Honda Rebel 500 ABS: An entry level forever bike

    Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 2 months ago

    Motorcycling in Canada isn’t for everyone. For half the year, weather conditions end up keeping many of – saved for the truly dedicated - us off our motorcycles. It’s also not a cheap hobby to get started in either. New riders face a higher insurance premium and once you have some experience in the seat, it’s not uncommon for the natural yearning for a larger, more powerful bike to start buzzing around in your head louder than a 350cc engine keeping up with highway traffic. Enter the new Honda Rebel.


    While it comes in both 300 and 500 configurations, we’re going to look at the 500cc variant of the new Rebel. The new Rebel is a departure from its miniature cruiser-style successor. The high gas tank is still reminiscent of it, but the seating position is more standard and upright, while the exposed frame gives off a naked motorcycle vibe, while chunky 16-inch tires on the front and back almost give it a bobber look. The Rebel 500 has an aggressive and powerful looking presence, no doubt. Especially in the matte grey our Rebel tester was finished in.


    The retro-style ignition, placed on side of the bike by the engine, fires the bike to life with an aggressive, but not overbearing roar. The engine note is snarling and brutish – in a good way – but not so loud that you have to scream over it. This, of course, is easily remedied by some simple exhaust work. But Honda will leave you to do that. In fact, with many aspects of this bike, it seems Honda wants to allow owners to easily modify and customize the Rebel to their own tastes. Engine vibration is minimal and not jarring in any way – even at highway speed.


    Setting off, you find the Rebel has more punch than expected. The 471cc parallel-twin, borrowed from Honda’s CBR500 line, was retuned to fit the Rebel’s new style and now has better low-end torque. The 45-hp engine rumbles along to 8,500 RPM and is mated to a rather effortless and smooth 6-speed transmission. Whether you’re puttering along through a neighbourhood or going up to highway speed, the 500’s engine makes short work of it – as long as you keep your expectations realistic. This isn’t a screaming sportbike or a 1000cc cruiser, even though it kind of looks like a mix of the two. Stopping the Rebel is done thanks to front and rear discs, and of course, the ABS. Honda’s anti-lock braking works very well on the Rebel, but you will notice some of the brake chattering through your handlebars.


    The ride quality on the 500 is quite comfortable. The suspension absorbs rough road surfaces, like those in Toronto, quite easily, and absorbs vibrations from highway sprints, making for a smooth, soft ride. Although sometimes, it is a little too bouncy. Despite the soft ride, the seat on the Rebel 500 is stiffer than we’d like. After an hour in the saddle, the soreness starts to set in. Honda’s accessory list for the Rebel 500 does not seem to include a cushier seat, so you’ll have to go aftermarket if you'd like to change it.


    As you ride along, the Rebel 500 feeds information back to you through a single digital gauge. While it’s a circular gauge, the readout is on a rectangular display. You’ll get a readout featuring the time, speedometer, trip computer and a fuel gauge. While technically not necessary, we’d have liked to see a tachometer and fuel economy reading. The black space around the digital display is reserved for warning lights and the indicator lights for neutral, high beam and the turn signals. We’d have also liked to see separate arrows for the left and right arrow, instead of using the same indicator light for both.


    There is undeniable charm in riding a retro motorcycle. It’s a no-frills, stripped down experience that really connects a rider with their machine and all of its quirks. But sometimes those quirks leave you stranded on the roadside with an oil slick trailing behind you. What the Rebel 500 does is capture that retro feel and look, but add enough modern touches to make it a reliable, easy to ride daily commuter that’s friendly enough for a beginner, but still punchy enough for a veteran. With a plethora of aftermarket and original accessories, easy customization options, and an affordable starting price of $7,599 it’s not likely riders will be in a hurry to replace this one any time soon.

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