THIS IS the all-singing, all-dancing special that hardcore Fireblade fans have been semi-patiently waiting for; built to bring some tangible World Superbike expertise to the road.

However, look through the specs and the SP lacks the things that are now synonymous with track-focused bikes like this. There’s no traction control, no riding mode selector, no quick-shifter and no active suspension damping.

The apparent absence of technical wizardry means there are very few buttons on the handlebars but although the electronics seem quite basic, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Honda is lagging behind the gadget-happy competition. On the contrary, the firm claims that traction control is completely unnecessary and that achieving a silky smooth, compliant throttle response is largely dependent on the rider’s right hand. Fair play, Honda.

The SP’s 999.8cc four-cylinder engine has received the same marginal power hike as the standard 2014 CBR1000RR Fireblade; a mere three stallions to be precise. It’s not the kind of increase that is instantly noticeable and the engine performance doesn’t actually feel much different.

It remains efficiently fast rather than outwardly exciting and although it’s less tiring than a bike that kicks you in the butt, like Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R, it’s also less captivating. That said, the SP’s power is spread generously from the bottom of the rev range towards the redline, sucking the horizon in with a steady, predictable intent. The same goes for the handling. It’s unquestionably sporty, but it feels incredibly natural for such an extreme machine.

Until only a few years ago, rider aids like quick-shifters were usually reserved for elite race bikes. Whether you view them as a gimmick or essential tech, the lack of one on the SP is a bit annoying. Even though the gearbox is pretty slick by road riding standards, if you’ve got one eye on your lap times and you’re under the illusion that you’re Jonny Rea, old-school shifting just takes the shine off.

The preload- and rebound-adjustable Ohlins suspension more than makes up for the lack of an active suspension system. It’s odd that you can’t adjust the rear ride height though. Honda have also chosen a flatter, slower steering 190/50 rear tyre instead of the grippy, more angular 190/55 which is the norm in this segment. However, a statement in the press kit declaring that the Fireblade is ‘still a street bike’ explains Honda’s logic.

The SP Fireblade has new settings for the combined ABS (C-ABS), but the system still works on both wheels and you can’t switch it off. It intervenes subtly and effectively though and those trick Brembo monoblock calipers bite with confidence and conviction.

The CBR1000RR SP is Honda’s most desirable Fireblade ever. It combines the trademark qualities of its flagship sportsbike; user friendliness, efficiency, a flawless finish and practicality, with extra flair and panache. With its stunning paint scheme, gold wheels and high quality chassis, it is a definite head-turner and one that makes the standard – and already very tidy Fireblade, suddenly seem quite ordinary.

The Fireblade SP feels just as complete as its more technically advanced competitors (although a quick-shifter really wouldn’t go amiss). And to paraphrase Honda: if you think you need traction control then develop better reflexes.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP, from £14,999 on the road (£15,599 for ABS model).
Engine: 1,000cc liquid cooled in-line 4-cylinder producing 178bhp @ 12,250rpm and 84lb.ft @ 10,500rpm.
Transmission: six speed sequential manual gearbox.
Dry weight: 199kg.
Seat height: 820mm.
Fuel capacity: 17.5 litres.
Contact: www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles

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