Honda gets the bad boy out of each one of us with the 2009 Rebel. Considering the fact that people are most likely to buy it in order to save up gas money, that’s quite an accomplishment and yet only a part of the small cruiser’s big character. With a reliable and docile four-stroke engine, comfortable accommodations and great handling, I bet my money on the fact that after being introduced to cruising by this entry-level bike, all riders will see the Honda Shadow as their next goal.
It seems that Japan’s motorcycle builders try to cover up every single cruiser category, especially the entry-level one not only because Harley-Davidson is far from it, but also due to the fact that motorcycle buyers nowadays (at least the ones that go for a cruiser) are more interested in getting to their destination alive rather than benefiting of a lot of horsepower and big dimensions.
Starting from that idea, Honda delivers the air-cooled, 234cc, parallel twin, SOHC; two valves per cylinder powered Rebel, a machine for those who prefer finesse. Being fitted with a 26 mm carburetor and mating the small motor to a five-speed gearbox, this cruiser is simplicity itself. That, combined with a 331 lbs wet weight, 26.6 inches low seat height, not only makes the Honda Rebel easy to handle, but a perfect commuter and, very often, the choice of female riders.
But the Rebel isn’t by far a new arrival. This bike has more than two decades behind its back and a change of identity so it is quite a challenge digging into its past.
Honda had first introduced their quarter-liter cruiser under the CM250C name back in 1984 in order to be part of the frenzy that came together with the style. Powering the bike was an air-cooled, 234cc, OHC parallel twin that was electrically started and fed through a 26mm carburetor fitted with accelerator pump. This featured even the bore and stroke of the engine you can find on the Rebel today so the five-speed, constant mesh transmission was nothing out of the ordinary. Neither were the drum brakes. In its first year of production, the CM250C was pretty much a lame replica of the Honda Magna. There was even the Black and Red color scheme on the tank and side cover.
Starting 1985, they model name turned into CMX250C. Honda refined the inappropriate look for such a small motorcycle, but the handlebars still seemed like being too high mounted. At least a disc brake was mounted on that front wheel. Colors available were Candy Supreme Red and Pearl Stellar Black and the side panels were now chrome plated.
In 1986, the handlebars were lowered and the bike ended up looking pretty much as the one that is being sold today. The Candy Supreme Red color was replaced by Candy Eiger Blue while keeping the Pearl Stellar Black. That same model year saw the addition of a limited edition model called the CMX250CD. It was only available Pearl Stellar Black painted, but added gold striping on the gas tank and rear fender. Also, the gas tank cap and carburetor cover were gold while the engine cases, fork legs and handlebar levers were chrome plated.
For 1987, colors were either Black or Wineberry Red. Afterwards, Honda ceased production of their small cruiser model.
1996 was the year of new beginnings and, as an irony of faith the all-new Honda Rebel was Magna Red colored. They have lowered the seat and redesigned the gas tank, but the engine was the same.
Starting 2001, the Honda Rebel was exactly what you will buy today and only colors and small details such as graphics were to be later added and/or changed.
Star motorcycles offer a more than decent alternative to the Rebel, the 2009 V Star 250. Previously called Yamaha Virago, the bike is beloved for the 249cc, air-cooled, 60-degree V-Twin engine, a low seat (27 inches from the ground) and retro looks.
But there’s more to be said about that small powerplant. For starters, like any V-Twin, it delivers low-end torque and smooth acceleration all through the power range. A 26 mm Mikuni carburetor has much to do with that as well as the five-speed transmission. Also electrically started and getting an awesome 78 mpg, this Star is a great cruiser to start on. But probably the best of it is the $3,790 base MSRP.
No matter what a motorcycle is created to do, looking good is a must and the 2009 Honda Rebel stays true to its name. Inspired on bigger models, this cruiser is definitely designed to attract more than a few looks with its shiny chromed pieces (headlight, taillight, signal lights and instruments housings, rims, exhaust, rear springs and fender ornaments) and also with the new paintjobs, Red and Blue.
Very often I happen to hear considerations regarding the fact that a cruiser look brought to motorcycles that is not powered by a V-Twin engine only makes them standard models, but for me, things are much simpler. So as long as the bike is sold as a cruiser by the company which created it, I won’t argue with that. Furthermore, featuring a pair of standard spoked wheels and a simple, but classic design, the Rebel manages to convince me of its cruiser roots. Also, with a 30-degree 40’ rake, you can’t call it anything else but a cruiser.
The fenders and gas tank look smooth while the foamy seats indicate that you and your passenger will be riding in comfort all day long. Indeed, a V-Twin engine would definitely make it stand out even more, but this high-revving unit is at least a good replacement if not the appropriate thing for it.
Apart from the new colors, Honda also ads some cool graphics on the sides of the gas tank in order to enhance the aggressive look they try to bring on the 2009 model year.
Honda may not bring a V-Twin engine on the scene, but their Rebel’s success is an undisputable fact and it is partly due to a good marketing strategy resulting into a $3,399 manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
The rest is just heritage and Honda life long reliability. For reviving this old model Honda doesn’t deserve our appreciation as it could simply not stop producing it in the first place, but because they offer the possibility to properly learn how ride on a machine that could easily become the ideal Christmas gift for our girlfriends (or wives)…oh, you get the point.
Engine and Transmission
Type: air-cooled parallel twin-cylinder
Bore & Stroke: 53.0mm x 53.0mm
Induction: Single 26mm diaphragm-type constant-velocity (CV) carburetor
Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
Valve Train: SOHC; two valves per cylinder
Final Drive: 0-ring sealed chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Front Suspension: 33mm fork; 4.6-inch travel
Rear Suspension: Dual shocks with five-position spring-preload adjustability; 2.9-inch travel
Front Brake: Single-disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Drum
Front Tire: 3.00-18
Rear Tire: 130/90-15
Rake: 30-degree 40’
Trail: 113mm (4.4 inches)
Wheelbase: 57.1 inches
Seat Height: 26.6 inches
Curb Weight: 331 lbs (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and a full tank of fuel-ready to ride)
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons, including 0.7-gallon reserve
Guarantee: Transferable one-year unlimited-mileage warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan