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I was actually looking for a mid-sized cruiser when I saw an ad for a very clean 1999 VT125C. It seemed a better deal than some old warhorse for the same asking price, so I went and bought it. That was in May 2005.
The VT isn`t well equipped. Shadow owners are expected to customise theirs to their liking, and Honda offered a long list of accessories. As with all popular models, a huge number of aftermarket parts are available (if you don`t find what you`re looking for expand your search to France or Germany). I`ve added a fair number of extras over the years. A sissy bar with a luggage rack is a necessity unless you want to scratch the VT`s paint with your stuff. I also got Hondaline`s own saddle bags (buy ones that are easier to detach and lockable, instead), a plexi fairing and a center stand (another necessity if you want to just adjust it`s drivechain when it is fully loaded). All these will increase it`s weight and drag, and 11kW is barely enough for such a lead sled. Oh yes, for a 125, the VT is a big mutha: even knowledgeable people mistake it for a 600-750cc.
The engine pulls bravely, does not vibrate, and there never seems to be much wrong with it. Mine still runs just about like new at 40K kms, which is simply astonishing for a 125. Double pressure rings on the pistons, water cooling and minuscule tolerances on all parts seem to make it last longer than many a mid-size air-cooled vee-twin. As for power, or the lack of it: that V2 is probably the strongest and most powerful in it`s class of japanese 125cc cruisers, but a bit overburdened as speeds rise. It has a nice power plateau between 9K (max torque) and 11K (max output) rpm so you may pack some extra stuff without compromising its performance. Hills and headwinds, however, as on all small-displacement motorcycles being run at almost top speed, take their toll and drop the V2 from it`s power range in 5th. Fuel consumption rises dramatically, too, as on any fourstroke, if you must run the engine at full throttle. To sum it up: you will prefer byways to highways.
The VT125 is exceptionally capable on very long solo cruises. No fatigue, no breakdowns, a very long range on a tankful. It will not run much faster than 60 mph but will do that all day (and night) in good comfort. A fair average speed turns into respectable distance figures as the hours go by: it is the tortoise that will beat many a big hare. You`ll want to avoid inner city traffic: the VT has just about the same wheelbase as a mid-size cruiser, a similarly large turning radius, it is wide... ah, and it is a bit slow ;) It isn`t really happy in the twisties, either, with a somewhat restricted lean angle (OK if you have the hard plastic last-forever OEM Bridgestone tyres on it you would`t want to try out the limits, especially not in the wet) and a rather archaic rear suspension (Honda seemed to run out of budget there, whilst all the rest is very well done), so beyond 8/10-speeds it seems to say "must you?". I`ve found the little Shadow very amusing on gravel roads: if you don`t mind a bit of float it is fairly easy and safe to run at much higher speeds (low CG, long wheelbase, wide handlebar, relaxed driving position) than e.g. sports 125s.
Suggestions: keep it in tune (spark plugs), mix a drop of anti-ice into the fuel if the V2 develops a "stumble" (carb ice, water-contaminated fuel), do not choose cheap drivechains (will need adjusting every 200mls, and you`ll hate that), and don`t try to service it yourself. It keeps it`s adjustments well but everything needs to be spot-on for the V2 to have the full 11kW... and you`ll desperately need each and every one for the VT to be any fun. When buying a pre-owned one check that it still attains just about the factory performance figures (unsuccessful attempts to increase it`s power, or an engine in need of an expensive rebuild). Shop for condition rather than low mileage or year model. If kept well, it will run seemingly forever and not need much more than an odd lightbulb or replacing worn-out parts. If you want this gem of an engine in a better chassis, have a look at the XL125V Varadero.
