All of a sudden, it felt like I was sitting in the basement.
I’d just ridden in to Honda for a bike exchange, swapping a VFR1200X for a new, low-slung Rebel 500.
Which meant that instead of scrambling for toe purchase from the lofty heights of a tall adventure bike, I had been dropped about a half-foot lower, scrunched behind a small peanut tank with an easy reach to the handlebars.
But with my ergonomic triangle made worse by a knees-up position courtesy of mid-mounted pegs raised for optimum cruiser cornering.
Halfway down the highway, my bum was already asleep and I was beginning to cramp up in new and interesting places.
Clearly, this was a case of the right bike for the wrong guy.
So, let’s pretend I’m not an oversized 6-foot-3 aging rider but instead, a member of the Rebel’s target audience – a lithe and trim average-height twenty-something with hipster tendencies and a taste for minimalist, modern styling blended with a bit of bobber tradition.
This new two-choice Rebel lineup features 300 cc or 500 cc models designed in a refreshed, “raw and simple” style that happily replaces the orthodox, original Rebel 250 entry-level models of the past thirty years.
Honda describes the design as a mix of old- and new-school styles, starting with a utilitarian, tubular steel trellis frame, an almost standard bike seating position, an aggressively raked front end, exposed and blacked-out engine and mechanical bits, chubby 16-inch wheels and tires, and a few other retro/renewed odds and ends.
Yeah, the lineup starts with the Rebel 300 ($4,799) but, much as we’d all love to save the 20 kgs and $2,000, the Rebel 500 ($6,699) is a finer fit for intermediate riders, or even for novice riders.
The power levels aren’t all that scary and, frankly, you won’t grow out of the 500 as quickly. And ABS models add only $200 to the price, worth the extra investment in safety.
The Rebel 500 takes its 471 cc parallel-twin engine from Honda’s CBR500R, CBR500F and CBR500X lineup, but the motor has been tweaked and tuned for more bottom-end torque grunt.
Also Read: First Class Flight on BMW’s R1200GS
The engine fires up after the keying of a retro-style side-mounted ignition. It snarls to life enthusiastically and there’s a kind of billet-cut solidity to the riding experience, with engine vibrations grinding lightly through the chassis, seat and handlebars. Acceleration is satisfactory with a pleasingly brash exhaust note. Clutch play is light and the six-speed tranny snicks through the gears easily. And, while I might have been whining about my seating transition earlier, actually, most of the other bikes in Honda’s cruiser class have even lower seats.
My tester was fresh out of the box with only a couple of hundred klicks on the odo but it still managed a 3.9L/100km (comb) fuel economy average, well in keeping with my test run results on the CBR500R, F, and X models that I rode last year. That should translate into a frugal near-300 km range, even with the smallish 11.4-litre tank.
The rider looks down on a simple, compact round gauge with a negative LCD display set against a blue backlight. It’s not an easy read with sunglasses or a tinted visor, but its minimalistic darkened style suits the bike perfectly.
The mirrors are black, the handlebars are black and, you guessed it, the die-cast aluminum iconic round headlight is also black, trimmed with a satin-metallic ring, reflecting some of the other sparse highlights on bolts and bits about the bike.
Although Honda put a lot of thought into this design, the Rebel is enough of a blank canvas to allow for further customization with parts, like the rear fender and passenger seat, for example, that can be easily swapped out.
Add a full list of accessories including a windscreen, rear carrier rack and saddlebags and riders will be able to make this affordable and freshly designed “modern classic” their very own.
And hopefully this 2017 Honda Rebel 500 will be the right bike for the right guy or girl.
2017 Honda Rebel 500
ENGINE: 471 cc liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin
FUEL DELIVERY: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed with O-ring-sealed chain final
SUSPENSION: Front 41 mm telescopic fork with 121 mm (4.8”) travel; Rear Dual shocks with five position spring preload adjustment, 96 mm (3.8”) travel
BRAKES: Front 296 mm hydraulic disc with two-piston caliper; Rear 240 mm hydraulic disc with single-piston caliper (ABS available $200)
TIRES: Front 130/90R-16; Rear 1650/80ZR-16
SEAT HEIGHT: 691 mm (27.2”)
WHEELBASE: 1,491 mm (58.7”)
CURB WEIGHT: Rebel 500 (standard) 185 kg (408 lb); Rebel 500 (ABS) 188 kg (414 lb)
FUEL CAPACITY: 11.4 litres
COLOURS: Graphite Black, Matte Armored Silver (ABS only), Millennium Red (ABS only)
PRICES: Rebel 500 $6,699 (non-ABS); $6,899 (ABS)[“Source-wheels”]