RideApart Review: 2013 Honda Shadow Phantom

Reviews -

By

MY 2010 Honda MFE Shadow Phantom

For 2013, Honda has blacked-out its popular Shadow cruiser and called it the Phantom. Is that enough to keep it competitive in the mid-capacity cruiser class?

What’s New:
Starting with its proven Shadow platform, Honda blacked-out the motor, paint, forks, wheels and most other parts to create the Phantom.

Mechanically, it fits forward-mount foot controls, bobber-style bars and a single-piece, gunfighter-style seat. A smaller front fender aids the clean, simple aesthetic. The wheels are spoked, but come in totally reasonable sizes: 17-inches front and 15 rear. Oh, and the speedometer is mounted on the 3.7-gallon tank.

The Shadow platform is about as proven as it gets. The 745cc v-twin uses both liquid-cooling and fuel-injection, feeding power through a maintenance-free shaft final drive and wide-ratio, five-speed gearbox. It develops a respectable 47lb-ft of torque and 45bhp.

Think of the Shadow as the friendly face of cruiser-style motorcycles. Where most others tend to be difficult-to-ride, slow and uncomfortable, the Shadow is safe, efficient and easy, without sacrificing the burbling character that defines the class.

The Ride:
I spent a week living with the Shadow, using it to get around Los Angeles’s congested surface streets and bumpy, high-speed highways. Not only is that a tough environment for a cruiser, but it was in the hands of a tough reviewer too. Having grown up in Europe, I’m most comfortable on modern performance bikes and have high expectations for things like braking, handling and comfort as a result.

That Shadow actually proved to be remarkably decent transportation in that environment and in my hands though. Compared to virtually all other cruisers, it was easy to ride and confidence-inspiring both in traffic and at speed on the highway, where it’s totally comfortable and safe up to about 75mph, at which point the city’s rain grooves, seams, potholes and ruts begin to cause it to wobble and weave. It’s not that it won’t go faster, simply that doing so begins to take a very confident hand and absolute attention.

Slow things down and the Shadow’s manageable 549lbs (wet) weight, conservative chassis geometry and solid brakes mean you can move through traffic with confidence close to that delivered by more performance-oriented styles of motorcycle. Unlike many other cruisers, which are essentially terrifying to ride through busy traffic, the Shadow’s front wheel exists in the same time zone as your butt, giving you that much more time and space to react to things happening in front of you.

All the above is aided by a smooth, willing motor and gearbox combination. Where, on largeer, air-cooled cruisers, you can feel the engine’s heavy internals resisting changes in revs, the Shadow picks up and drops its RPMs in a willing, predictable matter. You can even rev-match downshifts after a bit of practice.

The Shadow’s hardest test came when a Ukranian model thought it sounded like fun to get picked up by a boy on a motorcycle for a date. All the other bikes in my garage that night lacked passenger accommodations, so the job fell to the Shadow.

Even with its smaller passenger seat and without grab rails, the report was that she felt both comfortable and safe. As an added bonus, that smaller seat means the passenger has to sit very close to you, with their legs gripping your torso and their arms around your waist.

I’d asked that she wear jeans and boots, but turned up to find long legs poking out of denim short shorts. Climbing off the bike outside the restaurant, she managed to touch her exposed calf to the Shadow’s exhaust pipe, resulting in a second-degree burn the size of my hand.

What’s Good:
All the cruiser style in a package that’s not just rideable, but actually good to ride. So long as you take it slow.

Instead of being a ridiculous exercise in excess, the engine simply gets on with the job of providing motivation and does so in a willing, accessible, friendly manner alien to most cruisers.

The brakes are strong, reassuring and have plenty of feel. You won’t quite be able to trail brake into a corner, but you can use them in anger without washing the front tire.

With a reasonable reach to the bars, an upright riding position and sensibly-located forward foot controls, this is one cruiser that’s legitimately comfortable too.

Handling is competent and safe in a manner that’s nearly reminiscent of a standard-style motorcycle.

What’s Bad:
The Phantom does without the Aero’s ABS or the RS’s mid-mount foot controls. The former would make it even safer and even more confidence inspiring, while the latter would boost both comfort and control.

The key is located under your left butt cheek and the steering lock out-of-the-way, behind the left fork. Both are hard to locate in the dark and awkward to reach.

The Price:
At $8,240, the Shadow Phantom is bang on the buck for its two main rivals: the $7,999 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 and the new , $7,990 Star Bolt.

