HONDA'S ACCESSORY DEPARTMENT CREATES A BAGGER
When presented with the Honda Genuine Accessories bagger version of the new-for-'07 Shadow Spirit 750 C2, I will admit I wasn't all that excited. Every time I've gotten on a touring bike it seemed too big, too heavy, and a bit unwieldy. At the same time, this mini-bagger didn't seem too big when I sat on it, and I certainly wasn't concerned about it being too powerful, so I wasn't sure what to expect. As it turned out, my rides on the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom reminded me that an open mind is a good thing.
My first ride on the Shadow bagger was right from my driveway, which means the canyons of Malibu. This isn't really the forte of the bike, as it has limited ground clearance, moderate-at-best braking and restrained acceleration. So, I just recalibrated my expectations, leaned back and cruised down the canyons to Pacific Coast Highway. There, the Shadow bagger began to court me.
Summer Saturdays mean traffic on PCH north (technically, west) of Santa Monica. The Shadow bagger was comfortable sitting in traffic, and easy to handle in the stop-and-go. Occasionally, the lanes would widen enough for some safe splitting, and the timid motor was actually confidence inspiring. I could work my way through the SUVs without clipping mirrors or rubbing bags. The clutch engages over a nice wide range, and the effort to work it didn't fatigue my hands. Wow! This would make a nice ride to work and back--easy to handle, plus plenty of room to carry work materials. Click image to enlarge.
Once through the McClure Tunnel and onto the Santa Monica Freeway, I got to see what the 745cc liquid-cooled motor was made of. With my 115 pounds aboard, along with all the Honda Genuine Accessories goodies--bags, windshield, lights, passenger backrest--I was underwhelmed, but it was at least satisfactory. Unlike the strong bottom end I associate with V-twins, the Shadow bagger needed to rev to make power. There's no tachometer, so I hit the soft rev limiter a few times when accelerating. If I found myself in a position where I needed to accelerate quickly, downshifts were mandatory. Roll-on power just wasn't there, but once up to speed, the Shadow bagger was able to move along quickly enough to get me a ticket if I didn't pay attention. The windshield buffered me from the wind without completely eliminating the feel of speed. I would have liked either a taller fifth gear or a sixth speed, as the motor seemed to be a bit buzzy on the freeway. Maybe it doesn't have the torque to pull higher gearing, and it's not an option for the rider because the new Shadow is shaft drive.
A trip into the San Gabriel Mountains on Angeles Crest Highway let me put the handling and power package into clear focus. As on the freeway, the Shadow bagger needs to be revved. Once in the rpm range where it makes power, it moves along nicely. It's not as sporty as the Vulcan 900 Custom, but handling was good on the Crest's fast sweepers. I didn't get going quite fast enough to scrape at speed, but on tighter turns I did touch down. What surprised me was that the first thing to touch down was the heel of my Red Wing boots! As first, it was disconcerting, but after a while I decided I'd rather touch rubber down before steel, though my Red Wing boots do have a wear spot I wouldn't have anticipated.
I dropped back down to the flatlands on the tricky Big Tujunga Canyon Road and was completely at ease on the Shadow bagger. Steering is light thanks to the narrow 21-inch front tire, and I was never inspired to ride hard enough to push the front end, though I'm sure it's possible. The single disc front brake and rear drum provide just enough braking, though I was glad I never had to stop in an emergency. For controlled riding, the braking was gentle and gradual, which is how I'm going to ride a bagger through the twisties anyway.
Back on the freeway, the Shadow bagger settles back down and does its thing. I don't think that I'd want to ride it across the country, but I had no problem putting 250 miles on it in one day over a variety of conditions. That makes it a bagger, rather than a full-dresser, I guess, which is what it is! It has the storage and comfort I look for on a bike, but I'd like Honda to find a bit more power in the engine. Click image to enlarge.
Helmet: Icon Hooligan Womens Mainframe
Eyewear: Marc Jacobs
Jacket: First Gear Vixen
Gloves: First Gear Womens Mohave
Pants: Icon Standard Womens Pant
Boots: Red Wing 1669
2nd Opinion - Don Williams
If you click into the Custom portion of this website, you'll see my review of the standard version of this bike with zero accessories. The Honda Genuine Accessories Shadow Spirit 750 C2 bagger didn't change my mind about the bike--it still seems bland--but there are some good things to be said about the Shadow bagger.
I think its calling is local commuter. I used it quite a bit between home and office, and the bags did their job. When the weather was cool, the windshield was there to defend me from the elements. The low speed handling is quite good, and the bike is relatively light, though Honda doesn't claim a weight. Suspension is surprisingly good, especially considering they're basic units and the rear axle only travels 3.5 inches.
The power is soft, which I like for around-town riding. The two cylinders are fed by a single 34mm carb (complete with choke!), so you can only expect so much performance, even if each cylinder has three valves and dual spark plugs. One thing I noticed on the bagger that escaped my attention on the standard was the quality of the vibration. Oddly, the Shadow buzzes more like a parallel twin than a V-twin at higher revs on the highway.
So, for me, the Shadow bagger is more commuter than tourer, more mid-point transition piece than a final bike. It has far more to offer than a Rebel 250 or a VLX 600, but I believe most Shadow riders will be looking longingly at either the VTX 1300 or 1800 at some point in their riding careers.