Mashed Potato Motorbikes – Honda Rebel

While there will always be the ultra-expensive Harley V-Rods and Ducati Desmosedici of the world, there are some great everyday bikes that can regularly be found for under $2500.  They might not necessarily be the fastest in their class or made from unobtanium, but they’re great at serving their intended purpose whatever that may be. [...]

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While there will always be the ultra-expensive Harley V-Rods and Ducati Desmosedici of the world, there are some great everyday bikes that can regularly be found for under $2500.  They might not necessarily be the fastest in their class or made from unobtanium, but they’re great at serving their intended purpose whatever that may be.

More often that not I find myself drooling over motorcycles which prices are nowhere near what I can actually afford.  Similarly, many folks (well besides the Hells Angels) have the perception that motorcycling is an activity that is only obtainable by people a little more financially stable than my farmer day job provides.  My job today is to shake up that very perception.

Although the MSRP of a brand new 2009 Honda Rebel may be a bit higher than our budget of $2500, the bike has been made for many years, and there are plenty of nice Rebels within our price range.  Honda’s mighty Rebel (also known as a CMX250) puts out a blistering 17 horsepower, but brute force isn’t really what the Rebel is about.

I think my music producer buddy Kris Sampson said it best about the Rebel; “man it’s only 250ccs, but chicks don’t know the difference.”  The Rebel is about simplicity, good times, and focusing on the ride.   While there are advantages and disadvantages in every bike, for what you pay for the Rebel, it is one of the best values you can get in a motorcycle today.

The bike weighs in at a featherweight 230lbs and features a parallel twin-cylinder, 230cc air-cooled engine, with a five-speed gearbox.  One of the keys factor in the Rebel’s appeal is its reliability.  Its minimalist engine and carburetor mean that its tested Honda engine is very reliable.  Plus if the bike does happen to break down, its simple design means it is easy for a shade tree mechanic like myself to work on it.  Over the years there have been three different generations of the Rebel, although not much other than styling has changed between the models.

The bike has a single disc brake, which stops the 17HP of fury the Rebel puts out rather well.  Instrumentation is basic but very easy to read.  Handling on the Rebel is similar to most other cruiser bikes; i.e. slow and stable when turning due to the abundance of rake on the bike.  In the middle of the corner the bike feels planted and stable; very inspiring for a novice.  This is yet one more characteristic of the bike that makes it beginner friendly (I’m beginning to detect a pattern here).  Ground clearance isn’t the best (does any cruiser have good ground clearance?) but there are all kinds of options for extra storage such as saddlebags.

The number one advantage of the Honda Rebel also might be its greatest downfall; namely, the bike is underpowered.  Ultimately this bike was designed for beginning riders and its lack of available power makes it very unintimidating.  On the flipside, most riders are ready to graduate to a higher-powered bike after being on the Rebel for a year or so.  That being said the bike is capable of speeds that would get you arrested on most highways, it just will take a little longer to get there when compared to a Harley 1200cc bike.

Some common problems to look out for when shopping for a Rebel include: dirty carburetors, and stator/CDI issues.  Like most carbureted bikes, the Rebel will need its carb cleaned every year or two and common symptoms include: the bike only starting on choke, uneven idle, or even not starting all together.   Stator/CDI/electrical problems are a bit harder to diagnose, but you can perform a quick test to check the ignition system.  First, pull the sparkplug off of the bike, next reattach the plug to the sparkplug wire, then hold it against a bare part of the engine case and turn the bike over with the starter.  If you see a blue spark jump the gap on the plug, the firing system is most likely good to go.

Currently there are seven Honda Rebels for sale on Craigslist within a 25-mile radius of Knoxville.  The bikes range from a 1985 model with only 3000 miles going for $1300 to a 2006 model for $2200.  With so many choices of Rebels in the area, don’t settle for the first bike you look at or the bike with the best paint job.  Shop around and find the best combination of good mechanical condition and stock looking appearance as possible.

If you love the styling of a cruiser-style motorcycle and want to get into motorcycling, the Honda Rebel is a great choice.  For the price, there just isn’t a better cruiser style motorcycle out there.  While not every man or woman can afford the latest, greatest, and most expensive motorcycles, the Honda Rebel is a bike that is easily obtained and ridden by all.  After all, the ride is what it is all about, right?

(originally published in Handlebars magazine)

ADVANTAGES:

Reliable

Low weight

Large aftermarket parts availability

Affordable

Low seat height

DISADVANTAGES:

Styling is dated

Hard seat

Small for larger riders

Underpowered

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One Comment

  1. Rebel added these pithy words on September 20, 2011 | Permalink

    Would you then recomend a Honda Rebel for long bike rides? I am looking for a decent bike- want to go on rides- say 300 miles/day..would the engine over heat?

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