First Ride: 2007 Honda Shadow Spirit 750 C2

Smoothness that will serve the new or returning rider well


If you asked someone to come up with a motorcycle in the Honda line that they believed to be one of Honda's greatest sellers of all time, what do you think you would hear? Certainly the Gold Wing or the venerable VFR would be on the list. Most likely any number of dirt bikes in the CR line could be considered. Or how about the CBR600RR that draws its lineage from the mighty Hurricane, which later became the CBR600 F series?

The F3 and F4 were praised by the motorcycle media as being almost too good-whatever that means. What it meant was that Honda had refined a time-honored platform into an excellent machine. Heck, let's not forget the CB750. Didn't most of you dream of that bike way back when?

Now where did I leave my Cycle Trader..?

Those bikes are all certainly worthy of praise and have helped Honda to become the giant that it is. But they have a bike that probably wouldn't even cross most riders' radar as an all-time hot seller. Give up? Would you believe that it's a 25-year old middleweight cruiser? That's right, since 1983 Honda has sold upwards of 243,000 750 Shadow motorcycles. Simple math tells us that just a little over 9,000 units a year -- on average -- were ridden out of the showroom. Impressive, no?

With such success you might think that Honda would be willing to just sit around and let the dollars keep rolling in from a basic, proven platform that can keep earning with little change or investment. Not so with Big Red. They don't rest on their laurels with any other models -- or most -- so why should the Shadow be any different? Indeed, it isn't, and for 2007 they've made a number of changes that improve on its appeal while still keeping the heart of the Shadow in place.

"Use of a 21-inch front wheel serves well to create the custom look without sacrificing handling."

Let's see exactly what Honda has done to keep the 750 Shadow going for what we imagine they hope is at least another 25 years. The designation of "Shadow" encompasses no less than seven different iterations in Honda's line. All Shadows are V-twins, but not all Shadows are created equal. From the 52-degree 583cc Shadow VLX/Deluxe all the way up to the Shadow Sabre and Shadow Spirit with their 45-degree 1,099cc power plants, it would seem that there's a Shadow for everyone. Honda engineers had a specific plan in mind when they decided to update and revamp this bike. Their aim was to create the much-loved long-and-low look that so many cruiser makers strive for these days. According to Martin Manchester, executive designer for Honda R & D Americas, the way to do this was to "create a big-bike image without really changing the dimensions radically."

In order to pull this off, it was time to look to the Shadow Aero and draw inspiration from its single-backbone frame. The next big step in creating the "big bike" look was to add a 21-inch front wheel. A little known, but important piece of trivia is the fact that the C2 "is the first Honda custom sold in the U.S that uses a 21-inch front wheel." Who says old dogs can't learn new tricks? Take one look at the profile of the Spirit and you can't help but think Harley Softail Standard. Mission (mostly) accomplished Honda.

Fortunately, the longer, 65-inch wheelbase and new-for-2007 custom-inspired large front wheel doesn't mean larger dimensions for not-so-large people.

The 2007 Honda Shadow Spirit 750 C2

Honda endeavored to keep ergos similar to previous models, and in doing so were able to come up with a seat height of 25.7 inches. That's just a hair shorter than last year's 26.6 inches. Even wee Senior Editor Ets-Hokin can get both boots down on this one. The other "big news" about this motorcycle was Honda's decision to go back to the sensible, user-friendly shaft drive. Although the wheelbase is longer than before, the swingarm is actually shorter. For those interested, this little phenomenon is the result of using a shaft final drive. According to Manchester this is "because the swingarm pivot no longer has to be close to the counter-shaft as it does in a chain-drive system."

"Sweeping away from the fuel tank is the "gunfighter-style" seat that blends well with the short and narrow rear fender."

This design ultimately generated more space for designers to work with and gives the Shadow Spirit C2 its way-low saddle height. Additionally, as a result of using the heavier shaft drive system -- a difference of 7.5 lbs, 503.5 vs. 496 claimed dry weight -- Honda engineers needed to swap the front brake rotor from the left side to the right side of the front wheel in order to keep the weight of the bike in balance. Naturally most people wouldn't have ever noticed, but it's more of that neat, little trivia you can use to impress and amaze your riding and non-riding friends alike.

So, to summarize, the meat of the big changes on the Shadow Spirit C2 are the single-backbone frame borrowed from its Shadow Aero brother, a 21-inch front wheel and the logical choice of using a shaft drive.

But that's not all Mr.-or Ms. There's plenty of other changes afoot, both functionally and aesthetically pleasing. Styling is all-important to the market segment that Honda has squarely set their cross-hairs on with the Shadow Spirit. A detailed look will reveal the chrome, twin bullet-style exhaust system that Honda claims is as near to the legal limits of acceptable noise emissions as any motorcycle they make.

