Honda’s Shadow line of cruisers has been around since 1983 and has featured models displacing as much as 1100cc, but now the Shadow line consists of just four 745cc V-Twin motorcycles. Priced at only $10 per cc, all four models start from the same basic chassis and engine before being outfit with various combinations of wheels and bodywork designed to appeal to different cruiser riders. For this test, we decided to go over to the Dark Side with the Shadow Phantom, which embraces the blacked-out theme trending these days. Its MSRP was reduced from $8,240 for 2014 to match its Shadow brothers.
A single glance at the Phantom tells us that value-priced motorcycles can be stylish. In this case, Honda started with a muscular profile joining the spoked wheels and the fat 120/90-17 front tire to the 160/80-15 rear. Bobbed fenders and a gunfighter seat give it a purposeful look, accented by bodywork in either gloss black or a metallic gray. The front end was given some visual weight by slipping some covers over the stanchions of the 34-degree raked fork. With the exception of the chrome exhaust, gas cap, and spokes, give the rest of the bike a satin black finish – including the 52-degree V-Twin engine. When it’s all put together, the dark profile looks much more menacing than expected from a “mere” 750.
Sitting on a gunfighter saddle that is just 25.8 in. off the ground, pilots of average height will find the riding position is comfortably compact. The pegs are forward but not overly so, and the grips find a nice middle ground between a narrow drag-style bar and a wider beach bar. The slight forward lean puts the rider in a good position for resisting the wind blast at highway speeds. Riders over six feet, however, may find the riding position too tight.
The Shadow’s loping engine cadence at idle delivers the popular V-Twin pulse. Around town, the easy to modulate clutch and willing engine make quick work of the stoplight-to-stoplight shuffle. While the engine has the power to cruise on the interstate, riders will most likely find themselves looking for a sixth gear (there isn’t one) once the speedometer reads above 65 mph. The vibration isn’t obtrusive, but the engine feels busy at those speeds, making an additional cog in the transmission desirable, particularly if you plan on riding the 200 miles its 54 mpg and 3.7-gal. tank are capable of carrying you.
The view from the saddle is reminiscent of bigger, pricier cruisers, with the blackout treatment adding to the bike’s perceived value. Wrapping your fingers around the fat grips to initiate turns, the Phantom has a substantial feel. The 120/90–17 in. front tire no doubt contributes to this impression. The steering never feels heavy. Rather, the Shadow’s presence feels closer to that of a Big Twin than a 750. Adding to this big bike feel is its relatively firm suspension, which, in most situations, works quite well. However, sharp-edged bumps make it cross from firm to harsh, transmitting some of the impact to the rider’s hind parts.
The choice of a shaft drive instead of the chain final drive reduces maintenance and adds to the full-sized appearance of the Phantom. Its 64.6-in. wheelbase (only 2.5 in. shorter than the Gold Wing Valkyrie muscle cruiser!) confirms this impression.
Honda has created a value-priced 750 with full-sized appeal – all while keeping the rider triangle manageable for smaller riders. Since there are three other identically priced Shadows to choose from, odds are you’ll find one to suit your tastes. Still, we find it hard to fault Honda’s visual treatment of the Phantom’s art of darkness.
|Honda Shadow Phantom Specs|
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, 52 degree V-Twin, three valves per cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||79mm x 76mm|
|Fuel System||PGM-FI with 34mm throttle body|
|Frame||Steel tubular backbone|
|Front Suspension||Telescopic, 41mm fork; 4.6 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Dual shocks with five-position spring-preload adjustability;
3.5 in. travel
|Front Brakes||Single 296mm disc with twin-piston caliper|
|Seat Height||25.8 in.|
|Curb Weight (claimed)||549 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||3.7 gal., including 0.9-gal. reserve|
|Colors||Black, Gray Metallic|
|Warranty||One year, unlimited miles|