Building bikes that appeal to a younger demographic is the goal for all the manufacturers these days, in case you hadn’t heard – a younger and often impecunious demographic. These four bikes might look like a strange mix at first glance, but that’s exactly what the four are about. They all fall nicely into place, and play better together than you might expect.
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The Burns children, John and Ryan, spent most of the summer hanging out with Harley-Davidson’s new Street 750 and have grown deeply attached; we all agree it’s a steezy dank ass dope motorcycle that’s worthy of a 20-something’s dream-bike aspirations. Yes, perhaps there should be a Triumph Bonneville or Speedmaster in here, but there isn’t because Triumph couldn’t get us one. Write your congressperson.
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The Burnses also rode the Honda CTX700 to Yosemite and back last month and were highly impressed with that sub-$7K sweetheart. The CTX700 just arrived on the scene this year, and it’s a great bike just like the NC700X, whose 670cc Parallel-Twin it shares. Unfortunately, it places its footpegs way forward, as if it’s built for retired NBA players with orthopedic problems.
The other Honda, the Shadow Phantom, is the old man of the group: Honda’s been building a 750 Shadow since 1983, and it’s the lone bike here to crank out the low-rev 52-degree-V-Twin thump it so successfully parodied all those years ago (when everybody was incensed at it being a blatant rip-off of the Sportster). Honda’s remodeled the Shadow several times over the decades, giving it many different styling treatments to keep it just behind the times – but we have to agree this latest version, with its gleaming spokes and blacked-out trim, is a really contemporary, sweet-looking and -riding motorcycle
The small-block Guzzi’s been around since Biblical times too, but got big upgrades – a nearly all-new engine – for the 2012 model year. The Moto Guzzi V7 Stone is a slight outlier in dollars and in the fact that it’s more standard than cruiser – but then so is the Harley to a lesser degree. Ironically, it falls to the two Hondas to uphold the “cruiser” side.
Somebody tagged this story “Millennial Hipster Shootout,” which resulted in a debate about what a millennial even is. A quick Google search revealed that a quick Google search often becomes a huge time waster, and so we decided Ryan Burns, age 20, would be the designated hipster, though he’s really no hipper than the rest of us. Age is just a number, man.
John Burns’ pick: Honda CTX700N
(Year of birth: 1960; Tail-end Boomer)
Right off the bat, if I planned to do any real travelling on this one, I’d have to find a way to relocate those footpegs rearward at least a few inches (though I did make it to Yosemite and back as is). Aside from that one egregious and hard-to-understand shortcoming, I pretty much love everything else about this $6,999 motorcycle – though love is really too strong a word. Maybe deep, abiding affection is more appropriate. For shorter hops, I can live with the current peg location. The seat’s broad and plush, suspension is way better than you’d expect on a bargain motorcycle, it’s got the best brakes of the four bikes here, and all the controls work in that way good Hondas do (flawlessly). The LCD instrument panel gives you a clock and a bar tachometer.
That parallel-Twin just might wind up being one of Honda’s classic motorcycle engines: it really does feel like more than 44 hp to me, aided by the flattest torque curve in this group plus the CTX’s light weight. (It doesn’t look it, but at 478 pounds, it undercuts the Shadow by 65 pounds and the Harley by 27.)
An eager beaver is what it is, one that lives to serve you and feels like it’s never going to ask for much in return. It already only asks for a gallon of gas every 60 miles, which is 50% more fuel-efficient than some other bikes here. (If cheap is hip, I’m the hippest.) The criticism is that it’s all a bit appliance-like, but maybe at a certain age you begin to think of that as a good thing. With enough crap falling apart around me, already – including my own physical plant – it’s nice to just have a thing you can count on to get you to your next colonoscopy with no drama.
We’ve spent decades establishing I’m a terrible mechanic. The CTX feels nice and tight, but it also feels like it was engineered to run forever in places where maintenance is sporadic and/or incompetent. The attention Honda used to pay to creating lavish new sportbikes seems to have shifted over to creating bikes like this one. A few years may prove me wrong, but it feels to have the structural integrity of a military vehicle, like it could still flee Czechoslovakia if you filled it with diesel or vodka. The CTX also happens to be a pretty fun thing to ride. If you read our earlier reports about the new H-D Street 750, you know how much we like that bike. The CTX shares nearly identical trail and wheelbase numbers and weighs less than the Street; it darts around town pretty happily, too.
