In the motorcycle world, all motorsports really, the trend is usually around more power, more speed, more and then even more, please. Being a lifelong motorcycle addict, I often forget that talk of insane horsepower levels and top speeds tend to create fear and anxiety in those who don’t ride. Feeling a thumping exhaust note beat your chest like a sledgehammer, oddly, doesn’t seem like an invitation to put a leg over for some. Hearing a large sportbike screaming to 15,000 rpm apparently isn’t the magnet for others like it is for me, go figure. That’s not to say that you can’t have a sportbike as your first bike, but they’re not for everyone.
Enter bikes like the brilliant Honda Rebel 500. The market for smaller displacement bikes has always been strong outside North America, now with manufacturers offering more selection in Canada and the USA, there has never been a better time to jump on two wheels.
Sharing darn near everything but the engine with the smaller still Rebel 300, the Rebel 500 is the cruiser member of what are known as the Honda 500 Twins. This parts sharing format allows Honda to offer multiple styles of bikes aimed directly at new riders, and keep the pricing extremely wallet-friendly.
Let’s dig into the Honda Rebel 500, and I will help you understand why I love this bike for new riders.
Our Take: Why You Should Buy A Rebel 500
2013 was the starting point for the Honda 500 Twins. A lineup of motorcycles built around a 471 cc (28.7 cu in) liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC Straight-twin engine, good for 47 hp. In 2017 Honda filled out the lacking cruiser lineup with a clean sheet design for the Rebel 300 and 500.
Gone is the heavy cruiser style dripping with chrome, Honda follows the minimalist Bobber path and blacks out as many possible components for an edgy look. A trellis-style frame allows for an extremely low 27” seat height, so flat-footing at stoplights is not an issue for all but the shortest inseams. Fitted with mid-mounted controls, the riding position is relaxed and the handlebars sit very comfortably just below the average person’s shoulder height. Honda wanted a minimalist look to the Rebel and stayed with a simple easy to read LCD display. Refreshed in 2020 Honda added LED lighting and improved gauges including a gear position indicator.
The narrow peanut tank and 30° front fork angle give the Rebel 500 a Bobber style, but the geometry is still focused on stable handling characteristics. Carrying about 40 lbs more than the Rebel 300 and sharing the exact same suspension does change the ride slightly between the two bikes. Riders around the 200 lb mark will likely find that suspension a bit soft when pushed hard, but for most riding situations the Rebel 500 performs very predictably.
Front and rear Nissin calipers are more than up to the stopping needs, but Honda has made ABS available as an option, as are the rear passenger seat and footpegs. The Rebel can handle 2-up riding but it really is at its best with just the pilot and plenty of open road.
Bottom line: Honda nailed the look of the Rebel with a clean Hipster Bobber style with all possible components now blacked-out. The chassis design delivers great ergonomics and a low seat height while keeping the weight at only 408lbs. The 471cc engine has plenty of jam for enjoyable highway rides, and jumping out ahead of the cagers when the light turns green. Tuned for low RPM torque, new riders should have a fun, easy time developing their skills on the good-looking Rebel.
Reasons to buy the Rebel 500:
47 hp moves this bike well and it has no problem running at 75 mph
How can you not love 71 mpg
The low seat height inspires confidence
Great exhaust note with more rumble than expected
The brakes are good with optional ABS
Has great cornering clearance
The fat tires and blacked-out design looks great
Affordable and holds its value well
Reasons not to buy the Rebel 500:
Heavy riders may find the suspension too soft
Solo seat, not set up for 2 up riding ( accessory passenger seat and footpegs available)
Production Run & Notable Model-Year Changes
Production Run & Model Generations
Introduced in 2017 the Rebel is a clean, modern, Bobber-style bike.
First Generation – Rebel 500 (2017-2019)
Monocolor digital LCD
471cc Single-cylinder engine.
Optional ABS brakes
Second Generation – Rebel 500 (2020 – )
An assist-slipper clutch that reduces clutch-lever effort by 30%
Improved gauges add gear selection and fuel level
Full LED lighting
A new suspension tuning with stiffer spring rates improves handling
Owner Reviews of the Honda Rebel 500
Press & Magazines
Motorcycle Review: 2017 Honda Rebel 500 ABS
“Handling is sharp, and that low seat height helps bring the bike’s balance way down low, making it fun to toss around – again, the higher pegs and ground clearance can have you leaning the bike closer to the pavement than you might expect. For both beginners and experts alike, the Rebel is actually a fun bike for some canyon-carving fun, no matter the speed.”
2017 Honda Rebel 500 and Rebel 300 first ride review
“If this was a sportbike review, the additional weight would be more of a talking point, but on these two machines, it really isn’t an issue. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that the extra weight could actually be viewed as an advantage for the 500. While I wouldn’t want to burn highway miles on either of them for too long, the 500 feels much more stable at highway speeds.”
2020 Honda Rebel 500 Review: 16 Fast Facts (Urban Motorcycle)
“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.”
Riding comfort – Honda ergonomics seem to suit a wide variety of bodies
The price – A brand new, a Rebel 500 can be out the door for about $6500
Fuel efficiency owners report up to 61 mpg with easy cruising
The Sound – the exhaust note carries a surprising rumble
What Owners Complain About
The tail light on the first generation looks old and not matched to the style of the bike
Mediocre gauges on the first generation
Suspension is too soft for larger riders
The Bottom Line
Overall the Rebel 500 rocks. Finding a bike that is modern, well priced, and a great ride is a challenge. Honda really delivers with these new Rebel series bikes, they are a massive update from the older, heavy, chrome-laden Japanese cruisers.
Honda has done an impressive job making a modern Bobber that isn’t intimidating and fits a wide range of rider sizes. It is a huge advantage sharing parts with the other Honda 500 Twins, in this cruiser setup, the retuned engine delivers a bit stronger low-end torque giving the Rebel a unique riding experience. Larger riders and riders with some experience will likely prefer the added power of the Rebel 500 over the Rebel 300.
The Rebel 500 is everything you expect from Honda. A solid reliable bike, that will give years of great riding, and even though it is considered a small displacement bike by North American standards, I doubt you will be looking to sell this off anytime soon.
Honda Rebel 500 Competitors
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