The small, handsome, and relatively inexpensive Rebel 500 might well be Honda’s bike of the year, unless they produce one that’ll walk your dog and water your plants. It’s perfect for the biker who wants a cruiser but not one that’s bus-sized, for the teen or adult who stands under or even well under 6 feet tall, or for someone who needs to be in a lot of places at once in a single afternoon, like me.
What it’s not is a cruiser you’ll intimidate anyone with or even go very fast with. If Steppenwolf had written their iconic song about the Rebel it would have been titled “Born to be mild.”
That said, I climbed on the $6,199 (suggested retail) motorcycle in Poughkeepsie, New York and I could have sworn someone swiped a set of my clothes, took the measurements and adjusted the bike for my height, weight and riding preferences. Grips melted perfectly into my hands. Balancing the bike comfortably between my legs took exactly half a block. The brakes and accelerator took an equal amount of (no) time to get used to. It was love at first ride and 150 miles later, I was still jazzed.
There are two versions on deck for 2019; the 300 and the heavier, faster 500 and my tester, the 500 ABS. The 500 features a parallel twin 471CC engine. You’ll quickly shoot ahead of every car and truck around you when blasting off from dead stops, sure. But you’ll also find yourself gunning it on the freeway in 6thgear, making a lot of sweet noise and thinking “I’m a real wild child.” Then you’ll look down and see you’re doing 47 M.P.H. At rest, the engine is quiet, but aftermarket noisemakers are available as options if that’s your thing.
Retro styling, thick, capable tires, a peanut-sized (and shaped) gas tank make the Rebel a beautiful motorcycle, although no one on the sidewalk elbowed their pal as I cruised by, nor did anyone quiz me when I parked outside this coffee shop or that bookstore. You sit low and comfortable on a 27.1 inch seat, and neutral was easy-peasy to repeatedly find over the week’s test.
Two odd aspects are a lack of gear indicator (except for “N”) or tachometer. But Honda throws in two trip meters, a fuel gauge and a clock. ABS brakes work together with the relatively sharp handling to make this a superbly fun motorcycle, and one I would buy if I was in the market.
Honda, like every motorcycle company weathering a flaccid market, has wisely aimed this Rebel at younger riders, female riders or even perhaps the rider who ditched their Goldwing after the 2008 crash and now, at last, has a bit put aside for fun. They’ll find it.