"I have to admit, it does sound quite good and is very un-Honda like."

It's nice for a change to see a major OEM not accustomed to dancing with the devil take a little calculated risk now and again. But the changes don't stop there. Moving upward your gaze is caught by the simple but tastefully shaped tear-drop air cleaner cover. At this point you'll see the most-honorable 52-degree V-twin that designer guru Manchester says was purposely freed from extraneous covers or body work in order to stay true to Spirit styling.

In addition to using the 21-inch front wheel to create the look they were after, the team also gave the triple clamp more offset to work in concert with the big, spoked front wheel and the custom look it exudes.

Right behind the front wheel is another change that Honda specifically hopes you won't see. They managed to tuck the aluminum radiator between the down tubes of the front portion of the frame. In my opinion, if more middleweight cruiser makers followed suit in doing their best to hide the functional, nasty bits they could do wonders to distance their machines from the budget-bike look that so many budget bikes have.

Moving your eyes upward you'll see wide, moderately swept handlebars that are held in place by custom-looking dog bone clamps. Honda wanted to make sure the bars didn't feel like dog bones, so they employed rubber mounts to help isolate vibration. The fuel tank is also rubber mounted and has received its share of styling considerations. Integrated into the tank you'll find the easily readable instrument cluster, styled like so many well-known and more-expensive cruisers on the market. Finally, sweeping away from the fuel tank is the "gunfighter-style" seat that blends well with the short and narrow rear fender. That rear fender carries within its shape the minimal -- custom inspired -- tail light.

"Those pretty things are nice 'n all but what about the real stuff?"

Fair enough then, we shouldn't gloss over what makes the Shadow the Shadow. Save for the degree of V angle, little has changed with the 745cc mill driving this Honda veteran. The 1983 Shadow was also 745cc but sat at 45 degrees. In 1998 displacement stayed the same, of course, but the V angle didn't. That year it was widened to 52 degrees, where it remains to this day. Oops! I've got one more piece of Shadow trivia: the head on this time-honored V-twin was from the beginning, and still is today, a Honda class-exclusive SOHC three-valve set up. Two spark plugs rest, ready and waiting, above each cylinder to burn up the mixture. Bore and stroke are 79mm x 76mm and the compression ratio works out to be 9.6:1. Doing away with the twin-carb system from years gone by, the '07 Shadow inhales through a single, 34mm CV unit. The transmission is a wide ratio five-speed and is classic Honda: smooth and trouble free.

The frame, as mentioned above, is a steel-tube single-backbone design that stretches from the steering head to just behind the engine case, all in the name of simplicity and strength. Suspension in the front is handled by 41mm forks -- don't go looking for adjustability here -- with the ubiquitous twin shocks in the rear that are spring preload adjustable. Slowing things down -- the bike that is -- is a single, 296mm rotor and sliding-pin twin-piston caliper combo for the front with a time-tested drum brake for the rear. Lastly, final drive duties are covered by a smooth-operating shaft drive. Hopefully this will give you your tech fix for the day.

"Clearly, comfort and a sense of friendliness is what Honda intended this bike to use, as its sirens call to draw new and returning riders in."

Saddling up to the C2 one thing becomes clear: just about anyone tall enough to ride a tricycle should be able to comfortably climb aboard the sub-26 inch seat. Regardless of how low the saddle is though, it could be firmer. On the return portion of our relatively short ride, me bum was getting numb after some 20 miles. Chances are good though that the average rider of the Shadow probably won't be traveling ultra-long distances, so the soft seat will probably be something that most riders either won't notice or will learn to live with. But I'll bet any passenger willing to serve time on the back won't be so complacent. The pillion on the gun-fighter seat appeared to be Spartan, but this is only my observation since I didn't have a rider. Standing a Redwood-threatening 5'8", I found the rider triangle to be very accommodating. Reach to the rubber-mounted handlebars was perfect as was the distance to the smartly-placed forward controls.

Clearly, comfort and a sense of friendliness is what Honda intended this bike to uses as its siren call to draw new and returning riders in. Flick the switch, thumb the starter and the little V-twin that could rumbles -- it does a good job of rumbling -- to life quickly. Despite being spoiled on EFI in this day and age, I was impressed with the smooth carburation on this bike. I didn't encounter any serious holes or soft spots and it revved briskly up to redline, or thereabouts. Once under power there was a considerable amount of vibration in the neighborhood of 65mph or so, but after reaching the unofficial interstate cruising speed of 80mph vibration had dissipated to a livable degree. I'd like to tell you at what engine speed this happened but the Shadow is sans tachometer. Again, this nuance isn't significant or unbearable -- the aforementioned buzziness -- but as a finicky journalist bent on reporting every ripple in the paint or slightly askew mirror all in the name of journalistic integrity and for your reading pleasure, I figured I should make mention of it.

