Vintage American Cruiser Style

According to Honda , cruisers are meant for relaxed, comfortable riding. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that nothing says “laid back” quite like the vintage American cruisers from the 1950’s (or so), and Honda made an honest attempt to capture that look and feel of yesteryear with these rides, the big brothers to the Rebel range. Maybe just a little too honest – is that a mechanical drum brake I see? Still with a 745 cc engine and a wide-ratio transmission, the Shadow Phantom and the Aero, which wasn’t brought forward after 2016, fill the "cruiser" slot quite adequately for Honda.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda Shadow Phantom and Shadow Aero.

  • 2015 - 2018 Honda Shadow Aero / Shadow Phantom
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Liquid-cooled 52 degree V-twin
  • Displacement:
    745 cc
  • Price:
    7699
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Honda Shadow Aero / Shadow Phantom
- image 662162
Full-figured fenders give the bike a violent shove into retro territory, and the chrome covers over the shocks and tripletree reinforce that image.

A low, stocky profile and relaxed rider triangle set the stage for the classic touches that ultimately define the look. Full-figured fenders give the bike a violent shove into retro territory, and the chrome covers over the shocks and tripletree reinforce that image. If I had to pick a bike to compare it to, just on looks alone, I would have to pick the Indian Chief Classic — same low stature and “flowy” lines, similar fenders and nostalgic appeal, which is a testament to Honda’s design team, ’cause Indian knows all about old American cruiser culture.

Seat height is near the bottom of the range at 25.9 inches, which is close enough to the ground for even short-statured riders to have easy access with plenty of leverage. Since the bike weighs in at a mere 560 pounds soaking wet (curb weight), you can use said leverage to keep the bike under control when it comes time to deploy your training wheels.

Speaking of training, the Aero and Shadow models supplement the Rebel in the entry-level cruiser market, so fans of American cruiser designs will no longer be forced onto the smaller bike, now they have a choice. This is particularly good news for the big-and-tall crowd, who never looked right perched on top of the little, Rebel “pocket cruiser” anyway.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Honda Shadow Aero / Shadow Phantom
- image 662156
The 34-degree steering head angle projects the forks away from the bike in a way that suggests old-school symmetry, while leaving the bike with a relatively stable 64.5-inch wheelbase and 6.3 inches of trail. So yes, it’s going to corner like a cruiser.

The rolling chassis begins with a fat, 120 mm wide tire up front, and an even fatter 160 in the back. Although the laced rims are a nice, nostalgic touch, I think this bike screams out for a set of “Gangster” white-wall tires. Like a garnish on a plate, that would complete the ensemble Honda was shooting for.

Brake choices veer toward the almost-too-far zone with the 180 mm mechanical drum brake on the rear wheel, but to be honest, since the rear brake only accounts for 30 percent of your total braking power, it’s probably a worthwhile trade off – there is nothing quite as quaint as a drum brake. At least the front uses the less traditional, but more common, juice brake with a dual-pot piston and 296 mm disc for the heavy work. Honda offered the Aero in an ABS model, but no such option as yet in the Phantom..

Suspension travel is sufficient, at best. The 41 mm front forks have 4.6 inches of travel, but the preload-adjustable rear shocks offer a scant 3.5 inches of travel. This is fine for around-town puttering, but you may feel it in your shorts when the roads get rough. The 34-degree steering head angle projects the forks away from the bike in a way that suggests old-school symmetry, while leaving the bike with a relatively stable 64.5-inch wheelbase and 6.3 inches of trail. So yes, it’s going to corner like a cruiser.

Rake: 34 Degrees (Caster Angle)
Trail: 6.3 Inches
Suspension, Front: 41 mm Fork; 4.6-Inch Travel
Suspension, Rear: Dual Shocks With Five-Position Spring-Preload Adjustability; 3.5-Inch Travel
Brake, Front: Single 296 mm Disc With Twin-Piston Caliper
Brake, Rear: 180 mm Drum
Tire, Front: 120/90-17
Tire, Rear: 160/80-15

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Honda Shadow Aero / Shadow Phantom
- image 662160
It’s a small engine, and as such will tend to sip at the gas, so the Shadow does not disappoint with 56 mpg, giving her a range around 200 miles depending on riding style.

Honda went with a liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-twin engine to power this timepiece. While the factory is a bit tight-lipped about the performance numbers, we know that it displaces 745 cc, and is nearly a square engine with a 79 mm bore and 76 mm stroke. Power flows through the five-speed gearbox, down the driveshaft and to the rear wheel for quiet and low-maintenance operation.

Fuel management falls to the 34 mm throttle body with PGM-FI. An automatic enrichener circuit handles cold starts all by itself – no need to fiddle with a choke knob, and if you are like me, ride off and forget the thing is on!

Now I know it’s a small engine, and as such will tend to sip at the gas, so the Shadow does not disappoint with 56 mpg, giving her a range around 200 miles depending on riding style. I think driveshafts got a bad rap early on, and the industry has corrected many of the negative behavioral problems to leave the shaft drive as a viable alternative to vulnerable chains and belts.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 52-Degree V-Twin
Displacement: 745 cc
Bore: 79 mm
Stroke: 76 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.6 to 1
Transmission: Wide-Ratio Five-Speed

Price

2015 - 2018 Honda Shadow Aero / Shadow Phantom Exterior
- image 625402
The price on the Phantom was $7,699 last year, and since the bike is relatively unchanged coming into 2018, I expect it to stay about the same.

