OK, let's get over the fact the Rebel has one of the most inappropriate names in motorcycle history. It's not a rebel in any way, shape or form, and I wish Honda had simply called it the CMX500 to avoid the inevitable piss-taking. When you have a 45hp parallel twin motor, you can't seriously claim to be a hell-raiser because you can't back up this claim with anything other than a slightly farty exhaust note. And then there is its look, which is, well, it's all a bit odd with its balloon tyres and modern bobber-ish styling. Dig a bit deeper and you discover that the same man who made the Voltus, which is also more than a little challenging in its aesthetics, designed the Rebel. So on paper you have a stupidly named bike with a fairly mundane motor and weird styling. It shouldn't work really, should it? But it does - and remarkably well...
Rebel on the road
At the heart of the Rebel is essentially the same parallel twin motor as used in the rest of the CB500 range. It has a slightly different fuel map to lower the point that peak torque is produced, but the Rebel makes an A2-legal 45hp with 33lb ft of torque. As an engine it is hard to fault, but by the same token it's not the most thrilling of motors. The clutch is light, the gearbox a touch clunky but acceptable in its operation and the throttle response is precise, making it a very pleasant machine for inner city riding. Out on the open roads it can crack the national speed limit, but it's hardly a speed-machine and instead has the feeling of Honda sensibleness rather than thrills. So what makes the Rebel such fun to ride? Oddly enough, it is the chassis.
Despite its weird 16-inch balloon tyres the Rebel is far more competent in bends than it has any right to be, and this fact alone makes you grin from ear to ear when riding. The pegs hit the deck fairly easily, but this only adds to the fun, and while the suspension is soft and single front brake fairly limited in its performance, you are never really traveling fast enough for this to be a major concern. After a short while you find yourself barreling into bends, scraping the pegs and giggling like a naughty kid as you wrench the throttle open like it is an on/off switch. It's just such a laugh to ride, and for me that's what bikes should be all about.
Honda is generally such a strait-laced company that I almost get the feeling it makes fun bikes by accident, and the Rebel is one such machine. On paper it shouldn't work, but in the flesh it is hysterical to ride and crammed full of character. Much like the MSX125 (or Grom as it is more commonly known), Honda has stumbled on a magic formula that makes a potentially mundane machine great fun. And if sales reports are to be believed, the Rebel has hit all the right notes with buyers as it is selling really well across Europe. Personally I wouldn't be at all surprised if, like the Grom, the Rebel starts to attract a bit of a cult following as it's that kind of bike - weird and wacky, but somehow strangely appealing.
2017 HONDA CMX500 REBEL
Engine: 471cc DOHC parallel twin, liquid-cooled, 8v
Power (hp): 45@8,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 33@6,000rpm
Top speed: 100mph (est.)
Weight: 190kg (wet)
MPG: 74 (claimed)