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“Riding motorcycles only really becomes dangerous when you ride beyond your ability.” My riding instructor used to say “Well that and when some berk doesn’t see you, but you can’t do much about that.”

Since this was drilled into me and because I’ve got at least a vague sense of self-preservation (on motorbikes, anything else is fair game) I don’t tend to get talked into doing something I’m not comfortable with, well mostly. As part of Honda’s organised event at Silverstone there was the chance to do some laps on the bikes. The selection of bikes was, well it was a selection of different coloured Fireblades.

A Fireblade, in silver

A Fireblade, in silver

Now the Fireblade has a bit of a reputation, it’s almost given as the definition of a bike you shouldn’t get until you’ve got a few miles under your belt. So as I threw my leg over it I said a little prayer to Thor and Ogri and set off.

At first it wasn’t so bad, it had be beautiful purr of an engine that isn’t even trying and yet you are already going stupidly fast and like the CBR 600 RR it felt nimble and light the moment it started moving. The first corner wasn’t too bad either, we weren’t going that fast and while it was a bit cold it wasn’t awful. With the first few corners out of the way and a lovely straight ahead I thought I’d give the bike a bit of a twist to see what it could do.

My throat hurt, this motorcycle accelerated so fast that it made my throat hurt. It didn’t just feel like it was about to take off, or that I could barely hold on it was something else. It was brilliant, and way beyond what I could handle and then it started snowing.

Yes snow, I’d been around Donington in the rain and so Silverstone had to go one better and snow. I dread to think what Brands hatch will do.

The rest of the track session was spent in well, blind terror. Not because the Fireblade is so unmanageable, it’s not, for something so powerful it’s very well behaved. It’s just that not only was the track cold, now the weather had decided to combined a gusty crosswind with some light snow and a bit of rain. I would have made a mess in my trousers if I hadn’t been worried that it would have affected the delicate balance of the bike and thrown me off.

A few, not exactly brisk laps (but still rather faster than I would have liked) later I got off the bike and felt simultaneously more and less of a man. I’d had the absolutely limits of my riding tested and I’d spent a lot of the time rediscovering god – it’s hard to be an atheist when the rear-wheel is hopping around as you approach a corner a little bit too fast. At least I wasn’t dead, and more importantly I hadn’t dropped the beautiful motorcycle.

I’m not sure I’d want a Fireblade, or at least, perhaps not as a winter ride but perhaps now I’ve had a snow-bound track day on one everything else will seem rather sedate and sensible. They do look rather good in red.


100mph, it’s just a figure but it seems like more. It’s supposed to be one of those milestones, a rite of passage that riders go through. Of course these days it’s a bit easier to get up to that mystical figure than it used to be, modern bikes are now so powerful that they breeze up to it and then move on.

I think I’ve had my first tonne, but I’m not sure. A few months ago I was lucky enough to go to the Ron Haslam racing school at Donington for a work thing. It was a bit wet, or at least for the first few circuits but after that it dried out and the fun really began. Thanks to the excellent training (you even get an assessment of your riding at the end of the day too) we got to really go for it on the lovely bikes we had been given for the day – A CBR600RR. They also run a training day for FireBlades but it’s a more advanced course and you have to take part in the CBR600RR day before they let you out on them.


I can remember going as fast as I dared on the straights, which felt pretty brisk to say the least. But the bikes don’t have speedometers so I have no idea if I really was going fast or if it just felt like it on the frighteningly nimble CBR600RR. Still, I suppose that is an excellent excuse to go back, to make sure I’ve done it. Not that I really need an excuse to go back, Donington is a brilliant race track and there is nothing like watching a race on the telly and being able to say – ‘Tsk Rossi, when I go around that corner, I try and go a bit wider to set up for the next one.’

The only downside on the day was having to give the bikes back. They have a pretty good gift shop so you can get mementos from your time there but I think Honda are really missing a trick by not having a dealership there. I know that if I could have brought a CBR600RR while I was there I would have.

Oh and yes, you may notice that I have rather long hair in that photo, I was going for the Spinal Tap look.

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June 2019
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