BikeBandit.com and Cycle World Project Re-Cycle: Honda Shadow ACE 750 (Project 3)

Over the last few months, Cycle World and BikeBandit.com have teamed up on three projects intended to get the most bang for your buck in motorcycling. The first was a budget adventure tourer based on the Kawasaki KLR650. The second was a revived middleweight supersport, followed by a metric cruiser turned into a flexible touring machine.

Cruisers are often defined by their style and praised for glistening good looks, rumbly engines and laid-back riding positions. There's much to like in the recent crop of metric cruisers, but the popularity of the genre in the last decade has left the used ranks swelling with really, er, swell motorcycles that don't cost much.

Here's an example. We found our Project Re-Cycle Shadow ACE 750 right in our backyard. This year-2000 bike had been owned for only a few weeks by a young biology student who couldn't quite handle its heft. A petite woman who had come from a Honda Rebel, she quickly decided that the 750 was simply too heavy and put it on the market. We paid $2500 for the bike, right where the Kelley Blue Book valued it. Aside from a few scratches here and there, the ACE was clean and evidently well cared-for.

Why the Shadow? Back to quantity and, therefore, availability. Honda started building this version of the Shadow in 1998 and continued through 2003. A mechanically similar Shadow Spirit 750 was produced from 2001 to 2009. The model has been long-lived and popular, so finding a good example required only the usual patience with Craigslist. Honda intended for the 750s all to be affordable, and that trickles down into resale value, which is to say they're a superb deal. According to the Kelley Blue Book, a 2000 Shadow ACE Deluxe 750 is $1100 less valuable than a same-year Shadow 1100 Aero. Heck, that's half the cost of what we'll be adding to our project bike right there!

 
 
Engine and Drive Train
 

Cruisers are often defined by their style and praised for glistening good looks, rumbly engines and laid-back riding positions. There's much to like in the recent crop of metric cruisers, but the popularity of the genre in the last decade has left the used ranks swelling with really, er, swell motorcycles that don't cost much.

Here's an example. We found our Project Re-Cycle Shadow ACE 750 right in our backyard. This year-2000 bike had been owned for only a few weeks by a young biology student who couldn't quite handle its heft. A petite woman who had come from a Honda Rebel, she quickly decided that the 750 was simply too heavy and put it on the market. We paid $2500 for the bike, right where the Kelley Blue Book valued it. Aside from a few scratches here and there, the ACE was clean and evidently well cared-for.

Why the Shadow? Back to quantity and, therefore, availability. Honda started building this version of the Shadow in 1998 and continued through 2003. A mechanically similar Shadow Spirit 750 was produced from 2001 to 2009. The model has been long-lived and popular, so finding a good example required only the usual patience with Craigslist. Honda intended for the 750s all to be affordable, and that trickles down into resale value, which is to say they're a superb deal. According to the Kelley Blue Book, a 2000 Shadow ACE Deluxe 750 is $1100 less valuable than a same-year Shadow 1100 Aero. Heck, that's half the cost of what we'll be adding to our project bike right there!

 
 
Suspension and Brakes
 

Honda gave the ACE twin shocks with modest travel and, at least in our well-used example, only a mere hint of damping. Same for the conventional, non-adjustable, damping-rod fork. Again, with one eye on the bottom line, we kept it simple. Up front, we slipped Progressive Suspension's progressive-rate fork springs into the tubes; on this model, you have to cut your own spacers, which we did to provide 15mm of spring preload. Down the hatch with 20-weight Maxima fork oil to a level 150mm from the top of each fork tube.

Out back are twin Progressive Suspension Series 440 shocks in the stock, 12.5-inch length. (Progressive makes versions for the ACE that measure 11.0 or 11.5 inches, as well.) Wrapped in progressive-rate springs topped by chromed caps, these shocks feature Progressive's Inertial Active System (I.A.S.) that uses an inertial valve to help separate chassis and wheel movement for a supposedly smoother ride.

Short-travel cruisers need help in this regard, so it's good news that the suspension upgrades are useful improvements. No, the ACE doesn't have a Gold Wing-glassy ride or the long-travel, roll-over-anything absorption of a BMW R1200GS; but for a modest investment, our Honda ACE is far less likely to kick you out of the saddle over sharp-edged bumps, and the fork action is about as good as you're likely to get, given the bike's heavy wheels and substantial steering-head angle.

Because we didn't test against the stock rubber, it's hard to say if the Pirelli MT66 Route tires we installed also helped improve the ACE's ride, but their soft sidewalls suggest they might. Inside the stock-size tires—a 120/70-17 front and 170/80-15 rear—are new Metzeler tubes.

After checking the drum diameter and shoe wear of the Honda's back stopper, we left everything there as we found it but did fit a set of EBC Double-H Sintered pads to the two-piston, sliding-caliper front brake. Precious fluids now flow through a Galfer braided-steel line, not just because we like its shiny exterior but because this is, after all, an 11-year-old motorcycle, and rubber lines have a calendar-life limit. Braking power takes a modest boost with these mods, but don't expect to stand the ACE on its nose.

 
 
Touring Amenities
 

Superbike riders hardly notice their seats, but cruiser pilots, particularly those who like to travel, know every seam, lump and stitch. Understanding this, we sought to improve the ACE's comfort quotient in the normal way. On our BikeBandit.com list was a Mustang Wide Touring seat, which turned out to be a massive upgrade over the stocker—literally and figuratively. As the title suggests, the Mustang is wider than the original piece, by less than half an inch for the rider but by a whopping 4.25 inches for the passenger. Both parts of the two-piece saddle are thicker than the Honda items and are expertly shaped. While we haven't put any really long days on the bike (yet), initial impressions are overwhelmingly positive.

Cobra supplied relief for the other end of the rider's body with its Swept Floorboards, which bolted onto the stock mounts with supplied spacers in, honestly, about 15 minutes. Depending upon the size of your feet and how your ACE is set up, you might want to raise the shift lever for boot clearance; we had the countershaft cover off at the time and moved the lever on the shift shaft by one spline to raise the pedal. These floorboards give your dogs a lot more yard to run in but also touch down much sooner than do the stock footpegs. You have been warned.

Windshield choices for the Shadow ACE are vast. We landed on the National Cycle SwitchBlade Chopped Clear model, which features a clever quick-release mounting system. Stainless-steel straps grip the fork covers on our Deluxe and hold chromed billet pegs designed to mate with slots on the windshield frame. The SwitchBlade is smaller than a pure touring shield but big enough to deflect a reasonable amount of air. It mounts easily and clears the stock turnsignals.

You can't tour without luggage unless, of course, you're headed only for the nudist colony. A pair of River Road Zip-Off saddlebags does the main duty, kept out of the back wheel by a set of Cobra Saddlebag Supports. These bags are modestly sized—11 inches deep, 14 inches long and 6 inches wide—and we would guess they're not exactly waterproof. But they also cost less than $140.

To boost carrying capacity, the Project Re-Cycle ACE gains Nelson-Rigg Riggpak 250 roll bag lashed to the Cobra Sissy Bar Luggage Rack, attached to—surprise!—a Cobra Sissy Bar. Among these devices, you should find sufficient room to hold enough for a long weekend tour including a light tool set, a flat-repair kit and other necessities.

 
 

100% of proceeds to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation®, home of Ride for Kids®. Find out more at Cycle World Project Recycle.

See the whole project booklet:

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