Getting off my 954 onto the new bike was interesting. The new bike is certainly thinner and has a much smaller, compact cockpit. Friends had mentioned that they felt the bike was small, but it didn't feel that much smaller and certainly no thinner than the 1098s. The riding position felt familiar, but with a fraction more weight over the bars than I was expecting.
Before I started the ride, I felt my 954 was a lovely smooth easy to ride bike. Even when pulling away I could tell just how smooth the new bike felt under acceleration and the 2017 bike really shows what 15yrs of progress has done. I know reading that back, that it sounds strange, but the 954 has been seen by many for so long as the perfect Blade.
The bike I tested came with an optional quickshifter and a Yoshimura after market exhaust, making it sound extremely angry, even at tickover. This, dear friends, is not a bad thing.
Unexpectedly the bike demonstrated a few little quirks. When at 'below walking pace' the engine would pulse like I was tweaking the throttle, but this didn't transfer into forward movement. The engine breaking felt artificial as well and this all depended on the modes and the settings. Being used to two bikes, one with loads of engine breaking, the other with little, I really noticed this and it took a little getting used to. The mirrors are okay, but nothing to either make or break the deal.
What was cool though was I was able to change through these engine modes when moving, or so it seemed. I tried out the different settings after stopping the bike to see how it effected the whole experience, rather that relying on changes while on the move. I'm sure there is a real sweet spot for every rider on this bike, however, you don't look to own a bike like this, only to cut it's legs out from underneath it. I can understand altering the level of traction control you are getting, but being able to alter the engine characteristics is, well, a bit unnecessary in my opinion. If its wet or you want to be cautious, you just don't twist as hard surely. I do however understand that from a manufacturer point of view its a good thing though and every new bike on the market has a similar option so this is a problem with me and not the bike.
So would I buy one? I certainly wouldn't be unhappy with one in my garage. Its a lovely, lovely thing. I know that a test ride is miles away from the feeling and experience of ownership, but with the development cycle of sportsbikes now being closer to ten years than two, Honda have got an amazing base setting for what will surely become something truly special.
A huge thanks to Honda of Bournemouth for letting me borrow their bike. The team were friendly and very helpful and their showroom is stacked full of lovely goodies to have a look at. Go check them out www.hondaofbournemouth.co.uk or 01202 541220