Everybody loves the Guzzi, and I do, too. The hep cats who diss the CTX will just have to learn the frightening difference between the Guzzi’s old bias-ply rubber and the CTX’s modern radials when they one day find themselves in a bumpy 80-mph sweeper. Grip the tank with your knees, kids, and go light on the handlebars.
Troy Siahaan’s pick: Honda Shadow Phantom
(Year of birth: 1984; Gen Y, says a quick Google search that took too much time)
I’ll admit, I really like the Honda Shadow Phantom. However, considering this is a comparison geared towards the hipster/millennial crowd, I’ll defer to Tom’s words on the Shadow: “As far as cruisers go, the Phantom is one cool bike, but it ain’t no millennial hipster scoot.”
Therein lies my personal dilemma with the Honda. If I were to put my hipster shades on, I’d say the Phantom, with its quintessential cruiser styling disguised in blacked-out trim, is like a parent trying to fit in with the younger generation by saying things like “hip” and “stoked” while completely missing the target. No matter how you slice it, the Phantom, like my parents, is part of a different generation.
However, discounting the Honda for its lack of hipster appeal is unfair to what is, in my opinion, a fine motorcycle. The Shadow line has aged well through the years, and in the case of the Phantom, its refinement is second to none in this class. Hopping on the bike for the first time, I expected the typical cruiser rumble and shake when I thumbed the starter. Instead I got a gentle and nearly shudder-free purr. Wow, didn’t expect that. Twist the throttle and the 745cc V-Twin comes back with a throaty roar, which I also didn’t expect, coming from a set of stock pipes and all.
As much as I’m a sportbike guy, riding the Phantom reminds me that it’s okay to tone it down a notch and enjoy the world at legal speeds. Sure, its 38 horses is the least in this group, but it leads the quartet in terms of torque production, with 43 ft-lb of it contributing to the smooth power delivery.
The bars and pegs aren’t so far out to turn me into a sail at speed, and the five cogs in the gearbox are nicely spaced for everyday riding. At 543 pounds, the Shadow is the heaviest bike in this test, but the single front disc and rear drum(!) do a commendable job helping this portly bike scrub speed. Drum brakes might be a throwback to bikes gone by, but Tom notes, “I think it has more stopping power than the Street 750’s front disc brake.”
I dig the blacked-out look and wire wheels, too. Although Tom and I both agree Honda missed a key element. “Those chrome pipes,” T-Rod says. “Seriously, Honda, all dark and Phantom-like and then you forget to install black mufflers? The same can be said about the chrome rearview mirrors, too.”
As much as I like the Phantom, it does have one substantial downfall. While I can visually tell the bike has two shocks in the rear, I can’t tell they’re working very well. With only 3.5 inches of travel, every bump in the road – and I mean every bump – is delivered through the seat, up your bum and rattles your spine along the way. The Harley, too, has the same amount of rear travel, but it absorbs jolts much better than the Phantom. I get that concessions have to be made to achieve low seat heights, but sacrificing suspension compliance is not the way.
That relatively significant demerit point aside, the Honda Shadow Phantom is a great bike. At $7,499, it’s the second least expensive bike here, returns over 50 mpg, has a nearly maintenance-free shaft drive, and it’ll probably run forever. However, for the purposes of this test, we wonder if it’s cool enough to appeal to the hipster/millennial crowd.
Tom Roderick’s pick (not by choice, it wasn’t): H-D Street 750
(Year of birth: 1970 ; Generation Xasperating)
I’m a Gen Xer, but I’m trying to view the Harley-Davidson Street 750 through the eyes of a millennial hipster. Squinting helps. Then I don’t see all the places where H-D cut corners to save production greenbacks in order to make the Street 750 ($7,794 as tested) a profit center. Even if I were a younger man, I’d have to be of smaller stature because, no matter your age, the Street 750 simply isn’t designed for tall riders.
At least with the Street 750, you’re not going to hear the played-out phrase of it being an evolution, not a revolution. This is a revolution, and not just because H-D named the 60-degree, liquid-cooled V-Twin powering the Street 750 the Revolution X. Case in point, the Revolution X engine revved higher and made more horsepower than its Italian and Japanese contemporaries, against which the H-D is being measured.
