Over three decades ago, the Rebel was born. Stealing its style from the Harley Sportster, it was left deep within enemy territory. This is a motorcycle that fought its way out, to 150,000 sales, and immortality. What kinda motorcycle has a 32-year production run? It’s ludicrous.
The Rebel earned its second life. You wanna hear a funny joke? Honda Rebel. There ain’t nothin’ less rebellious than a Honda. Theyre the vanilla of motorcycle makers.
Yeah, well, you can’t deny it looks mean. Steep tank looks retro, blacked-out engine looks modernit’s a slick package. Or maybe it isn’t. Decide for yourself, loser.
Looks like a punk to me. The tires are fatter than the old Rebel’s. Forks too 41mm cannons designed to make the little bike look tough. The trellis frame is weird on a cruiser, but I think it looks cool.
If only because the 471cc parallel twin actually fits. See, you can also get the Rebel 300 which is identical in every way except for that bike has a 286cc single it looks comically small inside the rest of this motorcycle. Bare bars look slickuntil you turn ’em on. Putting a rectangle display in the middle of a round gage is sacrilege.
Even worse: word on the street is that it ain’t bright enough to read under sunlight. Couple other beaks. The tail light is large and squaredyou know it should be round and small. And then there’s the gaps where the tank doesn’t quite fit.
It’s subtle, but once you see itit’s all you can see. Sorry. I see some more stuff too. I see a rear fender that a child could remove.
See? Now Honda chopped off the subframe of the seat just so the Rebel would be easy to customize. I see easy-to-weld steel everywhere. I see serrated footpegs with rubber inserts. Ya thinking about scrambler mods Honda? I see you.
I also see a huge catalogue of Honda accessories in the future. ****, if youre gonna start a rebellion you might as well take part in it. But more than anything I see, I see through this bike. I see the plastic parts that were made on a budget.
I see the overly-punchy styling, which borders on cheesy. I see Honda execs patting each other on the back, reveling in the custom craze ignited by the Grom and plotting how to do it again. I can see the boardroom where this Rebel was born. Nothing is less rebellious than a boardroom.
I knew the Rebel would be a wimp. It ain’t what we came for, and we got a long ride home. Alright, let’s do this. The Rebelis tougher than it looks.
Honda jacked its engine from the CBR500R, but retuned it to make more power and torque in the first half of the rev range. They also ditched a tooth from the rear sprocket, so the sport bike power delivery is slightly less jumpy. As a result this engine wastes the competition. It feels meatier than it is.
Up until 5000rpm you’d swear you were on a litre bike. And the power is beefy, it’s responsive, minus the annoying jerkiness that often comes with weightier engines. Honda takes a few hits on braking, though. They nicked a decent front calliper from Nissin, but mounted a single rotor up front and a bicycle’s rotor on the rear.
That might be enough stopping power for the 364lb Rebel 300, but it’s decidedly weak on this 408lb Rebel 500. Honda punches back with killer ABS it works with quintessential Japanese precision, and they only charge 200 loonies for it here in Canada. The soft suspension is a serious shake-up however. It’s comically under-sprung and under-damped, so I’m getting bounced and bucked all over the place.
Speaking of which, the 4.7 Inches up front disappears really fast in a pothole. And before you start whining about settings, know that the front is not adjustable and the 3.7-Inch rear shocks can only be dialled for preload. But the Rebel ultimately scores the deepest cut, because its handling? Sharp as a razor blade. Honda ditched the old 18-inch front wheel for twin 16s, to make it more flickable.
And there’s grip to spare with fat D404s this bike has more rubber than power. Good thing too, because the urban warrior will lean. Its pegs are higher and more rearset than before, resulting in a sporty body triangle that can drop 4 degrees lower before scraping asphalt. One hour on the motorcycle, and I’m sore.
The Rebel is a popular beginners’ bike, so my head understands the 27.2-Inch seat. But my *** does not, especially since Honda kept the height low by using paper-thin cushioning. And remember how the sporty footpegs are really high and underfoot? Well that doesn’t leave much room for 6’3 me. The Rebel is a great city bike.
I’ll stand by that statement, mark it, put my name on it. But I’m not taking the Rebel for a long highway ride. I’m just not. Alright.
Fine. The Rebel 500 makes about 45 horsepower, which is plenty. But because Honda cooked such a meaty engine in the lower range, it buzzes a little bit at highway speed above 6000rpm. And when I say 6000rpm, I’m judging by the borderline inappropriate vibrations on my crotch.
Because the Rebel has no tachometer. The bars vibrate as much as the seat. Objects in mirrors are fuzzier than they appear, right? However, I can’t help but think how much better this must be than the Rebel 300. With 25 horsepower and less weight, the mirrors would be downright unusable at 110.
I’m not sure I’d be able to zip past a car at that speed, either. So the Rebel 500 is the best Rebel for highway use. I won’t call it a great touring bike, especially since Honda considers my pillion seat to be an optional extra in the USA. But this bike is functional enough out here.
What you can’t say for the 300. Home is on the other side of this bridge. This metal-grated, slippery, ****-for-motorcycles death trap. I’m nervous, because Honda steepened the rake on the new Rebels to make up for their fatter tires.
We already saw how that sharpened the handling. But we haven’t yet seen how that also affects rolling stability. On most bikes, crossing the Victoria Bridge is enough to induce a bowel movement. But not on this bike.
Honda makes a legendarily balanced motorcycle. The fat tires and low center of gravity probably help. And this is the second time I’ve been thankful for the extra weight of the 500. Whatever the cause, this is one of the calmest, easiest motorcycles to ride in a straight line.
Feels like home. I make it back on an empty tank. 11 Litres and change was enough for 200 kilometres tonight. But no more.
You know what? The Rebel 500 was a lot like this place. It was a little bit kitschy, the seating’s cramped if you’re not built like a child… But **** if it wasn’t fun. And **** it had the character, the guts.
And dammit when the sun rises I’m gonna miss it. Yeahlet’s do this. I would own a Rebel, despite the beating it took tonight. I’m sure the Rebel 300 will sell in thousands to rider schools and people who weigh 90 pounds.
For everyone else, the Rebel 500 is the bike you’ll want after six months. Six years. Sixty years. It’s got the character of a forever bike.
I suppose the only question left is… Can you dig it? Okay, now bobbers, looks like we have some new friends in town. This one’s for the Rebels..