Honda Revitalizes the Rebel!

One of the longest-running models of all time finally gets a revamp.

2017 Honda Rebel returns
It’s been a long time coming, but the Rebel has finally been revised. For 2017 Honda will offer a Rebel 300 and a Rebel 500.Photo: Honda

When Honda introduced the original Rebel 250 way back in 1985, my predecessors at Motorcyclist aptly observed that "by targeting the bike to a young audience… Honda hopes to attract newcomers and expand the motorcycle market."

And boy did it. As the de facto MSF training bike for decades, the lowly little Rebel introduced thousands of people to road riding and likely served as a beginner bike for scores more. (I owned an original ’85 model for a brief time.) Amazingly, the Rebel has remained in Honda’s lineup—and remained largely unchanged—for the last 31 years. Finally, for 2017, Big Red saw fit to update the classy little cruiser.

New Honda Rebel tank
The tank shape evokes the teardrop profile of the Harley Forty Eight, but it sits at a steeper angle. The bikes’ ignition switches are mounted down low adjacent to the steering head, chopper style.Photo: Honda

As has been the case before, the Rebel will come in two different sizes, a 300 version and a 500. The Rebel 300 is powered by the same 286cc thumper found in the CBR300R and CB300F, while the Rebel 500 gets the 471cc parallel-twin found in the CBR500R, CB500F, and CB500x.

Those engines are tried and true performers (well, except for a crankshaft recall on the 300s earlier this year) that promise to churn out smooth, consistent, torque-rich power and sip fuel. They're hung from the same steel-tube frame, with the same ultra-low 27.2-inch seat height, the same suspension, and even the same wheels and tires. The primary differences are going to be power, weight (a sprightly 364 lb. wet for the 300 and just 408 lb. for the 500, both their identical 3-gallon tanks full), and price. The Rebel 300 will sell for around $4,400, while the 500 will likely cost about $5,900.

2017 Honda Rebel headlight
The Rebel takes things back to a simpler time with a simple round headlight (it’s a shrunken version of the one on the CB1100) and a simple round dash.Photo: Honda

Honda is reaching for a younger demographic with the new Rebels, just like it did with the original 250 back in ’85. To that end, it’s bestowed both bikes with four color options: Matte Pearl White, Matte Silver Metallic, Black, and Red for the 300, and Bright Yellow, Matte Silver Metallic, Red, and Black.

2017 Honda Rebel Custom
Yikes! Honda is hoping the new Rebels will serve as a canvas for customizers. Hopefully would-be builders will leave the handlebars on their BMX bikes and save the pastel paint for the playroom.Photo: Honda

With modern liquid cooling, fuel injection, and disc brakes (with optional ABS), these updated Rebels are poised to carry on the tradition of their predecessors in providing a small, stylish, and affordable motorcycle. With any luck, these new Rebels will be as successful as attracting new riders as the original was.

2017 Honda Rebel 500 in yellow.
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in yellow.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in red.
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in red.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in silver.
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in silver.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in black.
2017 Honda Rebel 500 in black.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in red.
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in red.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in silver.
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in silver.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in white.
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in white.Photo: Honda
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in black.
2017 Honda Rebel 300 in black.Photo: Honda