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2010 Honda Shadow RS First Ride

Monday, May 17, 2010
Gettin aggressive with the RS. Check out that facial expression!
Hensley shows the new Shadow RS a bit of aggression, giving his best cruiser tough guy impersonation.
A Trumpeter’s Call to the Past...

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.
2010 Honda Shadow RS. The latest cruiser from the Winged Warriors.Hondas Shadow RS features minimalistic gauges.
(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.

The Shadow 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 Gurneys motorcycle collection. Note; The low slug footpegs made for a very relaxed riding position. Yet MotoUSAs editor at large John Hensley of Nip Tuck TV fame  who happens to be very a avid two-wheeled rider found the new Shadow RS to instantly bring a smile to his face.
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…
In fact  Hensley likes the future potental of the Shadow so much that hes in the process of buying one fof himself with a dirt-track syle project bike in mind. Stay tuned for updates...
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.

For an over-500-lb machine Hensley found it to be very agile. At least far more that he expected
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.

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charles Dickinsommor II -Triumph motorcycles  January 26, 2011 08:05 PM
I hate harleys! Triumph all day every day!
I Like This Bike -Give me a normal bike!  July 12, 2010 03:15 PM
I grew up riding street bikes in the 70's, when all bikes had the same comfortable seat and foot semi forward riding position. I've had a Honda CB400 Super Sport, and for me, the rear set pegs, wide tank and fine vibes, as well as the revvy powerband, all made it more aggravating than satisfying. I've since moved to a 223cc single Yamaha Scorpio, which is relaxing and comfortable to ride. I am too inflexible to be folded up by a sportbike position, and my back won't tolerate a cruiser recliner. A simple standard bike with comfort, and a smooth torquey engine that I don't have to change down every time a hill appears, will suit me fine. Here in New Zealand I hear they are bringing this Honda out at a bargain price, so this looks like a good option. As for used, there aren't any. The Shadow Aeros are too laid back for me.
Scott -John Honda?  June 22, 2010 02:56 PM
WTF? Paid review? No pros or cons... Bit over priced. Nicer bikes out there for less.
Buzzardbait -crash and burned  June 11, 2010 03:32 PM
I like cause it looks like a sporty, but is better put together. I it rides turns and steers well for a first timer then fine. some light duty touring, charity rides and, hanging with friends well hell I will take two. And you Harley riders you got ripped off but are afraid to admit it, besides sportys are the only real bikes harley makes the rest are for mid-life crisis wanna-be bad boys with thier union jobs
EAB - Uncle Will, you gotta be kidding  May 28, 2010 07:20 AM
I'll have to call you on this one, there, Uncle. I don't think you owned a 599, but there is no way to prove it, so I'll take you at your word. Instead, I think you pulled those comments right out of every article that was ever written about the bike. The sportbike reviewers bitched about the suspension, but funny, when I tour 500 miles a day, it never offered any issues. The suspension "issues" they brought up were the lack of a linkage on the rear, which is not needed on a streetbike. If one needs a linkage, that's what the CBR is for. The forks were upgraded for the 2006 vintage I have and, ironically, I think they are a bit firm for the riding I do, but I am nitpicking. As far as engine vibes, you gotta be kidding. I read all the reviews (same ones you read) pointing out a buzz at 5500-6500RPM, but they were really nitpicking. I always found it funny that if an inline four slightly buzzes the mirrors at 85MPH it's called annoying but if an air cooled twin tries to shake the headbolts out of the block at idle it's called character. Below 75mph the bike shows no vibes AT ALL. At idle, you can balance a nickle on the valve cover.
Hecklerboy -Harley sets the standard...  May 21, 2010 01:59 PM
You guys are proving that Harely's are better by you comparing it to a Harely. Why isn't anyone comparing this bike to a Yamaha or Suzuki? Simple, Harely sets the standard and everyone else tries to duplicate it. Too bad they'll never be as good as a Harley.
Zippy -reply ot Xkip.  May 21, 2010 01:40 PM
Yea that hightech chian and drum barke blows away the Sprty belt and disc.
Mark -It's a no brainer  May 21, 2010 01:13 PM
What a great bike! With Honda reliability, better ergos & comfort, plus twice the ground clearance & shock travel, as a Sportster, it is hands down superrior! M
Xkip -I'll take a Honda Any Day  May 21, 2010 09:29 AM
I,ll take a Honda over an outdated Harley any day. At least I would not have to put up with the harley dealer BS trying too sell me a bunch of the harley lifestyle crap. I don't need a pirate outfit or loud exhaust.
unclewill -@ EAB  May 21, 2010 09:23 AM
As the ex-owner of a Honda 599 (~10,000 miles) I can say that it has problems beyond the price, namely engine vibes and a low rent suspension. It seems to me that Honda has evolved into a company that banks on a well deserved stellar reputation for quality to justify sky high prices for vanilla bikes with yesterday's technology. This Shadow RS is a case in point. I'm no die hard Harley fan, but you'd have to be a real piece of fruit to choose this bike over a Sportster...
Zippy -compare to HD  May 20, 2010 07:31 PM
When I stop at the one Honda dealer that has not folded in my city, they are just sitting around looking at the internet. When I stop at the HD shops, they are always busy.

