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2007 Vincent Black Shadow First Ride

Friday, July 6, 2007
2007 Vincent Black Shadow
The 2007 Vincent Black Shadow is not a restoration. All parts are based on original factory engineering drawings or precisely measured original components.
Our cultural exchange program with our motorcycling buddies overseas at
Motorcycle News continues as they give us the scoop on the latest reincarnation of the Vincent Black Shadow.

Pictures don't do this Vincent Black Shadow justice. After first staring at e-mailed pics of it for a long, long time, my conclusion was it looked immaculate; the biz. But now, in a garage in Kent, with its chromed and painted parts just inches from my fingertips, my thoughts start with 'immaculate' and end with 'perfection'. It doesn't matter which bit my eyes fall on, it's 'perfection'. This must be how the 2200 worldwide members of the Vincent HRD Owners Club first got hooked.

From the gloss black finish of the engine cases to the chrome rimmed upright speedometer and all the parts precisely torqued in place elsewhere, there's not a sign of ill-fitting tool abuse or stains from years of grime and use - the usual traits of age and restoration. And there's a very good reason for this: this Vincent is not a restoration. It is new - all new. Every grease nipple, section of frame and cables are under 500 miles old. The smell of a slight fuel weep and marked tires are the only items to show this is a runner. Oh, and there's the '07 registration plate. Awesome.

And now it's my time to start it. Although drilled in the precise technique, I admit I'd forgotten it just after turning one of the two fuel taps on (it had already been run to warm the engine) and debating whether to push the bar-mounted choke levers to fully on. Instead, I take up on the offer of help to start it. One of the three carefully watching members of the Vincent Owners Club (VOC) takes over. It starts so easily that I'm truly humbled by the experience and by a machine around sixty years in design.

The burble and rustle of moving parts aren't smothered by the healthy exhaust note. The bobbing of the bike on tickover accentuates the feel of a living, breathing piece of history under this Vincent ignoramus. Excitement and nervousness roll into one. I haven't felt this way since my first ride on a 500 Grand Prix bike, or Rossi's RC211V. I need a wee.

While the clutch lever is in the 'normal' place, the gearlever and its shaft is in another world. My right boot hovers above the gear lever as I struggle to remember the shift movement: one up and three down. First gear goes home with a shunt of metal somewhere along that gear shaft deep in the engine cases. It didn't need the extra blips of throttle and deliberate clutch to pull away. It might be an old 'un but the mechanicals are all there and in mint condition. The shift to second is as sweet. But the front brake isn't.

2007 Vincent Black Shadow
The 2007 Vincent Black Shadow uses an air-cooled 998cc 50-degree V-Twin with a claimed output of 55bhp.
There's little tension in the two front brake cables down to the twin 7-inch front brake drums. Cheap Chinese trail bikes might have stronger front brakes, but then they are about half the weight of the Shadow. My left foot has to work the two rear brake drums - an alien concept that results in my foot resting on the brake as I pull from a junction only to stall it. Bugger. Time to put into practice those forgotten preachings of starting a Vincent.

Right peg lifted and kickstart swung out in record time, dab the kickstart until compression is reached, pull the de-compressor lever, dab the kickstarter again until it just goes over compression, let go of the de-compressor and stamp down on the kickstarter like it was a slug on my lettuce patch. It starts so easily.

Along A-roads around Brands Hatch, the Black shadow is as happy as I am. The upright speedo's needle ratchets its way round to 70 mph with the occasional break in its ascent from changing gear. Digital speedos, pah, all electrics and expense with no character whatsoever. Bloody lovely: it's sunny and dry and I'm riding a bike with a bark of an exhaust note that is immediately recognizable as a slow-revving classic's.

The damped Girdraulic forks and cantilever-mounted twin rear springs with separate damper chamber are surprisingly modern in feel. They soak up most of the big dips and bumps but let you know when you hit sunken or raised manholes. The freshly adjusted front brake is working at full strength, or rather as much strength as my fingers can muster. Not so much slow but rather deliberate gear changes (one of the VOC three wise men has said I'll hear rapid cog swaps rather than feel them) keep the V-Twin motor on the boil, but then I make a discovery that makes my smile even wider. The throttle tube has a longer throw than I thought, and the extra twist fully lift the remote carb plungers.

That extra rate of fuel kicks off an even bigger smile. It's not a startling rate of acceleration, but something like an old air-cooled SS900 Ducati lump would give up on a good day. The sharper edged exhaust note bounces off hedgerows and trees and I can hear myself coming and going.

