Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Honda Rebel 250 Review

November 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Motorcycle Reviews

It’s not surprising that Honda’s Rebel is one of the most frequently researched bikes on this site. With gas prices likely to rise again when the giant economies of China and India start pulling back into their power band, and with traffic choking most of the country’s metro areas, the idea of commuting on an affordable little motorcycle is occurring to more and more people.

With these small 250s achieving well over 60 mpg, there are serious fuel savings involved, even though the purchase price of the Rebel ($3,999) will buy you 1,142 gallons of gas at $3.50 per, and take you over 68,000 miles at 60 mpg. Obviously, if it’s just the price of gas that motivates you, this is not the answer. But if affordable and fun transportation is what you’re looking for, then keep reading.

As a 6-foot-5-inch tall man weighing 218 pounds, I am not the greatest match for this bike. It is compact, light, and has a small, soft seat. Still, even I could a find a reasonably comfortable spot for rides of moderate length, and I found the 331-pound ready-to-ride weight to be a real advantage during slow maneuvers and when manhandling the bike.

The Rebel is a cinch to ride. The 243cc twin starts willingly and soon warms to a point where throttle response is quick and eager. The clutch is a light pull, and its engagement is gradual and easily sensed. There are only five speeds in the gearbox, but their selection is light and positive.

Topping all that is a seating position that is a decent compromise between the pronounced feet-forward style of bigger cruisers and the upright stance demanded by standard motorcycles. The only drawback to the Rebel’s mini-cruiser layout occurred when I used a lot of steering lock and the handlebar came back to contact my knee. With shorter riders, this won’t happen.

My first ride home from Honda’s HQ made me feel that the Rebel was seriously underpowered and slow. But then I put a few miles on it and started revving it quite a bit higher. Although there’s no tachometer to help you gauge engine speed, it’s not difficult to recognize the surge of speed provided by the bike’s 18.5 horsepower peak at 8,250 rpm, nor the tingling vibrations thereafter that suggest it’s time to shift.

Launching hard and revving the little bike out will usually get you ahead of the traffic as long as that guy in his BMW M3 doesn’t think your behavior is a challenge to his masculinity. And you can normally cruise along with traffic flow without much effort.

I even took the bike up onto the 405 freeway in the South Bay in LA, where demented drivers with homicidal tendencies move along at over 80 mph every chance they get. To my surprise, the rebel would run an indicated 80, and even pull to its last numerals on the speedo_85 mph_when held wide open. This with a big, heavy rider aboard.

The 243cc sohc four-valve twin is a well-proven engine. It’s been around since 1985, and there wasn_t much wrong with it then. So protracted periods of wide-open use probably won’t do it any harm at all, but riding relentlessly at full throttle and elevated engine speeds seems a bit like cruel and unusual treatment. I found it easier to back off the throttle a bit to relieve the engine of this ruthless flogging, slow to an indicated 75 mph, and then cruise with less mental and mechanical stress.

That’s what cruiser-style motorcycles are supposed to be about, anyway. And that’s another nice thing about the Rebel. While few hardcase cruiser riders are likely to take the Rebel_s chopperesque styling seriously, it’s a great option for beginner riders who prefer the Harley look particularly since there’s hardly any tradeoff in the ground-clearance department.

With comparatively small and skinny tires fitted (a 3.00/18 up front and a 130/90-15 on the back), the Rebel would not seem particularly suited to fast cornering. But it does surprisingly well. Its handling is light and predictable, and the bike leans about as far as I’d care to lean a bike on modest tires with this sort of riding position.

While the rear shocks feature five-position spring-preload collars, the fork is not adjustable. Both ends are quite soft, and allow fairly pronounced pitching motions on the brakes, but it’s not enough to spoil the ride. The brakes comprise a single front disc, which is just about adequate to the task, and a rear drum, from which not much is asked anyway.

That just about sums up the Rebel’s role in life; it’s an inexpensive machine suited to relatively light duty use. Nonetheless, one should not underestimate the mechanical durability or assembly quality of the Rebel. It’s a Honda, and that means it will likely run way longer than you’d expect, given the requisite amount of maintenance.

The Rebel’s natural place in the market is as a starter bike, but I’d make the argument that it works as well or better than a comparable scooter. For those of us who’d prefer to swing a leg over a bike and shift our own gears, it’s the natural choice. That it’s light and maneuverable is just the icing on the cake.

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Author: Barry Winfield (55 Articles)

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Barry Winfield is our editor-in-chief. Barry brings years of experience on automotive and motorcycle publications to SmartCycleShopper, including long stints on CAR and DRIVER and Automobile Magazine. Barry was also deputy editor of the UK's BIKE magazine in a pre-car life, and that he has covered motorcycles for a number of US publications. We value Barry’s fresh perspective, humor and passion for the motorcycle industry.

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