2010 Honda Shadow RS – Road Test Review

photography by Brian J. Nelson
[This 2010 Honda Shadow RS Road Test was originally published in the September 2010 issue of Rider magazine]

The 2010-Honda-Shadow-RS in action.

Remember when a 750 was one of the big boys, a hefty handful that you had to work up to? These days 1,600cc is the new 750. In my line of work, I push a lot of bikes in and out of the garage, and make endless U-turns on steep, narrow roads during photo shoots. When curb weight approaches half a ton and displacement exceeds that of a small car, it can all get downright strenuous.

Throwing a leg over the 2010 Honda Shadow RS brings a smile to my face, and a sigh of relief. Ah…simpler times! This is a solid, basic motorcycle that leaves nothing to the imagination; what you see is what you get.

The first Honda Shadows—the VT500C and VT750C—motored onto the scene in 1983, back when sub-liter engines were the bread and butter of the metric cruiser market. The Shadow family tree has had a lot of branches, with cruisers ranging from 125cc to 1,100cc and variants bearing names such as American Classic Edition, Aero, Spirit and—a bit redundantly—the Shadow Phantom (a specter’s specter?). And that tree has produced lots of leaves: in the 700-800cc category alone, Honda has sold more than 250,000 Shadows to some of the nicest people in America.

2010 Honda Shadow RS Cruiser Engine
The Shadow's 745cc V-Twin Engine.

The RS and Phantom, both introduced for 2010, are the newest members of the Shadow 750 family. A classic sibling rivalry, the RS is the taller, clean-cut do-gooder to the Phantom’s dark, brooding rebel (see Rider, June 2010). The classic roadster styling of the RS—spoked wheels, straight-shot exhausts, minimalist front fender—bears a striking similarity to the Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster. In fact, the Japanese interpretation of an American icon was designed for Honda’s home market. But when American Honda executives caught a glimpse of it, they said, “We gotta have that!”

Beating at the heart of the Shadow RS is a liquid-cooled, SOHC, 52-degree, 745cc V-twin with three valves per cylinder and an offset dual-pin crankshaft to minimize vibration. The RS and Phantom are the first bikes in the Shadow 750 line to get fuel injection—Honda’s tried-and-true PGM-FI—and both have crisp, precise throttle response. Delivering a lively rumble and lope, the engine runs smoothly from idle through midrange but be­comes unpleasant in the upper registers. Short-shifting and moderate revs are the key to happiness. On Jett Tuning’s Dynojet dyno, the Shadow RS posted peak figures of 38.6 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 42.8 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. For a bike that weighs only 507 pounds wet and will be ridden mostly solo at boulevard speeds, that’s all you need. Unlike the other Shadow 750s, the RS gets chain final drive rather than shaft; less weight, more maintenance.

2010 Honda Shadow RS_03
Spoked Wheels are a classic Roadster styling addition.

Feet-forward cruisers force me to compromise the good posture my mama worked so hard to instill in me, with hunched-over seating positions that require the discs between my vertebrae to pick up where short-travel suspension leaves off. Pleasantly, the Shadow RS has a fairly standard riding position that fits my 6-foot-plus frame better than expected. Perched 29.4 inches off the pavement, you sit on the RS rather than down in it (as with the Phantom’s 25.7-inch seat height). The footpegs are higher and farther back than on most cruisers, allowing above-average cornering clearance. Thanks to a comfortable bend to my knees, a natural reach to the grips and a fairly straight back, all-day riding is not a crippling affair. On the other hand, the seat induces butt burn after an hour and the pillion pad is little more than a pot holder. But on this bike, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Stop, rest, take in the view. Savor a cup of coffee and gab at the gas station, a place you’ll visit often. The RS averaged 43.8 mpg on this test; with a waifish 2.6-gallon tank, the RS’s low-fuel light came on at the 100-mile mark like clockwork.

