Honda Rebel

If the test of time is what determines a great motorcycle, then the Rebel wins. When Honda built the first one in 1985, David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel was only 11 years old, Bill Clinton was in his second year being Boy Governor of Arkansas, and it was, sniff, “Morning in America” as Ronald Reagan’s second term was beginning. Yamaha’s newly re-introduced SR400 is about seven years older, but when you’re talking continuous production, no other motorcycle for sale in the U.S. has outlasted the Rebel.

234cc air-cooled twin, fed by a single 26mm carburetor, will outlive most of us.

234cc air-cooled twin, fed by a single 26mm carburetor, will outlive most of us.

That kind of longevity doesn’t just happen, and the reason why the Rebel’s been around for so long is not just because it’s been the go-to motorcycle for new rider training programs forever. It’s also because it’s a seriously good around-town bike: easy to ride, light and low of seat, fast enough, really cheap to keep. Maybe what’s really kept it around is its styling: For $9 more, Honda’s completely modern CBR250R will run rings around the old Rebel in every performance category including fuel economy – but the plastic-covered CBR doesn’t have that classic American cruiser look that the Rebel’s designers got right from the start.

Small people fit the Rebel best, and even the wee-est among us have no trouble throwing a leg over the 26.6-inch seat and being in complete command of the bike’s 331 pounds, including 2.6 gallons of regular. All controls – clutch, shifter, brakes and throttle – are light and typically Honda precise, and all those factors add up to a motorcycle that’s stupid-easy to ride, quick enough for short freeway hauls (top speed’s right around 80 mph), and about as economical as they come – we’ve logged 55-60 mpg numbers during testing with our greedy throttle hands. Casual riding can net fuel economy closer to Honda’s 84-mpg claims.

Like the proverbial honey badger, this 2012 Rebel doesn’t care if you park it on the lawn.

Like the proverbial honey badger, this 2012 Rebel doesn’t care if you park it on the lawn.

+ Highs

  • Its picture is under “user-friendly” in the dictionary
  • Super-low seat and light weight
  • Nearly indestructible
– Sighs

  • $4,190 is only $9 less than the way modern CBR250R
  • Marginal for mixing it up with fast freeway traffic
  • Most of the rebellion has been quashed at age 30
Honda Rebel Specs
MSRP $4,190
Engine Capacity 234cc
Engine Type Air-cooled SOHC parallel-Twin, two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke 53mm x 53mm
Compression 9.2:1
Fuel System Single 26mm diaphragm-type constant-velocity carburetor
Transmission 5-speed
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Final Drive Chain
Frame Tubular steel double cradle
Front Suspension Telescopic 33 mm fork; 4.6 in. travel
Rear Suspension Dual shocks with five-position spring-preload adjustability; 2.9 in. travel
Front Brakes Single disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brakes Drum
Front Tire 3.00-18
Rear Tire 160/90-15
Seat Height 26.6 in.
Wheelbase 57.1 in.
Curb Weight (claimed) 331 lb.
Fuel Capacity 2.6 gal., including 0.7-gal. reserve
Colors Black, Candy Red
Warranty One year, unlimited miles
  • Craig Hoffman

    Yamaha is giving Honda good competition in some areas. The new FZ09 has a gem of an engine for 700X money and they are just coming out now with their twin. Hopefully Yamaha take a cue from Honda and offers their new bikes in a variety of formats. An FZ09 powered ADV variant with a roomier feel and more fuel capacity could be a big winner. Yamaha needs to get with it and produce a WR450R version of it’s excellent 250R already too.

    Good to see the manufacturers realizing we are not all made of money. The auto manufacturers seem to have completely lost the plot. Unlike cars, motorcycles are not vehicles to lease. There has to be an affordable value oriented option in the new market, or the used market becomes the whole market.

    • Jason

      The FZ-09 and FZ-07 are interesting bikes but they have one glaring omission: no ABS. This is 2014 and ABS should at least be offered as an option especially considering that ABS is standard on these models in Europe.

      • The People’s Champion

        i heard the FZ09 is limited to a 132mph… that’s N650 territory and the bike is shod with poor suspension for its engine.

