• Apr 23, 2010
2010 Honda Shadow RS - Click above for high-res image gallery

If you're interested in scraping pegs and hightailing out of apexes, you probably don't have much interest in cruisers. While some love the feet-forward, fist-to-the-wind riding position, others are more interested in outright speed and back-road handling. Of course, the average non-enthusiast thinks that the stars of the canceled-and-brought-back Orange Country Coppers were motorcycling's answer to NASA and that their bikes were fantastic machines. To put it nicely, they're wrong.

For the most part, classic cruisers with long forks and hardtail rear ends are neither comfortable nor sporting compared to just about any other class of modern bike. The cynic might generalize that cruisers are for poseurs. So what do we make of the new 2010 Honda Shadow RS, a bike hailed by its maker as a sporting cruiser? Find out after the jump.



Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

All of us remember our "first" vehicle with special clarity. My entrance into the bike world involved a 1983 Honda Shadow 500, more formally known as the VT500C. The Shadow 500 was an all-new bike in '83, sporting a water-cooled three-valve-per-cylinder 490cc V-twin, six-speed shaft drive, quilted stepped saddle and a terribly awkward rectangular headlight. Honda didn't quite have the whole cruiser-look nailed at that point.

Like thousands of other riders, I picked the Shadow over a traditional Harley-Davidson because I couldn't afford the real thing, and even if I could have, I wanted to ride my bike, not get stranded by it. H-Ds of that vintage weren't exactly known for reliability. Plus, being a scrawny lad, the smaller Shadow was more manageable. Aside from the driveline lash and the front end that was tuned like a Wham-O pogo stick, it was a fine starter bike.

It was with this pretext that I approached the new 2010 Honda Shadow RS. Was it a fake Harley? Was it designed for poseurs? Would it hold the interest for riders who genuinely like to ride? What advances would 27 years of development yield?



Looking at the new Shadow VT750RS from a distance the bike exudes a cool, 1960s British aura. The wire wheels, roadster tank (2.8 gallon), proper round headlight and other stylistic elements make a cohesive statement. There's chrome, but not too much of it. The single gauge riding just ahead of the short bars works. The front end rake is 32-degrees, and if you heat-gunned off the RS decals, it'd be easy to mistake the bike as a well-executed but conservative custom.

The front rim is a 19-inch unit wearing a 100/90 tire. Stopping power comes from a single, drilled disc. Out back, the 16-inch rim orbits around a traditional drum brake and a chain sprocket. The rear tire measures out at 150/80-16, and in between the wheels, the 52-degree 745cc V-twin looks like it belongs.



The relatively low seat – though, at just under 30 inches it's not as fashionably low as some other cruisers, such as Honda's own Shadow Spirit 750's 25.7-inch seat – invites you to swing a leg over. The difference in posture between the Shadow RS and other cruisers is immediately recognizable. The former's posture is more upright than on a chopper, but not exactly sit-up-and-beg like a dirt bike or the crazy Ducati Hypermotard 1100 EVO SP.

Firing the liquid-cooled V-twin is as easy as keying the ignition and hitting the starter button. Because there's no carburetor, there's no choke or the resulting cold-bloodedness they're often afflicted by. An electronic fuel injection system takes care of start-up enrichment, with fuel-delivery duties handled through a single 34mm throttle body. The charge moves to the cylinders where it's delivered to the combustion chamber via twin intake valves to achieve better combustion. The charge exits through a single, larger valve that empties into individual exhaust pipes, but for those who truly want to leave a deafening rumble in their wakes, aftermarket pipes are a must.



The midsize V-twin vibrates at idle but smooths out as revs build. As for when the smoothness arrives, we're not sure because there's no tach. We drove using the rule, "Shift when you feel like it or when you hit the rev limiter, whichever comes first." We only hit the rev limiter once. As for the RS' performance, Honda doesn't publish 0-60 times and we didn't have the opportunity for instrumented testing, but our calibrated butts would put the run in the five-second range.

