Well, we’ve already seen this lovely engine in the Africa Twin, but Honda’s 1084 cc parallel Twin is going to be just as cool and even more accessible, to more people, slotted into Honda’s latest cruiser. With a seat Honda says is just 27.5 inches from the dirty boulevard, and the option of the excellent DCT automatic transmission, this one’s going to be a motorcycle anyone can ride. And at $9,999 for the DCT version ($700 less for the 6-speed manual), it’s also a bike almost anybody can afford. And HELLO, those prices include ABS brakes, USB ports, ride modes and wait for it: cruise control.
We were really impressed with the 2020 Rebel 500, which turned out to be surprisingly sporty and more fun to ride than we grizzled veterans expected. Honda claims more of the same for the 1100, including a bank angle of 35-degrees via a cartridge-type 43 mm fork, twin Showa shocks with piggyback reservoirs, and a curb weight of 509 pounds for the DCT version – quite light for a big cruiser.
Honda says the cruiser market has changed, that “while many cruiser riders are content to limit their seat time to short jaunts at a relaxed pace, some enjoy more spirited outings on winding roads, and still others look to cover longer distances in a relatively straight line; a growing number want to do some combination—or maybe even all—of the above. In almost every case, these riders have a strong sense of community, and prefer their time on and around motorcycles to be shared with friends. In short, today’s cruiser customer doesn’t fit a stereotype, and neither should today’s cruiser.”
ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN
The 1084 cc liquid-cooled parallel Twin lifted from the Africa Twin has been “adjusted” in order to facilitate both exciting rides and no-pressure relaxed touring, with the DCT and three ride modes further enhancing both types of rides.
The parallel-twin design, along with Honda’s Unicam single-overhead-cam valvetrain, keeps most of the weight low and rearward, for good mass centralization and a low center of gravity. Unicam also contributes to a more compact engine, as does the dry-sump lubrication system, which places the oil tank inside the crankcases.
Those things contribute to the new Rebel 1100’s easy low-speed handling while allowing plenty of cornering clearance for aggressive riding – while still allowing the squat styling and low seat height (27.5 inches) that are what cruisers are all about.
Setting off car alarms is what cruisers are also about, and while we’re sure the new Rebel will meet all sound requirements, Honda also says “the uneven firing interval provided by the 270-degree crankshaft design animates a pulsing, rhythmic feel at idle and low engine speeds. A two-axis primary balancer minimizes unpleasant vibrations by canceling primary inertia, resulting in a smooth-running engine that still produces substantial power.”
Bespoke ignition timing and fuel-delivery maps give the Rebel 1100 engine a character all its own: Compared to the Africa Twin, the flywheel is 20% heavier, and the Rebel’s intake and exhaust system designs are also different. The result, says Honda, is enhanced cylinder “pulsing” at low rpm, while power at higher engine speeds is maximized. “The muscular engine signature is unlike that of any other cruiser on the market, delivering both relaxed and exciting riding experiences.”
Along with its new ride-by-wire system and In keeping with its sporting capabilities, the new Rebel 1100 gets Honda Selectable Torque Control (incorporating Wheelie Control) and three ride modes, as well as cruise control.
HSTC / Wheelie Control
Honda Selectable Torque Control (traction control to you and me) inhibits rear-tire slip during acceleration and cornering by detecting differences between front- and rear-wheel speeds: When the calculated slip ratio goes beyond a specific level set by the rider, the ECU tells the fuel injection to chill until the rear tire gets a grip. An indicator light on the lone clock turns on when the system is in operation.
Also, when the system detects the front wheel is decelerating while the rear wheel is accelerating, it decides that a wheelie is occurring, intervenes, and notifies the authorities. Kidding about that last part.
Each of the three modes provides a distinct riding experience, says Honda, enhancing the Rebel 1100’s “Relax and Excite” ethos. Each ride mode is comprised of carefully balanced settings for power, HSTC (including Wheelie Control), engine braking, and DCT shift timing.
A customizable User mode can also be set up to the rider’s preferences, and the ECU remembers the previously selected mode when you hit the ignition.
What else is in its class is hard to say offhand, but Honda says the Rebel 1100 is the only model in it to come standard with cruise control. Yay. Especially nice to have when riding a “fists-in-the-wind” cruiser.