        • Jason

          Limited to only double the speed limit? I think that should be adequate for public roads.

          • The People’s Champion

            by that logic we should all be riding those 80-90mph capable 250s no?

          • Jason

            Top speed, engine displacement, power, and acceleration are all very different things. I have no need to go more than 132 mph but that doesn’t mean that I want to ride a 250.

  • octodad

    purchased CTX700n w/ABS-DCT. having a blast on this scoot. pal w/ the street glide always wants to take mine for a spin. I enjoy riding his cycle, but prefer my little Honda. slow speed handling is superlative, and it can snap my head back as I roll on the throttle. get a lot of compliments on the cool look and ergonomic seating. big Red is dominant force w/awesome motorcycles. I am a fan…

    • Sarang Borude

      How does it do on freeway speeds, Is it easy enough to pass vehicles?

      • Michele Amason

        I have the CTX700D w/ABS-DCT and have no problems on the freeway. It is heavier than the Naked and is very stable when trucks fly by.

  • sgray44444

    Thinly veiled advertising? Not hardly- there’s no veil at all!

    • Steven Holmes

      Advertisement or not, it’s pretty nice to see that “Big Red” has so many cost effective options out there for me to try. Be nice if the other major manufacturers had similar lines to choose from. It’d make for good competition if the rest of ’em had comparably cost effective product lines.
      Something to be said about Honda’s reliability and longevity though… that’s pretty hard to beat.

    • You see many negative observations in advertisements? Like slow to accelerate, limitations of its suspension, etc? How about actual measured MPG instead of OEM claims? I see them in this set of short reviews, which also happen to echo the full reviews done previously on when Honda wasn’t an advertiser at all.

      • sgray44444

        That’s what is so distasteful about the whole article. It has the appearance of genuine journalism, but it really is just an advertisement for Honda.
        Of course you can find negatives for any motorcycle. They are all built to a price point and application, so saying a cheap motorcycle does not have good suspension is just stating the obvious. Everyone knows manufacturer’s MPG claims are done under more ideal conditions.
        Hey, I don’t care if Honda is a huge sponsor and you take this route. I still like to read about motorcycles of all kinds. It doesn’t speak well to your credibility though.
        Do I believe the reviews were biased? No, actually I don’t. But, I do think that the review being about a single manufacturer’s entire product line says something.
        Everyone knows that Honda makes a good reliable bike. It’s just odd for a magazine to focus completely on one manufacturer’s product line without the word “advertisement” being on the top of each page.
        The word disingenuous comes to mind as I read this thread and the article.

        • I have yet to obtain Honda’s specified fuel economy on either of my two Hondas. I always get much better! (no kidding)

    • JP

      Reading this again, part of me agrees with you. Honda is obviously advertising all over the website.

      Then again, I really haven’t heard anything bad about the new Honda bikes either. Everything I’m reading about the new 250, the 500’s, the NC700x, and the new VFR are very positive. I’m actually impressed by Honda being “all-in” with all of the new models they are selling here in the states.

      A good friend of mine has a CBR250 and a ZX6r and he still rides the 250 because of how well made it is.

      Creating the CBR650F and the VFR800 takes a lot of balls in my opinion. They are obviously not sportbikes, but they are also not cruisers. They are basically just well built motorcycles without a lot of the new gizmos like traction control.

      I tip my hat to them, but again, this is definitely a little brand friendly.

      • sgray44444

        Good points, JP. I agree with you. I’m not big on Honda’s non-sport models (ugly to the hilt), but the 250’s and the 500’s are really great bikes for reasonable money. I would seriously consider a VFR800 or CBR650F, but I don’t think the value is really there on those models, as good as they are. I’ve already said my peace about the apparent conflict of interest, so I’ll leave that alone.

  • Piglet2010

    Will a Rebel really go 80-mph – most reports I have seen put top speed at less than 75-mph?

  • fastfreddie

    Best value hondas were in the early ninties when you could get a honda nt 650 gt hawk ridicilouly cheap after it bombed in the sale room.Had one,and am kicking myself still for selling it.