My 1996 Honda Shadow ACE Custom Motorcycle

This one is a bit off-topic, but I have had a TON of people reach out to me about my motorcycle, because they saw the photos on Pinterest. Questions about the custom modifications, the flame paint job, how much it costs, how it rides….just about every question about motorcycles that you can imagine.

So, I thought I’d put together a page that answers the most common questions that I receive.

Question 1 – What Make/Model Of Motorcycle Is That?

It’s a 1996 Honda Shadow American Classic Edition (ACE) 1100cc. Here’s a photo of it after about a year of owning it.

My 1996 Honda Shadow ACE 1100

Question 2 – Is It A Harley-Davidson?

Nope, it’s a Honda Shadow. Here is another photo, about a year later with Cobra pipes and a front fender-mounted light. This photo really shows off the mint/black combo that really set this bike apart.

My 1996 Honda Shadow ACE 1100 with a few more mods

Question 3 – Who Did Your Custom Flame Paint Job?

The short answer is that my good friend, Lu, did the paint job in her basement. Yes…in her basement.

My 1996 Honda Shadow ACE 1100 with custom flames and wide white wall tires

Question 4 – Can You Tell Me About The Custom Paint Process?

The long answer is this.

I had decided that I wanted a custom paint job, but I didn’t have the funds. Lu and I were talking about custom paint for motorcycles and she had mentioned that she wanted to get into painting bikes. She was a nurse and had been a professional airbrush nail artist in the past and had a great portfolio of work.

So….I decided to take a risk. We used the Internet to research how to build a paint booth and built one in her basement. Big air compressor, air movement system, air filtration system, plastic sheeting on the walls to attract dust particles. It was basically a DIY paint booth.

We built paint stands from PVC pipe and created custom parts hangers from the ceiling rafters using wire coat hangers.

The custom-painted rear fender for my 1996 Honda Shadow ACE 1100 on the paint standsHere is the rear fender on the custom PVC paint stands that we built.

She bought a couple of different HPLV paint spray guns to test, along with the hose for the compressor.

We researched a LOT of different paints and decided to go with PPG Automotive 2-part paint. We spent a bunch of time at the PPG paint store talking to people. Lu was awesome and getting the paint guys to share tips. Because she was a female, the paint guys all thought it was “cute” that she wanted to paint motorcycles, so they shared everything with her.

I don’t think they had a clue that she was serious about it. It was both sad and funny to watch at the same time.

Once we had the equipment in place and the paint chosen, the scary part started.

We stripped the sheet metal.

It was really hard to see that beautiful Honda paint job disappear, knowing that there was no going back. We either succeeded in creating beautiful motorcycle paint or we failed and I was left with bare sheet metal for my bike.

I’ll be honest, the first round wasn’t too good. The base was nice but the flames weren’t great. The edges of the flames were blurry and not well defined. We decided to try to “fix” it by using pinstriping tape. Big mistake.

Once we were done (it took about 2 weeks to complete the first round), we both agreed that we needed to start over. We had learned soooo much from the process. Some of the things we learned in the process:

  • Don’t EVER touch prepped metal with bare hands before you paint it. The oils from a single fingertip will literally leave your fingerprints in the paint.
  • “Fookies” are a pain-in-the-ass. Fookies are what we called those little dust particles that hang in the air and land on every painted or clear-coated surface. If you don’t get rid of them, you’ll drive yourself trying to sand them out of your paint or clearcoat. It’s best to be sure your paint area is dust free before you start.
  • The smell of clearcoat is addicting. It’s a sweet smell that makes you want to breathe in deeply. Unfortunately, it’s also highly toxic so you NEED to wear a good mask when painting. Not those little 3M dust masks…a painting mask.
  • You MUST evac air from your paint booth so it goes outside and doesn’t pollute your living space.
  • Painting a motorcycle is a slooooow process that requires methodical preparation and patience.
  • Every hour of proper prep you put into the sheet metal will pay back in volumes.

Okay, once we decided to re-do the paint, we jumped back in and started over. We improved the paint booth, we improved our prep process, and we committed to being more patient. Those commitments paid off in spades.

