Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Honda 700/800 Shadow

Wed, May 19th, 2010

1986–88 Honda VT700C/VT800C Shadow
The Shadow was the first narrow-angle vee to use offset crankpins, which made it admirably smooth. It had the requisite low-speed, V-twin oomph, but thanks to overhead cams, three-valve combusion chambers and 'just-enough' crank mass, it revved surprisingly quickly. An interesting one-way clutch made downshifts smoother. LIke most bikes of the era, carbs were too lean from the factory.
When the engineers redesigned the second-generation shadow, they gave it much improved rear shocks. The steering was light, but cruiser-slow. Ground clearance in corners was considered poor at the time...it would be fairly good compared to today's mostly floorboard-equipped cruisers.
The 1st-gen Shadow was overstyled and awkward. While it's still not perfect, Honda got a lot right on the redesign.
New, the Shadow was bulletproof and nearly maintenance-free, thanks to hydraulic valve lash adjusters and shaft drive. Only time and miles have reduced its score.
The hands-high, feet-out riding position is pitiful at highway speeds without a windscreen, but the seat was actually pretty comfy, and in-town handling was not difficult at all.
The '86 Shadow 700 was the first cruiser I ever sat on in the showroom and thought, 'Wow, I can see myself buying this.' That lightbulb moment has kept the 2nd gen Shadow on my list of favored models ever since.
It was the first indication that Japan, Inc., was someday going to really nail this cruiser thing.