Cruising down Main Street through downtown San Buenaventura on the Shadow RS elicited second glances and the occasional nod. Its mildly syncopated exhaust offended no one. Pedestrians and pet owners admired its lines and chrome accents, never the wiser that most of the RS’s bodywork—fenders, side covers, “chrome” on the engine—is made of plastic. Some scoff at anything that isn’t real steel, but I don’t mind plastic. Not only does it keep food fresh in my fridge, it’s lightweight and won’t corrode, rust or dent. The shiny exhaust pipes are the real deal, and the billet aluminum triple clamp is spiff. And there’s metal where you need it: the bulletproof frame and motor. The Shadow RS feels as reassuring and dependable as the sunrise.

2010 Honda Shadow RS Speedometer
2010 Honda Shadow RS Speedometer

Putting around town is all well and good, but my Type A personality and caffeine intake demand that I ride every test bike hard and fast for at least a couple of tankfuls. On my BFF backroads, the Shadow RS was eminently capable. It blends conservative steering geometry (32-degree rake, 5.3-inch trail) with a fairly short 61.5-inch wheelbase and narrow tires. Axle to axle, the RS is 3 inches shorter than other Shadow 750s and only 0.8-inch longer than Honda’s sporty VFR1200F. The tube-type Dunlop D404s provided good grip and predictable steering. Shifting the wide-ratio, five-speed gearbox was effortless, clutch engagement perfect. The brakes and suspension, clearly an area where Honda sought to limit costs, are unremarkable yet they fulfilled their responsibilities honorably. The single front disc and rear drum are well suited to a bike like the Shadow RS, which maxed out at an indicated 80 mph with my helmet on the tank and the throttle pinned. With suspension travel limited to 4.6 inches front, 3.5 inches rear and only rear preload adjustability, the ride was harsh at times over rough pavement. But the bike never wavered from my chosen line, and this is, after all, a minimalist cruiser.

Amenities are nil. There is no tachometer, and the LCD display set in the bottom of the large analog speedometer offers basic functions only: odometer, A/B tripmeter and clock. And there is no storage space to speak of. Behind the left side cover you’ll find an owner’s manual, and behind the right one you’ll find a toolkit with one hex wrench and one Philips screwdriver. Heck, even color options are slim and understated: Pearl White or Metallic Gray. Gotta have accoutrements? Ask your dealer to bolt on some Genuine Accessories, such as a backrest, rear rack, saddlebags, handlebar bag and trim pieces.

You really can’t go wrong with a bike like the Honda Shadow RS. Its only real drawback is the price. This is a bike which had much of its tooling paid for back in the go-go ’90s, yet it sells for $7,799. A Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low, of which the RS is a spitting image, starts at $6,999. And you get low-maintenance belt drive, a rear disc brake and automatic inclusion in The Family. But American-made heritage isn’t for everyone, and many feel Hondas are worth a premium. Honda Shadows will be roaming the earth long after we’re fodder for the next round of fossil fuels. And I’m sure the stylish, sporty RS will be highly coveted among riders in that Brave New World.

2010 Honda Shadow RS Review2010 Honda Shadow RS Specifications
Base Price: $7,799
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: http://powersports.honda.com
Type: Liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-twin
Displacement: 745cc
Bore x Stroke: 79.0 x 76.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 3 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 8,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit, one 34mm throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.2-qt. cap.
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Ignition: Digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
Charging Output: 400 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 11.2AH
Frame: Tubular steel double-cradle with steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 61.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 32 degrees/5.3 in.
Seat Height: 29.4 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm male-slider fork, no adj., 4.6-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload, 3.5-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 296mm disc w/ opposed 2-piston caliper
Rear: 180mm drum
Wheels, Front: Steel spoked, 2.15 x 19 in.
Rear: Steel spoked, 3.5 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 100/90-19
Rear: 150/80-16
Wet Weight: 507 lbs.
Load Capacity: 368 lbs.
GVWR: 875 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gals., warning light on last 0.7 gal.
MPG: 86 PON (high/avg/low) 49.3/43.8/38.3
Estimated Range: 114 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: NA


  1. Maxed out at 80MPH in full tuck?

    Come on. Other reviews say it will reach 100mph plus. My 06 Yamaha Morphous 250cc scooter which weighs 450lbs maxes out at 80mph!

