After a successful first run from its debut in 2017, the 2020 Honda Rebel 500 enjoys some updates this year. The parallel-twin powered cruiser remains a popular ride with new and improving riders, and the changes for 2020 make the Rebel 500 even better. We will get into the enhancements as we give the 2020 Honda Rebel 500 a fresh test.
- The 2020 Honda Rebel 500 is a great fit for riders moving up from an initial learner motorcycle, or coming back to riding after a too-long break. Clearly a neat step up from the single-cylinder Honda Rebel 300, a great beginner bike, the Honda Rebel 500 remains forgiving if you’re making errors and has enough power to get out of trouble with a bit of throttle as you progress with your riding skills.
- We all like to be comfortable and the Rebel’s ergonomics are excellent. The riding position is natural. Footpegs are forward enough that you know you’re riding a cruiser, and yet not so committed in the forward position that you find yourself scrabbling to find them. The handlebars are shoulder width and height for me at 5’ 6”, therefore intuitive to hold. Taller test riders didn’t complain that the Rebel 500 is too small.
- The Rebel 500 motor is pleasantly smooth and quite powerful. Switch on and hit the electric start button on the right handlebar and the 471cc liquid-cooled DOHC engine purrs into action instantly. Based on the motor used in the CB500 performance family, the Rebel 500 is tuned for more low-rpm torque. Pulling away from stops is measured and manageable, without surprise jerks and snatchy reactions. The cruiser-oriented power is sufficient if you need it, but it has a calm delivery that won’t scare relatively inexperienced riders.
- The 2020 Honda Rebel 500 has a new assist and slipper clutch, and the lever action is light and effortless. I haven’t got the strongest grip in town, yet my hand doesn’t feel tired or achy after riding all day.
- The Honda Rebel 500 gearbox and transmission make for a smooth and easy ride. The gearbox is undemanding, and so shifting gears is instinctive. Slipping into neutral is a breeze, giving you ample time to steady for the stop. The six-speed transmission has a wide range of ratios, so it works on the slowest urban streets and out on the open highway.
- Wind blast is surprisingly minimal for a naked bike. Honda installed the optional black cowling ($96) around the headlight, which guides the on-coming wind around the rider. Wind resistance is not an issue on the freeway.
- Honda reworked the suspension for the 2020 Rebel 500, and it works well. Riding on some rutted and poorly maintained roads is just fine. Honda firmed up the ride via stiffer springs all around, yet the new set-up doesn’t compromise comfort. The fork gets new internals, while the shock has a nitrogen gas charge for consistent damping, as well as a bumper to resist bottoming. True to form, the Rebel 500 suspension delivers a firm ride, and I had no bottoming-out, even on hard hits on rough roads. When riding on an undulating highway or in the corners, the suspension ensures you don’t feel as though you’re sitting on a sponge cake.
- Handling is neutral on the 2020 Honda Rebel 500. The rake is conservative at 28 degrees, with the triple clamp kicking the fork out another two degrees. So, with a 30-degree fork angle, nothing happens too quickly. Turn-in is intuitive, with the fat Dunlop D404 tires giving me the confidence that the front end will stay planted. Cornering clearance is more than satisfactory for new riders.
- The Dunlops are chubby by design and do a good job. Both front and rear are mounted on 16-inch wheels. The Honda Rebel 500 is neutral and stable, making riding easy on straights and nicely accommodating on twistier roads. With a large contact patch, the steering is slowed down, giving the rider plenty of confidence and forgiveness of errors. Additionally, the high-profile tires also help the suspension, adding extra cushion.
- Braking works very efficiently, and the ABS leaves me feeling confident. I reckon this safety feature is a must for the added peace of mind that your emergency braking, or braking on low-traction surfaces, will be controllable. With only a conservative squeeze of the brake lever, you are rewarded with steady, straight stopping power from the front and rear disc brakes—something the larger Honda Shadows don’t have. Honda sells a standard Rebel 500 without ABS for $300 less; there are better ways to save money.
- I am a fan of the Rebel’s retro feel and styling. The key ignition is frame-mounted on the left side below the tank, and I like that easy access and the lack of clutter across the instrument pod. The round instrument casing is in keeping, and the readout is clear, showing gear indicator, time, fuel level, and mpg. Likewise, retro-round mirrors give a great view of goings-on behind. I experienced slight mirror shake at higher freeway speed, but nothing that would put me off the bike.
- The quilted leather-look seat is a tempting extra. This is a $65 accessory from Honda, and well worth it. It is comfy and roomy enough, even after several hours of mixed town, suburb, and freeway riding. The seat height is a low 27.2 inches, so my feet are easily flat on the ground when stopped—I’m 5’ 6” height with 29” inseam. This makes maneuvering and parking dead easy. Additionally, a pillion seat is also available as an option.
- The functional saddlebag on this test motorcycle is a useful option. I have found good use for the tough waterproof saddlebag fitted on the left side ($176 with mounting bracket). For convenience, it unclips and lifts off quickly to carry with you on foot.
- The new LED lights are bright and make the Rebel easily noticed by other road users. The headlight has been given an industrial look, along with the same treatment for new taillight and turn signals.
- Frequent friendly waves from riders on fellow urban motorcycles had me feeling like a real cool cat. Honda designers have captured an old-school minimalistic look with modern elements. The overall finish of the Honda Rebel 500 is superb quality; it feels solid and a joy to ride without being intimidating for the less experienced or shorter height rider.
- The 2020 Honda Rebel 500 is already a good choice for a confident newbie, or an intermediate rider like me. Further, it is an excellent daily ride for those with experience to simply jump on for fun. The Rebel 500 instills confidence because of the low seat height, narrow ergonomics, and light feel.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Van Der Mark Frost
- Communications: Sena SFR
- Jacket: Alpinestars Stella Renee Denim/Leather
- Gloves: Alpinestars Stella Atom
- Jeans: Alpinestars Stella Angeles
- Boots: Joe Rocket Heartbreaker
2020 Honda Rebel 500 ABS Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 66.8mm
- Displacement: 471cc
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
- Fueling: EFI w/ 34mm throttle bodies
- Transmission: Six-speed
- Final drive: Chain
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 4.8 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable shocks; 3.8 inches
- Tires: Dunlop D404
- Front tire: 130/90 x 16
- Rear tire: 150/80 x 16
- Front brake: 296mm disc
- Rear brake: 240mm disc
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
- Rake: 28 degrees
- Fork angle: 30 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 27.2 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3 gallons
- Curb weight: 414 pounds
- Colors: Matte Armored Silver; Graphite Black; Matte Blue Jeans Metallic
2020 Honda Rebel 500 ABS Price: $6499 MSRP ($6836, as tested)