It outperforms the Harley in every objective measure with the exception of volume and is just as friendly and easy to ride as the Bolt. Subjectively, it lacks the style of either.

The Verdict:
If cruisers are your thing, then this is about as good a bike as you can expect to get. Comfort, safety, ease of use and build quality aren’t frequently things associated with the class, but the Shadow Phantom has them all in spades, all at a very affordable price.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

Gear:
Helmet: HJC RPHA Max ($414)

  • Trevor Stepan

    I respect writers who can’t help, but be themselves. Obviously, cruisers aren’t your thing. You (we) needed a Ukranian model to liven this up. So, is it a 5/10 or a 7/10? That’s a joke. No one cares. I can’t believe they kept those mirrors…

    • Davidabl2

      The D.O.T. turn signals and those mirrors probably disappear VERY soon after the bikes are purchased.

  • Davidabl2

    Lack of style can be addressed by the ingenious owner. Particularly by one that spends some time studying
    the classics and some of todays better customs/chops before picking up the angle-grinder & firing up the torch…Doing this on a 2nd hand bike or one that’s sat at the dealers for a few years certainly makes better financial sense than doing it to a brand spanking new bike. But it still gets done anyway.

  • sacamano70

    Really? It has a drum rear brake and you’re not even going to mention it in the review? Not nice that Honda hasn’t put 1970s motorcycle technology on it cruisers yet. I guess that’s not noteworthy, though, in the eyes of the reviewer.

    • Davidabl2

      Size-wise if not price-wise it’s positioned as an entry level bike. And as most know, putting on too much back brake in a panic situation is one of the classic new rider mistakes..hence a less powerful
      rear brake might not be such a bad idea for a non-ABS bike after all.

      • sacamano70

        Yes, then Yamaha must really not like their entry-level customers by putting a disc on the Bolt’s rear wheel. Makes sense to me.

        • Davidabl2

          There are slight difference in the approaches of the different makers as to where to
          economize..But for example you’ll notice that none put a dual disc on the front of most of their cruisers, because they & the customers don’t feel it’s really needed..
          While all sports bikes above 250cc seem to have dual discs up front and singles in back. But to get back to your point you will notice that pretty much ALL bikes put a stronger brake in the front than in the back.

          • Eric

            I’ve been riding my Shadow 750 ACE for about 6 years now. It’s a great bike and I’ll defend it. It’s not fast, it’s not exciting, it’s a bit like having a flawless old pickup truck. It just works, any weather, starts easy all day any day. Always gets me home and has been the most reliable machine I’ve ever owned. Love it! Far as the drum brake, I’ve put on about 70,000 miles on the clock and still have plenty of brake left on the rear. So that’s a perk as it’s long lasting. This detuned motor delves out a tremendous amount of engine braking combined with the single front disc. Does a fair job, I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen much worse. I’d honestly buy another right after this one… if it’d ever wears out.

            • Davidabl2

              It so happens that my 4wheel vehicle is a ’92 Toyota “basic/base model” mechanically flawless (except for the parking brake light switch).. Bouncing down the road on leaf springs like a Ford model T It has way more “truck character” than most cruisers have “bike character.” But not anywheres near as much as if it were a real old made-in-USA pickup. Nor do todays (mostly luxury) pickups. I would guess that is the somewhat basic mechanicals of your ACE that gives it whatever “character” it has.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Ha, I just noticed that because you pointed it out! Didn’t feel weak or anything while riding it…

      • sacamano70

        I think the Ukranian model with the limp could have figured that out.

  • JVictor75

    I hope the money spends nice Wes, because this sure looks an awful lot like a sellout from what you started out as (which is something I damn sure liked.)

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Show me where you detect anything dishonest in the above.

      • yoooks

        I think JVictor is just surprised you would review a cruiser at all. Of course what he is missing is that HFL is now just a section of RideApart, boring bikes and all. At least those absurd DriveApart reviews of Hyundais are gone.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Now that HFL is part of a lager entity, it’s free to grow and expand all the stuff that you guys fell in love with in the first place. How is that not a good thing? DriveApart will become a more significant property too, it’s just in its very early stages. We’re considering this summer a soft launch, you’ll be seeing much more of the RideApart product as we expand.

          • Piglet2010

            “Now that HFL is part of a lager entity…” – I prefer ale to lager. ;)

            • Paul Elliot

              I like a stout or porter…

    • Davidabl2

      Maybe he is growing up? Beginning to see more complexity in the world?
      Several hypothesis are plausible…even if some are more likely than others ;-)

  • Paul Elliot

    I actually ride a 2004 Shadow Aero and I am constantly surprised at how much fun this thing is up in the hills. My previous rides have been BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda, BSA, Triumph, NSU and Royal Enfield.

