2010 Honda Shadow Phantom First Ride

MotorcycleUSA Staff | January 18, 2010
2010 Honda Shadow Phantom is one sweet ride.
The Honda Shadow Phantom sports a blacked-out retro-meets-new look for 2010. No shiny chrome and we like it.

The Honda Shadow has always been an attractive yet conservative entry-level cruiser, a wallflower in the V-twin world. This is no longer the case with the 2010 Shadow Phantom. Breaking free of the cookie-cutter styling of its brethren, the latest cruiser from Honda sports Rat Rod-looks. Custom styling off the showroom floor, coupled with Honda reliability, makes the Phantom an attractive option for riders looking for serious style on the cheap. And in this day and age, having the best of both worlds is always appealing.

Based on the tried-and-true Shadow platform, the Phantom shares many of the features that have made the small-range V-Twin a top choice for entry-level cruisers. The engine is the same 52-degree, 745cc mill used in the Shadow Aero and Spirit. However, the new bad boy in the family now has fuel injection to help bump up the power. Honda ditched the single 34mm constant velocity carburetor for a 34mm fuel injected throttle body with an automatic enrichment circuit.

Thanks to the new fuel injection system, the Phantom fires easily when the starter button is thumbed. The fuel mapping is excellent and silky smooth. On- and off-throttle shenanigans do little to upset the perfect fuel delivery. The newly injected motor puts out a decent spread of power, my seat-

The Honda Shadow Phantom drew looks and comments everywhere I went.
2010 Honda Shadow Phantom
Polished and chrome bits are kept to a minimum, though the Honda Phantom still commands attention wherever it goes.

of-the-pants dyno telling me it will easily run with the larger 850cc and 900cc machines offered by Honda’s competitors – just don’t tell their owners. Never was I left wanting or needing more power. The Phantom has plenty of beans to make everything from freeway sailing to around-town stoplight cruising enjoyable.

Although the new fuel injection is big news for this cruiser, the biggest eye-opener in my book is the styling. The Honda Shadow line has always been decent looking but safely styled, sometimes to a fault. The Aero and Sprit lack an edgy look that I personally feel cruisers need. Let’s be honest, you don’t ride most cruisers for the performance; they look cool and you don’t have to be a contortionist to log serious miles on them. The Shadows have always had the comfort in spades, but the cool factor was not there.

This new Phantom, however, looks like a genuine bad ass. Black wheels and matte grey finish on most of the bikes parts give a nod to the backyard hot rodders of days gone by. I’ve wanted to ride this bike since I first laid eyes on it months ago at the motorcycle show simply because it looks so cool. Of the many cruisers we’ve ridden in the past few years, I’ve got to stay the entry-level Honda dark horse got more comments from strangers than many before it. With the Phantom, Honda has done Hot Rod better than most American cruisers made, and that’s saying a lot from a metric cruiser.

Not stopping with just some flat paint and black wheels, Honda has bobbed the fenders, lowered the ride, bent up some new bars and spooned on a set of fatty meats; the 120/90-17 front tire sits under a small front fender making it look

The folding footpegs did scrape ground occassionally during the test ride.
The new Shadow offers a comfortable seating position with one’s legs slightly more forward and the rider more upright as a result.

even larger, while tucked under the chopped rear fender is a 160-series rear bun.

A gun-fighter style seat sits just 25.7 inches off the ground, making the reach to terra firma easy for those of nearly any inseam. You feel as if you are sitting in the bike as opposed to on top of it, bolstering confidence in the corners. The slightly forward pegs give a natural seating position that is comfortable for both long stints in the saddle as well as quick jaunts to the convenience store. The matte-black bars have a comfortable sweep and are an easy reach from the seat for all height riders; at 5-ft 10-in it was a breeze for myself, while Road Test Editor Adam Waheed, sitting well over 6-ft, was perfectly at home. Lever positioning and shape is typical Honda top notch, with equally good fit and finish.

In the handling department the Phantom performs admirably for a cruiser, though has some shortcomings for larger riders. The single 296mm front rotor squeezed by a twin piston caliper has excellent feel and more than enough stopping power for a bike of this size. The rear drum works as well as anyone can ask for a unit designed decades ago. Suspension duties are handled by a non-adjustable 41mm fork up front and dual five-way preload-adjustable shocks out back.

2010 Honda Shadow Phantom engine is the same as used in the Shadow Aero and Spirit.
The styling cues of the new 2010 Honda Shadow Phantom include subtle uses of chrome.
Bringing the Honda Shadow Phantom to a stop is a single 296mm disc with a two-piston caliper.
(Above) Powering the Phantom is a 745cc fuel-injected V-Twin engine. (Bottom) A single disc with dual piston caliper up front and a rear drum out back do well to bring the Phantom to a stop.

Unfortunately, here is where the Phantom falls a bit short for me. The 4.6 inches and 3.5 inches of suspension travel, respectively, is too softly sprung for my 225 lb-frame, and dampened even worse. The suspension blows through the stroke easily, causing it to rebound much too quickly. This gives a jarring ride down any road, no matter the county or state. Adding more rear preload doesn’t help the situation much. In fact, on the bigger bumps it makes things worse, causing the rear to rebound even quicker. I am probably heavier than the intended Phantom buyer, thus the harsh suspension should be better for those of the more ‘featherweight’ kind in most situations.

Despite the suspension’s relatively poor comfort performance, the Phantom handles the corners with a composure not seen in many ‘small’ cruisers. Bending the long and low cruiser into a corner takes the slightest effort. Once in the corner, the handling is neutral and predictable, provided there are no large bumps to upset the chassis. Road feel through the tires is excellent and you always know exactly where you stand in the traction department.

Ground clearance is standard fare for low cruisers, so long as you keep it at a leisurely pace. The folding footpegs touch down in the tightest corners, and when they do it doesn’t upset the chassis much at all. During photo passes at the top secret MotoUSA proving ground, we scraped the pegs over and over but never had a problem with fixed parts coming in contact with the asphalt, which is where the real problems could start. Thankfully on the Phantom there’s no such concern. 

The  end of my testing days came quickly, and to be honest, I was actually a little disappointed to give the new ride back. After hopping on a different cruiser later that day, I realized just how good the Honda Shadow

2010 Honda Shadow Phantom looks even better in motion.
Are the Phantom’s stealthly new looks and quality fit-and-finish worth the extra greenbacks? Stay tuned to find out in our upcoming shootout!

Phantom really is. At $7999, it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking for a smaller bike with a big, trendy feel. Spot-on fuel injection, a comfortable ride, and the best cruiser bars I’ve held onto in a long time create one sweet ride. But to be one-hundred percent honest, I like the Phantom mostly because it looks downright bad ass, making smaller cruisers cool once again!

The Phantom may cost $1000 more than some of its stable mates, so the real question becomes: Is it worth the extra cash? The true tale will soon be coming to Motorcycle-USA.com with our mid-level multi-bike cruiser shootout that is currently in the works. So be sure to stay tuned!

MotorcycleUSA Staff