A 1000cc sportsbike with 2 large cylinders thumping away producing music that is sweeter than a fat kid’s tooth. A bike that propels its rider to intoxicating speeds within seconds that a car worth 20 times its price would struggle to match. A bike that fires up eagerly every time you crank the engine to go to work, that runs effortlessly through freezing hail and searing heat. For 3 grand. Seriously?
It is ridiculous that anyone would not be satisfied with a motorbike of such incredible and obvious value. But this is how spoilt and lucky we are in the modern world that we have the luxury to discard the truly incredible as bland and unremarkable. It is truly wonderful times that we live in. For the common man to be able to afford such amazing machinery, to experience the visceral thrill of such high performance works of engineering, is remarkable.
But for 3 big ones, this bike is still a fucken topbox full of value.
Engine – It’s great. It’s got a lazy, unhurried character to it. Spins up leisurely but is deceptively quick. Never feels stressed and has a pleasant, pulsing vibration. Plenty of grunt too. More than enough for the road really. And it sounds fucken great, it really does.
The riding position – Comfortable, not too sporty, low footpegs, well-spaced clip ons.
Very easy to split traffic on as it’s quite narrow and well balanced. You have to slip the clutch a bit at slow speeds but all big twins are a bit snatchy at low revs and the Storm is by no means the worst.
Brakes – The shit side of average, they are. Outright power is OK till around 100KMPH. But if you’re trying to pull back from 160, you need to give that lever a handful. It stops, eventually, just gives you a heart in the mouth moment the first time you grab the brakes and nothing very much happens!
Suspension – The shit side of average as well. The stock suspension is well and truly shit. It shakes independently of the rest of the bike, which is a feeling I haven’t experienced since riding my Royal Enfield on Indian roads. It is extremely soft and dives ridiculously under hard braking. With upgraded springs, oil and adjustment, it improves dramatically but still lacks consistent feedback on what’s happening with the front wheel. It is very much a matter of trust the bike when you’re fully leaned over on less than ideal surfaces. I guess you just get used to that if you ride the bike long enough but it’s unsettling if you’re not and are used to getting your feedback delivered in precise messages at frequent intervals.
Well nothing really. It’s a Honda. Nothing is ever REALLY bad on a Honda.
How does it compare with a modern superbike?
Not very favourably but its not as bad as it sounds. We must keep in context the fact that this is still an amazing motorcycle capable of incredible performance. It’s just that modern bikes just do everything that much better.
The engine really is not too far off. Maybe slightly under-powered for a litre bike, making about 100HP. But you really wouldn’t feel it on the road unless you’re Canning. The engine wouldn't be out of place on a modern naked sportsbike.
The connection of throttle to rear wheel is missing. On an MV or a Tuono, you meter the throttle even minutely and you can feel the rear bite into the tarmac and propel the bike. That feeling is missing on the Storm.
The front end is definitely a generation away from modern fork technology. The feedback and performance just isn’t there. It feels loose and unconnected to the tarmac, relatively.
Brakes are way off the performance of a modern sportsbike. If you want a 1 finger stop on a Storm, you better have one motherfuckin strong finger. Other than outright power, there is very little feel in the brakes as to how hard the front wheel is digging in. This is, of course, also a result of the weak suspension.
The switchgear is, of course, dated. And that sort of enhances the impression of riding an older bike.
So, all in all, there are a number of areas where the FireStorm just cannot compete with a modern sportsbike. This is not to say that an accomplished rider cannot make the Firestorm go very very fast but that same rider would be able to go even faster and certainly with a lot more confidence and safety margin on a modern sportsbike.
In summary, the FireStorm is a good bike that can be made great with some dedication, hard work and money. Great value for money if all you can spend is 3-4K but want something with character.