    • Davidabl2

      Expansion on your comment would be a good thing. Bike by bike….

      • Paul Elliot

        OK, I started riding in 1969 on a Honda Cub 50, my next bike was a CL175. The first brand new bike I bought was a 1979 CX500 I loved that bike, it got totaled in traffic on 101. While I had the CX, I found a 1959 NSU SuperMax 250 and rode that for a while before trading for a 1969 BSA Rocket III. The Rocket in turn got traded for my first BMW, a 1973 R75/5 LWB, which later got bored out to 900cc and also received a sport cam and Mikuni carbs. The MBW became my primary ride after the CX was destroyed. My next new bike was a 1989 PC800, another great bike that I loved and rode until 2010. The R/75 got sold and replaced by a 1977 R100RS which I kept until 2007. I also had a 1975 Triumph Bonneville for a while, rode it up the coast to Victoria B.C. in 1983 or so. I picked up a 1995 Concours in 2007 and found it to be a very capable tourer (still have it). My Dad decided to quit riding at 90 years of age and I bought his Honda SilverWing scooter and later inherited his 2004 Shadow Aero when he passed last August. The Royal Enfield I bought myself as a birthday present in 2011 and I had earlier bought 2 Ninja 250s and a Suzuki SV650 for my kids, but I rode them too. :-)

        • Davidabl2

          I was actually interested in what’s called a “compare and contrast’ between some of them.. Sadly,my motorcycle curricum vitae is nowhere as distinguished as yours;-(
          Although both SV650 and R.E. figure in it…
          Some of the coolest bikes I’ve ever ridden belonged to other people..

          • Paul Elliot

            That, my friend, is going to take more time and space than I have here. Want to meet over coffee at Alice’s? I’ll be glad to fill you in. :-)

            • Davidabl2

              Sure. Family wedding this weekend trumps Alice’s for Sat. Sunday’s another story. Alice’s is a good 3hrs. or so away from the house. By my preferred route, that is.

              • Paul Elliot

                I can be there in the early afternoon, gotta do the church thing first. Look for the fat dude with the grey beard and bald head. No, wait. That’s half the guys up there. :-)

                • Davidabl2

                  Half of them on Aeros? Not unless there’s an HondaOwnersGroup up there instead of a HarleyOwnersGroup. Self: gray no-beard not graybeard, Will certainly have the only black Indian lookalike Kawasaki there. It has irritated a few GilroyIndian owners
                  @Alice’s in the past.

                • Paul Elliot

                  Maybe I’ll be weird and ride the Enfield… :-)

                • Davidabl2

                  It’d be the only one there….

                • Davidabl2

                  Wedding survived and photo’d If you’re still on for Alice’s, please let me know.
                  Best way to contact without putting info all over HFL (troll bait fo’sure) is to leave a msg at our website see360studios.com. If it attracts trolls my better half will put ‘em in their place ;-)

                • Paul Elliot

                  I’ll be there, and f*ck the trolls.

                • Davidabl2

                  ‘Kay. Will be somewhat after the crack’o'noon for me.

                • Davidabl2

                  Missed you, saw no Enfies or Aeros @ Alice’s. I DID wind up getting there considerably after the crack of noon, however. Fortunately, there is no such thing
                  as a bad ride to Alice’s :-)

                • Paul Elliot

                  Ah, that was your bike I saw after going down to Pescadero and back. I did a slow cruise around the parking lot, but you may have been inside. I think that that was about 3pm or so. Sorry that we just missed each other. I love the old school Kawasaki badge on the tank. I used to have a few of those from my days as a parts guy at Motors West in Campbell. May be we can catch another day.

                • Davidabl2

                  Yup. Like I said it was gonna be the only one there. According to the guy that makes them it’s also the only Drifter or W650 sporting them in North America. http://www.badgereplicas.com.au

                  We should try again–on Enfields- I can send actual contact info. I saw some good Enfield roads out there & there’s cell service at least on on 35 so I could call my better half to come get me in the truck “if the need should arise.” 1999 red’n'chrome Classic500. Have a line on a bona fide British Enfield350 but it’s a case of long term negotiations with the owner. At least it isn’t one of those buy-it-from-the-guy’s-widow deals.

                • Paul Elliot

                  I’m up for that, I have to work this Saturday until 1pm, or after church again on Sunday.