Lows: ridiculously inaccurate speedo (can be adjusted with a Speedo Healer), rear brake is rubbish, chrome needs quite a bit of polishing, a bit slow for comfort (too slow 2 up), rather spartan base equipment
Highs: size, reliability, classic lines, exceptional (solo) tourer for a 125, very easy on the owner if well maintained, good humour, Honda quality, a gem of an engine, okay solo performance for just 11kW
I?d like to introduce you to my baby. Like any proud parent I think she?s beautiful though I will admit she?s a bit of a chunky girl?a bit like her momma! I was bitten by the biking bug at a fairly young age when my dad had two Hondas but it was only this year I decided to take the plunge and get into it all myself. Being a total novice I was restricted to two options ? I could go for a 50cc either moped or scooter or, being over 17, the option of a 125cc motorbike. Since I hope to eventually gain a full motorbike licence, am not particularly a fan of scooters, and have not noticed many decent looking mopeds in my local dealership I decided the 125 was the way to go. I looked around a bit at the 125cc range and found I was particularly drawn to the look of the smaller cruisers and two in particular caught my eye ? the Suzuki GZ125 Marauder or the Honda VT 125C Shadow. I have always had a soft spot for Hondas due to my dad having them and the name has a certain reliability associated with it. I also spoke to a friend of mine who started on a Shadow before passing her test about a year ago and upgrading to a bigger bike. She said the Shadow had a lot going for it as a starter bike. I must admit my mind was pretty much made up by this point. I started out looking down the usual avenues to find out how much a second hand bike was going to cost me but, since I was going to have to take a five year loan out to pay it off I abandoned that plan in favour of a new bike figuring I could take the restricted access test and putter around on my 125 for a few years before upgrading. Popping down to my local dealership I was delighted to find they had a Shadow in stock. I was immediately smitten, and immediately put the wheels in action ? three days later I was the proud owner of one Honda VT125C Shadow. The 125cc Shadow is the smallest of Honda?s range of cruisers bearing the same name. Not sure how techie you all are, the c
ruiser range of motorbikes are based along the lines of the Californian Harley Davidson?s. They have a low seating position with higher handlebars giving a laid back seating position as opposed to the leaning forward riding style of the sports-bikes or tourers. They are also unfaired so they do not have the protective plastic panels at the sides to offer wind protection and no windscreen at the front. The Shadows are currently available in metallic red or black and brand new will set you back £3299 which is on the hefty side for a 125cc learner bike but is on a par with the Kawasaki EL125 Eliminator at £2845, the Yamaha XVS125 at £3549 or the Suzuki VL125 Intruder at £3249. Although you can find cheaper cruisers for less they are less well-known names such as Daelim, Hyosung, Vulcan or Siamoto with the possible exception of the Suzuki GZ125 Marauder at £2249. The mini sports bikes fall within similar price ranges for their names and the mini trail bikes which can also be used on road tend to set you back a bit less. So it pretty much comes down to what you are looking for in your starter bike whether or not you are willing to pay this price out. For me I was willing to pay the bit extra for the reliability of the Honda name and knowledge of the resources behind me should I run into later problems with the bike. In my case the dealership also threw the price of a Compulsory Basic Training course in with the bike and gave me 10% off the equipment and clothing I bought. If you do decide to go down the second hand route you can usually find a Shadow somewhere in the region of £1200 for a five year old bike with some leeway either side for older or newer bikes, which again is fairly standard for the well known and named bikes although Honda is pretty well known for not suffering too badly from depreciation. The Honda Shadow is immaculately built with classic cruiser lines, low seat and high handlebars. The seat is actually pretty comfortable. I
rode her for three hours during my CBT with only a brief drink break in the middle and found the seat still as comfortable to climb on by the end of the session as by the beginning, the only drawback I found with the seating position was that the tops of my legs were aching a bit by the end of the extended riding period but since I have heard that sports bikes can make your wrists ache after doing a long ride I guess its horses for courses. The seat itself is set at 680mm, which is fairly low compared to a sports-bike average of 810mm-820mm and a trail bike average of 900mm. I am not especially tall, I?m five foot three but I do have quite long legs with an inside leg measurement of 31 inches and found sitting on the bike I could quite comfortably put both feet flat on the floor and hold the bike upright so it?s probably quite good for most peoples frame sizes unless you are particularly tall or short. Pillion comfort I am not sure about as on L-Plates I cannot carry a pillion passenger so much as I would love to give you the full seat review you will have to forgive this missing portion. It does come complete with a seat handle for your pillion though and I am fairly sure there are grab rails at the side too. Along with the metallic mudguards, a tank and side panel there is plenty of chrome for you buffers and polishers out there on the exhaust system, handlebars and suspension. Speaking of suspension the ground clearance on this bike is 145mm so you aren?t going to be throwing her into mad turns or trying to get your knee down anytime soon but if that?s your bag you are better off with a sports-bike than a cruiser anyhow. The total bike length is 2300mm with a wheelbase of 1540mm, which compares well to other similar sized cruisers but is longer than the similarly sized sports-bikes. Again this should not affect your ride too much unless you are planning for wheelies or wild knee down turns. With a width of 890mm and a total height of 1110mm th
