When Honda unveiled its all-new 2017 Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 models to the press late last year, our First Look walk-around and technical overview stoked the interest of many seasoned readers and fueled the desire of those new to the sport. Having now spent a full day riding the pair of affordable bobber-inspired cruisers, I found them both enjoyable and easy to ride and perhaps best of all; they possess a coolness and refined feel that belies their entry-level role.
While Honda offers a choice of two distinct power trains, both Rebels share identical styling and chassis components. The riding position is the same on both, featuring a low 27.2-inch seat height, mid-mount pegs and low-rise bar, all providing a balance of style and control. Backing out of a parking stall is light duty as is slow speed maneuvering. Handling is light and neutral with easy turn in and a very good sense of stability. Cornering clearance is adequate for a bit of spirited play, but grounded in cruiser roots when pushing the pace.
Ride compliance proved up to the task of soaking up some of LA’s more battered roads, and the 43mm fork offered good support under hard braking. The brakes offer plenty of stopping power with intuitive feel in both ABS and standard configurations. The longish reach to the non-adjustable clutch and brake levers seemed an oversight considering the youthful and female sized paws these bikes are likely to attract.
I found the 286cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single powering the Rebel 300 produces ample bottom end delivery for super easy leaves from stops. Its spot on fueling, linear clutch engagement and rather low ratio bottom gear of the easy-shifting six-speed box will help beginners get underway cleanly. The tradeoff is a need to upshift to second by the time you reach 15 mph. A short shift at 10 mph followed by another at 20 and 25 felt ideal when cruising the surface streets of Los Angeles. Roll-on response from 25 mph in forth gear was very good with sufficient passing power.
Keeping pace with 65 mph plus freeway flow saw the single zinging with engine vibes felt through the grips, building notably beyond 45 mph in top gear. While the 300 can manage, the 471cc liquid-cooled, parallel-twin powered Rebel 500 felt notably more relaxed and at home on the open road. The added engine performance and wider spread between shifts result in a bit less footwork. I also preferred the twin’s throatier intake sound and visceral beat, which remained pleasantly subdued under 60 mph.
Deciding between these Rebels could come down to the $1600 price premium the 500 carries. If money is not a concern, then weighing the amount of city vs. freeway riding one intends to do will help guide the decision. Either way you have a solid-performing platform with equal style and function.