I owned a 1985 Honda Rebel for a brief period, putting 7,000 km on it before selling it. It was replaced soon after with a 2008 KYMCO Venox. After reading many reviews saying great things about the Honda Rebel, I’d like to offer my opinion and experiences in my own Honda Rebel 250cc beginner motorcycle review.
The Honda Rebel 250 is a great beginner motorcycle. If you’re looking for a beginner cruiser, a 250cc bullet-proof tried and tested engine that’s been around since the 1980s (and not a Kawasaki Ninja 250), this is a great alternative.
The Rebel was first built in 1985, though the engine dates even earlier to the Honda CM-250, a lightweight standard style UJM of the 1980s. You’ll be able to find a few aftermarket parts for the Rebel in catalogues or on eBay from China. The product quality on eBay will be cheap, but you can get engine guards and sissy bars (passenger backrests) $100-150.
The Rebel excels at being small, light, low, economical, and beginner friendly in the city.
Unfortunately the little Rebel is a bit too small. At just over 5’10” it would give me bad leg cramps after an hour riding. The motorcycle’s power as well as braking capabilities are reduced significantly when carrying a passenger and the soft suspension bottoms out. In hindsight, carrying a passenger out on a trips was almost absurd. The Honda’s braking is plagued with the typical cruiser rear drum brake, which won’t give you as much bite as a disk would. To some this isn’t an issue, especially on a motorcycle the size and weight of the Rebel’s, but for ease of maintenance and performance I like disk brakes over drums.
- See a full comparison of Drum vs. Disk brakes here.
Immediate competition (other underpowered Japanese 250cc beginner cruiser motorcycles) include the Yamaha V-Star 250 (a V-Twin 250cc cruiser) and Suzuki’s 250cc Marauder (a single cylinder engine). All of these bikes will make roughly 18 hp and very little torque. To quote cousin Vince “My lawnmower puts out more horsepower”. At highway speeds the Honda Rebel is an absolute paintcan-shaker, vibrating and numbing riders at anything over 100 km/hr. We also had problems with overheating in traffic coming into the city during Caribana weekend traffic jams. As all of these bikes are air-cooled and produce the same power we’re thinking these will be common issues.
- Find out more about the differences between air-cooled and liquid-cooled engines.
Other competition includes the KYMCO Venox (which gets our seal of approval after 25,000+ km problem-free, including out of province rides); and a new competitor, the Suzuki TU250. The Venox boasts a much higher horsepower, top speed, power to weight ratio, larger size and comfort all above that of the Honda Rebel. The KYMCO performs at roughly 28 horsepower vs. the Honda’s 18. As for Suzuki, the TU250 is a single-cylinder, but is fuel-injection.
Back to the Honda Rebel. Personally, we feel there’s a lot better bang for buck out there. The Rebel is a great beginner motorcycle bike, but it may be too much of a starter bike, one you’d outgrow in a season or less. Many riders hoping for a long ride outside the city will find they outgrew this motorcycle when they hit puberty. This is not a bike to purchase new and pay full price on.
In conclusion, the Rebel’s time has come and gone, and that’s a good thing. The new Honda Rebel 300 and Honda Rebel 500 are two excellent beginner motorcycles, but the old Rebel is best left in the past.