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Honda Shadow Phantom sneaks onto the road for 2010

December 16, 2009 |  4:51 pm


It’s hard to look tough on a Honda cruiser, no matter how rad the styling. Take the latest version of the longstanding and popular Shadow, which, with its blacked-out pretty much everything, is more hooligan than most Honda products but still practical.

Updated for 2010 with long-overdue electronic fuel injection and a style that’s more Harley than Honda, the Shadow Phantom is a bike for the sensible bad boy. It’s a low-price, high-mileage machine for wannabe outlaws who don’t want to risk jail.

At 745 cc, the liquid-cooled V-twin is half as powerful as a Harley-Davidson Night Train. At $7,999, it is also half as expensive, but the Phantom otherwise cops many of the cues of its American inspiration. It is available in a single color – black – which is complemented with a black powertrain, black air cleaner, black transmission cover, black turn signal stems and, of course, black saddle – a saddle that, at 25.7 inches, is ultra low and a potential negative for Daddy Long Legs with creaky knees but a real draw for the vertically challenged and for newbies, which every manufacturer is chasing in this protracted down market.

Under the hood of the Phantom’s what’s-that-bike wow factor is classic Honda engineering. Over the 27 years it’s been on the market and the 15 versions that have been made, Honda has worked out the kinks. It’s an immensely easy-to-ride bike because the ergonomics and geometry have been so thoroughly put through their paces in the marketplace.

It’s 549 pounds, but the Phantom’s geometry defies its weight. The poundage is centered and low and easy to control. And even though the wheelbase is a longish 64.5 inches, it’s scant rake simplifies cornering, even in the canyons, where, when riding this bike, new riders are likely to feel like seasoned superstars scraping pegs.

Shifting on this 5-speed is Japanese smooth, not American crunchy. The stacked and staggered chromed dual exhaust falls somewhere in between; it’s more sake than moonshine, but it definitely has some bite. While the power on this unusual three-valves-per-cylinder V-twin has a decent amount of torque for its displacement and will easily take riders up to 80, more seasoned riders may find themselves rooting around for a non-existent sixth gear.

But for newer riders, the Phantom brings some styling cool to the otherwise cliche lightweight cruiser category. Phantom riders who come to the bike for Harley training might surprise themselves and hold on to these training wheels longer than they imagined.

2010 Honda Shadow Phantom

Base price: $7,999
Powertrain: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 52-degree V-twin, SOHC, three valves per cylinder, shaft drive, 5 speed
Displacement: 745 cc
Seat height: 25.7 inches
Curb weight: 549 pounds
Road test mpg: 50 (based on 228 miles traveled)

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: American Honda Motor Co.