HONDA VT750 SHADOW (2004 - 2015) Review
- Relaxed cruiser aiming at Harley
- Punchy engine and laid-back handling
- Built like a Honda should be
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Honda Shadow 750 - or VT750C in Honda parlance - was a sleek and smooth (if slightly underpowered) cruiser.
The shaft drive was a welcome addition but carbs and drum brakes were a bit old hat at the time. Still, it looked the part, rode well and lacked the agricultural feel of its, ahem, American counterparts.
In 2007 a new version of the Honda Shadow VT750C was revealed, this time with ABS.
Honda claimed the Shadow was developed to deliver all-round riding enjoyment and it took the 750cc V-twin from the Honda Shadow cruiser but had higher bars and a more upright riding position.
The new Honda Shadow VT750S was a clear shot across the bows of the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 with a low-seat height of 737mm and upright seating position.
With 42bhp and 45ft lb of torque the V-twin was well up to everyday riding.
Available in just one colour – grey metallic – the engine looked air-cooled but had a radiator and a fuel-injected V-twin.
The friendly riding position was backed up by smooth power delivery and a chassis that was designed to give predictable handling.
There's a thriving scene online for the Honda Shadow models. Join the community at the Honda Shadow Owners' Club UK.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The Honda VT750C Shadow's saddle-style seat was lower than low, and complimented by swept-back bars. Combined with the forward footrests, you were looking at a love or loathe seating position.
The weight made slow turning precarious but suspension and brakes were ample for cruising. Gears were smooth, pegs touch down early.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Honda Shadow 750's engine was the same as the one which has powered the VT750 range from the start but detuned to give more low down and midrange grunt at the expense of top end power.
It did a good job of propelling the 238kg machine forward but a few more ccs would have given it a little extra oomph.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
There was a recall in 2005 regarding failing headlights due to bad connections; otherwise, problems with the Honda VT750C Shadow are few and far between.
Cost isn’t the only reason Japanese cruisers are giving the traditional US machines a run for their money: they’re well built (the Hondas, especially) and reliable.
Our Honda Shadow VT750 owners' reviews show fairly positive scores, with the main negative point being that it's an uncomfortable bike for pillion riders.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Honda VT750C Shadow sat comfortably in the market, fairly priced amongst its competitors. However, for a little more, you could get Suzuki’s VZ Intruder M800 which boasted 53bhp, or a Triumph Bonneville America, with 61bhp.
Failing that, go for the original: a Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883, with 55bhp and costing considerably less than the Honda. Find our what happened when we tested the Harley against the Honda below...
Twin test: Honda Shadow 750 vs Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883
First published 3 March 2010 by Michael Neeves
Harley’s Sportster Iron 883 and Honda’s new Shadow Black Spirit are made for the Sunset Strip, but we took them to the boulevards of Milton Keynes instead.
H-D’s new generation 883 Sportster series has long been a favourite here at MCN and this sultry, matt black Iron model is one of the best.
From a firm who have some hideously over-priced big tourers and cruisers in their range, Harley have got it spot-on with the Iron. It’s great value at just £5990.
This gets you timeless styling, spritely performance, decent agility and handling, all wrapped up in a friendly package. If you want to go mad buying add-ons, there’s a whole industry dedicated to producing bolt-ons to personalise your bike too.
Joining me on my epic cruise around Milton Keynes is fellow road tester, Trevor Franklin. He recently came out of the closet as a Harley fan after living with a Harley Rocker C last year. He loves the Iron’s looks and says: "The Harley’s style oozes classic coolness whether you are on Peterborough High Street or cruising in central London."
So, Honda’s new for 2010 Shadow Black Spirit has a lot to live up to. Broadly speaking the two bikes are similar, they’re both cruisers and both mid-sized V-twins, but there are some notable differences.
With a price tag of £6561 the Honda is £571 more expensive than the Harley. It has a smaller 745cc engine too, which produces 45bhp and 48ftlb of torque, that’s 5bhp and 3.6ftlb down on the Harley. On the plus side, it’s only group 10 insurance (the Harley is a group 11), it has a small pillion seat (the Harley is built for one), it’s 9kg lighter and for me, unlike Trev I think the styling is superb.
The Honda is old-school ‘bobber’ style, so it’s long, low and fat. The rear 15in and front 17in black-rimmed, spoked wheels are shod with big fat balloon tyres, the small headlight is black lipped to give it the wartime image, the front mudguard is cut down and the chunky fork covers give the front view of the bike a mean, menacing look.
Sitting on the Honda, the wide, chunky 14.6-litre fuel tank gives you the impression you’re on a machine with twice the capacity. Pull away and everything works beautifully. The V-twin gives a decent account of itself in the sound and character department, the fuelling and throttle response is perfect. Each of the five gears slot home silently and despite its long 34° raked-out forks, it’s easy to hustle around Milton Keynes’s US-style road grid system. You get a clear view from the Honda’s mirrors, while the Harley’s are worse than some sports bikes and the Shadow’s indicator switch is where it should be on the left handlebar.
The Harley has a switch for left and right indicators on the left and right bar. You’d need the dexterity of 3-2-1’s Ted Rogers to use the right one with your thumb, while squeezing the front brake lever with your fingers and blipping the throttle with the palm of your hand. Even BMW have now dumped their silly system in favour of a Japanese-style indicator switch, Harley should do the same.
