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Honda VT 1100C3 Shadow Ace Tourer
(Photo Mark Salsgiver)
CRUISERS AREN'T JUST FOR CRUISING ANYMORE.
These are big, hairy-chested mega-cruisers, however, and they aren't for everyone. Enter Honda's early-release 1998 VT1100T Shadow American Classic Edition Tourer. A combination custom and touring machine, the Tourer caters to those who crave torquey V-Twin power, but in a smaller, more nimble
Such versatility isn't exactly cheap, though. At $11,499 our two-toned Tourer (available in solid colors for $10,999) costs as much as Honda's highly touted, 174-mph CBR1100XX, and $3200 more than Yamaha's unadorned Virago 1100 Special.
But the VT comes equipped with full cruiser-touring regalia-that is, windscreen, saddlebags and padded sissy-bar. The injection-molded plastic bags are identical to the Valkyrie Tourer's-same front-hinge design, same easy release fasteners, same 20-pound capacity-and are more than sufficient for daily commuting or weekend trips. Up front, the non-adjustable polycarbonate windscreen is small enough to see over and offers good coverage, though some taller testers complained of minor buffeting.
The VT1100T is actually the latest in a long line of Shadows. Now, this gets a little confusing, so bear with us. . The VT's family tree is multi-branched and dates back to [ the 1985 debut of the original Shadow 1100. Honda redesigned that bike in '87, and the result was a more Harley-esque appearance and increased bottom-end power. Eight years later, Honda attempted to inject even more eau de Harley into its cruiser line with the Shadow ACE, which used a single-pin-crankshaft design. This year, the ACE is unchanged, while the Shadow receives engine and cosmetic updates, including a revised riding position, and an ACE-like seat and exhaust. It also gets a name change, and is now known as the Spirit 1100.
And then there's the subject of
this road test, the Tourer, which mates many ACE parts-frame, gas tank,
engine covers, etc.-with the Spirit's engine.
The liquid-cooled, 1099cc, 45-degree Vee-motor has three valves per cylinder-two intake, one exhaust. Rubber-mounted, it breathes through a pair of 36mm Keihin carbs, and spent exhaust gases exit through a new 2-into-1 -into-2 system. But does it make more power?
On the CW dyno, the Tourer produced 53 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 63 foot-pounds of torque at 3000 rpm. That's a slight decrease from our 1994 test Shadow, which made nearly 59 horsepower and 69 footpounds of torque. On the other hand, that's a noticeable increase over the ACE, which made only 44 horsepower and 61 foot-pounds of torque.
Furthermore, the Tourer's five-speed gearbox was the recipient of some serious twiddling. Perhaps responding to complaints about the ACE's lack of acceleration off the line, Honda configured the Tourer with a lower first gear and a lower secondary reduction ratio. The result is plenty of bottom-end grunt, thank you very much. So much so, that the bike will accelerate cleanly from a dead stop in second gear. Engine and gearbox modifications weren't the only changes. The swingarm was reinforced, and the wire-spoke wheels were ditched in favor of heavier-duty cast-aluminum jobbies that accommodate tubeless radial tires-a Shadow first.
Finally, the suspension was recalibrated for a firmer ride. Up front, the 41mm Showa fork offers 5.9 inches of travel, and the dual chromed shocks have 3.9 inches. Only the shocks are adjustable, via easily accessible five-way preload ramps. While the ride isn't Cadillac-plush, the suspension does soak up most pavement bumps and ripples, a big improvement over earlier ACEs.
Last on Honda's Things To Tweak List was the seat. Appearance-wise, the saddle is identical to the ACE's. But denser foam was added, and the contour was altered to provide more support in general, and to the inner thigh area in particular.
Even so, the Tourer isn't about canyon carving, it's about tooling through the countryside in comfort. And once there, the stretched-out riding position is oh-so relaxing, no matter the speed.
Does the two-tone, teardrop-shaped gas tank look familiar? It should, it graced the ACE. In fact, a similar tank bedecked the original 1985-86 Shadow. Only, there was a catch:
The Shadow's version was really a holding reservoir for the main tank, located beneath the seat. The Tourer's, however, is the real deal and holds 4 gallons of fuel.
Despite its mass, the Tourer handles downtown duty with dignity. Its low 28.5-inch seat height, agile handling and strong low- to midrange power make stoplight-to-stoplight trolling a particularly pleasant activity. Although the mechanical clutch performs well, small-handed riders had trouble reaching the lever. Since the Tourer's target audience includes women, a VFR750-like, thumb-wheel adjuster would be a helpful addition.
Like its predecessors, the Tourer will be assembled in Honda's Marysville, Ohio, factory. Honda isn't willing to quote production numbers, but those figures could be high if touring cruisers turn out to be more than a passing fancy. Thus far, reactions have been positive. Whether traveling crowded city streets or parked outside a restaurant, the Tourer captured many admiring glances. And more than one passerby stopped to comment on the bike's heavily finned V-Twin, gleaming chrome and flowing curves.
The bottom line is that the Tourer and bikes like it, take what used to be short-range boulevard bombers and convert them into versatile, all-day bikes. Think of them as cruisers with a higher calling.