2007 KTM 450 EXC, Honda Shadow Spirit 750 And Star Motorcycles V-Star 1300 - First Ride

On the road we found the engine quite responsive, pulling from lower revs cleanly and offering what felt to be competitive power. The only real glitch was an off-idle flat spot, most likely due to EPA regulations and the need to be lean in the lower end of the rev range. Shift action is superslick (if you'll allow us this overused clichf), and engine vibration was well controlled, which means the dual counterbalancers do their jobs quite well. The taller gearing drops rpm to a pleasant range at highway speeds, which will undoubtedly please owners-and those who opt for the mechanically identical V-Star 1300 Tourer (which offers saddlebags, a backrest and windshield as standard equipment for $1300 more).

Handling is plenty competent, with crisp response to steering inputs and suspension that finds a way to be compliant and firm at the same time. Turning radius is a bit wide, though cornering clearance-even with the bike's floorboards-is more abundant than we're used to. The riding position was good for my 6-foot frame (shorter riders may want to lower the bar a tad), and the saddle was comfortable enough for a full day in the saddle.

With the introduction of the mid-sized V-Star 1300, Star Motorcycles has in many ways legitimized the class and begun routing some of those sales-and dollars-from Honda toward itself.

2007 Star Motorcycles V-Star 1300

MSRP $10,090
Type a-c 60-degree V-twin
Valves OHC, 8v
Displacement 1305cc
Transmission 5-speed
Weight 624 lb., claimed dry (284kg)
Fuel capacity 4.9 gal. (18.5 L)
Wheelbase 66.5 in. (1665mm)
Seat height 28.0 in. (701mm)

Honda Shadow Spirit 750 First RideAn Old Favorite Gets The ShaftTechnically, it's not a new model, but Honda's latest Shadow Spirit 750 gets enough nips and tucks for '07 that Team Red tagged alphanumeric characters onto the original model designation. The result-the Shadow Spirit VT750C2-is worth the extra syllables.

Headline news is the Spirit's switch to a new drivetrain-from chain to shaft, like its 750cc cruiser cousin, the Aero. Even with those added 8 pounds, the Spirit is still a relative lightweight at 504 pounds dry. The new 21-inch front hoop, though, is the real visual kicker, giving the Spirit the attitude (or at least the appearance thereof) it always aspired to. The tweaks to the latest Spirit were enough for us to snatch up the keys when Honda offered them.

What's the C2 for? Think of it as a Spirit, Version 2.0. Because Honda chose to leave the current chain-drive Shadows in the lineup until the newer shafties ship, it had to differentiate between the two. But you can feel the difference on the new C2 as well-the '07 bike is nearly an inch lower than last year's model and sits 25.7 inches above terra firma. The deeply dished saddle gets a one-piece "gunfighter" style, with sculpted edges that flow more seamlessly with the rear fender. To pull it all together, a recontoured, straight-cut rear fender now features an integrated taillight, and the air cleaner boasts a teardrop shape. All of that sits on a new single-backbone frame similar to that of the Aero.

While the C2 retains some of the drag-bike styling of yore, from the saddle it feels more evolved, with a new pullback handlebar and triple clamp. Still, you're reminded it's a price-sensitive class the Spirit's playing in when you take in that tank seam glaring between the seat/tank junction (though the tank now wears a speedometer).

Thumb the starter, though, and all is almost forgiven. The lumpy blat issuing from the reshaped, staggered dual exhausts is a welcome improvement over the anemic tenor of last year's model. The bike starts easily enough; the switch to a single 34mm CV carb from dual units comes with a noticeable surge in acceleration and, says Honda, a clean-burning engine that'll pass '08 emissions. Just don't think you'll be winning any drag races with this puppy.

En route with the Spirit, you won't need a heavy hand to guide it. That 21-inch front tire offers a surprisingly light feel with little of the flop you might expect from a hoop this tall. The slightly longer wheelbase-now 65.0 inches-delivers stability at highway speeds. And while the 41mm fork offers .5-inch less travel than the '06 model, the dual shocks out back have .3-inch more stroke. This translates to a zero-sum situation on the road; the rear has a tendency to transmit road irregularities while the front soaks up most bumps acceptably.

All in all, however, the Spirit C2 is a welcome evolution of a popular model.

2007 Honda Shadow Spirit 750

MSRP $6449-$6649
Type l-c, 52-degree V-twin
Valves OHC, 6v
Displacement 745cc
Transmission 5-speed
Weight 504 lb., claimed dry (229kg)
Fuel capacity 3.7 gal. (14L)
Wheelbase 65.0 in. (1651mm)
Seat height 25.7 in. (653mm)

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