The gearbox is a wide-ratio five-speed. In the manner characteristic of Hondas, the shift action was smooth and consistent. Clutch take up was Goldilocks perfect... not too easy, not too stiff, not to shallow and not too deep.

Honda doesn't publish horsepower figures for their engines, but we have it on good report that the Shadow RS gets shoved around by around 60 ponies. However, Honda does release fuel economy specifications, and claims 56 mpg based on the EPA's exhaust emission measurement test protocols. In other words, your mileage may vary and won't likely match the number achieved on a dyno with a sniffer up the tailpipe.



Armed with this knowledge, we headed out from Honda's American HQ in Torrance, California in search of some fun roads. The hills of Malibu were our destination, requiring an interminable stint on California's I-405. Much traffic was present. Just 15 minutes into the 60-minute interstate run the seat's sleep-inducing qualities made themselves known and our posterior felt as if it was stuck with a horse syringe of Novocain.

The relief of surface streets couldn't come quickly enough. We hoped hitting the Pacific Coast Highway running north from Santa Monica would prove to be an effective antidote. While recognized for being one of the country's all-time great roads, the PCH doesn't provide much visceral fun in this part of the state. There's simply too much traffic moving much too slowly, so we found riding refuge in the lightly traveled canyons off the PCH north of Malibu. Here, the 2010 Shadow RS would prove whether it was more than a poseur.

Snapping the throttle open to run up a long, winding hill heading away from the Pacific, the Shadow was a ready, willing and able partner. The power is dolled out with zero hesitation in a well-controlled manner. Thanks to the EFI, there's no lag or flat spots. After a few corners, we found that it was also easy to tip in just a little power when you need it, adjusting your line through a long corner.



Riding higher and deeper into the mountains, the RS felt significantly lighter than its 507-pound dry weight due to the fact that it carries most of its mass down low. Appreciation for the RS's raised foot pegs (compared to other Shadow models) came at about corner number seven as confidence in the bike was building. The guys back at the Honda garage already know this, but we ground the pegs properly just once.

It requires little explanation that the RS would be no match for a genuine sport bike through the canyons. Regardless, the new Shadow proved to be thoroughly enjoyable thanks to the chassis' smooth, transient responses. The brakes were progressive and effective, even though the rear drum seems archaic. The stout front fork's damping helped the bike take a solid set in bends. The Wham-O pogo stick act seems to have been left back in the 1980s.



Following hours of entertainment, we slogged it back south to Torrance. While not a small bike, the 2010 Shadow RS is narrow enough for lane splitting, which likely cut the travel time back to Honda HQ by half. This part of the ride, however, proved that the brake pedal could be mounted a little lower to reduce the ankle fatigue that comes with being poised for an emergency stop.

To my surprise, the 2010 Shadow RS isn't a fake Harley-Davidson designed for poseurs. While the styling isn't unique, it is well done. The engine and chassis deliver the goods well enough to hold the interest of moderately serious riders. As for major advancements in technology, here the new RS doesn't appear to have evolved as one might have expected. Familiarity with Honda's other bikes and the cutting edge hardware in the company's parts bins, it was obviously a corporate choice to give this the RS the equipment it has, technology be damned.

But if you can live with that reality, then you can live with the Shadow RS. And with a base price of $7,799, it's a bike I'd consider parking in my own garage. Again.



Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Having owned 3 Harleys in the past few years (06 Sportster Roadster, 06 Heritage and 03 Super Glide Sport), as well as a number of Hondas, Suzukis, Kawasakis and European bikes, I have no doubt Harley makes the best cruisers. They don't try to compete with other manufacturers-they build their bikes the way they see fit. If you like them, fine. If you don't, fine. Harleys are not like other brands of cruisers, period. They have a different feel from other cruisers. They feel as if they are made from a chunk of steel, not aluminum and plastic. They are easy to customize or accessorize. Parts are readily available. If you enjoy customizing your bike, they are the leaders. That being said, if performance is your main objective, there are better bikes out there. I don't think any Harley owner really thinks of a stock Harley as a true performance bike. Harleys do contain some modern technology, it is hidden under the fantastic paint and gleaming chrome. The technology is not there for speed, it's there for reliability and comfort. None of my Harleys leaked anything, and none ever failed to start or needed anything other than basic maintenance. Again, if I ever buy another premium cruiser, it will probably be a Harley. Anyone parroting the notion that current Harleys are unreliable are sadly uninformed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Bikes like this are rapidly becoming "chick bikes". Seriously. A lot of women just getting into riding seem to love the cruiser look, but mistakenly think that Harleys are too "powerful" or "scary" or, not so mistakenly, expensive. So they run out, buy Shadows, Boulevards, etc and tack on so many accessories and other such "customizations" that the bikes end up costing significantly more than a Sporty 883 would've.

      Anyway, I suspect that's the target audience for this bike: chicks. Honda knows emerging target markets like few other manufacturers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        ....the reason woman like cruisers is because they are generally shorter and can flat foot the ground.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This has an MSRP of $7,799 - The HONDA COSTS MORE, has a DRUM brake, is made of plastic, makes less HP and less Torque.

        Sportster 883L has an MSRP of $6,999
        883N Iron = $7,999

        Looks like you are mistaken with the information you just pulled from your arse.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You know what the big difference is between this and a Harley?

      The Honda won't be leaking vital fluids everywhere in 10 years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sounds like you haven't been on (or around) a Harley in 20+ years. Same old generalizations and cliches; guess I shouldn't expect anything less (or more) from armchair riders.
        • 4 Years Ago
        10 years? Try 10 days!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Strange, if that were true, why will this retain none of it value while the "leaky" HD will still command a strong resell?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Guess which one will still be on the road 10 years from now. I will give you a hint, its not the Honda....
      • 4 Years Ago
      My first bike was a Honda CB50. Talk about wicked horsepower.... not.

      I'm not a big fan of this bike.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why the hell would you want to imitate a boat anchor like Harley and dont go telling me because they are American made when the wiring harness and suspension are made in japan...
        • 4 Years Ago
        HEY LARGE, I GUESS YOU HAVE NOT BEEN ON A NEWER BIKE FROM HD. I ONLY RIDE ONE MODEL OF THE HD. I THINK IT IS THE BEST THAT THEY EVER PUT OUT. I ONLY RIDE FXR's. THE YEARS FROM 1991 TO 1994. I HAVE OWNED 3
        FXR's AND THEY HAVE NEVER LET ME DOWN. I AGREE WITH YOU THAT THE YEARS AMF WAS IN CHARGE THEY COULD AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN USED FOR BOAT ANCHORS. SINCE THE EMPLOYEES TOOK BACK HD THINGS HAVE CHANGED. I HAVE TAKEN EACH ONE OF THESE BIKES THAT I DID OWN. (NOT ALL AT ONCE) DOWN TO MEXICO. MYSELF ALONG WITH 15 OTHER BIKERS AND WIVES WENT DOWN TO BAJA TO SEE THE BAJA 250. WE WNT TO A TOWN CALLED SAN FILLEPE. NOT ONE PROBLEM DID ANY OF OUR BIKES HAVE. THE BIKES NO LONGER LEAK AND THEY RUN STRONG. THE REASON I LIKE THE FXR IS THAT THEY ARE NOT SEEN VERY MUCH. PLUS THEY HANDLE GREAT AND YOU CAN LOAD THEM UP JUST LIKE A NEW BAGGER. IF YOU DO RIDE I WOULD CHECK INTO AN HD. YOU JUST MIGHT HAVE A CHANGE IN MIND.
        EVEN THE NEW SPORTSTERS ARE NOW RUBBER MOUNTED. IF YOU KNOW WHAT HAVING A RUBBER MOUNTED BIKE MEANS. GO AND TRY A TAKE A RIDE ON ANYTHING THAT HAS SHOCKS AND IS RUBBER MOUNTED. I HOPE YOU GIVE THEM A TRY.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I own a '74 SuperGlide that I bought in '78. I still ride almost daily. Dont recall the last time I saw a '74 Honda anything. Yes it leaks a little but 36 year old not leak a little.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "The cynic might generalize that cruisers are for poseurs. "