                • Davidabl2

                  Sat after 1pm is good for either bike, assuming i trust the Enfield that morning and have some extra travel time. Sunday I will probably be photographing a Spanish Mass @ church, 12:45 start, that’s “latin time” so not so good

                • Paul Elliot

                  Saturday it is then, see you there!

  • Piglet2010

    For about the same money one could get a Triumph America or Speedmaster with more performance and exclusivity.

    And if I had a Ukrainian model for a date, I would stuff her in a spare riding suit – I have several riding suits/pants with patches on the inside of the right cuff to repair exhaust burns.

  • Bill

    Wes, now try the Triumph Speedmaster! Same weight, 60 horsepower!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      60 horsepower?!

      • Davidabl2

        What Wes is thinking is that with 60 hp it could be called the BeatMaster :-)

  • Kr Tong

    It’s got all the right shapes but because everything has that flat matte definitionless surface it looks like a toy. Everything from the motor to the giant bar between the turn signals (seriously, what is that for?) just makes it look like a 1:16 scale model or something. If Honda spent as much time on this as they did the CB1100 it could be nice. Not that new harleys are much better, btw. But compare that motor to other retro bikes like the bonnie, the cb1100, the W650, etc I dont see this bike having much resale value. And RESALE value is why shadows suck. Have you ever met a shadow owner? They suck because they’re so desparate to find anybody that’ll buy their bike that they’re a bummer to hang out with.

    • Darkside_Hero

      It actually looks somewhat good from a distance, however once you get close it’s cheapness really comes through. My biggest problems with it is the high gloss paint used on the engine does not make for a good match with the flat paint used on the tank and fenders and a rear drum break.

      • Davidabl2

        Agreed, in spades. It would help if the flat paint on the tins was some color other than black.

    • Davidabl2

      If you’re right about low resale it is what will make them good base bikes/donor bikes for customizers&chopmeisters.

  • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

    Again, we’re in the process of launching a new, much more significant play in the bike space. That means more than just content, but it also means more content and better content from a wider variety of more professional contributors.

    I hate cruisers and I’ll never deny that. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them in what is now becoming THE place to discover and shop for motorcycles.

    • Davidabl2

      I don’t think you hate ‘em as much as you used to, Mr. Siler.
      Perhaps, in part, because you can’t afford to any more :-)

      But also because some things about ‘em do make sense–if not overwhelmed
      by the inherent dumbness of cruiser style.

  • Davidabl2

    Actually it’d be REAL hard for me to hate on Metric cruisers.. I got one in the garage.
    2003 Kawi VN800 Classic variant called a “Drifter.”To some extent a “cult bike” As to apes I hated riding bicycles with them when I was a small child and I don’t think as an adult I’d like riding a motorcycle with apes any better. Needless to say, I own no bikes with apes, forward controls,

  • luxlamf

    Anyone else noticing that Triumph people are quickly approaching the Annoying level that was once sole property of the HD crowd? It’s a review about a Honda and since its a Cruiser type bike all the HD dopes will say “Its another rip off of the HD…” blah blah blah. Now Triumph people are the annoying guy in class that has to jump up and say “Hey Look at me too, why not me? Triumph makes something similar why not talk about that, hey look over here I have a Triumph talk about that instead” which is too bad as I just bought a Triumph and have owned a HD for several years now so I tend to avoid those people who own the same brand of bikes as me now. Funny thing is both dress up in their “Official Corp Gear” but yet Triumph people will sit and make fun of the HD pirates for it, while sitting there in their Triumph outfits, both made in China.

    • Davidabl2

      This is one reason that the “new Triumph” I want is made in Japan. By Kawasaki.
      Unfortunately 2nd hand prices on them are quickly approaching current classic Meriden Triumph
      prices..

      It is fun though to go to classic bike rallies and see some of theTriumph riders (new AND old) dressed like the Marlon Brando character in The Wild One and some of the H.D. guys emulating the
      Lee Marvin character in the same movie. Beard, goggles, striped jersey and all…

  • Scott

    I’m just going to leave this here…

    http://rideapart.com/2012/03/stop-cruiserface-now/

    • Davidabl2

      Cue up that Bob Dylan song “The Times’ They Are A’ Changin’”

  • anthony

    I would not let my gf on the back of my bike with exposed legs – ever. As a responsible rider you should have done the same Wes. She has to wear a proper motorcycle jacket (Alpinestars Vika jacket I picked up for her) and jeans at the very least. Sexy and safe is possible. She wears a gold bikini top underneath her jacket when it’s hot out! Gotta love that :D