Costa’s second part of the Honda Canada launch – The new 750 RS and Phantom. BTW, Part Doh of Seck’s article will appear next week.
Let’s start off by stating the obvious. The new Honda Shadow RS looks like it was drawn using pictures of a Harley Sportster for reference.
From its V-twin engine and exposed air filter to its peanut gas tank and dual shorty mufflers, everything about it says Sportster – even its tires sizes are identical!
Further reinforcing the feeling of Sporty déjà-vu is a single, round speedo nestled above a single, round headlight; a wide, upswept handlebar is a comfortable reach and the mid-mounted footpegs place your feet slightly ahead of you with your knees at a right angle, as they would were you sitting on an chair.
Under your bum are side covers that mimic an oil tank, and even the headstock is made from a rough-looking casting — all very Sportster-like. Only its skinny clutch and brake levers gave it away as something from Japan.
BACK TO BASICS
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can move onto what the Shadow RS really is: a great back-to-basics standard. It’s the kind of bike I grew up on and a refreshing break from the stretched, foot-forward, heavyweight cruisers that dominate manufacturers’ sales brochures.
This bike brought me back to a time when motorcycles were made for motorcyclists — lots of steel, no frills, easy handling, and beckoning for a casual ride through the country to no place in particular.
Its liquid-cooled, 745 cc, 52-degree V-twin uses single-cam, three-valve heads and produces a modest 43 hp. More importantly, it reaches its peak torque of 45.7 lb-ft at just 3,250 rpm, providing a muscular, flat and user-friendly powerband — you won’t need to click continuously through its five-speed gearbox to maintain momentum.
Its seat is wide and flat and at just 750 mm (29.5 in.) from the ground it will accommodate many riders. At six feet tall, I didn’t find the seating position cramped, but it was about as cosy as I’d like — riders of Editor ’Arris’ proportions will not fit this bike very well. (Oh, not enough room for the privates? – ‘Arris).
Steering was light and neutral when putting about town, but with 16-inch rear and 19-inch front wheels the RS was slow and lazy when changing direction at speed.
The trade-off for that laziness was a solid, reassured feel, like nothing short of a tornado would perturb it on the highway. Some of that stability is no doubt due to its 232 kg (511 lb) claimed wet weight, though it still undercuts the 883 Low by 32 kg (70 lb).
Braking effort was moderate yet stopping power adequate considering the bike uses a single 296 mm front disc with a twin-piston caliper and a mechanical drum rear brake.
Suspension compliance also appeared to be adequate, without any bone-jarring harshness usually attributed to bikes with such modest suspension travel (only 4.6 in. front and 3.5 in. rear).
Being a simple machine, suspension adjustment is limited to rear preload, but this did not adversely affect the RS, which remained composed through long sweeping turns.
The RS was quite smooth at highway speeds, with very little vibration intruding on the riding experience, and the mirrors, which provided a nearly unobstructed rear view, remained clear.
Rev the engine a bit though and the vibes get progressively livelier, though they were not intrusive unless travelling well above our speed limits.
Anyhow, this bike isn’t a 140-km/h highway glider. If you’re in a hurry to make the 401 trek from Toronto to Montreal, take the train, especially since at that speed the RS will likely empty its 10.7-litre fuel tank several times along the way.
|The Harley Sportster 883 Lo (below)
is actually cheaper than the RS.
The RS is most comfortable chugging along at 100–120 km/h, and it’ll carry you comfortably at those speeds all day.
I thoroughly enjoyed riding the Shadow RS; it was my favourite of all the cruisers Honda brought to Savannah, including the new Phantom (see endbar). It struck a chord with me, not only because of its simplicity, but because it just felt right.
Its retro look — even though it’s borrowed — certainly appealed to me, and its standard, upright riding position, narrow waistline and low centre of gravity will appeal to newer riders stepping off smaller machines.
The irony is that at $8,899, the Shadow RS costs $600 more than the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low.
However, if you’re looking for the standard Sportster, the one closest to the RS — with decent suspension and a seat height that will accommodate average sized riders — you won’t find it; Harley discontinued it in 2008, offering the Low as the base model today.
Who would have thought that Honda would be the only company offering a bike today that best emulates a machine that originated in Milwaukee in 1957?