Dual Clutch Transmission
The Rebel 1100 is available with a six-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission — a Honda exclusive in the powersports world – which should be a huge boon to sales if anyone bothers to inform the public it exists. (Polaris tells us Slingshot sales went up 40% after it came out with its automatic last year.) There is no clutch lever or foot shift lever.
Honda introduced DCT technology to the powersports world in the 2010 VFR1200F, and has applied evolved iterations to its NC750X, Africa Twin, and Talon sport side-by-side, as well as the Gold Wing (which gets a 7-speed version).
The latest-generation DCT featured on the Rebel 1100 uses two coaxial main shafts and two automatic clutches, one for the odd-numbered gears (1/3/5) and one for the even-numbered gears (2/4/6). Multiple gears are engaged simultaneously so that the transmission is constantly prepared for the next shift. Data, collected by a series of sensors, is processed by the ECU, which uses an advanced algorithm to determine when the shift-control motor should hydraulically trigger gear-changes. At those moments, one clutch disengages and the other engages, resulting in shifts that are quick, smooth and seamless. Power is delivered to the rear wheel via an efficient and durable 525 chain.
There’s also a manual mode that lets you bang up- and downshifts with buttons on the left switch cluster; pull with the index finger for up, push with the thumb for down. Even in automatic mode, the rider can still make manual shifts; DCT will then return to automatic shifting after a few seconds.
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
With a 59.8-inch wheelbase and a 30-degree fork angle, the Rebel evokes a cruiser style that belies its sporting capabilities. That’s because its rake angle is 28 degrees and trail is only 4.3 inches (109mm), allowing both straight-line stability and quick-enough handling. Together with the mid-mount footpegs and foot controls and Honda’s claimed 35-degree bank angle, the big Rebel should scoot.
STYLING & DESIGN
“Simple, raw and casual-yet-serious,” waxes Honda. The bike’s narrow, curvy 35mm steel main tube “contributes a bulky appearance to the machine’s sleek form, while the rear has looping lines. The low, long, scallop-style, flangeless fuel tank is enhanced by subtle, low-contrast, two-tone colors.”
Honda says fuel capacity is 3.6 gallons, including a 1.1 gallon reserve, enough for touring (by cruiser anyway).
Progressive foam thickness is said to maximize comfort for long trips in a seat whose dished design holds the rider in place. The seat’s narrow front section makes it even easier to put both feet on the ground at stops. Popping the seat off reveals a three-liter storage space, plus 3-amp USB-C terminals for stowing and charging phones and things.
Front and rear fenders are both 1mm real steel, produced through a drawing process, and attached die-cast aluminum brackets. Various accessory passenger seats bolt to the rear fender.
The engine, frame, suspension and other components are blacked out; even the D.I.D drive chain is plated with black highlighting, enhancing the bike’s raw, cool character.
Meter / Controls
One 4.7-inch round multi-function meter is offset-mounted and mimics the look of a big analog gauge, while its LCD display adds a touch of modern, high-tech beauty. In addition to speedometer, tachometer and tripmeter readings, the cruise-control and transmission functions are displayed on the gauge.
The ignition switch is on the left side of the frame, where it also can be used to remove the seat.
The handlebar bend produces an upright riding position. The left-hand switch cluster includes DCT upshift and downshift controls, a horn, an up-down toggle for scrolling through riding modes, a select/enter button and a hazard-light switch. The right-hand cluster houses the start button and cruise-control switches.
The 6.9-inch round headlight is mounted low to enforce the Rebel’s sleek profile. It houses four direct-emitting LED bulbs with thick inner lenses, achieving a cool, iconic look; light-directing guides on both sides of the housing highlight the character lines of the lenses. The 2.1-inch diameter turn signals are also LED; the front signals contain round light-guiding rings that function as position lights.
The LED taillight has a thin, simple, oval design that complements the low-slung cruiser style. A small LED light illuminates the license plate.
That’s all we have for now, but it seems like a lot. The 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 is scheduled for release in January and will be available in Metallic Black and Bordeaux Red Metallic. The MSRP is $9,999 ($9,299 for the manual-transmission version). ABS is standard.
Honda’s website has additional information on the Rebel 1100.