“The Street 750 has an impressive engine,” says Siahaan. “I’m genuinely surprised how much it likes to rev. It’s definitely a weird day in motorcycledom when the Harley makes the most power in a test and is the one that vibrates the least.”
The Seven-fiddy also impresses in the handling department. Higher-placed footpegs alter rider triangle ergonomics but allow for sportier lean angles, especially when compared to the two Hondas in this shootout.
“There’s enough cornering clearance to have some fun but not enough to let you forget you’re riding a Harley,” said Burns in his first-ride review of the Street 750.
The twin shocks supporting the rear of the Harley are spring preload adjustable via ramp-style adjusters, and that’s it for both rear and front when it comes to suspension adjustability. While the rear shocks managed to carry my 185 pounds in relative compliant comfort, I can’t say as much for the squishy 37mm fork that feels undersprung and underdamped. With 3.5 inches of travel, at least the rear shocks have a respectable amount of travel compared to other H-D models.
Where the Street 750 really fails in its performance package is with its lame front brake. Whether it’s the brake pad material or air in the line, the twin-piston single-caliper front disc brake is glaringly weak.
“As much as I was impressed with the engine, I was maybe equally negatively impressed with the brakes. Weak and wooden, they’re bad even for budget-bike standards,” says Siahaan.
On the ScoreCard, the Harley came in third. I personally scored it last. As impressed as I was with 750’s Revolution X engine, it didn’t make up for the rest of the bike’s shortcomings. Sitting next to the Honda Shadow Phantom or the CTX700, it seems cobbled together by a garage mechanic rather than produced by a major motorcycle OEM. Next to the more expensive Moto Guzzi, I’ll gladly pay the $696 surcharge for a bike that’s, in my mind, legitimately hipster cool.
The Street 750, and its smaller counterpart, the Street 500, represent a departure from the ethos of Harley traditionalism, equal to that of the V-Rod back in twenty-oh-one. I expect the Motor Company will improve upon this first effort. Still, it’s commendable to see Harley – known for its heavyweight, big-inch cruisers – embrace a younger, less-experienced clientele.
Ryan Burns’s pick: Moto-Guzzi V7 Stone
(Year of birth: 1994; Millennial Huckster)
I am by no means some grizzled motorcycle vet who can tell you what’s wrong with a bike by caressing its tender pipes intimately, but what I can tell you are my somewhat superficial reasons why I love the V7 Stone. First off, it’s the only cafe-raceresqe hipster bike in the shootout. Even then, I not only think this bike has awesome styling relative to the others, but also, in general, it has become one of my favorites. I, and many of my hoodrat friends, seem to all love the naked, bare-bones classic Euro bike look. To me, this bike is a beautiful version of that. The bulging, longitudinally mounted 90-degree V-Twin, single naked light on front, dual chrome exhaust, flat black on chrome, and essentials-only style make this bike stand out to me.
Second, I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, speed,” and, damnit, I know this bike is only a 744cc entry-level bike, but the Guzzi engine feels and sounds great. The rumble and sound of that V-Twin and the bit of tug to the right every time you give the throttle a good twist are the little things that took this past just being a good-looking bike for me. I had a ton of fun racing around town, and in addition, just about everything else on this bike works well, too. Awesome brakes (which the Harley definitely struggles with), decent suspension, and it just feels like a quality bike, again unlike the somewhat cheap-feeling H-D. I hate to throw over my first bike, the Street 750, so quickly. But things change.
The CTX is a good, reliable, and pretty fun bike aside from the exaggerated cruiser riding position and styling that does not tickle my fancy. If I didn’t care about looks, and if attempts at mating weren’t a major part of my life, right now, I might choose it. The Phantom actually surprised me – I really did not think I was going to like it at all. It’s really long and looks like your standard stepdad motorcycle, but after riding it, it began to charm me a bit. She sounds awesome, bad-ass even, and is real comfortable to ride. Still, it’s just not my style.
I look forward to learning more about mechanical things with the Guzzi. Apparently, there are things called valves, which my dad says people sometimes adjust. Just like on real retro bikes, I think you need to keep an eye on this bike: We already lost an exhaust header nut, and by the time we realized one was missing, the other three were about to fall off too. What could be more manly than whipping out your tools to tighten up your Guzzi while swilling a PBR and wearing a fake beard? I dig how all the parts are hanging out there where you can see them. No plastic.
