For over 30 years, Honda’s Rebel has been the motorcycle gateway for those looking to scuff their soles in the blissful world of motorcycling. Whether your parent’s first bike, or the one that dirtied your white laces, Honda is ready to encourage the next generation of motorcyclists with its fresh for 2017 Rebel 300 ($4399) and 500 ($5999).
Honda’s new and improved Rebel has grown up considerably from the classically styled original, gaining liquid-cooling, fuel-injection and many of Big Red’s latest road bike engineering tricks. Read the preview article for all the juicy details. Yet in spite of those key upgrades, one thing remains the same: the Rebel remains an easy bike to ride.
Riding a motorcycle can be scary, but not so with the Rebel. The engine configuration allows for a slim mid-section. Even at its widest point, at the mirrors, it measures well under three feet — impressive. Sporting a seat that’s just over two feel tall, it’s an exceptionally easy motorcycle to straddle, even if you’re height challenged. Conversely, if you’re an average or above sized human, the Rebel remains accommodating for quick city jaunts.
All-day rides on the other hand, those can wear on you considering its basic level of comfort. So it’s a good thing American Honda offers a growing accessory line, allowing you to easily tweak the experience. And the best part is everything you install complements the machine’s one-year warranty. Plus, Honda durability is legendary, so your kids can ride it in 20 years if gasoline is still readily available.
The blacked-out handlebar has an inviting upright bend that’s focused, but not overly so. It can also be easily swapped for other widely available one-inch bar setups from companies like Klock Werks or Roland Sands Design, if desired.
Contrary to the forward-mount controls of most V-Twin cruisers, the Rebel’s mid-mount setup is more natural feeling and makes for an accommodating ride. Off the showroom floor, either Rebel has room for one, with passenger foot assemblies and rear seat available as an upcharge.
All-digital instrumentation is housed inside a pod-shaped LCD that’s front and center. It’s simple, but to the point, and we like that it includes a fuel level gauge and clock in addition to odometer and trip functions.
A handy 12-volt USB-style power plug is another accessory that fits adjacent to the digital gauge, allowing for mobile device charging. Halogen-bulb lighting helps you stand out on the road. We didn’t ride the Rebel after dark, so we can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but it would have been nice if Honda splurged and outfitted it with LED lighting.
On the road both the 286cc Single or 471cc Parallel-Twin engine have enough go-go juice to get off the line cleanly and outgun most folks snoozing behind the wheel. Throttle response is peppy but not so muscular as to intimidate. The fuel-sipping engine’s exhaust note is mellow and won’t raise eyebrows while riding, which can be a good or bad thing depending on preference.
We always appreciate a throaty-sounding engine, so added mechanical or intake sounds would certainly be welcome. The larger Rebel 500 certainly sounds tougher, but it’s still on the conservative side. Fortunately, digital fuel-injection means that it’s easy to install a set of aftermarket pipes without having to worry if the engine runs too rich or lean like you would on an older carbureted bike.
Either bike employs a smooth-shifting six-speed gearbox with a one down, five up shift pattern. Neutral is located between first and second gear, with a handy green light illuminating on the dash display when engaged. The clutch lever offers two-finger pull with friendly engagement point — a plus for first-timers, or those that don’t have a lot of experience working a manual clutch.
If the Apple Maps route calls for more highway than stoplight to stoplight miles across town, then you’re going to lean toward the extra torque of the Rebel 500’s Twin, as used in in Big Red’s CB500X adventure-touring ride. The wider powerband allows more flexibility in overtaking, plus the engine vibrates less at 65 mph in top gear. The single-cylinder 300 will certainly get the job done, but with its more limited lung capacity, it’s a ride that you’re likely to outgrow more quickly.
Honda understands that we riders are a fickle bunch. So the Rebel was carefully engineered for late night wrenching sessions in the garage. From the rear metal fender to the handlebar, subframe and headlight assembly, it’s all been designed to be removed with basic metric hand tools. And once the aftermarket gets their hands on it, there’ll surely be plenty of bolt-on options for tinkerers.
Due to the limited duration of our ride, we didn’t get a chance to record fuel mileage, but it’s fair to say that you can expect over 55 MPG on the 500 and a bit more than that on the 300. This equals a range of over 150 miles between fill-ups based on the capacity of the 3-gallon tank.
The suspension, wheels, and Dunlop D404 tires are no-frills in terms of performance, however they certainly look the part. We especially appreciate the blacked-out visuals of the fork and spring-preload adjustable shocks, as well as the clean appearance of the 10-spoke alloy wheels. Their smaller 16-inch diameter also plays into the Rebel’s exceptionally nimble and narrow back alley friendly handling. The hydraulic disc brakes prove effective and we appreciate that Honda sourced a quality front brake caliper. But it would be nice if there was lever position adjustment to better accommodate those with different hand sizes.
Suspension damping is on the soft side, which makes for a pleasing ride most times around town, still caution needs to be exercised over large bumps and/or broken pavement as healthy jolts can be transmitted through controls especially while braking over these obstacles. Buyer beware.
If there were ever a motorcycle you’d want to take your motorcycle endorsement road test on, Honda’s new Rebel would be it. With its lithe handling, exceptionally friendly riding position, and affordable price tag, the Rebel is a worthy option to get a feel for motorcycling. After you’re hooked, it’s a worthy two-wheeled canvas that’s ready and willing for customization.