Turns Every Road Into A Track

Full leathers feel absolutely required at all times on the Fireblade, even while playing Tetris in my garage. Only one other bike with comparable levels of insanity that any manufacturer has felt comfortable enough loaning to me arrived last year, and yet I keep feeling flashbacks to that Ducati Streetfighter V4 SP. But the Streetfighter’s upright riding position, which makes the bike so much more comfortable as a daily rider, also belies the incredible performance potential baked in. Somehow, the Fireblades lower bars and seat—not to mention peg position—makes less power and more weight somehow seem gnarlier.

An entirely different ballgame, in fact. Countersteering into the first open turns in Topanga, I never even leaned out too far because the lowslung aluminum frame allows the Fireblade to corner in a tighter radius than I ever imagined. I keep an eye on the gauges, looking down through the windscreen, as my line cuts in so far before apex that I even thwack my visor on some chaparral. And yet, I notice after my first couple outings on brand-new tires that I’ve cut less into the tread than on the Streetfighter V2 I recently blasted around Monterey for six days. Time to trust the bike more, I figure.

But the truth remains that the Fireblade belongs out on a track. Even the softest settings leave me sore and aching after an hour or two of riding. By the end of my longest day, over six hours in two stints, I regularly miss shifts and struggle to even twist the throttle at all because my wrists simply will not respond. For a road cyclist used to the most aggressive geometry possible on carbon-fiber bikes, I know that keeping weight on my feet and using my core more helps. And yet, I can’t find a happy middle ground while riding straight—the only comfortable thing to do is corner hard while leaning out off the saddle.

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