Friday, April 30, 2010

Ride Review: 2010 Honda Shadow RS

Dain Gingerelli was lurking in the shadows when Honda introduced its new Shadow RS. He shines the light on the bike for this report.

While Harley-Davidson Motor Company remains mired in slow sales and sagging profits, what does Honda do? They introduce a new model that looks for all the world like a Sportster. You know, Harley’s old standby model that’s been on the sales menu since 1957. Go figure.

What Honda’s figuring on, however, is to point at least a portion of today’s still-enthusiastic motorcycling community down a road that leads back to basics. Which explains the sales slogan—“Back 2 Basics”—that accompanies the Shadow RS. Honda wants to rekindle the simpler, happier times when riding motorcycles was about fun as much as anything else. Anybody recall Honda’s first sales slogan that helped them move hordes of Super Cubs off the loading docks back when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States? I do. It was “You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda.” Keep that line in mind when you look at a Shadow RS.

The Shadow RS is basic in many ways, too. The 507-pound bike has no fairing, windshield or saddlebags, and its mechanicals are about as rudimentary as you’ll find for a liquid-cooled bike; the single-crankpin, 52-degree V-twin engine transfers power through a five-speed transmission to a sealed O-ring chain that spins the 16-inch rear tire.

Power from the 745cc engine is nothing to write home about, but the Shadow RS manages to keep pace with its own shadow under all conditions. Power delivery, thanks to electronic fuel injection that feeds the cylinders through a 34mm throttle body, is smooth and linear, but there’s no tachometer to help you navigate the power curve. Again, you do like the old-timers to determine shift points—you listen to engine rpm. And if you’re tone deaf, the ignition cutout will let you know when it’s time to call on the next set of cogs.

Ergonomics are nothing out of the ordinary, either. After perching yourself on the Sportster-like-seat that positions your fanny 29 inches above the deck, you’ll grab a set of handgrips placed about where traditionalist bikers (that is, guys who learned to ride before the term “sportbike” was coined) expect them to be, and your feet will find the footpegs without having to stretch your legs or fold your knees like two oversize pretzels.

Thumb the electric starter button, snick the tranny into gear, release the clutch lever (the cable-operated clutch requires minimal pull) and you’re off. No, not to the races, but you will find yourself zipping in and out of traffic like a seasoned pro because this bike is easy to maneuver. Bump compliance from the suspension is about what you’d expect from a $7799 motorcycle, and the single front disc brake and mechanical drum rear brake should keep you from planting the Shadow into objects you have no business accidentally bumping into.

What else should you know about the RS? Well, Honda claims 56 mpg (based on EPA exhaust emission measurement test procedures), so fuel costs should be easy on your budget. The staggered mufflers emit a pleasing baritone note that you expect from a V-twin engine, and Honda offers about 20 accessories to help you begin customizing your bike to suit your tastes. If you opt not to equip your RS with Honda’s accessory rack, there’s a pair of handy hooks under the rear fender braces to secure bungee cords for toting miscellaneous gear. The RS is available in either Metallic Gray or Pearl White paint, and there’s ample chrome—even on some of the plastic parts—to give the Shadow a rich look.

So (and to paraphrase another Honda ad slogan, this time from their automotive sector), is this what the world is coming to? Probably not, but our guess is that the Shadow RS will help steer new buyers into the sport, and for experienced riders looking for a retro-styled bike with an affordable price, they need look no farther than their own Shadow.—Dain Gingerelli

Specifications (as supplied by manufacturer)

Honda Shadow RS
Model: VT750RS
MSRP: $7799

Engine Type: 745cc, liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-twin
Bore and Stroke: 79mm x 76mm
Compression ratio: 9.6:1
Valve Train: SOHC; three valves per cylinder
Induction: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit, one 34mm throttle body
Ignition: Digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: Wide-ratio five-speed
Final Drive: O-ring–sealed chain