      this has to be the most arrogant and elitist pile of garbage I've read yet on Autoblog.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly, some people just want to ride around and that is perfectly cool. They cruise! Hence, the cruiser. I love twisty, hilly, dirty backroads so I ride a Super Moto. Isn't it great there is a bike for every rider!
        • 4 Years Ago
        +1

        I know many fellow sportbike riders with spotlessly clean leathers (not even a bug splat) and chicken stripes who have hissy fits over the smallest scratch on their ridiculously low-mileage machines.
      wd47w
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Like thousands of other riders, I picked the Shadow over a traditional Harley-Davidson because I couldn't afford the real thing, and even if I could have, I wanted to ride my bike, not get stranded by it. H-Ds of that vintage weren't exactly known for reliability. Plus, being a scrawny lad, the smaller Shadow was more manageable. Aside from the driveline lash and the front end that was tuned like a Wham-O pogo stick, it was a fine starter bike."
      You obviously don't know jack about H-D's of that era...you like all the rest have the AMF era 1965-1980 referenced...a time when quality was sacrificed for quantity...by 1983 H-D had been bought back by it's Board of Directors including one William G. Davidson...the first edict heard throughout the company was quality first. Read a book called Well Made In America by John C. Reid...My first ride was a 1966 Honda 305 Super Hawk...fun machine to be sure and reliable as all heck, but I sure wouldn't try any cross country treks on anything that small...my current ride is a 1992 H-D Heritage Softail Classic, 89,000 miles of smiles and never stranded ever...and she don't mark territory either. If you are a responsible rider you maintain your ride pure and simple.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @wd47w
        HERE IS A QUESTION FOR EVERY ONE THAT HAS PUT THEIR 2 CENTS IN THE RING. FIRST AND FOREMOST EVERY HD RIDER KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED WHEN AMF TOOK OVER. PLUS EVERY ONE KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE EMPLOYEES BOUGHT IT BACK. I ONLY RIDE THE BEST BIKE, I THINK HD EVER MADE. I ONLY RIDE 1990 TO 1994 FXR's. THEY HANDLE LIKE A DREAM. PLUS YOU DO NOT SEE MANY OF THEM ON THE ROAD. PLUS YOU CAN TURN THEM INTO A BAGGER TO GO ON A WEEK RUN. I HAVE NEVER BEEN LET DOWN BY ANY OF MY BIKES. DOESEN'T EVERY HD RIDER KNOW WHY THE GUYS WHO RIDE THOSE OTHER BIKES WEAR FULL FACE HELMETS???
        LET ME TELL YOU ALL WHY. THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE SEEN RIDING THOSE BIKES. SO THEY HIDE BEHIND A FACE SHIELD. NO LADIES EVER PULL UP TO THOSE GUYS. THOSE BIKES AND SHIELDS DO NOTHING FOR THEIR IMAGE.
      Alan LaRue
      • 3 Years Ago
      If it weren't for the 19" front wheel, the RS would remind me of the CB bikes from the 70s, except with the wrong engine. I think the red-white-and-blue version looks cool, and it might be a fun bike to own. Of course, with a 2.8 gallon tank, it'd be useless as a commuter. I have a 72 mile round trip, and would be holding my breath hoping to make it home the second day. Give it a 16" front wheel and a 5 gallon tank, and I'll buy it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      75K on an 83 BM. That's a bike!
      • 4 Years Ago
      more jap junk ride real on a harley
      • 4 Years Ago
      ...For the man that wants to dress like a pirate on the weekend, but doesn't think he needs 883cc's of raw power.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dress like a pirate now thats funny...
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