One of my co-workers has a Honda Shadow that I’ve envied for a while. Its 750cc engine is three times the size of my bike’s engine, and it outweighs my bike by about 150 pounds. I asked him how different it felt from my bike. He promptly handed me the keys, so I took her for a test drive.
Boy was that a mistake. Because it was terrifying? Nah. It’s because now I want a bigger bike.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my bike. However, strong winds blow me around more than I’d like, and the narrow tank leads to sore hips and inner thighs on extended rides. My bike’s comfortable up to about 40-45 miles per hour, but I hit 55 and she starts to feel a little shaky. It’s not so much a feeling like I’m going to fall over, it’s more like Scotty’s in the tank screaming “I cannae hold her together, Captain!” and the not-so-warp drive is going to fly apart.
The Shadow was a whole new experience. I felt like I was sitting on something of substance, and the wider tank and higher seat made for a comfortable fit. There was no choke to play with on startup, and her throaty growl had a very different voice from my Virago. I had to lean her a little harder to keep the tighter turns, but she felt a lot steadier despite the heavier weight. I didn’t get her much over 40mph, but when I did I hardly noticed it. (I probably should have taken her out on a back road and opened her up, but I get real nervous driving other folks’ cars, much less their motorcycles.)
That said, the differences in the controls also surprised me. The brakes weren’t as touchy, and the foot shifter had a more tangible click between gears and across neutral. The biggest difference was in the clutch lever. On the Virago, I let it out most of the way before first gear engages and the bike starts rolling. On the Shadow, I hardly had to let up at all. There aren’t many things more embarrassing than killing an engine twice at a stop sign with two guys watching from a nearby yard. Fortunately the engine kicked in and drowned out their witty remarks as I rolled off, thus sparing my pride a bit.
All in all, I decided I definitely need to get into the 650-850cc range for my next motorcycle. It’s a lot more comfortable, and probably better suited to my frame. Now to see about selling some more books to pay for my engine lust…