2017 Honda Rebel 500 and 300 First Ride Review | Hot Tramp, I Love You So
It was a long wait, but Honda has all-new entry-level cruisers this year. The 2017 Honda Rebel 500 and 300 have nothing in common with the discontinued classic Honda 250, and that’s a very good thing.
- The new Rebels are a huge improvement over the old Honda Rebel 250 twin. For 30 years, the Honda Rebel 250 served its purpose of introducing new riders to the motorcycle fold, but it was time for a change. The 2017 Honda Rebel 500 and 300 will make you forget the 250 instantly.
- Everything is new about the 2017 Rebels. There isn’t a single significant part carried over between the old 250 and the new Rebels. The 2017 Honda Rebel 500 and 300 share the same rolling chassis, highlighted by the hybrid trellis/perimeter steel-tube frame.
- The new engines are a huge step up. The air-cooled carbureted two-valve 234cc twin has been replaced by two different liquid-cooled fuel-injected DOHC motors—a 286cc single and a 471cc twin. Performance isn’t even close, as the two current motors are sourced from the CB500 and CB300 series of sport bikes, with some minor retuning for more low-end power (the 300) and additional midrange (the 500).
- The Rebels are cruisers, but with a dash of sport. In addition to the willing motors, the ergonomics of the Rebels are moderate. Yes, there’s a reach to the bars, but the footpegs are in a neutral mid position that is comfortable while making it possible to ride aggressively when desired.
- Fat 16-inch tires give a planted feel, and help the suspension. The 130 front and 150 rear Dunlop tires both have high profiles to absorb the nastiest roads in urban Los Angeles, as well as provide a reassuring footprint wherever they are ridden.
- Seat height is low, but not overly low. With the seat sitting just over 27 inches above the pavement, almost anyone can be flat-footed at a stop. My 30.5-inch inseam had no problem with this, of course. By not dropping the seat too much, there’s enough room for comfort between the seat and the footpegs. The low seat makes mounting and dismounting especially easy, in conjunction with the light weight of the Rebels.
- The Rebel 500 weighs 44 pounds more than the 300, but it’s not an issue. When the 500 tips the scales at a claimed 408 pounds, with its three-gallon fuel tank filled, and it carries its weight very well. The difference between the two is negligible out on the road. Beginners, of course, will love the 364-pound weight of the 300.
- Suspension travel is long for such a small motorcycle. Even with the low seat height, Honda still allows 3.8 inches of rear wheel travel and 4.8 inches in the fork. It’s not adjustable, as you’d expect, but Honda’s engineers hit the sweet spot, so the suspension sucks up bumps admirably while not giving the Rebel a mushy feel. Remember, the chunky Dunlops help, too.
- It’s not a canyon bike, but it handles well. With the light weight, spunky motors, conservative 28 degrees of rake and reassuring 58.7-inch wheelbase, the Honda Rebels have a great feel for the road. Cornering clearance isn’t bad, but you can scrape pegs on the 500 sooner than the 300 on tight turns around town.
- Braking is plentiful and controllable. Again, the footprint of the 16-inch wheels are crucial—they provide the traction to make the basic 296mm front disc and 240 rear disc more than adequate. ABS is an option, and I tested the non-ABS version. Really, any rider should spend the extra $300 for the ABS versions.
- The transmission is excellent, but the clutch isn’t newbie-friendly. Honda should have sprung for a slip-and-assist style clutch, as the lever pull isn’t exactly light. Also, the reach to the clutch lever feels long, and I wear size L women’s gloves. A hydraulic clutch and fast adjust lever would have been great. Even better, of course, would have been a DCT option for Millennials and Gen Y riders who just can’t come to grips with a manual transmission.
- The 2017 Honda Rebel 500 and 300 are ready to be customized. Honda has already shown us some highly customized Honda Rebels that look fantastic. People are going to have lots of fun with this inexpensive starting platform.
- I’d buy the 500 because I’m an experienced rider, but the 300 is more than satisfactory. The extra performance of the 500 is worth the $1600 premium if you’ll be doing any amount of highway riding. Riders who are sticking to urban areas with speeds below 60 mph most of the time will be completely happy with the 300. Amazingly, the 2017 Rebel 300 costs just $209 more than the Rebel 250 is directly replaces. That’s an incredible deal.
Photography by Kevin Wing
- Helmet: HJC RPHA 11
- Jacket: Black Brand Charmer
- Gloves: Black Brand Crystal
- Pants: Dainese Belleville Slim
- Boots: Joe Rocket Heartbreaker
2017 Honda Rebel 500 and 300 Specs:
- Type: Liquid-cooled parallel twin (300: liquid-cooled single)
- Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 66.8mm (300: 76.0 x 63.0mm)
- Displacement: 471cc (300: 286cc)
- Valve train: DOCH; four valves per cylinder
- Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
- Induction: PGM-FI; 34mm throttle bodies (300: 38mm throttle body)
- Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
- Transmission: Six-speed
- Final drive: Chain; 15T/40T (300:14T/36T)
- Front suspension: 41mm telescopic forks; 4.8 inches of travel
- Rear: Twin shocks; 3.8 inches of travel
- Front brake: 296mm disc
- Rear brake: 240mm disc
- ABS: Optional
- Front tire: 130/90-16; Dunlop
- Rear tire: 150/80-16; Dunlop
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
- Rake: 28 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 27.2 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3 gallons
- Curb weights: Rebel 500 ABS: 414 pounds; Rebel 500: 408 pounds; Rebel 300 ABS: 370 pounds; Rebel 300: 364 pound
2017 Honda Rebel 500 Colors:
- Matte Silver, Black, Red
- Bright Yellow (Rebel 500)
2017 Honda Rebel 300 Colors:
- Matte Pearl White
- Black (ABS models)
2017 Honda Rebel 500 Price
- $5999 (ABS, $6299)
2017 Honda Rebel 300:
- $4399 (ABS, $4699)
Availability: April 2017
2017 Honda Rebel 500 and Rebel 300 First Ride | Photo Gallery