ese specs add up to a big looking bike. The first time I walked in the showroom I actually walked right past her thinking she must be one of the bigger Shadows and for a short time the dealers kept it next to the 1300 to show how well she stands up to her bigger sisters ? the main give away being the smaller tyres but not something most people would necessarily notice at first glance. However, these big looks are matched by a big weight ? 146kg to be exact or for those of you who like your imperials mint or otherwise it?s a lick off of 23 stone. I certainly noticed this the first time I tried to walk to the end of the road with her. I?m no tiny wallflower and between nursing and kickboxing am fairly sturdily built for want of a less polite euphemism but I honestly thought I might have herniated by the end of the road. With most 125?s being between 101-140kg she is one of the heavyweights of her class only being outweighed by the 149kg Honda XL125V Varadero, the 150kg Hyosung GT125 Comet, the 150kg Kymco Hipster and the 150kg Daelim Daystar. However of these five heavier bikes only the Varadero manages to match her engine with the other four being between one and three horses lighter. She even manages to outweigh a couple of the 250s and 350s out on the road and even one or two 400s. Once you have a bit of speed on the weight disappears but at slow speeds she can be a bit of a heifer to turn without plenty of practice. Her engine only boasts 15 horse- power at maximum revs of 11000. I?m no engine head I?m afraid but apparently this adds to a maximum speed of 85 miles per hour although more realistic figures sit at 60-70mph. The bike does suffer a bit for having a big frame housing a 125cc engine in this respect but unless you are a speed demon I?m sure national speed limit will suit most of you just fine anyway. The engine itself is liquid cooled so you will need to keep an eye on your fluid levels as well as your petrol levels but will mean should y
ou get stuck in traffic you will not overheat as quickly, it is also a four stroke four valve 90 degree V-Twin. This is a fairly popular engine design where the four valves are placed in ninety-degree opposition to each other forming a V shape on either side of the engine, which can be seen pretty clearly on the pictures of the bike. Being a four stroke you also do not have to worry as much about your oil as you would on a two stroke, which uses oil alongside petrol. What the advantages are over an inline four I don?t rightly know as I?m still learning my stuff but if anyone wants to tell me I would be pleased to know. She has an electric starter, which is great, no kick-start to come back and bite you in the ass and a choke for those colder mornings too. The mirrors have quite long stalks and show a good view of the road behind without too much of a view of your own lovely shoulders and pecs and there is a handy brake fluid indicator on the right handlebar. The brakes seem to bite quite nicely though I have only been riding at slower speeds so far but one complaint I would have is that the clutch handle is fairly long so if you have smaller hands be careful when releasing to ensure you do not dump it and have the bike try to rip your shoulder blades off. Indicators are on the left handlebar, they click left and right to activate and you press the button in to deactivate, having ridden forth metres past a turning with right still flashing merrily I have picked up on this one fairly well now. The left handlebar also has the light switch for the front headlamp ? the lamp is always lit with the engine on but the switch flips between low and high beam. The control panel is fairly self explanatory with a nice big speedo in the centre in mph but with a little added extra along the inside of a gear counter suggesting where you should be switching. On the either side are six buttons including the heat indicator and neutral button. The tank itself
lifts up to reveal the petrol cap underneath. It?s a pretty wide tank though and holds 14.5 litres with a 2.1 litre reserve which is handy as it has no fuel gauge so when you do get low and the engine starts to conk out you can switch the key from the on position to the reserve position and feel confident about using the reserve to get to the filling station ? alternatively you could refuel regularly lol. The gears are classic one down four up with neutral located between first and second, and yes I have found neutral when looking for second so a fairly positive shift is needed. She doesn?t really like first and tends to ride in it at a throaty grumble but one she hits second or above is much more contented and settles into a gentle purr which I love to hear. I?m still learning my way around my girl as I only got her a few weeks ago and am still having training but so far I?m pretty impressed. She?s a lot of bike for a 125 and is still taking me some time to get used to handling with my size but that aside would I recommend her? Does a bear crap in the woods? Go for it! And wear a helmet! Happy Hunting Picture at http://www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles/DispatcherServlet?hidActionDetail=viewproductde tail&hidAction=Lookup&hidProductID=8&hidSelectedProductCode=SHADOW_VT125C&hidProd uctName=Shadow+VT125C&hidMSGID=2&hidMSGCode=CRUISERS&hidMSGName=Cruisers&hidBanne rPath=en%2Fpicture%2Fproduct%2FSHADOW_VT125C%2FMain%2Fprd_main_Banner.jpg&hidHome Path=%2Fjsp%2FmsgCRUISERSHome.jsp