and it's not even my garage... thanks, Riaz! You're the best brother!), and b) it's not really a great motorcycle for the street.
In first gear, you're doing over 120 km/h on a CBR954RR before you should shift. It'll actually keep taking you up further — I think north of 140 km/h.
That's not really the way I like to ride on the street. In fact, it's not the way I like to ride anywhere. That's why these days I tend to prefer motorcycles more designed for the street or off-road where I can truly enjoy them.
That said, if someone buys my Hyperstrada in the next couple of days, I might just place a deposit on this one.