The fuel tank for my Honda Shadow ACE 1100 with custom flamesThis photo doesn’t do the flames justice. this is before the clearcoat cured and was buffed to a high-gloss

Question 5 – Where Did You Get Those Deep Fenders?

The fenders are LoBoy fiberglass fenders from Sumax. If you are wondering whether fiberglass fenders can stand up to the rigors of daily riding, the answer is Sumax fenders can. I have ridden this bike across the country, to Sturgis a couple of times and all over the mid-west.

I have never had any issues with the fiberglass fenders.

My Honda Shadow ACE 1100 with custom fiberglass fenders from SumaxThese fiberglass fender from Sumax are amazing!

Question 6 – Why Did You Choose A Honda Over A Harley?

I didn’t.

Sure, when I was looking for this bike, I was also looking at a Fat Boy. But I didn’t choose this bike over the Fat Boy. I just chose this one because I fell in love with it. The mint/black paint caught my eye and I loved that it was a Honda motor.

Over the years, I have owned 20+ motorcycles. Hondas, Harleys, Suzukis, Yamahas, and even a Triumph for a short time. I have a love for damn near everything on 2-wheels. When I saw this one, it was the bike I chose.

After all the work I put into customizing this bike, it has stayed with me as my daily rider. I will likely *never* sell it.

Question 7 – Don’t Those Fenders Rub On Driveways And Speed Bumps?

I’m not going to say it hasn’t happened. I knew this might be a little bit of an issue, so the fenders are mounted with rubber bushings to provide some “give” and allow a little movement when the bottom of the fender does rub.

My 1996 Honda Shadow ACE 1100 with custom flames and wide white wall tiresCustom flames, low fenders, dual-bagger exhaust, tombstone taillight, and wide beach bars…

I have been through the dirt roads of the Glencoe Campground and Buffalo Chip at Sturgis. The campground at the Freedom Rally in Algona, Iowa was particularly tough to navigate one year, as heavy rains had created ruts in the road.

In the end, the fenders did great and I never really had any issues.

Question 8 – What Are The Mods You Have Added To Your Honda Shadow?

The list is waaaay to long, but here are the big mods I have done:

  • Custom paint job – Pearl black with mint ghost flames by PPG Automotive Paints
  • LoBoy fiberglass fenders – Amazing deep fenders by Sumax
  • Custom handlebar risers – These were from a Honda Shadow ACE 750 and allowed me a more comfortable ride.
  • Custom handlebars
    • For a while I had a set of wide bikini beach bars for that old-school retro look. It got a LOT of compliments.
    • Then, I swapped to a set of mini-ape hangers. It was a great ride, but my shoulders killed me after long rides
    • In the end, I swapped back to the standard Shadow ACE bars as they provided the best riding experience
  • Customized stock seat – I carved the foam out of the stock seat and installed a medical grade gel pad designed for wheelchairs. Having been through two lower-back surgeries, this was a must if I was going to continue riding.
  • Dunlop wide white wall tires – Over the years, I tried some different tires. Maxxix, Avon, and Continental but I always come back to Dunlop. They aren’t the longest-lasting tires, but I like the way they ride, so I think I’m going to stick with them. Plus, I love the classic wide white wall look.
  • Custom dual-bagger exhaust – This exhaust has been a labor of love for YEARS. I tried a bunch of bolt-on exhausts from Cobra, Vance & Hines and others. Nothing looked and sounded like what I wanted. So, I bought a set of dual-baggers from a Honda Shadow ACE Tourer and I gutted them. I installed my own fiberglass-wrapped baffles from Vance & Hines and they sound perfect. It’s a deep, mellow tone that isn’t too loud, but loud enough to wake up that cager who is drifting into my lane. Plus, because I built it to sound how I wanted, it doesn’t sound like any other ACE 1100 out there.

Comment 1 – I liked It Better Before The Flames

I hear this from people sometimes when they see my mods. I just smile and say “cool…the good news is you can buy your own and do whatever you want with it”. I like what I have done with my bike.

I hope those answer help others out there looking to customize their motorcycle. Riding is a bit of an addiction and customizing only makes it worse. If you have questions for me, just reach out via my contact form and I’ll answer anything I can.

Keep the shiny side up!

–Sean