I still remember the day that I brought my Rebel home. Freshly washed and filled with gas from the previous owner. I had ridden a motorcycle twice in my life before I took mine on the twenty mile trip home. Unburdened by things like common sense and proper riding gear; I decided that the best way to learn to walk was to start running.
That day, I didn’t care that the Rebel had less than 20 horsepower to its name. I didn’t care that it topped out at 65 on the highway. I didn’t even care that at 5″7 and 128 pounds I seemed to be slightly cramped on the tiny frame. All I cared about was how much fun I was having. Fresh from eight hours sitting at a cubicle, all I cared about was the feeling of the road, my blazer and tie blowing into the wind, and the (albeit quiet) sound of the exhaust. I stared at those I passed (or rather those who passed me) in their boring, non-motorcycle vehicles and decided that I had made the best purchase of anyone who had ever lived. This was freedom; this was awesome.
Awesome and terrifying. I seriously recommend that no one take the method I did of learning to ride. Hitting the ground running can be a great way to start a new hobby. Not so much when you literally have to hit the ground running when forgetting how to come to a balanced stop. Safety gear and riding courses exist for a very good reason.
Many miles later, that first ride on the Rebel still encapsulates everything I thought about it then and what I think about it now. Simply put, the Honda Rebel is the best beginner’s motorcycle you can buy. If I had repeated the stupidity of my first day adventure with a 750cc sport bike, I likely wouldn’t be writing this now. The Rebel is easy to ride, accelerates smoothly and is incredibly forgiving in the handling department. The brakes slow the vehicle without any drama. The reliability is nothing short of legendary. Last but not least: the fuel economy is unbelievable. To have this much fun on the way to work and still get 70 miles per gallon surely means that the Honda is powered by some sort of witchcraft.
All of the praise being said, however, potential Rebel buyers approach with caution. First and foremost, this bike is awe-inspiringly slow. For the five miles of back roads I take to and from work, I never minded the lack of power. Blasting around town presents no problem for the torque-y Honda. Prepare to make other motorists very angry though if you intend to use this on the highway. Keeping up at highway speeds requires a pinned throttle, dealing with vibrations, and a decent breeze at your back. Despite the retro-styled appearance, this is not a highway cruiser. Once I got more comfortable with speed, I found myself constantly looking for a sixth gear; anything to cut the racket from the engine and go just a teeny bit faster.
Comfort is also not this bike’s strong suite. The riding position is fine if you don’t happen to pass the 6″ mark. However, if you are inclined towards normal height, and if your weight can be described as anything other than “bony” you may not find yourself all that comfortable on the Rebel for long stretches of time.
To nitpick this bike though is really pointless. Any beginning rider can find hundreds of choices on their local Craigslist for under $3,000. Included in that lot are heavy-weight cruisers, aging super bikes, knobby tired enduro’s and everything in between. However, if, like your humble author, you don’t know what you’re doing when you decide to leap into motorcycle world, the Rebel is quite possibly the best choice you can make. It’s a fun, forgiving ride that lets you have fun, learn the basics and still lets you look cool (at least in my opinion) while you’re doing it.
For all the talk I’ve heard thrown around about “getting bored” or “out-riding” this bike, I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced the same thing. In fact, I would probably still have mine if a rogue minivan driver hadn’t failed to check his rearview mirror before backing across the parking lot of the local food store at warp speed ten.
The only failure of the Rebel I ever cared about: It doesn’t hold up to being backed over by 5,000 pound vehicles. But at least it (luckily in my case) won’t seriously injure when it falls on top of you!
With that being said, this was as much as review as a memorial. So, RIP little Honda. I sincerely hope that others get to experience the same joy with a Rebel that I did. I honestly can’t recommend it enough.