RoadRUNNER Project Bike: 1984 Honda Shadow VT700C

Jun 25, 2014 View Comments by

RoadRUNNER Project Bike: 1984 Honda Shadow VT700CTouring on a Tiny Budget
Motorcycling can be an extremely expensive hobby, and in a media world obsessed with the latest, greatest, and newest products, it can certainly seem like you need to be a well-heeled member of the gentry before you can turn to a life on two wheels. Fortunately, that’s not the case. We decided to see just how little money we could spend to become the owners of a tour-worthy motorcycle (tour-worthy simply meaning that the bike is safe, reliable, and legal). Naturally, we turned to Craigslist for the procurement of such a bargain priced iron steed. With a budget of $1,000 or less the choices are few (unless you count the numerous non-running examples that need just a “little TLC” or the plethora of lost titles), but we settle on a sparkly red 1984 Honda Shadow VT700C. The bike is right on budget, has a clear title, and seems to run quite well—at least considering its price and age.

As I ride the bike home, my initial impression is positive in spite of a few issues. Shifting gears is clunky, the brakes are terrible, and there’s not a lot of power. But hey, I’m still having a great time! Once in the garage, the bike gets a thorough examination, and we make a list of what the little Honda will need to become tour worthy. The first order of business is new tires as the old ones are a little dry rotted and won’t hold air for more than a few days. With a set on order from Kenda and our fresh new Clymer Manual in hand, we move on to the mechanical bits. The brakes are fitted with new BikeMaster shoes in the back and pads in the front. The engine and shaft drive get an oil change, and the spark plugs are replaced. A K&N air filter takes the place of the filthy piece that came with the bike.

RoadRUNNER Project Bike: 1984 Honda Shadow VT700CSatisfied with having performed what amounts to general maintenance on the Shadow, we take the bike to get it inspected. Fail. The mechanic checking out the bike found traces of oil on the forks indicating that the seals are leaking. We don’t want to spend a lot of money fixing a bike that isn’t worth much, so we take the Honda to our local community college where the power sports department is always looking for new motorcycles to work on. We order a set of new fork seals from BikeMaster and drop the Honda off at the school’s shop. The labor is free as long as you supply the parts.

In the community college shop, the fork seals and oil are replaced and the engine gets a tune up. The result is a tour-ready motorcycle for a grand total of $1,429.43 (not including fluids). Not bad, not bad at all. All that’s left is to take the little Honda on tour, so look for it in an upcoming article!

1984 Honda VT700C: $1,000

Touring Enhancements Install Time Cost*
1. BikeMaster Fork Seals 20 minutes per side $9.99
2. BikeMaster Oil Filter 30 minutes (with oil change) $7.75
3. BikeMaster Brake Pads and Shoes one hour $80.89
4. K&N Air Filter less than 5 minutes $49.99
5. NGK Spark Plugs (x4) 5 minutes $35.96
6. Clymer Manual $36.95
7. Kenda 673 Kruz Tires $207.90
Total 2 hours $429.43

*Retail costs exclude taxes and shipping.

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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.