Reborn Rebel: We terrorize the roads on Honda’s all-new Rebels.
There was a time—not all that long ago, really—that I wouldn’t be caught dead riding around on a motorcycle in a helmet without a visor. Hell, I’d rather pull out of a race if for some reason my visor came off, perhaps because of a small crash. I’d pretend I had snapped my ACL and retire to my truck in the pits before I would suffer the humiliation of riding around the track visor-less. Today, though, leaving the visor at home is the cool thing to do—in the right situation, even if there was, in my opinion, never the right situation. But this was the right situation, and I was happy to go visor-less, because I was about to spend the day sampling Honda’s new bobber-style Rebel 300 and Rebel 500. And I was going to play the part and have fun doing it.
The Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 are Honda’s latest entry into the entry-level street bike market. Although the Rebel is not a new model in Honda’s lineage—the venerable Rebel CMX250 has been around for about 30 years (and nearly unchanged)—but the new Rebel has been so radically redesigned that it shares nothing in common with the outgoing Rebel. Except for one thing and it’s an important thing—the new Rebel, like the old Rebel, is targeted at new motorcycles riders, especially young ones, and even older riders; or former riders who are thinking about getting back on a bike again after maybe not having twisted a throttle in years and want to feel the wind in their face again without spending a ton of money.
Click here to read this in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEVIN WING
Many have learned how to ride a motorcycle on the Honda Rebel 250; after all, it was the perfect platform to do that. It was small and light, and had an ultra user-friendly motor, and it even had an attractive price tag. But it had one problem—it looked like a beginners bike (especially nowadays) and no one wants to look like a beginner—not even a beginner. So Honda figured it was time to give the Rebel a new hairdo and then some.
Honda chose the “bobber” route for the new Rebel, which makes perfect sense, since this style of motorcycle already has many attributes that fit right up the beginner’s alley. For one, bobbers generally have low seat heights; two, they are fairly small in size; and three, they aren’t really meant to be ridden fast. And perhaps more important than any of those things: bobbers are the happening thing right now and appeal to both the younger and older crowd.
So I buckled up my visor-less helmet, grabbed a leather jacket and goggles and hit the road on the new Rebel. Honda invited the press to Venice Beach, California, and planned a daylong ride that had us cruising up PCH (Pacific Cost Highway) before turning inland for a tour of downtown L.A.
We hit all the famous boulevards and avenues, like Sunset, Fairfax, Melrose, Florence, Manchester, La Cienega, La Brea and, of course, Venice Boulevard. We even hit a couple of freeways, like the 101 and I-10. And we soaked in some of the sights, too, but not the typical L.A. tourist sights, but cool motorcycle-related ones, like Lucky Wheels Garage, a…well, garage, you can take your bike to and do all the work yourself (they even supply the tools and stands), and the Garage Company, a place all things custom motorcycles.
And the ride was capped off with a traffic break at Deus Ex Machina surf shop for a shot of go juice and one last look at more custom bikes that they build. These places will certainly inspire you when it comes to personalizing your Rebel, which is something Honda is encouraging you to do with your new Rebel. To Honda, the Rebel is more than just a learner’s bike but a learner’s bike that you’ll want to keep and customize to the tilt for years to come.
After a long day in the saddle of mostly stop-and-go riding, I came to the realization that the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 perform exactly how you would expect them to. These are two bikes that are extremely easy to ride, simple to maneuver at slow speeds, far from intimidating, and are great for, well, just riding around for fun or for transportation. They are comfortable, practical, and do many things well and nothing terrible.
The 500 is powered by the same 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that propels the Honda CBR500R but tuned for more bottom-end performance, and, of course, delivers significantly more power than the 300’s 286cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine that is borrowed from Honda’s CBR300R. Like the 500, the 300’s engine is tuned for increased bottom-end performance.
