REBEL WITH A CAUSE
If you like the looks, can stomach the name – this is one fun-loving animal
What is it about inappropriate bike names? The least scary dogs are often ironically named Fang or Killer, while huge bodybuilders are called Tiny by their mates. So what were Honda thinking when they called their new A2-legal cruiser the Rebel? There’s very little rebellious about this CB500based parallel-twin, but it seems like too much of a stretch to think that they were being intentionally ironic. Either way, it shouldn’t be called the Rebel, it should be called the Hoot or Blast – as this small-capacity machine is surprisingly good fun.
Designed by the same man who penned the controversial NM4 Vultus, the Rebel’s styling aims to challenge convention. Its fat balloon tyres and chunky bars hint at a classic bobber, but then the LCD dash and high front-end are more modern design cues. And if you like the styling, you’ll love the way the Rebel rides as it delivers far more joy than you might expect.
Based around the CB500’S paralleltwin motor, but with a slightly different fuel map to lower the point at which peak torque is delivered, the Rebel makes an A2-legal 45bhp with 33ftlb of torque. The engine is housed in a pretty basic tubular steel frame with 16in wheels shod with balloon tyres hanging off fairly basic suspension. On paper this doesn’t sound very exciting, but the Rebel comes alive on the move.
The cruiser- style seating position and relatively low 690mm seat height, combined with midset pegs and high bars, give a relaxed riding position that reminds me of Harley’s 883. It’s comfortable and feels surprisingly cool, which gets you in the right frame of mind for the ride ahead. And the engine has the same instant charm.
There’s nothing particularly outstanding about the 471cc parallel-twin, but it is refined, smooth and packs enough grunt to get the Rebel cruising at above the national speed limit, while remaining extremely versatile in town. The clutch is light, and although the gearbox is a touch clunky it’s hard to fault in operation – and the throttle response is nice and precise. So what makes the Rebel so much fun? Surprisingly, the answer lies in its chassis.
Tipping the scales at 190kg, the Rebel feels light on its wheels at slow speed and has an excellent turning circle, making U-turns a doddle. But it’s when you up the pace that the Rebel really surprises.
Through tight and twisty bends it’s an absolute blast, far more competent than it has any right to be. The pegs hit the deck easily, but this only adds to the fun, and while the suspension is soft and the single front brake fairly limited, neither get overwhelmed.
I can see the Rebel taking off in a similar fashion to the MSX125. On paper the MSX should be a disappointment, but it has somehow found a niche and with it a passionate fan base – and the Rebel might just repeat the same trick. It’s just a shame Honda gave it such a terrible name.
‘Through tight and twisty bends, the Rebel is an absolute blast’
A low seat and a lively engine makes the Rebel great in town
Funky styling and surprisingly competent when ridden at pace
Simple clock for a simple bike
Stick a #ride5000mile sticker over the ridiculous Rebel name and you’re off