Is a Honda Shadow a Good Starter Bike?

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When searching for your first motorcycle, what are the most important factors to consider, and does the Honda Shadow make a good first choice?

You’ve probably seen some amazing motorcycles on the street, in a magazine, or in a movie starring Tom Cruise jumping a Boeing 757 on some kind of crotch rocket, but let’s get real. Your fantasy bike won’t make a good first bike. Let’s explore some considerations that will either make this a life-long passion or have you giving up on this exciting dream altogether.

The Honda Shadow series of motorcycles is an excellent choice for the novice when exploring bike options. The four C’s of consideration are cost-effectiveness, controllability, comfortability, and the cool factor. While not all Shadows are identical, they do contain these critical characteristics.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of the Shadow and what is most important about purchasing your very first bike. This decision will either make you or break you. If your choice is too safe, you’ll feel like you’re riding a Walmart scooter with a basket on the front, but if you go too big, you could feel overpowered by a massive engine and frame that could get you into a dangerous situation.

Every motorcycle enthusiast has had a first bike experience that was either exhilarating or traumatic. My first-ride experience back in 1988 was unforgettable, and since then I’ve been passionate about understanding what could help a novice biker enjoy the experience and make this a life-long passion. After consulting top motorcycle websites, it’s clear that the front runner choice for beginners is a Honda Shadow. The following will detail exactly what to look for when starting this two-wheeled adventure and why the Honda Shadow is a perfect choice.

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The Pros of the Honda Shadow

The Cost-Effectiveness of the Honda Shadow

Let’s face it; when deciding on your first bike, you still may not be certain that this is the lifestyle that fits you. It’s all a fantasy until you turn the key, twist the throttle, and release that clutch. Risking a huge investment is foolish until you’re sure.

The base price of a new Honda Shadow Phantom is only $7,900.00, and the Aero is just about the same at $7,800.00. This makes it one of the best-priced values you can find, and the re-sale value is strong averaging about $5,000.00.

Compare this cost to the average new Harley-Davison or Ducati which will set you back $21,000.00. You won’t get stuck in a money pit if you decide that this venture into the biking world is just not for you.

The Controllability of the Honda Shadow

As already mentioned, the top priority when flying down the road at the speed of a white-knuckled blur is safety. Confidence for beginners is developed through controlling your ride. The two most important factors for controlling your motorcycle are braking and steering.

Braking Control

The newer Honda Shadows have a double-disc braking system that boasts two-piston calipers (11.7 inches or 296 mm) at the front and an expanding brake (drum brake) at the back giving a feel of control when needing that quick stop. The 2022 Aero also comes with an ABS option for even more safety.

Steering Control

The 2015 Honda Shadow Phantom is just under 550 lbs (249 kg) which feels even lighter when accelerating. It’s difficult to find the perfect balance between power and weight. The Honda Shadow finds that balance for the novice with exciting acceleration and speed but with a lighter weight for consistent controllability especially when steering.

On the new 2022 Honda Shadow Aero, the slightly narrower seat is just under 26” off the ground, and this low center of gravity keeps the rider in control on the highway and during tight turns. The importance of this design for beginners cannot be overstated. The higher off the ground you are the larger the “rotating inertia” of your motorcycle will be which leads to a bike going off-balance. The lower your center of gravity the less the destabilizing force will be and the more time you will have to react to banking versus sliding.

The Comfortable Design of the Honda Shadow

I found the Honda Shadow Phantom was perfectly sized and, to me, was like floating on air cruising down the highway. It’s heavy enough to handle highway velocity, but not too heavy when navigating slow turns.

The seat is a little narrow, and while some find that compromises the comfort, I experienced better control and still enjoyed a level of comfort that didn’t leave me sore after a long ride.

I rate the overall comfort level of the Honda Shadow as exceptional.

The Cool Look of the Honda Shadow

With 92 generations of the Honda Shadow dating back to 1983, the sleek, aerodynamic design has been known for its style and sophistication. With this bike, you get a classic, old-school look of a well-developed bike even in a beginner’s level weight class. The subtle curves and lines of the handlebars, beefy front tire, and tear-drop tank distinguish the Shadow as a truly beautiful bike. Even Hollywood acknowledges this featuring it in several movies and tv shows like Steel Magnolias (1989) and Batman and Robin (1997). So, yes: the Honda Shadow is very, very cool.

The Cons of the Honda Shadow

While this bike belongs at the top of your first-time bike list, you will need to be aware of a few disadvantages.

Lack of Power

At first, you will enjoy your bike’s power and even be a little wary of its neck-whipping acceleration ability. But as you adjust to your newfound hobby, you will quickly transition from novice to experienced novice.  At this point, you may find most Honda Shadows lacking in power especially if you host a passenger or are carrying saddlebags. If you compare it to a big-bore engine with a greater displacement in cubic centimeters (cc’s), you will find it lacking.  However, for safety’s sake, it’s important to compromise power as you learn to ride.

Leaky Petcock

Some pre-2010 Shadow 750s are known for a leaky fuel petcock valve. A manufacturing issue causes many owners to have to replace the carburetor and the petcock valve to avoid losing fuel and, of course, averting an engine fire.

Starter Button Failure

Another issue that has frustrated some Shadow owners is a faulty starter button. Whether it’s dust, debris, or manufacturer’s error, when the bike is left to sit too long, this problem can be an issue that some have fixed with a good cleaning and others by replacing the handlebar mechanism altogether.

Seat Discomfort

While comfort is often a matter of preference, it’s important to note that many have found the seat a little stiff and narrow. Longer rides are especially uncomfortable if the seat is not accommodating to your body type. While I found the seat cushion adequate for my needs, you should always test drive before purchasing and remember that this is only your first bike, not your last bike.

Most Honda Shadow designs are similar, but not perfectly equal, so understanding each unique model and how it meets your individual needs is important to know if it is the right beginner bike for you. In general, the cost, power-ratio control, comfortability, and design make the Honda Shadow a great investment to start your new high-octane hobby.