Road Test Review
Lately the humongous-displacement cruisers with their extreme dimensions seem to get the lion’s share of everyone’s attention. Meanwhile, people are actually buying the smaller models in droves; Honda’s 750cc Shadow ACE was in fact the best-selling model in the company’s street motorcycle lineup for 2002.
To stay fresh in the game, for 2004 Honda’s Shadow Aero VT750 has undergone a major redesign, giving it a retro-look along with a strong dose of VTX styling-including large valanced fenders similar to its bigger brethren. Despite its relatively small displacement for a cruiser, the Aero now has the appearance of a much larger machine, which is especially accentuated by its oh-so-loonnggg rear fender. Another major change is the switch from chain to shaft final drive, which reduces maintenance and cleaning chores.
Motivation comes from a carryover 52-degree V-twin with single overhead cams and three-valve cylinder heads. It features a long-stroke design for big V-twin feel and low-rpm torque, along with two spark plugs per cylinder for combustion efficiency. A single 34mm CV carb mixes the juice, and compression has been bumped up slightly to 9.6:1 for a little extra punch.
With a pull on the choke knob (even that is retro) and a push of the button, the twin rumbles awake immediately and settles into a pleasing cadence. Although it’s still quite muted, Honda has beefed up the exhaust note to a “huskier” level that we found more pleasing to the ear. Performance is smooth and responsive, even during warm-up, with nary a hiccup from idle to redline. Turn the twisty handle and the engine pulls cleanly from low revs and feels more powerful through the midrange than its predecessor. Vibration is well-damped across the rev range and never obtrusive, but the engine feels busy and sounds like it’s working hard at highway speeds. Clutch effort is low and shifting is smooth and easy; even neutral is readily found.
Front suspension consists of a non-adjustable 41mm conventional fork with 4.6 inches travel, which feels plush and appropriately sprung. Dual rear shocks with five-position spring preload adjustability provide 3.5 inches of travel in back. Limited rear-suspension travel makes itself obvious over bumps and choppy pavement by sending jolts up the rider’s back in typical cruiser fashion.
Steering is light and stable and the bike tracks well through corners, which should build confidence, especially in new or re-entry riders. Spoked wheels carrying 120/90-17 rubber in front and a 160/80-15 rear gummy continue the traditional look. Traction is good wet or dry, and the tires don’t wiggle in rain grooves, but the footpegs touch the pavement rather easily in tight turns.
The single front disc brake with a two-piston caliper handles most of the stopping duties satisfactorily. Another “classic” touch is the rear drum brake, which makes this one of the last holdout motorcycles using this, ahem, “proven technology.” Yet the drum works better than expected and actually helps get the bike to halt.
A roomy, low-slung solo saddle with a detachable pillion welcomes rider and passenger. The bike’s steel-tube backbone frame was reworked to yield a ground-hugging 25.9-inch seat height. If the seat is too tall for you, maybe you should consider another pursuit. Skateboarding, perhaps?
Forward-mounted front footpegs add to the cruiser look, but are a bit cramped for long-legged riders, forcing them to sit on the upturned rear edge of the saddle. The wide handlebar is positioned stylishly low and is mounted on rubber-damped risers to further reduce vibes that reach the rider. Both mirrors offer a wide view and are free of the shakes.
The Aero’s speedometer is set into the fuel tank, again for classic-retro styling. It features useful dual tripmeters, and the indicator lamps mounted inside the cluster are visible day or night.
Fuel economy is exceptional. Our test bike averaged 46 mpg overall, with our best tank logging 47 mpg. Range to empty calculates out to 170 miles, and we generally hit reserve at around 133 miles.
So, if you want the lowest seat in the house, or are just in the market for a well-made cruiser in the lower-displacement range, be sure to take a look at the Aero. Chrome highlights abound, aiding the big-bike look and feel. An abundant selection of dealer-supplied accessories-including windscreens, backrests, saddlebags, a rear carrier, a lightbar, fender trim and other chrome goodies-will let you customize your Aero. Two solid color combos are standard, or for an extra $300 you can pick from three optional two-tones.
What you get is a buttoned-down, well-sorted cruiser combining new styling with a proven powerplant, along with excellent fit and finish.