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Custom: Little Big Bike – Honda Shadow Phantom

The bike never gained much traction in the market, but a Victoria-based builder specializing in Japanese customs demonstrates that a tweak here and there makes all the difference in a Shadow Phantom custom.

Mike  reckoned that for the time being anyway he’d had enough of building bobbers and what he really wanted was a two-up project.

Mike has an operating budget, a skilled group working under his direction, and green lights from upper management to create a small fleet of (not-costly) customs that can promote the brand. Being one of not many custom builders who actually enjoy the challenges and comparatively modest profit margins in working with Japanese cruisers, he was pleasantly surprised to find a Honda Shadow Phantom that had been sitting idle for six years. 

It was a bike that had taken a cosmetic hit or two in the past but it seemed a good starting point for a lean, low bagger-style custom that would not sticker-shock a potential customer once the project was finished. 

One hundred man-hours later and what returned is a kind of “little big bike” with distinct lines. The redesign has given theShadow Phantom custom a newfound character.

Living up to its name, the Shadow Phantom was a model that passed by largely unnoticed when it arrived in 2009/10. It was just another member of the Shadow family powered by the same 52-degree 745cc V-Twin that had appeared in various forms since 1983 when Honda first attempted to break into the cruiser market. 

By 2010, the Phantom had joined the ranks of fellow Shadows such as the Spirit, Aero, and H-D Sportster-styled RS. Blacked-out from front to back and carrying beefy forks and fat tires, the original monochromatic Phantom is arguably the most sinister of all the Shadows though it’s not likely to have quickened many pulses. 

Still, it was a nicely compliant entry-level middleweight with numerous very good features and an attractive price point. Liquid-cooled and fuel-injected, the Phantom was the benefactor of Honda’s legendary high tolerances and silky fit-and-finish.

The three-valve, five-speed shaft-driven Phantom might not have been everybody’s darling but nobody could argue its basic mechanical excellence. With a low seat height and relatively low weight (549 lb/249 kg) the Phantom offered a composed ride for beginner riders and even those above that level. The builder’s vision was essentially to slam and expand the profile of the bike without straying too far from the OEM treatment. 

A dent in the tank was an opportunity to extend and widen it by a half-inch or so—which doesn’t seem much but subsequent molding also changed the profile from stock. Again, the intended effect was to give the bike more substance on the street.

Broad Beach bars were fitted to further the “bigger” theme that runs through the build. And, in a non-intuitive way, Mike felt that the introduction of a comparatively small Radiantz LED headlight could accentuate, fatten, and provide definition to the front end where mounting a big old nacelle shrouded lamp might only serve to overwhelm the triple tree area.

Moving toward the rear of the Phantom, largeness continues. During an assessment of the chassis where they took measurements of the rear struts and shock travel it was suggested that an FLH-style fender just might fit.

Certainly, this would bulk up the back end but would also mean widening the struts and fabricating brackets. 

A set of bags was ordered through Parts Canada but mounting them meant even more fabrication work to mate withMike’s brackets. 

The hours on this particular project were beginning to add up as parts from Kuryakyn, Joker Machine, and Vance & Hines began to roll in—and Mike still wanted to move the shocks forward a little to drop the lines of the bike down a bit. Though his crew turned in long hours some work was jobbed out to people such as Doug Herr, who did the painting, and Victoria Powder Coating where anything aluminum was sent for treatment. 

Style’s Upholstery cut the seat to flow cleanly into the revised tail and a Raptor intake with K&N filter was bolted up as part of an engine tuning process that was more about ignition advance and uncorking the intake and exhaust than anything else.

This is the beauty of Japanese motors, says Mike. All you really want to do is open them up and let them breath a little as opposed to introducing non-spec valve and powertrain components that ultimately do nothing to boost—and at times even rob—horsepower. At this point, “We’ve got that 750 making as much power as it will make,” figures Mike.

And now, with its standard seating position and built in-house forward controls to complement the other fabrication, paint, and motor work, the Shadow Phantom custom has something the OEM bike never did: presence.

• Story and photos by John Campbell Canadian Biker Issue #332


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