At 80 mph there's a strong feeling through the bars and pegs of more speed to come but mechanical empathy rules today. That upright speedo tops out at 150 mph, which was a sharp way of telling the world in its day the 'Shadow' was the fastest bike in the world. But it's not my bike and the tires aren't exactly sports numbers - they are based as close to the original rubber as possible. It's funny how a vision of a skinny (3.5 x 19in) and square-profiled Avon rear tire can pop up with a series of bends approaching. I'll tell you, we don't know we're born today.

Back in the days before digital and analog speedos  people used to read the needle on their speedo. What a concept!
The old-school speedo mirrors the Vincent's original charm. No need for digital, analog, or LCD here.
Using the front brake makes the chassis dip while the forks stay the same length. If a a comparison has to be drawn it would have to be Yamaha's over-engineered hub-steered GTS1000. A strange feeling but reassuring one at the same time as the bike feels better connected to the road. A little bit of modern day body shift off the seat should see us through these S-bends.

The Vincent takes it all in stride. Yes, the weight of the bike (227 kg / 500.5 lbs wet) is telling through the bars when flicking left then right, not the age of its design. Only that the rear tire causes the stable handling to get upset - riding off the edge of the tread induces a weave which settles down as quickly as it started.

Spirited riding compounds the belief that the Black Shadow really was the Ducati 1098 of its day, and totally understandable why it was the machine to have way back then in the late '40s - even though its £350 (around $700 U.S.) price was on par with a new house. I can also see why people get hooked on wanting a Vincent in the garage today even though we'd be looking anywhere between £25-30K (and more at auction) for a decent original. As for this bike - a brand new machine, don't forget - there's more to say. Read on.

A NEW VINCENT BLACK SHADOW, HOW COME?

The Vincent-HRD Owners Club is a non-profit-making club dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Vincent marque. Not only does it run a very competent and successful club consisting of archivists, engineers, owners, machine registrar, boffins etc., it also has ties with The VOC Spares Company Ltd. This associate company deals purely in spares for Vincent-HRD machines and, together with the club, an idea was formed to build a complete bike to ensure the quality of its spares and to see whether or not every part was available. It also happened to be the next stage up from when the club successfully built a complete new engine in 2004.

The model of the bike was decided - C-model circa 1949-54 - and the plans from 2005 were put into action in early 2006.

2007 Vincent Black Shadow
The allure of owning a Vincent Black Shadow retains its luster. Otherwise, why would the Vincent HRD Owners Club have an estimated 2200 members worldwide?
The project wasn't easy. While most of the spares are common replacement parts (not copies but made to original dimensions and spec) to fit on existing chassis, a new machine meant building a new upper frame member (the headstock and main spar that also held the engine oil from which the engine attaches/hangs from) and rear frame member (the subframe). There was also the matter of producing the Girdraulic forks to the original exacting standards - in the end the forks were machined from solid so are stronger than the originals although you couldn't tell them apart. The building problems didn't end there. As the club's information officer Paul Adams says: "Where we didn't have the original factory engineering drawings to make parts, we had to measure exactly original components and present them as new drawings to the engineering companies we used. If these parts were quantity ordered they'd be fairly cheap, but the initial outlay would be huge. In effect the parts we had made are bespoke and that sort of quality costs money."

WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT VINCENT BLACK SHADOWS?

They were deigned by Brits, built by Brits and ridden by just about everybody, and still are. The fact that it was fast for its day, handled as good as any 1970s Japanese bike and was full of technical goodness says it all. I mean, what other bikes do you know where thumbwheels are used to adjust the chain so easily and T-bar-type QD wheel spindle removal is standard? Everything about the bike is adjustable, that's internal and external, it has left and right sidestands that adapt to be a front wheel lift, and there's a mainstand. Adjustable rear damping and steering damper, too. To top it off there's a removable metal tool tray under the seat. To sum up the Vincent Black shadow: the bollocks.

WHO DO I MAKE THE CHECK PAYABLE TO?

You don't. This machine is unique and, therefore, desirable to the point where big money could be involved. But as it essentially belongs to the Vincent-HRD Owners Club it's only fair that the machine will end up in the hands of a club member. All club members are invited to tender a sealed bid for the bike. The closing date for bids is August 31 this year and the winning bid will be announced at the club's annual dinner and dance Oct. 21, 2007. Even this old hack is contemplating joining the VOC.

