Honda CMX500 Rebel: PH2 Review

When it comes to two wheels, I like surprises. Not the kind of surprises that end up in broken plastics, but the kind of surprises that you get from a bike that delivers far more than meets the eye. The last time this happened was in 2014 when Yamaha's parallel twin MT-07 stunned me with its price, engine and general fun factor. Well I am happy to report that I have once again been left both surprised and impressed by a very unlikely bike - the Honda CMX500 Rebel.

Shall we call the styling distinctive?
Shall we call the styling distinctive?
Rebel by name only
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.

Watch those pegs Jon!
Watch those pegs Jon!
Weighing just 190kg, the Rebel is light on its wheels at slow speed and has an excellent turning circle. It's an easy bike to manoevure at walking pace and this, combined with its low seat height of just 690mm, makes it reassuring and easy-going - ideal for less experienced riders. However, up the pace and the Rebel really surprises.

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.

A bit tame for some, yes, but jolly good fun
A bit tame for some, yes, but jolly good fun
Rebel rising?
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.

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)
Price: £5,399


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Comments (5) Join the discussion on the forum

  • D200 31 Aug 2017

    I see the price if this bike is 5400 - seems steep for what looks like a pure budget 500cc bike?

    Things like a Yamama XSR700 or a Kawa Vulcan S 650 are under a grand more and just over a grand more seem like much better value?

    I know not exact same market but as similar as I can find

  • CM954 31 Aug 2017

    When an MT07 is 6199 this seems to fill a niche

  • diluculophile 31 Aug 2017

    I'm sure there's nothing wrong with the bike, but if I were to buy new, I'd spend a little extra and get something with that Yamaha twin (probably the tracer for me).
    Or you could buy an old CB500. Would do the same job for a lot less money. Mine will be more or less worth what I paid for it in a years time when I upgrade.

  • lee123easy 01 Sep 2017

    45 bhp 100 mph top speed 180 kg = 74 mpg thats rubbish it should do at least 110 mpg ! a small car can better that mpg ! come on catch up bike manufacturers

  • dc2rr07 01 Sep 2017

    lee123easy said:
    45 bhp 100 mph top speed 180 kg = 74 mpg thats rubbish it should do at least 110 mpg ! a small car can better that mpg ! come on catch up bike manufacturers
    It does have the aero dynamics of a brick though biggrin

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