The Shadow Aero and Shadow Phantom are like the Blues Brothers of Honda cruisers: Although sharing a common bloodline and both wearing black suits (with other colors available too), one is a bit flashier in appearance, and the other is darker. Let’s start with the Aero: It’s powered by a narrow-angle, 52-degree V-twin dosed with modern overhead camshafts, fuel injection, and trick three-valve cylinder heads. As in the brotherly Phantom, this engine is tucked into a long, low chassis; its 64.5-inch wheelbase and chopperish 34-degree steering-head angle, respectively, 10 inches longer and 10 degrees shallower than that of a typical sportbike. And unlike the “Bluesmobile,” these Shadows aren’t going to win a police chase, even with their optional ABS.
Now to the nature of those trademark suits. The Aero features lots o’ brightwork, including the fork, headlight, handlebars and controls, air cleaner, subframe, and shock, and its fenders and seating are more “full-figured.” Whereas the sleeker Phantom has dark finishes from stem to stern, excepting its chromed exhausts. So that makes the Aero Jake and the Phantom Elwood in our book.
Likes: Priced just $200 above the Aero, the Phantom looks like all the money
Dislikes: Neat and clean, but not particularly mean
Verdict: Well-proven Honda engineering in affordable midsize cruisers