Legions of riders got their start on a Honda Rebel 250, but the entry-level cruiser was overdue for an update. Now, after 30 years, Honda has given young and new riders two new options.
In the basement of an former bank in southern California that now serves as a bar, Honda pulled the black sheets off of the new Rebel 300 and Rebel 500. The new cruisers represent a total change from the old air-cooled, carbureted Rebel 250, which has remained relatively untouched since its introduction in 1985.
The new bikes are built around the engines found in Honda's CB300 and CB500 lines, so they get fuel-injected, liquid-cooled engines and six-speed gearboxes. The Rebel 300 has a retuned version of Honda's 286 cc thumper with 34 mm throttle bodies while the Rebel 500 gets the 471 cc parallel twin with 38 mm throttle bodies.
While a lot of the details are still unclear, the two cruisers appear to share the same suspension, with a traditional telescopic front fork with 4.77 inches of travel and a pair of standard shocks out back offering 3.77 inches of travel. This leaves both bikes with a friendly seat height of just over 27 inches.
Similarities continue with both bikes wearing a 130/90-16 tire up front and a 150/80-16 out back. ABS will be an available option with the bikes slowing down via a single 296 mm disc in the front and a 240 mm single disc out back. Weight will differ by nearly 50 pounds with the Rebel 300 tipping the scales at 364 pounds (370 pounds with ABS) and the Rebel 500 weighing in at 408 pounds (414 pounds with ABS).
Throughout the presentation, there was a lot of talk about Generation Y and the desire to reach this audience with a new version of an old favorite. Edward Birtulescu, Honda’s head designer on the project, spoke of the unique styling intended to set the new pair of Rebels apart from the small cruiser pack.
The bike is designed to serve as a platform, ripe with possibilities for customization. The rear fender, for example, can be built upon with the addition of a luggage rack or passenger pillion or it can be removed completely for a minimalistic bobber look. To drive home this point, Honda brought out a variety of small-bore customs that have been designed on the Rebel platform.
Whatever your poison may be, it is exciting to see Honda expanding the line of smaller cruisers to entice new riders into the fold. And while pricing hasn’t been completely finalized, initial reports suggest that consumers are looking at $4,399 for the 300 and $5,999 for the 500. This would reflect a minimal bump from the current $4,190 MSRP for the Rebel 250.
Whether for one day in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course or as a hand-me-down used bike, the Rebel 250 introduced lots of people to the joys of riding, but it was technically out of date and the styling was old. The new lines and the performance upgrades for these Rebels should provide a much better riding experience. We'll find out when we can get our hands on one for a test ride early next year.