The VOC has no intention of producing a limited run of complete machines due to red tape (insurance, liability, type approval. However, there will be 'approved constructors' who will uphold the stringent standards the VOC demands and these will be supplied parts to create a bike to customer requirements.

2007 Vincent Black Shadow
After Franklin remembered the Vincent's starting sequence, he fired her up and took her for a spin along the A-Roads around Brands Hatch.
SPECS

Vincent Black Shadow
Cost (est): £25-35k ($49,900-$69,900 U.S.)
Power (claimed): 55bhp
Torque (claimed): N/A
Dry weight: 206 kg (454 lbs)
Colour: Black
Info: 01322 666 455 www.voc.uk.com

TECHNICAL

Fuel: 16 litres (4.22 gal.)
Rake: N/A
Trail: N/A
Seat height: 826mm (32.5 in.)
Wheelbase: 1435mm (56.5 in.)
Engine: Air-cooled 998cc (84 x 90mm) 4-valve SOHC 4-stroke 50-degree V-Twin. 2 x type 276 Amal carburetors.
4-speed gearbox. Chain final drive.
Chassis: Tubular steel duplex cradle frame.
Suspension:Vincent Girdraulic front forks and cantilever-mounted dual springs with remote oil chamber rear suspension.
Brakes: 2 x 7 in. diameter drum brakes front and rear with single leading shoe.
Tires: Avon - 3.00 x 20 front, 3.50 x 19 rear

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Comments
samuelarunmasilamoni   September 22, 2012 05:25 AM
I live in India and first read about The Vincent in 2001. The sight of the Shadow's top speed shook me as much as my first sight of Don Bradman's batting average, and the sight of the machine herself gave me my most exalting thrill ever - as it still does. To imagine such mechanical and aesthetic precision and beauty! No wonder so many swear that The Vincent is the most perfect motorcycle ever! I cannot count how many times I have dreamt of simply sighting one, let alone hearing or riding one! Bless you all for bringing her back to life. Do battle on until she is made street-legal again. And one more thing: I do have the privilege of riding a Royal Enfield Bullet!
Harold -Metal restoration / polishing  January 31, 2011 01:08 AM
I felt priviledged to read the letter by Mr. Deller about his Vincents. It was a look at a time when something as inspirational as this bike can define the era. It's still the best all around motorcycle ever made, in any era. My hot-rodded Evo Sportster is as close as I'll ever get; at least it's black.
Al Loosvelt -vect6  December 16, 2010 06:46 PM
The Black Shadow is nothing short of a mechanical masterpiece of industrial art. The details are dreamlike and the internals from what I read are well engineered. I would love to own one of the new models as I think they are magnificent machines.

