A Trumpeter’s Call to the Past...
Hensley shows the new Shadow RS a bit of aggression, giving his best cruiser tough guy impersonation.
There was a time when you could buy a stock-and-standard motorcycle and take it in whatever direction, stylistically, that suited your taste. You want a flat-tracker, do this. You want a café racer, do that. You want a scrambler…well, you get the idea. Whatever you desired could pretty much be had with a bit of vision, a few turns of a wrench, and the guts to get elbow deep in the process – all with the same motorcycle. It was a time that encouraged creativity, and instilled a real sense of identity that many of us still look back upon with a sincere nostalgia.
With the new Shadow RS, Honda
makes the move to try and allow those elements of motorcycling to rise once again. With a fuel-injected 745cc V-Twin powerplant nestled in a chassis that boasts classic lines and standard-style riding ergonomics, the latest Honda cruiser is a bare-bones motorcycle, one which the rider may do with as he or she sees fit.
The RS’s fuel tank (no doubt a Honda version of the classic Harley-Davidson Sportster peanut tank) and seat help to accentuate the bike’s classic looks. The handlebar and pegs offer a truly neutral riding position suited to a wide range of potential pilots. Even the seat is "neutral." Says Honda: “It’s wide and supportive, yet narrow enough in the front to allow those with shorter inseams to plant their feet at stoplights.” Is it me or is this starting to sound like the Switzerland of motorcycles? Although at 29.4 inches off the ground, seat height is higher than most cruisers (3.7 inches above that of the Shadow Phantom
), yet it’s still an easy mount for most.
(Above) 2010 Honda Shadow RS - the latest cruiser from the Winged Warriors. (Below) The RS features a minimalistic gauge cluster and is available in Pearl White (shown) and Metallic Grey (not pictured) colorways.
RS offers very friendly, easy-access performance from its liquid-cooled V-Twin engine with use of fuel injection. This makes for decent, usable power over a broad rpm range. It also gets a very respectable claimed fuel mileage of 56 mpg, so despite the small 2.8-gallon tank it should go over 140 miles per fill-up. A chain final drive spins the back wheel, while the RS comes in at a weight just cresting the 500-lb mark. Spoke wheels keep the classic feel intact, while the brakes are very basic in set-up, comprised of a 298mm single disc and two-piston caliper up front and a simple drum brake out back.
Available from dealers now, the Shadow RS retails for $7,799 and is available in a Pearl White or Metallic Grey. But enough of the formalities, what is it like to ride?
First off, to look at the RS is to see that Honda is serious about calling back to a bygone era of motorcycles. And for that alone, the latest Shadow is sure to please many of those that surf the Internet late at night looking for something retro in appearance to ride that won’t fall apart beneath them; not to mention those who want to ride something with a classic feel to it, but which is still cool enough sitting at any stoplight. But the question I had when first looking at the RS was, “Well, Honda, how loud is your trumpet?”
I definitely had a smile on my face as soon as the motorcycle came to life beneath me. The engine has a nice, peppy kind of rumble to it, and the exhaust gave a quick crackle and pop as I thumbed the starter. Rolling out of Huntington Beach Honda towards our first photo op in Dana Point, I was instantly struck by how nimble the bike is in traffic. Let’s face it; a hair above 500-lbs ain’t exactly light. However, the RS truly feels like a featherweight as you navigate surface streets. So much so, in fact, that I found myself trying to sneak in a wheelie here and there, although to no avail. The engine’s peppy, but not nearly enough to take the front wheel vertical – at least with me working the throttle.
The press intro route visited Dan Gurney's personal motorcycle collection, which was a highlight for all who attended.
t became clear in about three blocks that this motorcycle is aimed directly at both the beginner and the experienced rider, an interesting target for Honda. One that I would think might be a little too broad to take down with a single model of motorcycle serving as the arrow. However, I’d be wrong to think so.
Halfway through our day of riding, a few revelations about the RS started to play through my head, the first being that this is a good looking, phenomenally easy to ride little motorcycle. The second one being that this motorcycle inspires a kind of feeling that makes any rider smile. And the third was the realization that I was actually smiling while riding it.
Next thing I knew, I realized that you do in fact “meet the nicest people on a Honda,” and that perhaps I had become one of those people. I wanted to vomit at the thought. I mean, come on, Laguna Beach residents should be locking their doors and closing their shutters when I roll through their quaint little village, not giving me and my fellow riders placid, curious looks, perhaps wondering if we’re some sort of coastal tour group. Am I right?
Although the story doesn’t end there…
Hensley found the RS to be a perfect beginner bike as well as a a good base to start from when personalizing the machine for more experienced riders. A true jack-of-all-trades.
As I was forcing the burrito I had for lunch back down my throat due to the overdose of niceties, I was flooded with a river of other thoughts that made me smile for real. You know, the inside kind of smile; when you realize you’re really onto something. And it was this: The Shadow RS is a perfect canvas upon which to express yourself as a rider and in so many ways. Eureka! This is when I began to appreciate what this motorcycle is really about. Follow me here, fair reader.
The riding position: Neutral. The lines of the tank, fenders, and seat: Classic. The ergonomics of the handle bars: Perfect. The powerband of the engine: Beautifully usable. In other words, every thing about this RS is the ideal base platform for future tinkering. How deep one wants to go with it is purely up to them.
Hensley liked the future potental hidden within the Shadow so much that he's in the process of buying one for himself with a project bike in mind.
And I think that’s the point Honda is aiming for with this model. It’s as though Honda is saying to us, “I have given you a motorcycle that is very, very good. It will serve the beginner and experienced rider alike. However, I’d like to see what you can do with it now to make it truly your own.”
That is quite an invitation, and one that I will happily accept. I really like the potential with hides within the Shadow RS. So much so that I’m going to buy one and turn it into a bit of a project bike; I’m gonna take this bike and truly make it mine. And the boys here at MotoUSA have agreed to track my progress, so stay tuned…
Can you hear that? It sounds like a far off trumpet calling toward a past soon to rise again. The sooner the better, brother. The sooner the better.