There are 8 within an hour drive of my house.
Hecklerboy -Ignorance..  May 20, 2010 12:53 PM
"But I know for sure this thing will be more reliable than a Sportster. And I'm sure it won't leak or consume oil like some H-Ds do."

Spoken like someone that has never owned or ridden a newer Harley.

Why is it everyone bad mouths Harely's but always wants to compare their bikes to a Harley?

Tim B -Come on, Honda...  May 19, 2010 09:51 PM
I love Honda and am not the biggest H-D fan, but this thing looks like a Chinese clone of a Sportster. It's ugly and all wrong. The lines don't flow and it doesn't look like the parts fit properly. It looks more like a parts-bin special that turned out to be Frankenstein.

Back to the drawing board, Honda!

The Japanese need to get rid of tank seams! They're fugly and such an eyesore. I don't know if I'm alone, but they distract me so much. It just looks cheap.

But I know for sure this thing will be more reliable than a Sportster. And I'm sure it won't leak or consume oil like some H-Ds do.

What I don't get and what drives me nuts is when cruiser guys cry about chains. Belts aren't perfect! So what if you have to lube and adjust a chain. Motorcyclist used to like doing maintenance and taking care of their bikes. Today's chrome-loving, chaps-wearing, yuppy H-D riders have no clue.
Zippy -Agreed  May 19, 2010 07:08 PM
There is no reason to buy this bike or a Hyong whatever for $8k. You can find good left over 900cc-1300cc for that price (or less) all day long. Chain drive on a cruiser for $8k, come on!
Nick -Hard to be . . .  May 19, 2010 05:45 PM
Hard to be a Harley-hating troll when the competition offers no price advantage.
Pike -Poor Value  May 19, 2010 03:42 PM
Turd, that’s what it is. There are better bikes that do the same thing for less money. As for the “Throw back” to a more innocent time, please, at its price it should have better equipment. You can have old school but have it at an old school price. It’s funny how manufacturers put garbage on their bikes and say it’s nostalgic but don’t give the bike a reasonable price. Honda can sell this bike for $5K and still make lots of money. Honda has finally tapped into a market similar to Harley; a market of blind Honda followers that will pay what ever price because it is a Honda. EAB’s post is living proof. He defends Honda in the same irrational, pathetic and desperate way Harley owners defend Harley. The good news is that so many people have had their houses and bikes foreclosed and repoed that I can buy a used M109R for the same price or a new non-current heavy weight cruiser for about the same dollar. And if riding a shadow 750 puts a smile on your face then great but a 2-3 yr old one with less than 3K miles for around $3K; and save the other $4,700 for another bike.
SSL -fail  May 18, 2010 06:47 PM
If I want something raw and simple I'd go with Sportster, which costs less and the paint are shinier. Honda should bring back something better engineered like Magna with updated style. Abandon its own technology advantages and copy someone else’s heritage will only lead Honda to fail.
Zippy -Mike...I got ya.  May 18, 2010 12:35 PM
Mike, I see your point. For the record I will be flying in SandyEggos next month. gonna rent a new HD and hit all those roads and a whole lot more.

Aint got no mountians in Orlando. Heck if I stand on a ladder I can see Daytona Beach! Can always ride the Florida Dragon, 11 curves in 314 miles!!
clasqm -Drum brake  May 18, 2010 12:14 PM
For those of you who haven't put a foot down on a drum brake in years (all of you, most likely), if it is anything like the rear drum brake on the Shadow Aero then it has plenty enough stopping power. This is a piece of technology that was abandoned prematurely. Like the centrestand and kickstarter but don't get me started on those ...
Steve Barnes -New Bike ?  May 18, 2010 12:05 PM
I thought this was 2010,not 1978.
Hecklerboy -Not worth the money...  May 18, 2010 11:45 AM
Unless you really have your heart set on a Honda for a smaller commuter bike. There are other bikes out there that off better quality and more option.
H-D Sportster 883 Low: $800 less, disc brakes, belt drive, 3.3 gal tank.
Suzuki S50: $700 less, 805cc, Shaft Drive, Disc Brakes, 3.2 gal tank
Yamaha V-Star: $1,000 less, 650cc, belt drive, disc brakes, 4 gal tank