Out on the open road the Honda is more comfortable than the Harley, there are fewer vibes from the engine and because you’re sat low down, you’re protected from a lot of the windblast by the headlight, tank and instruments. Although the riding position is close to the floor, because your feet are forward I had no problem fitting my six-foot lanky-ness onboard and never felt cramped. Whether it’s because he comes from the Fens and is built in an almost alien-like form, Trev disagrees entirely. He says, "The Honda is like a toy town bike, it’s very small. I’m 5ft8in and feel very cramped on it because the base of your spine is pushed against the back of the upswept part of the seat and it cripples you. You find yourself sitting on the rear hump with your legs stretched out just to get some comfort back into your bottom.
"I feel a bit more civilised on the Harley and not like a comedy clown in one of those comedy cars that you get at the circus. Yes, the Harley feels antiquated after the Honda and the engine has a slow gearbox but it’s just a breath of fresh air to ride, it’s more upright and agile as well. It feels altogether more like a proper motorcycle."
The Harley definitely is the sportier of the two machines. It’s faster steering and more eager through the corners, although like the Honda, ground clearance isn’t great. The Honda trumps it with better brakes and gearbox. Selecting first gear from a standstill is cringe-worthy as it slams home. It’s a big improvement over older-model Sportsters though.
Riding the Honda on a flat-out run on country roads, chasing Trev, there’s not much in it between the speed of the bikes – you’d never hit the ton on either – despite the Harley’s slightly bigger, more powerful engine.
The actual build quality on the Honda is better, but it’s let down with cheap touches, like exposed plastic ties holding the cables together from the switchgear, a drum instead of disc rear brake and lots of plastic covers scattered around the engine department. But to be fair to the Shadow, it’s an affordable bike, so it’s built down to a price.
Attention to detail on the Harley is better. There are Harley-Davidson-branded Dunlop tyres, LED stop lights in the rear indicators and an aluminium pop-up oil filler on the right side panel. Build quality isn’t as reassuring, though, our test bike had some of its matt black paintwork flaking off the wheels where the wheel weights had been changed and a chip on the leading edges of the regulator cover.
The MCN Verdict
It’s no surprise which is Trev’s favourite after our day’s test. He says: "I’d have the 883 any day. It’s sportier and more agile. You’d be surprised how many people could enjoy it, look good in town and have fun on the bends. The Honda is just like an old CM250 Custom."
For me the Honda is dynamically the best machine here. It’s smoother, more comfortable and looks cool. Like the Harley, there are lots of Honda accessories available for it – backrests, screens, a tasselled leather handlebar pouch, even a studded leather tank belt! For my ride home on this test I scrambled for the keys of the Honda, but if it was my money I’d take the Harley every time. Heart beats head again!
In its plain clothes, the The Honda VT750C Shadow looked uncomplicated: sleek lines and yards of chrome but not over-the-top.
However, aftermarket parts gave wannabe Harley owners the opportunity to splash out: saddle bags, screens and back rests could be bought to compliment the existing "Art Deco" control panel, tank-mounted speedo, hazard lights and HISS security system.
|Engine type||6v V-twin, 5 gears|
|Frame type||Steel double cradle|
|Fuel capacity||14 litres|
|Front brake||296mm disc|
|Front tyre size||120/90 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||160/80 x 15|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||47 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
|Used price||£3,500 - £6,100|
10 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||45 bhp|
|Max torque||47 ft-lb|
|Top speed||125 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||12.3 secs|
|Tank range||155 miles|
Model history & versions
- VT750 C2: 1997 until 2001, it was basically the same as the original but had twin rear shocks and telescopic forks.
- VT750 DC: 2000 – 2004, it was a stripped down version with similar specs to the C and C2 bikes but weighed less and had more ground clearance.
- VT750 DC Shadow Spirit: 2007-2015, a more custom style version with 21-inch front wheel.
- Honda Shadow 750 off sale in 2015.
Owners' reviews for the HONDA VT750 SHADOW (2004 - 2015)
4 owners have reviewed their HONDA VT750 SHADOW (2004 - 2015) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
Version: Honda Shadow Aero 2012
I am beginner, this is my first big motorbike. Owned it for over 4 months, done 1500 miles in normal condition, mainly city cruising. I bought it from mechanic, had 18700 miles on the clock drives and handles great. Forget about choke and related problems, just turn the ignition on and start every day, whatever the weather. I am 6'1 tall and find this bike just right for my height - few more inches and it wouldn't be comfortable as it is now. No rev counter so shifting gear takes short time to used to, but it's not a problem. Enough power for laid back cruising, junctions and taking over. When riding over 60 mph wind can become an issue, but nothing unusual. Very forgiving bike. Always gives me big smile when starting engine or pulling off from junction ;). Fuel consumption ~ 4.0L - 4.5L / 100 km city riding. What I dislike about the bike: ~ rear brake, ~ 2nd shift is a bit clumsy, Overall opinion: 8.5/10
4 stars because of the rear brake.
Sound is fantastic, no problems whatsoever.
Its a fun cruiser to ride, make right noises and turns plenty of heads. Picked mine up for a steal and Love it to bits. I do recommend adding a Windscreen as dose make it a dream to cruise. Im Looking forward to many more years of motoring with her and customizing.
Traded in my 02 Ninja for 07 Shadow Spirit as I do alot more miles now with the wife. The bike is very uncomfortable on long journeys for the pillion (done 140 miles in one day and my wife could hardly walk). Apart from the seat the overall bike is good.
a nice easy going bike, a bit down on power, came from vfr 750 to vt totally different style of riding for me, all in all two up with misses it does the job, did 1,600 miles in a week last year going to nw200 no bother