Pros: Solid bike that is easy to ride and easy to maintain
Cons: Short range, a bit cramped for taller riders.
Back again, motorcycle fans...with a review of what I consider to be one of the stronger starter bikes on the market. If you're looking for a first bike, this review of the VLX should give you a good look at Honda's mid-level starter and you can compare that with my review of the Suzuki Savage and the Yamaha Virago 535 and see how they stack up.
Remember....if you're looking to buy your first bike, start with this Epinion on buying a motorcycle and then come back here to finish reading this review for the Shadow VLX.
First impressions of a VLX are usually that of a bike that is too small. Don't, however, let the low stance and lean stylings mislead you. The VLX offers plenty of power for anyone starting out or for those looking for an around-the-town bike.
A Little Bit About The VLX
The VLX is the smallest of the Honda Shadow lineup. It's name, said to have been derived from "Very Low Extreme", says it all. With a 25" seat height, even vertically-challenged riders can throw their leg over the saddle and stand flat-footed at a stoplight. Being part of the Shadow lineup also means that styling is a must. Honda put plenty of chrome on the bike and left other areas for customization.
How About Power?
With a 600cc displacement, the VLX offers plenty of power for someone getting started out. In fact, I rode with a guy who was around 6' and 225lbs and he had no complaints with the amount of power produced by the V-Twin power plant.
Be aware, however, that if you plan on loading up the bike for touring, a rider, passenger, and gear can bog down the bike a bit.
How's The Handling?
With the low-slung stance and long rake, the VLX handles great on the highway and in the turns. It's not a sport bike, so don't plan on dragging the pegs but it's nimble and easy to handle and get in tight parking spots that the bigger cruisers don't even consider.
Keep in mind that the VLX is a pretty light motorcycle at around 500lbs. That means that it's fairly succeptible to wind gusts. Believe me....riding a VLX through the state of Kansas on a windy day can be quite a chore.
How about maintenance?
The VLX is chain-driven, so plan on doing chain maintenance periodically. Other than that, however, change the oil, replace the radiator coolant on a regular basis, and keep air in the tires and you'll be good to go. The 600cc VLX motor is a long running motor that requires very little maintenance.
How About Fuel Mileage and Range?
As with most of the starter bikes, range is an issue. Mileage is pretty good at around 40mpg. The fuel tank, however, is just at 3 gallons, which means on windy days or in stop-and-go traffic, you could be looking at 90-100 miles on a tank.
What about comfort?
The stock VLX saddle leaves something to be desired -- but then again, most stock Honda saddles are hard as a rock. In addition, the rider peg location is suited for those who are around 5'5" to 5'7". If you're taller than that, you might want to look into a set of forward controls or at least highway pegs for those long rides.
For the passenger, comfort on the stock seat is low. The VLX does not come with a passenger backrest and the passenger pillion is extremely narrow. Some years have exposed fender rails that allow for an add-on passenger backrest, but the early years of the VLX don't offer this option.
How About Price?
When comparing prices with other entry-level cruisers, the VLX starts toward the top-end, but there are always deals about on the VLX as they are a very common bike and there are always folks trading up to larger bikes. If you scout about for a used VLX that is a couple of years old, you should be able to find a good deal. With an MSRP of about $4,900, you can find new ones for around $4,200 and a used VLX that is a couple of years old with low mileage can be had for around $3,500. Compare that to the following bikes and you'll see how nice that price tag is:
Yamaha V-Star 650 - MSRP of $5,500
Kawasaki Vulcan LTD 500 - MSRP of $4,900
Suzuki Savage 650 - MSRP of $4,300
What about accessories?
Being a member of the Shadow lineup has its advantages. There are plenty of chrome accessories to be had if you visit your dealership of the major parts warehouses that offer metric parts. Just do a Google search for images of VLXs and you'll see just how they can be customized to meet your individual preferences.
The Final Lowdown
The VLX is one of the stronger entry-level cruisers you can buy. They have significantly more power than the Honda Rebel 250s or the Yamaha Virago 250s, but are nearly as light and nimble. This means more power to cruise on the highways and less stress on the motor at high RPMs.
The only thing to watch out for is with respect to height. If you are a tall person, the VLX might present too much of a cramped ride without doing some customizing. Taller riders might consider looking into a bike with a bit more legroom.
Other than that, the VLX offers a great bike at a great price that doesn't require a lot of maintenance.
Once you have selected your new bike, be sure to check out check out my article on maintaining your motorcycle:
Keep Your Motor Running - Tips For Maintaining Your Motorcycle