Seems like allot of money to pay for old technology. Drum brakes, chain drive, really?
EAB -Your answer, Mik  May 18, 2010 09:52 AM
Mike, a few years ago, in 2004 and 2006, Honda brought the Hornet 600 to this country and called it the 599. Except for having the pegs back a little further than normal, the bike was a good ole fashion UJM. The bike was evaluated on many websites and judged to be a deceptively good bike, the best UJM on the market. The 919 is a close twin to the bike, but it was too much bike for all but the most demanding riders. So the 599, perfect all around bike. It's problem was the price as it was priced $1300 more than an SV650 and a couple hundred more than a faired Yamaha 600. Now you can tell a potential buyer that the Honda will outlast the SV650, ride better, etc; but no luck. The 599 rotted on the showroom floor, even with deep discounts. I own a 599, and I have almost 25,000 miles on it. It is as fast as a CBR, handles like a 250, comfortable as all but one of my last 6 bikes, and is as bulletproof as a, well, a Honda. It will run the speed limit in first and pull it's happy a$$ to 135MPH, but the question I always get asked is when am I going to upgrade. 600's are small, and underpowered, don't you know? Now, this year, the NT700 comes over. $10,000 for a 700cc touring bike. Now we Amuricans just KNOW that a 700 shouldn't cost 10,000 bucks. It doesn't matter what the equipment is, it doesn't matter how comfortable, durable, or competent it is. It all comes down to cc's being relative to price. So back to Honda's dilemma. They can bring over their European bikes, but if the cc is a certain limit, then the price point must be a certain level. PERIOD! Of course, we don't think of cars this way. The car engines of today are half the size they were 20 years ago and yet they make twice as much power. The 3.8L V-6 of the 80's made MAYBE 150HP. Now, Ford has a 3.7L that has over 300HP, and that's without a turbo. Honda's current 2.4L engine, the base engine in the Accord, will smoke any normally aspirated V-6 from 20 years ago. And yet here we are; we still think of cc's on motorcycles like we did 20 years ago. In fact, it's worse. A 750 used to be more than enough to tour on. Now it's not even adequate for a beginner. It wasn't that long ago that biggest twin Honda had was 1100cc. Recently the 1300 VTX's were tested as Honda's "midsized" bikes. Why? Because people are stupid enough to pay thousands more for a bigger engine. Listen, you and I both know that once the engine is started and one must actually ride the biek that the VTX 1300 and 1800 are not half as good as the NT700. Oh, and the NT is thousand's less. Amurican response? "Only 700cc's? Sh*t, that's too much money!!!" So if the only way a buyer is going to pay premium money is if the bike has a friggin car engine on it. That's the USA motorcycle market reality. So it is what it is. The best we can do is hope that Honda continues to trickle real bikes over here; bikes like the Hornet (599) and Deauville (NT700), all the while pushing stuff like this 750RS which is basically a tractor with an engine on it (drum brakes and no power) for the masses that simply don't know what a good bike is. This bike will get the buyer to trade on a "real bike" like a VTX in two years, and basically, that's what it's meant for. Sad, eh?
mike -Another stupid move by Honda-I think  May 18, 2010 06:31 AM
Why would anyone choose this type of bike over a naked bike like the Honda 919 or Suzuki SV-650? The naked bikes are just as comfortable. Similar price. Better handling. A lot faster. Better looking. I can't think of one reason to buy a bike liek this unless you're trying to be cool, which you won't be. It reminds me of the Harley Sportster. The first thing I think when i see a Sportster is either that's someone who is trying to be cool or is a woman. I'd rather own a Honda Rukus than this thing. Honda your motorcycle division has turned into a complete joke. The 1000RR is the only bike of yours that competes well and it's so played out that I still see 2009's in the showroom. How about bringing back a good naked bike, a good supermotard, etc. How about something original for once?
Mike in WV -Zippy  May 18, 2010 05:59 AM
You missed the whole point of the article Zippy. Not everyone immediately compares every bike to a HD. Your beloved HD can't compare to the fit, finish and performance of my bike, so I won't belabor the issue. Having owned several Honda's in the past, I know exactly what John is referring to as the "smile factor". This bike was not designed to go out racing or doing stunts...it's designed to be a fun, comfortable ride. No one could ever say a Sportster was comfortable. lol Having lived in CA as well, I know the fun of riding up and down PCH...I love Orange Co and the beach communities from Huntington down to Laguna are the absolute best! Take a ride into Laguna Canyon and this bike will really make you smile. After all...if there's no one out there who cares what you ride, what difference does it make...it's all about the ride. This bike is for the commuter who wants a little fun on the way to and from work. It's priced right and again...for those who like to tinker...it will be an easy bike to customize. The chain, rear drum and single disc up front are all throw backs to an earlier time...back when some of us were riding anything and everything with 2 wheels and loving it. The thought alone makes me smile. Give me an old BSA, Royale, Triumph or Honda anyday...it'll make me feel like a kid again.
Zippy -Fake Sporty  May 17, 2010 07:52 PM
Wow, a smaller motored, drum braked, chain driven (who puts drum brakes and chain drive on a cruiser?) fake Sporty garunteed to depreciate 30% a year until it is worth $2000 in 3 years.

Woo Hoo (insert Homer Simpson voice here) Sign me up!!