On our press ride I rode the Rebel 300 in the morning before switching to the 500 after lunch. The 286 cc single is very friendly, easy to control, and serves as a great powerplant for anyone that’s really nervous about their first bike – it doesn’t have enough power to scare anyone. It accelerates fine from a stop, but just doesn't have enough jam to satisfy anyone with more than a full season of experience.
The Rebel 500 gets the 471 cc inline twin-cylinder engine from the CBR500R. While still not very powerful, the difference between the 300 and 500 is stark. The 500 revs quicker, accelerates briskly, has decent torque and spins up to 9,000 rpm (1,000 rpm higher than the 300). The power is manageable, more usable and, well, just more fun. It’s a proper engine that will generally satisfy an experienced rider in most cases.
Rebel platform offers plenty of legroom, but arms have to extend quite forward to reach handlebar.
WHO WOULD BUY THE 300?
The new Rebel platform is designed to appeal to a specific type of consumer, one that’s new to riding but loves the lifestyle and social elements of the culture. Both the 3 and the 5 offer stress-free alternatives to vintage bikes and come with the perks of payment plans and warranties.
With everything else pretty much the same between the two models, the 300 is really only good for very timid, nervous new riders who are worried that the power of a motorcycle is too much for them. It’s also $1,900 cheaper than the 500 and better on gas, too, so a budget-strapped city dweller may opt for it as well.
WHO WOULD BUY THE 500?
Despite the existence of the 300 model, the Rebel 500 is still a good platform for newer riders, especially those with a bit of confidence. It will also serve as a good next step for riders graduating from the 125-300 cc range, and as a cool commuter bike for more experienced riders. Given the customization possibilities, we won’t be surprised if a few custom builders pick them up as a new canvas to experiment with.
Custom Rebel 300 (left) and 500 (right) presented by Honda to inspire personalization by future owners.
During my day of riding through the streets of Los Angeles, the word that kept coming to my mind to describe the new Rebels was ‘sensible.’ Fresh styling aside, the Rebel 300 and 500 are very practical motorcycles that offer a simple, stress-free ride. They’re not necessarily 'budget' bikes, per se, but they’re bare-bones. And that’s a good thing when it comes to introductory motorcycles.
The light weight, short seat height and friendly engines equate to a pair of bikes that are incredibly easy to live with and manoeuvre around. You won’t stress over dropping it every time you have to put your feet down, getting it stopped, accelerating too fast, or being overwhelmed by electronics. It's just you and the road, the way it should be.
Custom Honda Rebel 500 build by Aviator Nation out of Venice Beach, CA.