Words: Rob Harris
So I’m talking to Rob Egan of Brooklin Cycle Marine in Whitby, Ontario, on the last Friday of February and he tells me that he’s just getting a load of Hondas ready to take down to Daytona for media testing. Turns out that this year Honda are just taking a selection of bikes down with them so that any Canadian journos that make it down there can have a go.
Last year Honda assisted with travel and accommodation which meant that non Cycle Canada guys could come along too (read OMG and Larry Tate). However, Christmas came early this year with Honda, when we ended up with an (almost) all expenses paid trip to Georgia to test their current fleet in January. Hopes of a double whammy (Georgia and Daytona) were dashed when Honda could not offer any more travel & accommodation assistance (no assist, no go).
The major annoyance came when Mr. Egan revealed that the lurvely CBR400RR (as seen in the Honda display at all the recent motorcycle shows) would be one of the bikes making the trip south. For any of you out there not up to date with the CBR400RR, Honda have imported one sample to get public and dealer opinion on it. If the feed back is good, they’ll import more, if not then no more will make it across the Pacific. Fortunately, things are looking good!
Anyway, I digress. With the thought of yet another Cycle Canada scoop gnawing at my mind I made a desperate bid for a pre-Daytona one day test ride. Why not? Okay it’s late Feb, but El Nino is kicking in plus six Celsius temperatures, and after the Numb Bum this seems positively hot. Problem – At the end of Friday they hadn’t found the required documentation for the required dealer plate and Operation Scoop Cycle Canada was looking still born. Okay, okay, how about a parking lot test? What the hell, that’s still a scoop isn’t it?
Saturday 28th February, 3pm. Myself and OMG photo man, Wilfred Gaube, roll up at Brooklin Cycle Marine.
The CBR400RR still had no plate, and Rob Egan had been given strict instructions to not let anybody ride the beast prior to Daytona should a Piero Zambotti happen. “Have we ever crashed one of your bikes Mr. Egan”? “Yes, a CBR900RR. And it wasn’t just crashed, you wrote it off”!
With point taken and an extra “If you crash you die” tacked on for good luck, the ride was ready to commence.
A quick inspection/detailed photo shoot revealed a few oddities unique to the mini blade. Firstly, most of the frame and all of the swingarm is made from aluminum castings. Most bikes favour extrusions with some castings, Honda opting for the opposite, by passing the rough look inherent to the casting process by polishing the external suffices.
Bet you didn’t know that. Bet you don’t give a toss either. Also in the ‘odd, but who gives a toss’ category is a speedo drive taken directly off the gearbox output shaft. “What happens if you change the sprocket sizing?” asked Wilfred. Good point. I’d guess that the speedo won’t be telling it how it is anymore, but then you probably don’t give a toss, so bollocks to
all that anyway. Talking of bollocks, the slot-in seat position with Gonad-to-tank-abutment does not aid male child producing capabilities during an emergency braking procedure – squeak! Also, of some surprise were the ram air scoops, with ducts passing around the outside of the frame to the carbs. Sexy … hey hang, those are fake! Totally unsexy dude, unless you could somehow divert the ducts to yer nether regions for soothing crushed Gonad relief. However, my guess is that the compact and light mini Blade is aimed directly at the fairer and more curvaceous sex, so the Gonad information may also be filed under the ‘who gives a toss’ category.
Initial impressions of rider positioning were that it was a tad tight. I’m 6′ 4″ and 220lbs, and although I could fit I felt to be on the wrong side of the design intentions. I’d guess that to be 6′, but then this bike is a mini (400cc) road racer and so I’d expect the physical dimensions to be on the compact side anyway.
Slipping it into 1st I gradually opened her up towards the 14,500rpm (yes 14,500rpm) redline. Around turn 1, then turn 2 and warrhhhh. The CBR cantered up to 7000rpm and then started to pull some (similar to the CBR600 with not much oomph down low but then a sudden addictive surge). I saw 8,000rpm and hit the brakes hard as the 100 meter Brooklin Cycle front straight all too rapidly came to an end. Turn around, 8,000rpm, slow down, corner, corner, stop. Turn around ….. well it was a parking lot!
After a few snaps from Wilfred, I decided to laugh in the face of a Rob Egan death blow and try a stoppie. Ooopppahhhh … Thank you, thank you very much, and for my next trick … another stoppie … Ooopppahhhh ….. With a combination of lightness and excellent front brakes, the 400 has to
be one of the easiest stoppie machines I’ve ridden. This this kept me amused (especially with the occasional skiddie when the front tire didn’t quite bite) for the next five minutes, and then it was time to call it a day while I still had an unscathed bike.
So there it is. First impressions, albeit in a parking lot. However, I think we can claim an exclusive and sit back in our soft squishy chairs, looking all smug like, happy in the thought that we scooped them all once again.
Thank you and good night!