Obscenities pour jovially from the bearded mouth of the Harley-shirt-wearer walking by. I’m taken aback briefly, but soon realize his torrent is appreciative. “That’s a really [redacted] nice-looking bike, eh?” he says again. This time more slowly.
Here is a bike that Honda’s styling department took a winning risk on.
“What is it? An 800?”
It’s not. In fact, it’s a diminutive 300 cc single: the 2017 Honda Rebel 300 in fact, in bright red paint. Here is a bike that Honda’s styling department took a winning risk on. Every cruiser fan I’ve met raves over the tank-up design, the layout of the rear fender and the obvious potential for customization.
Honda’s two-pronged attack on the entry-level cruiser segment involves this 300, and its twin, the 2017 Honda Rebel 500. The two share everything but the engine, with identical frame, suspension and switches. The 500 ships with a pillion seat and pegs, the 300 does not – and those are about the only differences.
Honda’s 286 cc single is a slightly lower tune of the same engine found in the CB300 where it puts out 30 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque. Likewise the 471 cc engine in the Rebel 500 is a low-tune version of the same twin-cylinder found in the CB500 series, where it puts out 46 hp and 30 lb-ft of torque. That’s more, incidentally, than the Harley-Davidson Street 500.
The single is strong enough for the 168 kg the ABS-equipped bike is carrying (non-ABS bikes are 3kg less), but it becomes high-strung and buzzy when pushed. The 500’s twin has to drag around 20 kg more, but it does so with far more smoothness and a more pleasant highway feel.
At $6,899 for the 500 ABS and $4,999 for the 300 ABS the Rebels represent a strong value proposition, and apart from a rear brake lever that looks like it’s straight from their CRF parts bin, the fit and finish of both bikes is strong.
The rudimentary trip computer is round and retro, it’s appropriate for the bike but I’d have like to see a fuel consumption meter. My manual calculation showed 4.4 L/100 km after a week of city commuting on the 300, and 4.6 on the 500 – almost no difference.
While neither bike is particularly keen on changing direction, both track truly and remain steady over rough pavement – the stability is thanks in large part to a 28-degree rake and long, 1,491 mm wheelbase. The soft dual-shock rear suspension does a good job of accepting and dispensing with bumps too, courtesy of its 96 mm travel. The pre-load is adjustable to five levels, but I never played with it. At the end of the 41 mm telescopic fork you’ll find a beefy-looking 130/90 16-inch wheel, while the back is a relatively subtle 150/80R.
Perhaps the most surprising thing for me was the generous ground clearance. I wasn’t even close to scraping pegs on even my favourite corners, and found that I’d have had to push past legal territory to get there.
The pegs are straight down, and the bars had me stretched out just slightly for that aggressive but typical Bobber-style body position. I don’t like having my arms that high, but most cruiser/Bobber fans will adore the positon. It wasn’t too uncomfortable on short rides but I always find this style of seating position impacts my far-lower back after too long. I’m a bit of a whingebag sometimes.
The Honda Rebel 300 and 500 are well poised to not only attract a raft of new entrants to the sport, as well as carve out a new-found position of power for Honda among cruiser fans. These bikes hit the tough-as-nails styling on the head while also offering a decent and sturdy ride.
All in a well-priced package that is easy to ride, inviting, and accessible to a raft of entry and returning riders. And if my foul-mouthed friend in the orange-and-black-logoed t-shirt is anything to go by, they might get a look in from fans of those other iconic cruisers too.
|Engine Displacement||300 cc / 500 cc|
|Engine Cylinders||1 / 2|
|Peak Horsepower||30 / 46 hp (unofficial)|
|Peak Torque||20 / 30 lb-ft (unofficial)|
|Model Tested||2017 Honda Rebel 300 and 500|
|Base Price||300 – $4,999 / 500 – $6,699|
|Price as Tested||300 – $4,999 / 500 – $6,699|