Front: 41mm fork; 4.6 in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks with 5-position spring preload adjustability; 3.5 in. travel        
Front Brake: Single 296mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Mechanical drum        
Front Tire: 100/90-19
Rear Tire: 150/80-16
Wheelbase: 61.5 in.
Rake: 32.5 degrees
Trail: 134.0mm (5.3 in.)
Seat Height: 29.4 in.
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons, including 0.7-gallon reserve
Claimed Fuel Economy: 56 mpg
Colors: Metallic Gray, Pearl White
Curb Weight: 507 pounds


  1. Traditionalist Biker (altho' not a "guy")May 1, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    Aaah, that makes me want to get back into motorcycling. Thanks for the review, Dain!

    Great work on this e-zine, you two. You're taking us back while moving us forward.

  2. "Taking us back while moving us forward."
    I like that :)

  3. I love this bike. I want one! The better ground clearance & shock travel, as well as more comfortable ergos and lower center of gravity, FIXES what has always been wrong with the Sportster. M

  4. Or, for the same money, you could get a real Harley.
    At least go ride an 883 before you buy this. What you'll find is - the 883 will vibrate a bit more, but then smooth out; fit and finish will be flawless - and steel, not plastic - and you won't be doing any valve adjustments.

    I love Hondas - very well made - but I did trade my dual-sported XR650R for a Sportster 1200R. 23,000 miles later, I'm glad I did (since, unfortunately, I can only afford one bike).

    Since Honda is "bringing back the Sportster" - do yourself a favor and try riding an original. Since 2004 they're not paintshakers any more, and since 2007 they're EFI.

  5. I may not be much of a stylistic connoisseur, but to my eyes, this bike is about the best looking motorcycle for sale by anyone right now. I just begs to be jumped on and ridden with a smile; looks sooo cozy and friendly, without screaming 'beginner bike'.

    I do wish Honda gave it a bit more motor, to keep it more comfortably ahead of cages in this age of 270hp Accords. Also, a Honda cruiser should have linked brakes; and this is coming from someone who isn't all that sold on them on the VFR.

  6. You've just GOT to ride one of these.
    bonzai L.A. Calif

  7. At 67 just thinking about getting back to motorcycles, an addiction for over 30 years and being more "mature" ( code for remembering the pain of a high side while playing how far can I lean it ) I devoured the cycle websites. Enough nostalgia. This RS seems like a great way to start riding again... very pretty, classic ( Sportster derivative ) styling, Honda reliability, versatility, and a great price. Only qualm is that it is lacking horsepower ...a 750 with only 36 or 40 HP ... we are not talking regression to carving corners at my age but riding two up on freeways where the traffic flow is 70-75 ...power IS Safety for safe passing. Strange that my old Honda 750 Four had more power 25-30 years ago than this bike ...The triumph Bonneville at 66 HP and same 500 weight provides a classic for us older guys with nearly twice the HP ... worth another 1000 bucks. maybe good for gals and beginners but not a competitive fit for returning riders

  8. I have one and I love it. Nice to ride and everyone wants to know what it is. I get looks all the time. Opened up the pipes a little and it sounds great. but a little chrome around the tank flange and back fender so it looks a little retro. Just use door trim at walmart and it really dresses it up in a good way.

  9. Good try by Honda and exactly the direction motorcycling needs to go. It doesn't need more power, it needs less weight, by about a hundred pounds. If I got one I'd see if I could upgrade the suspension too. A better Sportster than the Sportster, and you don't need to put up with HD snobbery either.

  10. I own a 2013 rs. Handles great. Not comfy for long distance. Power is good. Not as fast as say a 1200 sporty but that's a given. Lots of plastic parts on this bike. Be fueling up tank every 100/110 miles. Maneuvers easy. Low center of gravity. Low maint. Suspension is nice. Two up max 80mph bogs a bit beyond up no prob. For price it could have more offered.commuter bike fine. But im going back to a sporty for purpose better bike for money and holds value better than the rs.