2017 Honda Rebel 300 & 500: First Ride Review

Honda's iconic entry-level cruiser redesigned in all the right ways

2017 Honda Rebel
2017 Honda Rebel 500 (left) and Rebel 300 (right)Kevin Wing

The original Honda Rebel has become an icon in its own right. The approachable small displacement, low seat height and center of gravity, non-threatening looks and an affordable price tag all added up to a bike with which more than three decades of beginners have made fond memories. It was quick enough to go on a highway if you really needed to, but wasn’t going to burn tire or get away from you while you learned the intricacies of clutch work. Well, the new model has evolved in just about every way, taking what we loved about one of the best beginner bikes to ever exist and bringing it up to date with modern styling and a bit more juice. The 2017 Honda Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 give new riders longer legs to stretch, with a bike they can spend a little more time growing into.

Honda Rebel 300
Morgan Gales at 6-foot-4-inches on the Honda Rebel 300Kevin Wing

I had been eagerly anticipating the first ride since I got an email announcing the new Rebels a couple of months ago. I was starting the day on the 300 model, and would then switch to the larger 500 version halfway through the day.

I am 6 feet 4 inches and was surprised to find that I wasn’t incredibly cramped after throwing a leg over the new 300 model—the old one had me so jammed up I was resting my elbows on my knees. The first thing I noticed upon starting the bike was that the 286cc single cylinder engine had a surprisingly nice growl to it--I was intrigued.

I was starting the ride just west of Los Angeles, in Venice Beach which meant I would be doing a bit of city riding. Luckily for me, they let me pick my own route and I stole away to ride up Pacific Coast Highway before turning left and carving out some of Malibu’s awesome canyons.

2017 Honda Rebel
The minimal handlebar setup on the Honda Rebel is the same for both modelsKevin Wing

The engine on the 300 would quickly pull up to about 50mph, and get up to 70 with ease when hopping on the highway. Jamming through the canyons, I found myself all over the gearbox but it was smooth and easy to use. When I got back out onto the open highway, I was able to see 91mph on the flat with just a little time getting there—but I was damn impressed by how hard that little motor was working. The vibrations at 65-75mph weren’t bad, especially for a single cylinder, but over that started to get a little numbing.

The new 300 model weighs in at 364-pounds, which is heavier than the 331-pounds of the 2016 250 model, but it doesn’t feel like it. The bike is light and nimble, not just fun for beginners—I had a blast ripping around on it for a few hours. For $4,400, you’re getting a bike that new riders can learn to ride on, grow into and have fun riding for years. ABS is available for an extra $300, and would definitely be a good idea, as I found myself slipping around a little when I hit hard on the brakes.

Honda Rebel 500
The engine on the 500 fils out the frame a little better than the 300Kevin Wing

After lunch I stepped up to the 408-pound, 500cc model, not a huge weight to power trade off there. This model comes in at $6,000 and has everything in common with the 300 except the motor and the mounts. This is the bike that takes that lovable little Rebel and turns it into a real life daily motorcycle. Comfortable at highway speeds with enough torque to get you out of (or into) trouble, the 500 is damn fun.

The 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin would pull strong all the way up to highway speeds, and still have some to give when you needed it. I felt the brakes worked a little bit better with the slightly heavier bike, but I was also traveling faster most of the time. While both bikes were very fun, I didn’t have to shift around quite as often on the larger model and the torquey larger engine was asking for a little bit of hooliganism (which I was happy to oblige).

2017 Honda Rebel
The rear fender struts are minimal as-is, but quickly detach to remove the whole rear fender if you want that "bobbed-out" look.Kevin Wing

Not just in terms of performance, but stylistically the new bikes are a drastic change, one largely for the better I believe. The older model, was frankly a little wimpy—which small bikes don't have to be! The Rebels hold a nice stance, the 16-inch wheels look great and the seat-tank-fender form a really classic cruiser line. Sure there are a couple things with the new model that I can't help but gripe about, like the little gap between the gas tank and the frame that you can just barely see through. Or the excess of covers in all of the trellis gaps to hide whatever wires and cables are under there. Regardless, it's a big upgrade in styling and a much better looking bike in my opinion.

2017 Honda Rebel
Front wheel and brake on the 2017 Honda RebelKevin Wing

There was only one thing that I could complain about on the new Rebels, and that’s the suspension. Both front and rear were soft without much damping, leading to a bouncy ride in the corners. While the ride on the straight was soft, I hit a little pothole and the otherwise comfortable seat nearly bruised my butt. The rear preload is adjustable, but not the damping, so where I might be able to help the pothole problem, I’m not likely to fix the springy cornering without an upgrade. But after all, you build your suspension to fit the price point and for the low price of these two bikes, I would call the shocks and forks plenty adequate.

Honda has taken the lovable, approachable Rebel and given it a much needed update. Improving on the old model in nearly every way, while maintaining what made it such an icon in the first place.

2017 Honda Rebel 300 SPECIFICATIONS
Engine Type 286cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke 76mm x 63mm
Compression Ratio 10.7:1
Valve Train DOHC; 4 valves per cylinder
Transmission Six-Speed
Front Suspension 41mm fork; 4.8 inches travel
Rear Suspension Dual shocks with 3.8 inches travel
Front Brake Hydraulic disc
Rear Brake Hydraulic disc
Front Tire 130/90-16
Rear Tire 150/80-16
Rake 28°0' (Caster Angle)
Trail 110mm (4.3 inches)
Wheelbase 58.7 inches
Seat Height 27.2 inches
Curb Weight 364 pounds (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and a full tank of fuel-ready to ride)
Fuel Capacity 2.96 gallons
Available Colors Matte Pearl White, Matte Silver Metallic, Black, Red
2017 Honda Rebel 500 SPECIFICATIONS
Engine Type 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin four-stroke
Bore And Stroke 67mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio 10.7:1
Valve Train DOHC; 4 valves per cylinder
Transmission Six-Speed
Front Suspension 41mm fork; 4.8 inches travel
Rear Suspension Dual shocks with 3.8 inches travel
Front Brake Hydraulic disc
Rear Brake Hydraulic disc
Front Tire 130/90-16
Rear Tire 150/80-16
Rake 28°0' (Caster Angle)
Trail 110mm (4.3 inches)
Wheelbase 58.7 inches
Seat Height 27.2 inches
Curb Weight 408 pounds (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and a full tank of fuel-ready to ride)
Fuel Capacity 2.96 gallons
Available Colors Matte Pearl White, Matte Silver Metallic, Black, Red

For more information, visit Powersports.Honda.com

Honda Rebel 500
2017 Honda Rebel 500Kevin Wing