Bikers for whom orange pumice hand soap has long stopped working will have opinions with regard to motorcycles ad infinitum. From appropriate overall cruiser geometry to gearing for the perfect track bike to horizontal vs. vertical licence plate mounting on a full custom. And so on.
Although I’m still able to clean my hands with regular soap (my nails are dirty, though), I have opinions of my own so far as motorcycles are concerned.
Enter the 2019 Honda Rebel 500, a bike about which I have a fairly firm opinion. I like it.
The Rebel is a pocket cruiser that looks much larger in photos than it actually is. With a seat height of only 27.2 inches, owners of thunderous two-wheeled ground pounders might see only the top of my helmet in their mirrors. But I don’t care. The Rebel need not offer up any apology for what it truly is: a highly capable, nimble and stylish bike that will carve city streets and leave its monstrous cruising brethren for dead in an urban centre.
Powered by a 471cc liquid-cooled parallel twin engine and mated to a six-speed gearbox, the Rebel has a pleasing exhaust note and offers up plenty of torque where I want it in the city – down low in the rev range. The thick tires on this naked bike (150/80 R-16 and 130/90 R-16 front and back, respectively) lend it a brawler look. Sure, the Rebel is neither the biggest nor toughest sled in the shed – but it does look the part. But shorter.
With a wheelbase just under 58 inches and a stand-over height allowing less experienced drivers to ‘walk’ the bike, anyone can easily get the Rebel into and out of tight city spots with no drama. The rear suspension features dual shocks with five-position spring preload adjustments – and will accommodate heavier riders. Of note, however, is the 41mm telescopic front fork which offers just under five inches of travel. Some will argue that the fork is compressed to an extent simply by mounting the bike – leaving little travel to absorb uneven surfaces. The flip side is that given how truly flickable this bike is, avoiding uneven surfaces isn’t hard. It’s fun.
Put the Rebel on the open highway and it will cruise comfortably with the flow of traffic. Admittedly, it won’t scorch the leftmost lane. With its modest displacement, the act of dropping gears at highway speed in search of more passing power could end very badly. However, with a weight of 414 pounds, it doesn’t suffer much buffeting on major highways and it remains firmly planted at a clip that responsible drivers will find quite sufficient.
The Rebel has an 11.4-litre fuel capacity which will allow for hours of city and highway cruising. However, riders might find they need a pit-stop long before the Rebel does. My one knock against the Rebel in stock form is the seat which offers little padding and less flexibility in terms of re-positioning one’s backside. There have got to be aftermarket seats that offer added comfort.
Experienced riders will say that there are some key bits of information that your bike shouldn’t need to tell you: which gear you’ve selected; the relative speed at which your engine is turning over; whether you’re indicating a turn or how much fuel is left in your tank. I am one of these riders.
Many of us started out on bikes for which an instrument cluster of any sort wasn’t even a consideration. The fact that the Rebel offers only a portion of the aforementioned information is of no consequence to me. In fact, I would submit that listening to an engine spool up and mapping the process of engine load and road speed to gear changes by feel is part of why I love riding. If I wanted a bike to sling data at me, I’d look elsewhere and expect to pay more.
The Rebel is a pocket city cruiser that won’t empty your pockets. It has an MSRP starting at $7,199. It’s also a Honda and it could very well outlive you.
2019 Honda Rebel 500
Base Price: $7,199
Drivetrain: 471cc liquid-cooled parallel twin, 6-speed manual gearbox
VVUZZ Recommended: For those looking for a new classic.
Images courtesy of the author.