2016 Honda Rebel
Honda got it right when it released the original CMX250 back in 1985, evidenced by the fact that the overall design has changed so little in the past three decades. I look at the 2016 Rebel — a straight-up carry-over model from 2015 — and it takes me right on back to my youth and an ’87 Rebel that I bought for a girlfriend.
The first thing she did was to drive that Rebel into my Sporty, breaking a few pieces off, so I was obliged to ride the undamaged Rebel for a while. I don’t blame the bike (much); it was much lighter and less powerful than my Harley. Still, it was still fun to ride, and the maintenance such as valve and point adjustments were easy to perform. Ever since then I have regarded the Rebel as good fun and reliable around-town transportation, so let’s take a look and see if it upholds the family name.
Continue reading for my review of the 2016 Honda Rebel.
2016 Honda Rebel
The original Rebel was meant to serve a slice of Honda’s brand of Americana to a younger crowd, and that doesn’t seem to have changed a bit. This little pocket cruiser sports a plethora of details inspired by the American-made cruiser market without blatantly copying any particular make or model, but instead establishes a style all its own.
The upper lines slide down the teardrop tank to a two-up seat that rests at a low 26.6-inches high, putting it just a few inches taller than the shortest production cruisers. Low seat height and a 331-pound curb weight make the Rebel particularly suited to entry-level riders who might want to eventually go the big-cruiser route. While the sheet metal only comes in red or black, both colors have a really cool looking tribal graphic that dresses up the tank a bit. The rest of the ride sports a bobbed rear fender, laced wheels and chromed, external shocks for that classic, old-school vibe.
Steel tubing forms the single-downtube, double-cradle frame for a simple and lightweight skeleton. The steering head is really out there with a rake of 30.6 degrees that gives it a chopper-esque vibe, and pushes the wheelbase out to 57.1 inches with 4.4 inches of trail.
Yeah OK, inverted forks are the hot ticket right now, but they would not fit with the retro vibe of the Rebel, so Honda went with 33 mm, right-side-up forks that fit the bill and provide 4.6 inches of travel. A traditional, yoke-style swingarm with external, coil-over shocks supports the rear, and the shocks come with adjustable spring preload.
Light bikes can get away with little in the way of brakes, and the Rebel is no exception. A twin-pot caliper binds the single front brake disc, and a mechanical-drum brake grips the rear. I realize the drum fits the look and all, but really, I don’t think throwing on a disc in back would ruin the panache.
Honda runs its 234 cc mill in this Rebel. The square, 53 mm x 53 mm, air-cooled engine aspirates through a 26 mm, constant-velocity carb that helps it achieve an approximate 84 mpg. This mill carries features that my old ’87 450 didn’t; namely an auto-adjusting, cam-chain tensioner and capacitor-discharge ignition (CDI) that does away with regular chain and points adjustments.
One thing that remains the same is the good, old, screw-and-locknut valve adjustment which makes that particular point of routine maintenance a breeze, and with only two valves per cylinder for a total of four, it’s a quick job as well. A five-speed gearbox and chain final drive complete the running gear.
As an entry-level bike, the Rebel has always had a very reasonable sticker. You can score a 2016 model in black or Candy Red with a one-year, unlimited-mileage warranty for $4,190. Though this ride is comparable in price and engine size to many current scooters, it’s a real bike that can help build a rider’s skillset for when it’s time to trade up.
Where the Rebel strives to have something of a classic Americana look, Suzuki took a different route and recreated the look of the old Japanese cruisers. The TU250X nails that dated look, and it takes me right back to my childhood when I (in my ignorance) thought this was what all Japanese bikes looked like. Ahhh, kid logic.
Although the engines are close in displacement with the Honda falling a little short at 234 cc versus the 249 cc plant in the Suzuki, and they are both air cooled, The similarities end there. Suzuki used its cylinder coating (SCEM) that we see in everything it puts out, and the engine runs through a throttle body with fuel injection to meter the charge. Even though CV carbs are about as good as carbs can get, they still aren’t as good as fuel injection; at least until you have to work on it yourself, then the carb is worth its weight in gold!
The Suzuki also boasts an air-injection system in the exhaust that helps the integral catalyst do its job, and an O2 sensor to monitor the situation. With such emissions control, I am surprised the TU250X isn’t available in California, but perhaps emissions has nothing to do with that, I just don’t know for certain.
Honda comes out as the winner in the sticker war. Its $4,190 pricetag is just a skosh under the Suzuki TU250X at $4,399, but honestly, both rides are firmly within the frugal bracket, and price should not be a dealbreaker. I’ll betcha if you went into a Suzuki dealership and told them the Rebel down the street is $200 less, the salesman would sharpen his pencil a bit. After all, it is MSRP and there is room to wiggle. Even given the differences in engine technology, this choice comes down almost entirely to looks and taste.
“In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I really like the Rebel, and consider it to be a near-perfect learner’s bike. If I have any negatives to speak of based on my own experience, I would have to say that I hope they did something about the seat. I’ve had occasion to sit on cinder blocks that were more comfortable, but that was a long time ago, and to be fair, it’s unclear how much the padding had been compressed before I bought it. That said, the new Rebel seems much like the old Rebels; inexpensive, reliable transportation.”
My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Just to be clear, I am not the girlfriend that ran the Rebel into TJ’s Sportster those many years ago. She never got on a bike again and is long gone. The Rebel is one of the bikes used by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for training, so yeah, it is a good beginner’s bike; but it’s also a good bike for short commutes. I’m not sure I’d take off up the interstate on one, but jumping up a couple of exits is fine."
|Bore And Stroke:||53 mm x 53 mm|
|Fuel System:||Single 26 mm diaphragm-type constant-velocity (CV) carburetor|
|Valve Train:||SOHC; two valves per cylinder|
|Final Drive:||O-ring-sealed chain|
|Suspension, Front:||33 mm fork; 4.6-inch travel|
|Suspension, Rear:||Dual shocks with five-position spring-preload adjustability; 2.9-inch travel|
|Brake, Front:||Single-disc with twin-piston caliper|
|Seat Height:||26.6 inches|
|Curb Weight:||331 pounds|
|Fuel Capacity:||2.6 gallons|
|Fuel Reserve:||0.7 gallon|
|Miles Per Gallon:||84 mpg|
|Emissions:||Meets current EPA standards. California version meets current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment|
|Warranty:||One Year Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan|
|Available Colors:||Black, Candy Red|