2011 Honda Shadow Phantom | Review

2011 Shadow Phantom

You have to hand it to Honda--they get quite a bit of mileage out of the venerable Shadow platform. The 2011 Shadow Phantom is one of the most intriguing of the Shadows, all of which feature a 745cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin in a variety of configurations.

The Honda Shadow Phantom plays a card from the Harley-Davidson Dark Custom deck, and it handles its hand deftly. Seriously blacked out, with grey where black doesn't dominate (save the chrome pipes and spokes), the 2011 Honda Phantom is long and low with more attitude than you expect in the Shadow line.

The fattish 120mm front 17-inch tire plants itself firmly on the road, giving the bike a muscular front end. Adding to the front beef are 41mm forks with flat gray covers over the chrome tubes, keeping to the dark theme. Rims, twin shocks, side covers, frame, tank, headlight, turn indicators, fenders, and hubs--all black. Sure, the fenders are a friendly plastic material, but you won't know that until you touch them.

Riding the 2011 Honda Shadow Phantom is no disappointment. While you do have to accept that you're working with a three-valve SOHC V-twin displacing a relatively modest 745cc, like the latest version of the Sportster 883 powerplant, the Phantom puts out more power than the slide ruler crowd might expect.

The addition of EFI to the equation seems to have helped the sub-liter twins quite a bit, and the twin-plug heads get a good burn. No surprise, the Phantom leaves cars in its wake at stoplights, and it does so effortlessly.

The bike has good, but certainly not overwhelming, low-end torque and the modest 15-inch 160mm rear tire puts all of the V-twin's power to the ground, after the shaft drive takes its share.

Not all Shadows have satisfied us on the freeway. The Shadow RS, a flattracker-inspired brother of the Phantom, was quite buzzy and never really settled down. In contrast, the Phantom sends fewer vibes through the set, pegs and grips, making it a solid long-distance highway bike.

The forward pegs aren't too forward, being mounted near the front of the engine cases rather than the frame downtube, so it has a roomy feel without the rider feeling overstretched. The bars are low and pull back so they are directly above the pegs. This ties the ergonomics together to the rider's advantage.

The seat is very supportive and good for long rides, making me think a windshield and some bags could turn this into a light-duty weekend tourer. A 3.7-gallon gas tank gives the Phantom good range.

Honda Genuine Accessories obliges with options such as a Boulevard Screen (smoke), Custom Rider Seat, Solo Rider Rear Carrier, Backrest (tall/low), Rear Carrier, Backrest/Rear Carrier Mounting Brackets, Saddlebags (plus supports and liners), Touring Bag (plain/studded/fringed), and Front Pouch (plain/studded).

If that ride includes some canyons, rest assured that the Phantom meets Honda's rigorous handling specifications. The suspension is not minimalist--4.6 inches in the front and 3.5 in the rear--and it absorbs bumps and dips nicely. Without a doubt, the Phantom prefers smoother canyon roads, and when they're smooth, it's easy to ride along at a good clip, occasionally dragging your boot heels in corners.

The Dunlops, of course, have far more cornering ability than the Phantom has clearance--turn-in is perfectly neutral. The pegs are low, but, again, they're at the bottom of the cases rather than down at the bottom frame rails. It's a fun bike to ride at a casual pace, with good pull out of corners and the five-speed transmission has the right cog for any corner.

In rougher conditions, the Phantom retains its composure for the most part and, most importantly, gives you plenty of warning to slow down. Nothing happens too quickly, thanks to the fat front tire, 34-degree rake and 64.6-inch wheelbase.

Around town, the 2011 Honda Shadow Phantom is virtually flawless. Its claimed curb weight of 549 pounds disappears beneath you as it has a basement-like 25.6-inch seat height. The Phantom is agile and the bars give the rider good leverage. Balance is excellent, as is the power delivery--you'll never know it has a shaft rather than a chain or belt.

The black air filter cover stays out of the way, so you don't have to ride bowlegged. Just zip around town, letting the slightly oversquare torquey motor do its job. There's no tach, and one isn't needed. You aren't likely to hit the rev limiter. If you do, it's soft and friendly.

The transmission action is outstanding, and missed shifts just don't happen. The rear drum brake is definitely old school, but it works well enough for most riding. If you need more deceleration, the 296cc front disc has a four-piston caliper and lots of front tire grip.

Basic in black, the 2011 Honda Shadow Phantom is an under the radar, no-bling bike that presents the rider as a serious motorcyclist. Styling is extremely clean, though, perhaps, a bit on the sterile side. If you're buying a Honda rather than a Harley, that's probably not bothering you much. It's a cruiser that is easily as much about riding as it is profiling.

It gets the job done on the street and you get the confidence that comes with Honda's reputation for reliability and functionality. That might not sound very exciting, but then riding the Honda Shadow Phantom is a pleasure and the blacked out styling gives just enough bad boy cred that you won't mind parking it in front of the local watering hole or burger joint.

2011 Honda Shadow Phantom | Motorcycle Specs
Engine Type: 745cc liquid-cooled 52° V-twin
Bore and Stroke: 79mm x 76mm
Compression ratio: 9.6:1
Valve Train: SOHC; three valves per cylinder
Induction: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment, single 34mm throttle body
Ignition: Digital with 3-D mapping, two spark plugs per cylinder Transmission: Wide-ratio five-speed
Final Drive: Shaft
Front: 41mm fork; 4.6 inches travel
Rear: Dual shocks with five-position spring preload adjustability; 3.5 inches travel
Front: Single 296mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear: Drum
Front: 120/90-17
Rear: 160/80-15
Wheelbase: 64.6 inches
Rake (Caster angle): 34°
Trail: 161mm (6.3 inches)
Seat Height: 25.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve
Estimated Fuel Economy: 56 mpg
Colors: Black
Curb Weight: 549 pounds


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