2017 Honda Rebel: First Ride Review

The reasons a rider chooses to forego an automobile and take to the open road on two wheels are varied. Some need an outlet for expression, others a means of transportation, and a few are just looking to push limits. It’s my experience that most riders live somewhere in between the extremes and simply enjoy the ride for all of the good and bad it has to offer.

For those not currently experiencing the joys of riding, the barriers to entry can seem insurmountable. Chief among those barriers is the choice of bike. The frantic mind of the would-be rider is filled with questions about his or her own skills, the bike’s capabilities, and their bank account.

Enter the 2017 Honda Rebel. A bike that took Honda three decades to revamp but, like most things worth waiting for, surpassed my expectations and made me remember the simple joy that lies at the heart of motorcycling.

While the most fantastic things happening in the motorcycling industry today are that of gyros, electronic traction control and auto-blipping downshifts, it’s easy to lose sight of just how good something simple can be. The Rebel is the epitome of simple with a no-frills gauge giving you feedback on speed, revs, fuel and gear (as long as you’re in neutral). The transmission offers predictably smooth shifts that don’t get upset if you happen to lug a little, while not begging to be wrung out for the most performance out of the motor.

When it comes to the motor, the new Rebel has two options with the 500cc offering a dramatically different level of performance over the 300cc. The 500cc variation has a broad enough power band that it would keep any city-goer or commuter out of trouble with second gear through fourth. The 300cc is a slightly different story, needing a bit more attention to keep revs and power on tap, all the while providing the familiar buzz of a strung out single. Both motors are good in their own right. In our group of testers, smaller riders preferred the 300cc while larger riders found it lacking in power.This was a more or less expected outcome, and Honda is nothing if not reliable.

The more shocking part about both bikes was the ergonomics and their ability to accommodate riders from 6’-2” down to 5’-2” comfortably. The shift to a more standard setup has made a bike capable of fitting almost anyone wanting to throw a leg over.

The revamped stance is made all the more impressive by an overhaul in the styling department. The bits and pieces of the Rebel are not reminiscent of a parts bin redesign, but rather a thoughtful update that will allow the bike to age well while providing a canvas for customization.

The new Rebel is simple. It lets riders enjoy the freedom of a motorcycle while asking very little in return. When purchasing my first bike I never considered the old Rebel 250—it was outdated, underperforming, and (in my opinion) ugly. The new Rebel blows all those preconceptions out of the water, and with 500cc and 300cc sitting at $5,999 and $4,399, has been reborn for the next generation of riders to get out and enjoy the road with confidence and a little cash left in their pockets.

Photos Via: Essential Moto

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