When you're finally under power and breezing up and down the highways and byways, you'll have to experience what so many people talk about when they say "it's like buttah!" "It" being the transparent transmission accompanied by the light clutch pull. Like I said above, classic Honda.

I had some concerns about Honda's decision to use such a big, narrow front wheel; but after plenty of freeway, twisty road and surface-street time my fears of a twitchy, rain-grove-hopping front end were abated. Handling and steering are light and agile, just what a new or long-time-gone returning rider needs to build or re-build skill and confidence. I had the opportunity to ride the Shadow all decked out in Shadow-specific goodies such as a windscreen, light bar, leather saddlebags and backrest with luggage rack. It was quite attractive and it creates that "package deal" look. For me, there was hardly any buffeting behind the shield and it was easy to look through, not disruptive to my field of view whatsoever.

"It's a bike that is -- quite frankly -- easy and fun to ride. Those two attributes alone will carry a bike far and wide on the road to longevity."

Unfortunately, no one or thing is entirely flawless. There is nothing wrong with the brakes per se, but I stand firm in my conviction that Honda has within their resources to do a little better. Both front and rear brakes performed sufficiently, again considering the typical rider on this machine. Yet, to be nit picky I must report that despite having enough power required to reel this bad boy in the front sliding-pin, twin-piston brake was ultimately on the wooden side. To put it more clearly, they lacked feel, or enough feel. Use of an opposed, twin-pot caliper would probably resolve most of that issue.

The drum in the rear is, well, just that. Most drum brakes will get the job done; but we need to consider that a majority of cruisers -- bikes that is -- tend to flip stopping power from front to rear -- most non-cruiser bikes use roughly 70 percent stopping force up front with the remainder covered out back. Combine that braking power dynamic flip-flop with the reality that many new or inexperienced riders' natural predilection is to default to the rear simply out of fear or ignorance, and there's no excuse for the bike not to have a decent caliper and disk in the rear. I would think that many OEMs would take this into account. Could it really cost that much more to fish around the parts bins for some options? Oh well, who am I to fiddle with the profit margins of a business I don't own?

Solid color, flame color or accessorized. Any way you take it, the Honda Shadow 750 might just be around for another 25 years.

Still, I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that Honda has some leftover bits that could be cleanly matched with the styling of this bike so as not to steal away from the rider's want of a looker, and give them better and ultimately safer stopping power. Anyway, I told Honda as much and they seemed interested in our feedback that day, so perhaps in the not-too-distant future we'll see a disc on the rear wheel. My jaded opinions aside, the brakes worked admirably as did the drive shaft. I experienced very little shaft-jack during my time in the saddle. That smoothness will serve the new or returning rider well. Finally, lest we forget, the Shadow is a cruiser and lacking - - as most cruisers do - - in ground clearance. Keep foolish dreams of chasing Nicky out of your head, remember that you're on a cruiser and there shouldn't be a problem.

The solid-color model carries a price tag of $6,799 and the flame paint job adds another $300 to the total in case you like even more of a custom look to your bike.

Are there better values to be had? Look hard enough -- or not -- and you're bound to find something. Nevertheless, with 25 years of sales to back this bike and its predecessors, Honda has much to be proud of in the 2007 Shadow Spirit C2. It's a bike that is -- quite frankly -- easy and fun to ride. Those two attributes alone will carry a bike far and wide on the road to longevity.

Specifications

Courtesy of Honda
Engine Type 745cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin
Bore and Stroke 79mm x 76mm
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Valve Train SOHC; three valves per cylinder
Carburetion Single 34mm constant-velocity
Ignition CD with electronic advance, two spark plugs per cylinder
Transmission Wide-ratio five-speed
Front Suspension 41mm fork;4.6 inches travel
Rear Suspension Dual shocks with five-position spring preload adjustability;3.5 inches travel
Front Brake Single 296mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake 180mm Drum
Front Tire 90/90-21
Rear Tire 160/80-15
Rake 34-degree 30'
Trail 158mm (6.2 inches)
Wheelbase 65.0 inches
Seat Height 25.7 inches *Claimed*
Dry Weight 503.5 pounds
Fuel Capacity 3.7 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve

Emissions Meets current EPA standards. California version meets current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment. Available Colors Black, Red/Flame, Black/Flame, Ultra Blue Metallic Model ID VT750C2.

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