Pros: Perfect Learners Bike or For Women and Small Stature Men
Cons: Small and lacks power for long trips.
So, you've decided that you want to learn to ride a motorcycle. Yeah, those guys on the Harley's look like they were born to ride, just as their T-shirts advertise. You wonder, "Can I do it?" The answer, is a resounding, "Probably!"
The Honda Rebel. The Rebel has essentially remained unchanged since it's introduction in 1985 as the wanna-Be Harley Davidson competitor. That didn't quite work out, but none the less, this bike has remained the choice of most Motorcycle Riding training courses in this country, as well as in the UK. At 250 cc's, this bike is a pussycat. Tame, undaunting, yet still pretty cool.
In 1985 the Rebel was marketed as the first "cruiser" style bike manufactured by Honda. Back in those days, Honda's bikes looked more like the "rice rockets" or speed bikes of today. For example, the Honda Nighthawk, and the Honda Sabre V75, with their elongated banana seats and semi forward inclined seating positions, Honda decided that Harley needed some competition in the cruiser department. Voila! The Rebel was born, affordable, and made by Honda.
In 1986 and 1987, Honda breifly beefed up the Rebel and gave it 450 cc's. This is a rare bike indeed, and presently these two years of minimally produced Rebel 450's sell for upwards of $2800, at roughly 16 years old. You may also get your hands on a 1986 250 Limited Edition Rebel, which was made in all black and gold, with gold plated chrome accents, including a gold headlight housing and gold plated shocks. Another variation, is the made for the UK Rebel, which came in the diminutive 125 cc engine size.
So, what's the difference between buying a decent 1986 Rebel on E-bay, and buying a 2007 Rebel from your Honda dealer? About $3000. Yep. Don't waste your money on buying a new Rebel.
This is a learner's bike.
While many folks, including those on my Rebel bulletin board (go to www.surfmaine.com/rebel) will argue vehemently, most riders graduate from the Rebel, to bigger and better things. 90% of people that buy a Rebel, will sell it within two years of purchase. Why?
1) Low power. A bike with at least 600 cc's is needed to ride comfortably on highways, or on longer trips, say through your local state or county parks on a Sunday.
2) Diminutive size. While the bike handles fairly well, it is cumbersome to put saddle bags, or carry cargo on a rack. Riding a passenger is NOT recommended.
3) Changed their minds about Riding. This is common in women, as I have seen for myself, when purchasing my used Rebel. Women decide they want to learn to ride, and then lose confidence or decide the danger outweighs the enjoyment of simply riding on the back with their husbands, or boyfriends (or girlfriends as the case may be).
This bike is easy to ride, easy to maintain, and quality made from Honda. I would venture to say, that having inspected many newer (1998-2003) Rebels, the older models were of immensely higher quality.
The drawbacks of owning such a small bike, may or may not be obvious. One of these reasons, is the 'sound' of the pipes. When a Rebel is passing you by, (which is rare) you hear a lawnmower, or scooter type noise, not that which most of us have associated with motorcycles. Of course, you can buy aftermarket pipes, and enhance that sound a bit. You ask, "Who cares about sound?" The reasoning behind those loud pipes, is so that others in cars, with stereos and cell phones, and truck drivers in loud cabs, may hear you coming, even when they may not see you!
The other reason is, don't think that you can go out with your buddies on their Fat Boys and VTX's and think you can ride along effortlessly. You'll be left in the dust.
However, having said that, the Rebel has a following. There is in fact, a man in Florida, named Jack, who has an entire business, with many people working for him, as well as his own mail order web based business, called Jack's Rebels. Jack fields calls all day, with people looking for original parts for a 1986 LTD, and others wondering, "Do you guys have a windshield for an 87 450?" Jack has a "Rebel Boneyard" in which he harbors original and replacement parts for Rebels, and will have the answers to many questions regarding customization and restoration.
Of course, if you are dead set on buying a new Rebel, buy it bare bones, and try to get a leftover from last year. But if you look on Ebay, or call Jack, or peruse the bulletin board at Surfmaine, you will no doubt find a used Rebel in your area, at a very decent price. If you want to hang on to the bike for a few seasons, then look into the 450, which would still cost less than a 2000 or later Rebel 250.
I bought a 1986 Rebel LTD, and was happy learning on it, in fact the riding school I attended, used Rebels to teach the students with. It is very unintimidating, and certainly suits the smaller female riders, as well as the slight men, who want to ride, but can't hold up a Fat Boy.
I have since graduated to a Honda Spirit 750, which suits me perfectly. Again, I bought it used, and saved a ton of money! I actually sold my Rebel for more than I paid for it!
Just remember to ride safely, and look into a course before you go out on your own.