Hats off to Egli Vincent and also the fellow in Texas who builds them as well. I can see me on one, perhaps one day!
mark revelle -mr  September 1, 2010 06:00 AM
Your spec mentions a 'tubular steel duplex cradle frame'. Really? The Shadow has no such thing. Incidentally I just rode 840 miles in three days on a Black Prince - cruising easily at 80-90mph, getting 70 mpg when averaging 70pmh ( but using a pint of oil every 100 miles - there's a loose pipe somewhere..)
steve holley -The Sporano's  January 31, 2010 07:41 AM
I first heard about the Vincent Black Shadow today on the TV series "The Soprano's." Carmella's(Tony's wife)dad was talking about it being the best motorcycle back in "his day." So I had to check it out online since I'm a motorcycle freak. I just wanted to say that I would swap my original 85 Vmax for one in a heartbeat if I were lucky enough to find anyone interested. I wish. LOL!
steve
Brian John Deller -I owned three Vincents in my "youth". Happy days.  December 16, 2009 12:37 PM
I shed a tear or two while reading thsi articlñe for I bought my first Vincent, a Rapide with te 5 in Speddo in 1961 for 100 Pds or US$ 170. I hade been riding for years but at te age of 25, my wife was exepecting our first youngster so I either had to buy a car or a bike that would haul a sidecar around. I chose the latter, and after buying a small single-seater, streamlined, fibreglass Swallow Flight side-car, and after setting it up correctly, I carried on with three wheels and soon worked out how to get the best out of an outfit that would show a pretty genuine 105 mph on the accurate speedo if I laid down on the tank to reduce wind-drag. The car of choice for the young then was the Mini-Coper and many of the young drivers soon had a shock when not only could I overtake them on the freeways using top speed (the Mini Cooper then did about 95 mph in top condition but after a few minutes on a nice UK summer's day would overheat. Even in the wet i could corner quickr than all the Mini-Coopers I came across even sports cars on the twisty British country roads remembering that then there was no maximum open road speed limit. In 1971 before I put the sidecar on, I entered the Vincent Owners Club day at Cadwell Park track and wion te Novice's cup, as well as coming second against other Vincents that had been haevily modified (my engine and chassis was standard, and the engine was so low compression that it could run on 80 octane fuel (as it had to when it was first made in 1952) But I cheated for I rode my Vincent all year round while others retreated to a carAlso being a race mechanic for a friend of mine, a bomber pilot who later flew with the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic team, nad ge taught me a lot about racing. He came 16th in te 1962 Senior TT races on a Matchless G50. In the fastest 20 of the day race, I came third remembering that severaskl bikes were only used on te track whereas I had all my street gear on including a silencer, and this with about a total entry all race classes of 120 entrants. Happy days. I kept the bike for 27 years taking it to South Africa where on twisty roads I would ride around modern bikes such as Honda 750s, Benelli 750 sixes and so on. Many wanted to swap the Vincent for their bikes but I was not stupid. Being an daircraft technician I overhauled the bike myself and it would run for 100.000 miles between engine overhauls and I did around 350 000 miles on it eventually before I sold it, seduced after a ride on a 1981 Ducati 900 SS. But I had by then bought the 150th to last Black Prince and a basket of parts that was another Rapide, so I did not divorce myself from Vincents altogether. But now 72 years of age I would do it all again for when you reach my age, the memories are very important. I knew race greats such as Mike Hailwood, freddie Frith, Dickie Dale, Phil Read, and so on. All great personalities and gentlemen of the rack. In South Africa as a memebre of te big Classic Motorcycle Club I was instrumental it getting classic racing started despite opposition form the collectors who feared that their bikes would be crashd abnd destroyed. On te contrary, many old bikes were saved from te scrap heap as they were bought and restored for the very popular organised track racing we did, complete with paying spectators. I won the first year championship based on four events from memory on different tracks including Kyalami but for the second year the lads, my racing friends, all went mad with their Nortons and Triumphs and bought special race kits from the UK, etc so they could win. But we all had fantastic fun and we had some riders racing who were aged 65 years. My old Vincent was sold to a man who left South Africa to move to Canada about 1996 and I hope it is still running OK. Although they were epensive to buy when new, if you intended to ride for many years they were worth the money for who needed anything newer, it was already 20 years or more ahead of its time, engine and chassis. If anyone reads this who knew me, greetings and good luck. bjdeller@spainvia.com
Tom Gaynor -Shadows  November 6, 2009 02:28 PM
Mine is 1951. It was impressive in 2003, with 43,000 miles on it, it's even more impressive now after an overhaul, essentially with the clock set back to 0 miles. Didn't cost much, either. Must have been mind-blowing in 1951, still a quite wonderful ride, whether through city traffic, or a couple of hundred miles of Scotland's remote twisties. Starts, goes, stops, ticks over. Looks wonderful. You need more? There is more: when you stop, people ask "Is that a Black Shadow?". Aw, shucks, you say... I have a 1993 Ducati 900 Monster. Lovely bike. But I prefer to ride the Vincent. It's like a cross between a 1340cc (?) Harley and a Ducati. It has the grunt of one, and the usability and steering (almost) of the other.
YTWA. Colombo, Sri Lanka -Black Shadow  June 17, 2009 02:49 AM
Simply amazing!!! This is a testament to the commitment of the Vincent Owners' Club and VOC Spares!!! Well done!!!
Steve Davies `` StCloudUSA@aol.com - The New Vincent  June 1, 2009 06:15 AM
Oh Yes, being a child of the 50's I grew up with the demise of the truly British Motorcycle , My dream machine has always been this very bike, Having ridden everything else From a Harley to a Hyabusa I still want this Dam Black Shadow, or maybe just to ride it ? Ahh well dreams are made of Vincent's,
Robert Anderson -The New Vincent  January 26, 2009 06:43 PM
I read the article concerning the new Vincent Black Shadow, and I was very excited a motorcycle of this stature was built. I have loved Vincent's ever since I started reading about them. To me they are truly what a real motorcycle is all about. I can only look and dream about them since I cannot afford one. I don't think you could of done better. In my opinion the name Vincent is the greatest name in motorcycling.
j.hutchinson_1@btinternet.com -Vincent Black Shaddow  November 12, 2008 01:09 PM
Absolutle brilliant, wish I had the funds!