Shadow RS Second Look
Looking at Honda’s 750 Shadow RS (Retro Standard), it’s fairly obvious that the staggered mufflers, peanut fuel tank and large speedo perched up on the upper triple clamp are all quite Harley Sportster-ish.
But there’s nothing wrong with that. The usual breakfast fare of stretched chassis, fat tires and big fenders has been done. It’s time to move on.
The height and pullback of the bars combined with the mid-mounted pegs make for a fairly comfortable riding position, though at six-foot-three, I was a bit cramped on it. The seat, however, wasn’t as scalloped as most, leaving me a bit of room to move around and the additional comfort that came with that.
Honda somehow managed to sneak a few decibels past the Noise Nazis, giving the RS a pleasant, mellow rumble; sufficient to add a bit of character but not enough to piss off the neighbours when setting off at 0-dark-30 for a day trip.
Its V-twin won’t pull your arms out of their sockets but you won’t be getting left behind by any cages at the Stoplight GP, either. Yes, it’s “only” a 750 but that’s more than adequate for most real-world situations that RS owners will encounter.
Overall, Honda’s Shadow RS is non-intimidating, easy to handle and the classic styling sets it apart from other bikes in its price range — except the Sportster.
Call it a return to motorcycling’s roots, call it nostalgia, but basically, call it a fun ride.
Honda Shadow Phantom
Honda’s hitting hard with the cruisers this year, releasing a slew of new VT1300 models (reviews forthcoming), and a couple of new 750s.
One of the VT750 models I sampled in Georgia was the sinister-looking and aptly-named Phantom.
There’s no doubt that the Phantom’s retro-bobber styling and blackout treatment is eye-catching. One bystander thought it was a one-off American-made custom and was quite surprised when we told him it was a new Honda.
He was easily forgiven; with the Phantom’s matte-finish fork covers, fat front tire, stubby fenders and minimal use of chrome, the bike might as well have been built by West Coast Choppers.
A flat, drag-style handlebar sits atop tall, welded-on risers with enough pullback that the grips are within easy reach, and the seat sits a super-low 653 mm (25.2 in.) off the ground.
My biggest gripe with the Phantom’s ergonomics is with the forward-mounted footpegs. This feet-in-the-wind riding position might look good in David Mann’s biker artwork, but from the saddle it gets tiresome rather quickly.
Ride quality was quite refined and the bike felt much lighter than its 249 kg (549 lb) wet weight, with light steering and a planted feel. The fight-the-wind riding position would eventually hinder long-distance cruising, which is ironic since it has a larger fuel tank (at 14.6 litres, almost four litres larger) than the more comfortable RS.
What impressed me most about the Phantom was its engine, which had a brawny bottom end that complemented the bike’s muscular looks quite well. It is powered by a liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-twin, very similar to the engine in the RS but claiming two horsepower more, and in the Phantom it uses a low-maintenance drive shaft to transmit power to the rear wheel instead of a chain.
As I rode the Phantom I wondered what it would be like to have this engine, with its great beginner-friendly power characteristics and throaty rumble, in a standard motorcycle — one with a real-world riding position and everyday versatility. Then I rode the RS and I wondered no more.
To achieve radical styling, compromises must be made, and those compromises are usually made in riding comfort — which is what Honda has done with the Phantom.
But it does look really cool — much more stylish than its RS brother — and even though it offers the convenience of shaft drive and those “one-percenter” looks for just $200 more than the RS, I’d rather ride the RS.
Heck, give the RS a similar blackout treatment and I’d probably be in the line-up to buy one!
|Bike||Honda Shadow RS||Honda Shadow Phantom|
|Engine type||Four-stroke sohc 52° V-twin, liquid-cooled|
(crank – claimed)
|43.8 hp @ 5,500 rpm||45 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|45.7 ft-lb @ 3,250 rpm||48.0 ft-lb @ 3,500 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||10.7 litres||14.6 litres|
|Carburetion||EFI with 34 mm throttle body|
|Final drive||Five speed, Chain drive|
|Brakes, front||Single 296 mm disc with dual-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||180 mm mechanical drum|
|Seat height||750 mm (29.5″)||653 mm (25.2″)|
|Wheelbase||1,560 mm (61.4″)||1,640 mm (64.5″)|
|232 kg (511 lb)||251 kg (553 lb)|
|Warranty||12 months, unlimited mileage|