There you have it, then, in nothing like a nutshell. The Millennial Hipster, the Oracle of the OC, has spoken, and the rest of us concur. Hip knows no age, nor does hep. Italian style never goes out of style, especially when it’s as functional as the Moto-Guzzi V7 Stone. See exactly how in the official MO ScoreCard.
Hip, however, doesn’t come cheap in this case, but the upside of the down economy can be found in bikes like the runner-up CTX700N. Bemoan not the Street 750’s podium finish either: It’s a brand-new bike up against a classic Guzzi, for God’s sake – and a really nice Honda it nearly beat. The Sportster would’ve been entirely outclassed in this field. Once Harley tidies a few things up on the Street and finds a decent brake pad supplier, things may be very different. Then, just to make things even more wack, our sportbike guy picked the other Honda, the Shadow Phantom.
It just goes to show you something. Strange days, but good ones.
|Millennial Shootout Scorecard|
|Category||Harley-Davidson Street 750||Honda CTX700||Honda Shadow Phantom||Moto Guzzi V7 Stone|
|Price and weight are scored based on objective metrics. Other scores are listed as a percentage of editors’ ratings in each category. The Engine category is double-weighted, so the Overall Score is not a total of the displayed percentages but, rather, a percentage of the weighted aggregate raw score.|
|HepCat TooCool Millennial Shootout Specs|
|Harley-D Street 750||Honda CTX700N||Honda Shadow Phantom||Moto-Guzzi V7 Stone|
|Engine Type||753cc liquid-cooled 60-deg. V-Twin||670cc liquid-cooled parallel Twin||745cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-Twin||744cc 90-degree air-cooled V-Twin|
|Bore and Stroke||85.0 x 66.0mm||73.0 x 80.0mm||79.0 x 76.0mm||80.0 x 74.0mm|
|Fuel System||Mikuni single-port EFI, 38mm throttle body||PGM-FI, 36mm throttle body||PGM-FI, 34mm throttle body||Weber-Marelli EFI|
|Ignition||Digital inductive||Digital inductive||Digital inductive, 2 plugs/cyl.||Digital inductive|
|Valve Train||SOHC; 4 valves/cyl.||SOHC; 4 valves/cyl.||SOHC; 3 valves/cyl.||OHV; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Emissions||Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter||current EPA and CARB in California||current EPA and CARB in California||EU-3|
|Front Suspension||37mm fork; 5.5 in. travel||41mm fork; 4.2 in. travel||41mm fork; 4.6 in. travel||40mm fork; 5.1 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Twin coil-over shocks, preload adjustable; 3.5 in wheel travel||Pro-Link single shock; 4.3 in. travel||Twin coil-over shocks, preload adjustable; 3.5 in travel||Twin coil-over shocks; 4.6 in wheel travel|
|Front Brake||292mm disc; 2-piston caliper||320mm disc; 2-piston caliper||296mm disc; 2-piston caliper||320mm disc; 4-piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||260mm disc; 2-piston caliper||240mm disc; single-piston caliper||Drum||260mm disc; 2-piston caliper|
|Front Tire||100/80 R 17||120/70-17||120/90-17, tube||100/90 – 18, tube|
|Rear Tire||140/75 R 15||160/60-17||160/80-15, tube||130/80-17, tube|
|Rake/Trail||32°/4.5 in (115mm)||27.7°/4.4 in (114mm)||34º/6.3 in (161mm)||27.8°/4.3 in (109mm)|
|Wheelbase||60.4 in||60.2 in||64.6 in||57 in|
|Seat Height||27.9 in||28.3 in.||25.8 in||31.6 in|
|Curb Weight||505 lb||478 lb.||543 lb||431 lb|
|Fuel Capacity||3.5 gal||3.17 gal.||3.7 gal||5.8 gal|
|Observed fuel mileage||41 mpg||62 mpg||54 mpg||44 mpg|
|Storage Capacity||none||tiny glovebox||nope||zilch|
|Available colors||Vivid Black ($7,499)||Black||Black||White|
|Warranty||24 months, unlimited miles||One year, unlimited miles||One year, unlimited mileage||24 months (Limited Factory Warranty)|