The experienced rider will prefer the more powerful Rebel 500 to the 300, for sure, but even the beginner won’t have any real problem quickly mastering the extra ponies of the 500, and will probably be glad they went with the big-engine Rebel once they graduate to novice and even intermediate status. Basically, the 500 feels like the 300 but with more power.
Both bikes feel relatively small between your legs; a lot of that has to do with their super low 27.2-inch seat height, narrow seat and compact trellis frame, an unusual design for a bobber- or cruiser-style motorcycle, but it definitely works with the new Rebel. Ergos are more sport-like than cruiser. Seating position is surprisingly straight up and down with the footpegs directly underneath you, and the bars requiring a slight forward lean to reach. The Rebels have a sportier feel than your typical cruiser, without question, until you scrape the pegs when speeds pick up. Both bikes have decent lean angle.
The gas tank is unobtrusive. It holds a sufficient three gallons; most of the time, you will run out of gas way before the Rebel does.
Honda made the die-cast aluminum subframe and stylish steel rear fender strong enough to support a passenger if you chose the optional passenger seat, passenger footpegs and footpeg hangers, which all bolt right up.
Besides the tamer power, another reason a true, never-ridden-a-motorcycle before beginner might opt for the 300 over the 500 is weight. At 364 pounds (full fuel), the 300 weighs a little over 40 pounds less than the 500, and you do feel the difference, though both bikes overall feel very light and maneuverable to me. If you chose ABS, add about six pounds to each bike.
Both bikes have light steering yet still feels stable at speed via their 28-degree rake with 4.3 inches of trail and 58.7 inches of wheelbase. Up front, suspension is handled by a 41mm non-adjustable fork with 4.8 inches of wheel travel, and, in the back, preload adjustable dual shocks with 3.8 inches of travel. The ride is typical cruiser—bouncy but tolerable. Maybe a little soft for some. They both roll on 16-inch 10-spoke cast wheels with plenty of rubber that help give the bikes a stout look, while providing a solid feel on the road and plenty of confidence in the turns.
The small, modern-looking, all-digital instrument pod is a little hard to read in bright sunshine, but there really isn’t much to look at anyway; after all, what do you really need to know while riding these simple motorcycles around town beside speed? Even then.
Beginner bikes or not, the Rebels are handsome motorcycles that will make you feel a little swanky while cruising the boulevard; the only real giveaway that you’re not on a big ol’ bad-ass bobbler is sound. Neither bike emit a particularly inspiring or that booming sound from the engine when you hit the starter button, but that is to be expected for small-engined bikes like the Rebels. At least the blacked-out exhaust systems do look cool, as do the rest of both bikes. The Rebels come in four colors: Matte Pearl White, Matt Silver Metallic, Red and Black, but Matte Pearl White is replaced by Bright Yellow on the 500.
It was a good day bopping around downtown LA on the Rebels. Again, I found them to be fun and easy to ride; I enjoyed them both equally and feel that either one will make a great bike for those new to the motorcycle scene. For most people, I imagine that price will be the determining factor when choosing between the 300 and 500. If freeway riding is going to be part of your daily ride, however, spending the extra $1600 for the 500 will be money well spent, otherwise you’ll be happy being a rebel on either one. With or without a visor. CN
Watch Cycle News hit the streets of Venice, California, and downtown Los Angeles, on the all-new Honda Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 in the video below:
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 Honda Rebel CMX300 / CMX500H
Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single / Liquid-cooled 4-stroke,
286cc / 471cc
BORE X STROKE:
76mm x 63mm / 67mm x 66.8mm
Full transistorized ignition
DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
O-ring sealed chain
41mm fork; 4.8 in. wheel travel
Dual shock; 3.8 in. wheel travel
364 lbs. / 408 lbs.
Matte Pearl White, Matte Silver Metallic, Black, Red (300) /
Bright Yellow, Matte Silver Metallic, Black, Red (500)
Rear carrier, saddlebags, windscreen, 12-volt accessory socket,
passenger seat and footpegs.