Honda Rebel: A Small Cruiser That'll Get You Started

PLUSES:

Reliable

Low weight

Large aftermarket parts availability

Affordable

Low seat height

MINUSES:

Styling is dated

Hard seat

Small for larger riders

Underpowered

More often that not, I find myself drooling over motorcycles with prices nowhere near what I can actually afford. Similarly, many folks (well, besides the Hells Angels) have the perception that motorcycling is an activity that is only obtainable by people a little more financially stable than my farming day-job provides.

My goal today is to shake up that very perception. While there will always be the ultra-expensive Harley V-Rods and Ducati Desmosedici of the world, there are some great everyday bikes that can regularly be found for under $2,500. They might not necessarily be the fastest in their class or made from unobtanium, but they're great at serving their intended purpose (whatever that may be).

Although the MSRP of a brand-new 2009 Honda Rebel may be a bit higher than our budget of $2,500, the bike has been made for many years and there are plenty of nice Rebels within our price range. Honda's mighty Rebel (also known as a CMX250) puts out a blistering 17 horsepower, but brute force isn't really what the Rebel is about.

I think my music producer buddy Kris Sampson said it best about the Rebel: "Man, it's only 250ccs, but chicks don't know the difference." The Rebel is about simplicity, good times, and focusing on the ride. While there are advantages and disadvantages in every bike, for what you pay for the Rebel, it is one of the best values you can get in a motorcycle today.

The bike weighs in at a featherweight 306 pounds (dry) and features a parallel twin-cylinder, 230cc, air-cooled engine, with a five-speed gearbox. One of the key factors in the Rebel's appeal is its reliability. Its minimalist engine and carburetor mean that its well tested Honda engine is very reliable. Plus, if the bike does happen to break down, its simple design means it is easy for a shade-tree mechanic like myself to work on it. Over the years there have been three different generations of the Rebel, although not much other than styling has changed between the models.

The bike has a single disc brake, which stops the 17 hp of fury the Rebel puts out rather well. Instrumentation is basic but very easy to read. Handling on the Rebel is similar to most other cruiser bikes; i.e., slow and stable when turning due to the abundance of rake on the bike. In the middle of the corner, the bike feels planted and stable—very inspiring for a novice. This is yet one more characteristic of the bike that makes it beginner-friendly. (I'm beginning to detect a pattern here.) Ground clearance isn't the best (does any cruiser have good ground clearance?) but there are all kinds of options for extra storage such as saddlebags.

The number-one advantage of the Honda Rebel also might be its greatest downfall; namely, the bike is underpowered. Ultimately, this bike was designed for beginning riders and its lack of available power makes it very unintimidating. On the flip side, most riders are ready to graduate to a higher-powered bike after being on the Rebel for a year or so. That being said, the bike is capable of speeds that would get you arrested on most highways—it just will take a little longer to get there when compared to a Harley 1200cc bike.

Some common problems to look out for when shopping for a Rebel include: dirty carburetors, and stator/CDI issues. Like most carbureted bikes, the Rebel will need its carb cleaned every year or two, and common symptoms of a dirty carb include: the bike only starting on choke, uneven idle, or even not starting all together. Stator/CDI/electrical problems are less common and a bit harder to diagnose, but you can still perform a quick test to check the ignition system. First, pull the sparkplug off of the bike; next, reattach the plug to the sparkplug wire; then hold the plug against a bare part of the engine case and turn the bike over with the starter. If you see a spark jump the gap on the plug, the firing system is most likely good to go.

When we went to press, there were seven Honda Rebels for sale online within a 25-mile radius of Knoxville. The bikes range from a 1985 model with only 3,000 miles going for $1,300 to a 2006 model for $2,200. With so many choices of Rebels in the area, don't settle for the first bike you look at or the bike with the best paint job. Shop around and find the best combination of good mechanical condition and stock looking appearance as possible.

If you love the styling of a cruiser-style motorcycle and want to get into motorcycling, the Honda Rebel is a great choice. For the price, there just isn't a better cruiser style motorcycle out there. While not every man or woman can afford the latest, greatest, and most expensive motorcycles, the Honda Rebel is a bike that is easily obtained and ridden by all. After all, the ride is what it is all about, right?

Honda Rebel Specs:

Model: CMX250C; Engine Type: 234cc air-cooled parallel twin-cylinder; Bore and Stroke: 53mm x 53mm; Compression ratio: 9.2:1; Valve Train: SOHC, two valves per cylinder; Induction: Single 26mm diaphragm-type constant-velocity (CV) carburetor; Transmission: Five-speed; Final Drive: O-ring-sealed chain; Front Suspension: 33mm fork; 4.6 inches travel; Rear Suspension: Dual shocks with five-position spring preload adjustability. 2.9 inches travel; Front Brakes: Single disc with twin-piston caliper; Rear Brakes: Drum; Front Tires: 3.00-18; Rear Tires: 130/90-15; Wheelbase: 57.1 inches; Seat Height: 26.6 inches; Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons, including 0.7-gallon reserve; Curb Weight (wet): 331 pounds