Honda’s strategy is to keep the Shadow being built as a simple motorcycle powered by a 745 cc, liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-Twin, SOHC, three valves per cylinder engine that doesn’t fall in the fykes of fuel injection. Instead, a 34 mm carburetor does the job while the gearbox is a five-speed, wide-ratio unit, like on any big boy cruising machine. The shaft final drive requires minimum maintenance and it is one of those units that die hard, especially if made by Honda.
Not only the Japanese manufacturer provided it with a classic bang, but also with timeless design and five new color schemes in order to stand out wherever you ride it.
The world had first seen the Honda Shadow back in 1983 when it started being produced and marketed. Referred to as the “VT750C”, the middleweight cruiser stood out thanks to a round head lamp, instrument casings and the chromed front fender while the painted pieces featured either Black or Candy Wineberry Red color.
Back in the early days, Honda was into performance even in the case of cruisers so the engine behind that first model was a liquid-cooled, 749cc V-Twin, SOHC, three-valved with six gears and shaft drive transmission.
Starting 1984, the U.S. increased tariffs on imports from Japan and because the engine’s 750 ccs raised the tax even more, Honda found itself needed to reduce displacement to under 701cc and call the bike VT700C Shadow. The V-Twin engine now displaced 694cc and it was fitted with new hydraulic valve adjusters and twin plug cylinder heads. A dual disk brake system was also added. While outside the States, it carried on virtually unchanged, the NA model was either Black or Candy Scorpio Red painted that year.
For 1985 they kept the engine configuration and cylinder capacity and the bike carried on with only a Candy Glory Red color scheme replacing the previous Candy Scorpio Red. The Black was also carried on.
1986 was to bring a rethought riding position, with the controls moved forward. The 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels featured now a 5-spoke design and the front braking system only featured a single disc brake. The suppressed engine carried on indulging, but it was now polished instead of black painted. Colors available on that model year were either Black or Candy Brilliant Red.
In 1987, the frame was black painted in order to match the Black or Candy Glory Red schemes available that year.
The year 1988 was to bring an engine upgrade to 800cc and so it result the “VT800C” name. The engine type didn’t change, but the transmission did into a 4-speed one. Final drive was still shaft. Two decades ago they would have also introduced the two-tone color schemes: Black & Candy Glory Red or Candy Wineberry Red & Dry Silver Metallic.
Starting 1989, Honda only produced the “VT1100C” and “VT600C” Shadow models.
But in 1998, the U.S. marked would have seen the all-new ACE 750, a machine built around an ACE engine with a single crank and a larger two-into-one exhaust, chain drive and retro looks. This formula was to be carried on until 2003 without significant changes.
Starting 2004, the 750 Ace was to be superseded by the 750 Aero a more modern machine that replaced the old 34mm carburetor with twin 36mm carburetors although the engine remained the same. Shaft drive was now back and it took the place of the chain final drive that had meanwhile stood as a noisy and hard to maintain feature of the bike. Suspensions were stiffened and the rear tire was now smaller. The Aero added 14 pounds to the overall weight, but seemed like the perfect bike for Honda to carry on producing with little changes until this day.
Star motorcycles also present the 2009 V Star Classic, an air-cooled, 649cc, 70-degree V-Twin, SOHC, two valves per cylinder powered cruiser and a decent competitor for Honda’s Shadow Aero middleweight model. The Star motor is fitted with two 28mm Mikuni CV carburetors, mates to a five-speed gearbox and transmits the power to that rear wheel through a shaft final drive. Slightly weaker that what you would find on the Honda Shadow, at least the engine has to move a little less mass (544 lbs compared to Honda’s 553), but that won’t make the difference if the Star rider had a little too much bacon at breakfast.
The striking part is that the bikes are almost identical looking, making a decision even harder to get. Also, Star’s $6,490 MSRP is a pretty heavy argument against the Honda.
Kawasaki doesn’t offer anything in between their Vulcan 500 LTD and the Vulcan 900 Classic so, being nothing middle in that, we’ll have to dig some more.
Suzuki’s Boulevard line of cruisers is also quite offering and the closest bike in displacement to the Honda and Star is the 2009 Boulevard S40. But that features a single-cylinder engine and custom design, which excludes it from our list in an instant. Searching for a V-Twin, we get across the S50, but still not featuring classic design.
The 2009 Suzuki Boulevard C50 is V-Twin powered and features timeless looks, but with 805 ccs and fuel injection it clearly wins this battle. And the MSRP is $7,299, making for the choice of those who look for better power and torque figures without the implicit additions to the price.
Ever since the Honda 750 ACE turned into Honda 750 Aero, the fairly small cruising machine didn’t feature any redesigns or visual changes despite the different color schemes that were added on or removed from through the years.
But the 2009 model year is definitely visually attractive not only for those who are into cruising, but for most people that see it ride down the highway. The deep, valanced fenders covering the 17- front respectively 15-inch rear standard spoked wheels initiate a bold style which reminds us of old school motorcycles, but the refined curves and the attention to detail ca only stand for modernity. Things are the same in the case of the 3.7 gallons tank. It features flawless lines, giving the idea of continuity as well as the “Shadow” writing on the sides.
