This article was originally published in the June 2001 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

If we could count the number of people who learned to ride on Honda vertical-twins or owned one as their first bike, you’d be astounded. The Rebel’s engine can trace its lineage to early Honda twins—which is both a positive and negative point. Because of this history, buyers can expect a bullet-proof engine. It looks like it’s related to motorcycles from the 1960s.

The heart of the Rebel is its air-cooled twin-cylinder 234cc engine. With a perfectly square bore and stroke of 53 x 53mm, the cylinders are fed through two valves each. A single overhead cam, which is powered by a maintenance-free automatically adjusted cam-chain, operates the valves. The tappet clearances are maintained easily with screw-type adjusters. The compression ratio is a conservative 9.2:1. Carburetion comes via a single 26mm Keihin CV mixer. Exhaust gases exit through a 2-into-2 system, featuring mufflers on both sides of the bike. Power flows through a five-speed transmission out to a chain final drive. Thanks to the thrifty gas consumption, the 2.6 gallon tank should offer around 172 miles of cruising between fill-ups.

Rebel 250
Honda's venerable 250 cruiser, the Rebel 250, still rolls.Dean Groover

The Rebel's chassis technology is as retro as the powerplant. A semi- double cradle frame holds the lump in position. Up front, a 33mm fork connects the 18-inch front wheel to the frame. Atop the fork the slightly pullback bar sports bare-bones instrumentation: a speedo, odometer and idiot lights. Further back, the seat is a two-piece affair that tops out just 26.6 inches above the pavement. Supporting the rear half of the bike is a pair of shocks.

Suspension-wise, you don’t get any adjustability in the front, while there are five positions of preload in the rear. A 15-inch spoked wheel, sporting a 130/90 Bridgestone, completes the pavement interface. Braking is handled by a single, two-piston caliper with 9.4-inch disc in the front and a cost-saving rear drum.

While not exactly on the cutting-edge of cruiser styling, the Rebel is nice to look at. The black paint gives the bike a minimalist theme, but the new for 2001 pearl blue is snazzier. Despite being a budget-oriented motorcycle, the fenders are constructed of metal, and likewise, a few little detail pieces stand out. The plastic side panels are adorned with chrome strips imprinted with the Rebel logo. The dual pipes exiting both sides of the bike also dress up its looks a bit and distract one from the utilitarian look of the chain drive.

234cc parallel twin
This 234cc parallel twin was the most powerful of the bunch, providing ample power and a remarkably buzz-free ride.Dean Groover

Riding the Rebel was an interesting experience. First, the riding position is the most cramped of any of this quartet. Longer-legged riders complained that the pullback bar hit them in the knees during parking lot maneuvers. The other riders agreed that the pegs were mounted a bit high. Once out of the lot, however, the Rebel’s approval rating climbed. One of two twins in this comparison, the 250 was the quickest off the line and felt the most powerful at all speeds.

Around town, the peppy engine made coexisting with four-wheeled traffic a worry free affair. At highway speeds, despite our preconceptions, the Rebel could easily keep up with 65 to 70 mph traffic. Climbing hills did require a downshift occasionally to maintain speed. Adding a passenger would, no doubt, compound the issue. The engine was remarkably smooth on the superslab which would make short tours a stress-free endeavor. In the twistier sections of road, the engine's power was welcome since we tended to be more conservative on corner entries than with middleweight machines, thanks to the soft suspension.

Braking was handled effectively by the disc/drum combo, but the effort at the lever was a bit more than we would have liked. The drum offered decent feedback and resisted unintended lock-up.

chrome strap side panels
We just loved this chrome strap across the side panels. When combined with the exhaust exiting both sides of the bike, the Rebel doesn't necessarily look like a budget bike.Dean Groover

When we gathered for our post-ride wrap up, the Rebel was voted the second easiest to ride. One tester said he’d like to borrow this bike for his wife since she is quite petite. While it would be a great choice for smaller riders, it might cramp larger ones, negating its easy-going status.