Reviving the Rebel: Honda’s iconic smaller capacity cruiser
Honda’s new, novice-friendly middleweight cruiser, the CMX500 Rebel, joins the popular CBR500F sportster, CB500F roadster and CB500X adventure styled bike in Honda’s entry level family of easy-going 500cc twins. They’ve all been designed around the same 47bhp 471cc parallel twin engine and tubular steel frame – but with variations in style to suit the needs of a range of riders.
Cruisers have never been wildly popular in the UK – but 2017 has marked a resurgence of sorts with a range of new cruisers, bobbers and ‘customs’ emerging on the market. So, we got our hands on Honda’s updated CMX500 Rebel to see what all the fuss is about.
First things first – how does it look? Initially, I was a little underwhelmed by how it looked in the flesh, but after a few days together; I found it growing on me. On the equipment front, there’s a simple LCD digital dash and a single round headlight. Personally, I see very little to get truly excited by, but its simple, practical design offers a decent base for customisation – and it genuinely looks the part. I found the riding position natural too – possibly a little cramped for my plus 6-feet frame, but comfortable nonetheless. Unlike other cruiser style bikes, neither the pegs or bars are a stretch. The seat is firm but comfortable, and its low 690mm seat height should help inspire confidence in shorter riders.
Built around the same 471cc unit as the rest of its CB family, the Rebel has been retuned to offer more midrange grunt, while sacrificing a little top-end power. Peak power is down from 47bhp to 45bhp while torque is up from 31 to 32ft-lbs. In practice, it’s more than capable of everything you could throw at it – happy pottering around town at low speeds, but open it up and you’ll be able to top 90mph. Power delivery is smooth, and gear changes a doddle – and you’ve got enough oomph to tackle an overtake without too much thought. At sustained high speeds you will get a bit of vibration through the pegs – but it’s fairly mellow and shouldn’t prove problematic.
For braking, the Rebel offers ABS disc brakes at the front and rear, which provide ample stopping power for the small-capacity cruiser. You can brake hard with confidence on its chunky front tire and rest assured that it’ll pull you to a stop with little trouble. Suspension comes in the form of non-adjustable 41mm conventional telescopic forks at the front and preload-adjustable, cruiser-style twin shocks at the rear. It’s probably a little on the soft side for optimum performance – but I found it perfect for soaking up the worst of the bumps from the pothole laden roads on which I tested the Rebel.
The Rebel is about as straightforward and simple as modern bikes get. The seat’s ridiculously low, it’s comfortable and it offers ample A2 performance. In short, it’s a bike you can get on, ride and enjoy. Ok, so it’s not particularly flash, or fast, or even particularly technologically advanced – but the Rebel is well-built, surprisingly cheap and far more versatile than any bike of this type has any right to be.
Honda CMX500 Rebel
Engine: 471cc liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, parallel-twin, 4-valve
Seat height: 690mm
Fuel capacity: 11.2 litres