First Ride: 2010 Honda Shadow Phantom

When Honda first announced its new Shadow Phantom last fall, we didn't think much of it-I mean, it was just a blacked-out Shadow Spirit, right?

Well right and wrong. The Phantom concept is essentially based on the Spirit 750 (though the Spirit isn't officially in Honda's 2010 lineup), with the main upgrades being its clean, uncluttered look accented by an extensive blackout treatment (that seems to be all the rage these days) and the addition of fuel injection.

The Phantom's engine architecture includes the same 52-degree 745cc mill that's long powered Honda's 750 class, with a single overhead cam and a dual plug combustion chamber. But the main story, really, are the somewhat menacing, copious swaths of dark paint dominating this newest Shadow-serving to impart a strangely sinister air to what many might view as an innocent entry-level platform. Once you get past the juxtaposition, the black treatment works; those darkened engine cases, air cleaner, tires and rims and other bodywork are all tied together rather nicely by the monochromatic backdrop.

In appearance the Phantom manages to strike a balance between minimal and chunky, with its ultra-low, low profile seat offset by a beefier triple clamp and large section tires front and back-the old Aero treatment. A two-into-two staggered exhaust really stands out as it, and the wire spoke wheels, are one of the few bits on the bike that are chrome instead of black. New satin aluminum finishes on the fork round off the visual details.

Lower yourself into the slim, one-piece 25.7 inch tall seat and one thing's instantly clear-you are super-low to the ground. Those taller than 5'6" will be a bit squeezed, but it's a treat for shorter or beginning riders. Punch your fists out to grab the slightly drag-style handlebar. Glance down at the dash and see if you can make out the very creepy/cool Phantom logo subtly displayed on the speedometer window (Note to Honda: make the letters backlit and you'll have a real winner), jazzing up an otherwise ho hum gauge cluster straight out of the VT750 parts bin. At least the tank mounted console, with its matte aluminum treatment, looks pretty fresh.

Punch the starter and be surprised by the hearty noises emanating from the staggered exhaust. The Phantom's fuel injection is a relief too, given its predeccessor's propensity for stuttering cold starts on frosty mornings. This time, it's just push and twist, and the staggered pipes come to life with far more authority than you ever thought a Shadow 750 capable of. It's a decent sonic rumble, especially when you crack the throttle. You'll have to check to make sure you're on a Honda 750.

Drop the clutch and go-though it takes some effort to get rolling. The controls are all easily manipulated, which makes you all the more surprised at the first turn-the bike feels much heavier than you'd expect. This model isn't significantly weightier than previous Shadows, so perhaps the large-section, fat 120/90-17 front tire (on a spoked wheel with wide chrome rim) has something to do with it.

Otherwise, the Phantom offers light steering characteristics and maneuverability and snicking through the easy-shifting 5-speed gearbox, things feel the same as they ever were-with a reliable 745cc twin that you have to wind up heartily and shift often to get to where you're going in any kind of hurry. There's still a shaft out back putting the power down, too.

The few staffers who rode the bike thought it looked good and sounded great and would make for a nice, practical ride. Most of them, however were less than impressed with Honda's single front disc brake-a twin-piston caliper grippping a 296mm drilled rotor between sintered metal pads. The rear brake features a 180mm drum. Although there are clearly features that reflect the Phantom's price point, as a whole, this bike offers a nice assemblage of entry level convenience with a dash of middleweight style.

2009 Honda Shadow Phantom
MSRP: $7,999
Colors: Black

Engine

Type: Liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin
Displacement, Bore And Stroke:
** 745cc, 79 x 76mm
**Valve train:

SOHC; three valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Fuel System: Fuel Injection, single 34mm throttle body
Transmission/Final Drive:
5-speed; shaft final drive

Chassis

Front Suspension: 41mm fork; 4.6 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Dual shocks, preload adustable; 3.5 in. travel
Front Brake: 296mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Drum
Front Tire: 120/90-17
Rear Tire: 160/80-15
Wheelbase: 64.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 34 deg./6.3 in.
Seat Height: 25.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal.
Wet Weight: 549 lbs.