The Aero was priced to move at $7,499 in 2016, same as the Phantom model, which is a lot of bang for your buck, and makes it accessible by the entry-level/budget-minded crowd. For 2017, the price on the Phantom saw a $200 bump, and since the bike is relatively unchanged coming into 2018, I expect it to stay about the same.

Available Colors:
2016 Phantom: Black, Light Silver Metallic
2016 Aero: Candy Red
2017, 2018 Phantom: Matte Black Metallic
Price:
2016: $7,499
2017: $7,699
2018: TBA

Competitor

2016 - 2018 Indian Motorcycle Scout / Scout Sixty
- image 662177
2015 - 2018 Honda Shadow Aero / Shadow Phantom
- image 662185
The 745 cc engine was considered rather small for a cruiser not that long ago; but today, mid-range and smaller is the hot ticket.

As usual, I like to compare market-targeted models from an import-versus-domestic standpoint, and so I will stick with aesthetics as the main consideration. With that in mind, I went with an All-American brand, Indian Motorcycles, and chose the Scout Sixty for my head-to-head.

While the Shadow family is built around dated references, the Scout Sixty takes its latent nostalgia in a more progressive direction. Cut-down fenders shed a lot of the “heavy cruiser” vibe so prevalent on other Indians, and both the Scout Sixty and the Phantom sport blackout paint schemes with equally ominous results.

Unfortunately, if blackout ain’t your cup o’ tea, then the Scout Sixty has nothing for you, but the Shadow Aero does with lots of chrome blingage and Candy Red sheet metal. The rider triangle on both rides forces a windsock position that is fairly comfortable in most situations, but riders may find a bit tiring or even nerve wracking on prolonged highway trips.

Indian brings the cubes with its entry-level cruiser by sticking a 1,000 cc (61 cubic-inch) mill in the sled, a little bit bigger than the 745 cc Shadow plant. Though both engines run a V-twin configuration, the Scout motor adds to the overall appeal of the bike, while the Honda engine takes a more modest approach by kind of blending into the background a bit.

Brakes are a mixed bag. Honda still uses a drum rear brake on the Phantom and ABS went away with the Aero. Indian doesn’t have any sort of brake augmentation, but runs hydraulic-disc brakes all around, a plus in my book since I have a natural distrust for drum brakes.

I consider both families to fall within the mid-size cruiser category, but the Aero sports a 64.5-inch wheelbase while the Scout falls a little short at 61.5 inches. Regardless of length, both are built to provide sportier lean angles than you get from a full-size cruiser, but you may fine the Sixty a bit sportier than average.

Honda scores a definite win in at checkout. The Shadow Phantom will likely stay near $7,699, well within entry-level range, but you will have to shell out $8,999 for a Scout Sixty. That’s kind of pushing the budget price range, but it does get you a bigger engine, and truckloads of name recognition.

He Said

“Honda did a good job capturing the look of an era without actually copying an existing bike. The nostalgic Easter eggs scattered about the bike give her a definite retro-vibe on top of the comfort built into the overall form.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I am not a fan of Honda, and while I’d love to find negative things to say about it, I have to admit this is an easy, docile bike. The Aero model had the full fenders front and back giving it a classic look and was the bling-bringer of the pair. The 745 cc engine makes it non-threatening for folks who might be entering the big-bike market for the first time. Though the engine is small, it still gives you that V-twin sound and the handlebars reach back to give you a comfortable, "cruiser" rider triangle. With low maintenance and low MSRP, this is a good starter bike, especially for those folks that are height challenged and might lack the upper body strength to wrestle with a bigger bike."

Specifications

Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 52-Degree V-Twin
Displacement: 745 cc
Bore: 79 mm
Stroke: 76 mm
Induction: PGM-FI With Automatic Enrichment Circuit, 34 mm Throttle Body
Ignition: Digital Transistorized With Electronic Advance
Compression Ratio: 9.6 to 1
Valve Train: SOHC; Three Valves Per Cylinder
Transmission: Wide-Ratio Five-Speed
Final Drive: Shaft
Chassis:
Rake: 34 Degrees (Caster Angle)
Trail: 6.3 Inches
Suspension, Front: 41 mm Fork; 4.6-Inch Travel
Suspension, Rear: Dual Shocks With Five-Position Spring-Preload Adjustability; 3.5-Inch Travel
Brake, Front: Single 296 mm Disc With Twin-Piston Caliper
Brake, Rear: 180 mm Drum
Tire, Front: 120/90-17
Tire, Rear: 160/80-15
Dimensions:
Wheelbase: 64.6 Inches
Seat Height: 25.8 Inches
Ground Clearance: 5.1 Inches
Details:
Curb Weight: 549 Pounds
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 Gallons
Fuel Reserve: 0.9 Gallon
Fuel Economy: 56 mpg
Model Id:
Phantom: VT750C2B
Aero: VT750CF
Warranty: One Year Transferable, Unlimited-Mileage Limited Warranty; Extended Coverage Available With A Honda Protection Plan.
Available Colors:
2016 Phantom: Black, Light Silver Metallic
2016 Aero: Candy Red
2017, 2018 Phantom: Matte Black Metallic
Price:
2016: $7,499
2017: $7,699
2018: TBA

References

2016 - 2018 Indian Motorcycle Scout / Scout Sixty
- image 730658

See our review of the Indian Motorcycle Scout Sixty.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, indianmotorcycle.com

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