  2. My wife gets close to 60 mpg on her 2010 RS and has pulled a speedometer reading of 85 mph, her limit, not the bikes.

    The bike is geared too tall and makes tight turns in low gear difficult. It also makes 5th gear an overdrive, I have gotten 83 mph out of 4th and not much happened when I shifted to 5th.

    Best thing about the bike, my wife looks good on it.. dj

  3. I bought a 2010 Shadow Phantom VT750c2B in May. I was told
    by the dealership that the bike had a top speed of about
    110. I have taken this bike as fast as it will go and am
    not happy. The bike will hit 85 mph in 4th but after I shift into 5th I am only able to get 5 mph more. Is there
    a problem with the bike? The dealership took it for a drive
    and said that since he had it up to 85 in 4th the bike was
    fine and that I should try 5th gear. Maybe if he had he would have listened seen that the bike did not deliver as
    promised. I would love to hear from anyone with any ideas.

    Joe Morand
    Billings, Montana

  4. The RS Shadow has a chain and sprockets and it is Geared very tall. 17 up front and a 38 rear makes for gutless gearing. We will be dropping a tooth on the countershaft sprocket. That should help the tall 1sr gear that gives my wife problems and maybe the bike can then pull some of 5th gear too. We can always go up a few on the rear if it needs more help…

  5. My friend had a 750 Shadow and it was a nice lightweight bike to travel with. Worrying about no push past 85 is not a concern for most as it will nail you a hefty ticket. My concern is the range. Many places in Nevada this tank will get you out of gas before you hit a gas stop. That would be my first recommendation. My bike holds 5.5 gallons at 50-55 mpg. You can do a 200 mile day and have plenty to spare.

  6. We dropped the front sprocket down 1 tooth, added a Powrflow Air Intake and put in a Fuel Management outfit from Cobra. That picked up the power for my wife. She gets around on it pretty good and the bike sounds good too even with the stock pipes.

    We also added a chrome rack from Cobra that mounts over the rear fender and she puts her magnetic tank bag on that to carry a drink and whatever in it.

    She traded in her 883 Sportster Iron on this bike and it is easier to ride and soaks up the bumps better. The sound is just as good maybe better stock for stock. She can ride this bike Much faster because the suspension is better and she is smoother on it.

    The Sportster had 1.8 inches of rear wheel travel. It about broke your back anytime the rider hit a bump. I spent a couple of hundred more for new shocks. They also add setup and delivery to the harley. So the Harley cost a whole lot more than this discounted 750 Honda and the interest rate was over 5% better than Harley’s too.

    As far as the gas thing goes, she gases up every ride and if we go for longer rides, we pull in for gas for her at 120 to 130 miles. No problem around here we have Gas stations… dj

  7. I have ridden my 2010 Shadrow RS from Auburn, California to Washington D.C. twice. At legal highway speed I get 60-63 mpg with reserve light at 125 miles. I have ridden the bike at 95mph, it may have a few more MPH but that’s about it. I really like this bike but would like a solo seat and larger tank. The o-ring chain is a pain with short runs between recommend cleaning and relub. The transmission makes for fast gear changes – too bad it’s not a six speed. Bought mine out-the-door for $8,000 even, tax, license and all included and at 3 % interest.
    A really nice, relatively short range bike! Not enough accessories as yet.
    With nearly 14,500 miles on the bike – absolutely no problems!

  8. I’m buying one now, 1600 miles on her and 7 years old!
    It’s a no brainer/basic bike, dependable and I have others bikes so why not 1 more?

  9. I bought a 2010 Shadow RS with only 2425 miles on it a month and a half ago. Super clean with brand new tires! I changed the air filter to a K&N. Changed the oil to full synthetic. Cleaned and lubed the chain. Then I went riding. I got it up to 100 mph just a few days ago! Great bike! I am perfectly happy with it, and I get lots of compliments on it!


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