Underneath the gas tank is what “makes” this Honda a Shadow, the 50-degree V-Twin engine that looks as good covered in chrome as it runs. Like in the case of the V Star 650, the Honda features two-into-one exhaust on the right side of the rider. Chromed, low positioned and nicely shaped, the exhaust enhances that V-Twin idea, but so is the shaft final drive on right side of the rider.
The seat is only 25.9 inches from the ground and it barely finds enough space between the gas tank and that stumpy rear fender, but that’s also what gives it the nice curved shape.
All classic cruisers feature plenty of chrome and the Shadow Aero gives the tone in Honda’s lineup. With chromed cylinder-head cover, air-cleaner cover, left and right engine sidecovers, brake and clutch lever brackets, rear brake pedal, shift lever, swingarm pivot cap, ignition ignition switch cover, handlebar, rear shock covers and headlight, what this bike really needed were some stand out color schemes. So it got those Metallic Titanium/White, Pearl Blue/Metallic Silver, Black/Snakeskin Pattern, Candy Dark Red, Black color schemes that stand as alternatives both for the demanding or the detained of you out there.
Getting a feel of a middleweight cruiser can only turn into an enjoyable experience especially when benefiting of Honda quality, comfort and reliability. So from the very first turn key, a little bit of choke fun and push button starting, the bike indicates it is there to respond and provide you with the best of a 52-degree 750 cc V-Twin engine. As it is carbureted, the engine provides a nostalgic sound for a trained ear and a curious, but definitely pleasurable one, for those who just turn into motorcycling.
Swing a leg over it and you’ll be introduced to a spacious, comfortable and low (less than 26 inches from the ground) seat on top of which you’ll be capable of emptying more than a few tanks of gas in a single day. And did I mention that a tank of gas will easily take you for around 140 miles? Now that’s comfort! The handlebars are pulled back at the rider, meaning that you won’t be stretching both your back and your hands as you ride, but the front positioned footpegs do require a little bit of stretching in the case of average sized riders.
Acceleration is emphatic mostly in first and second gears as the engine is tuned to deliver the best of it in the low-and-mid rpm range. This, together with the low seat makes it great for beginners and for those who plan to use it as a commuting mean. The wide-ratio gearbox shifts nice and precise, but the bike still doesn’t lose that healthy first gear cluck.
Properly accommodated and relying on a purring V-Twin engine, off I went for the highway. On my way there, I’ve come to realize that despite the bike’s 553 pounds, the handling is easy and responsive (mostly because of a very low center of gravity) making the easiest thing out of filtering cars and parking lot maneuvers.
Rev that engine healthier and you’ll be introduced to a fair share of vibrations which don’t manage to become annoying until you go above 60 mph. And the bike has no problems reaching speeds of approximately 100 mph, but the idea of cruising kept me well under that figure. Still, it feels stable and reassuring, like most cruisers do and the suspensions soak up any eventual bumps in the road with great easy. Still, when doing 50 mph with a passenger on my back, I felt the suspensions reaching their limits on a bumpier road. That’s never enjoyable, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if I would have ridden alone on that portion of the road.
Wind protection isn’t something we can talk about as the rider also plays the role of both fairing and windshield so…
But braking is and the 296mm front disc with twin piston caliper is alone efficient before cornering or when slowing down, but if needed to come to a complete stop, the rear 180 mm drum makes an entry and pulling both levers hard results into some serious front fork compression and 0 mph on the speedometer.
The whole idea of this cruiser category is to offer motorcycles that don’t need to be replaced for a few years as they are still very pleasurable after learning to ride on them at a very affordable price. In this case, the $6,999 MSRP situates the 2009 Honda Shadow Aero in between the V Star 250 and the Suzuki Boulevard C50.
Going for its third decade even though having undergone some serious changes during the years and many are claiming it started to rewrite its history back in 2004, the Honda Shadow Aero is simply an impressive balance between performance, style and price, but don’t be surprised when people will be supposing you’ve paid that amount and half more on it. That is what I like to call “the Shadow effect”.
Engine and Transmission
Engine Type: liquid-cooled 52o V-twin
Bore and Stroke: 79mm x 76mm
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Valve Train: SOHC; three valves per cylinder
Induction: Single 34mm constant-velocity carburetor
Ignition: CD with electronic advance, two spark plugs per cylinder
Transmission: Wide-ratio five-speed
Final Drive: Shaft
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension Front: 41mm fork; 4.6 inches travel
Rear: Dual shocks with five-position spring preload adjustability; 3.5 inches travel
Brakes Front: Single 296mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear: 180mm drum
Tires Front: 120/90-17
Wheelbase: 64.5 inches
Rake (Caster Angle): 34o
Trail: 161mm (6.3 inches)
Seat Height: 25.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve
Curb Weight: 553 pounds
New for 2009
Honda Genuine Accessories