Honda CMX500 Rebel: Just for kicks
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Honda took a lot of risks when it came to producing the new CMX500 Rebel. Even the name raises expectations of a bike that won’t conform to the norms and will take the fight to “The Man”. But when it comes to the reality, does the bike live up to the name? Well, yes and no.
Falling into the bobber category by virtue of its minimalistic design and “bobbed” mud guards, the Rebel has the lightweight looks associated with the movement, but what exactly is it meant to represent?
Based around the far less rare modern CB500 family, the Rebel shares the same 475cc parallel twin that makes those bikes such a joy, and at 190kg, it’s the same weight as the CB500, but the Rebel shares much more than just an engine and kerb weight.
The Rebel may be under the Cruiser Category on Honda’s website, but it feels every bit as sporty as the CB500 naked. That translates to a bike that, while looking the slow and laid-back cruiser, can hustle along through the corners despite the massive 130/90 section front tyre.
It is an oddity, but as soon as you find yourself sitting within the low 690mm seat, you couldn’t care less. This is a small bike that does its best to feel big, and it is a rewarding ride for it.
Looking ahead of the high mounted tank — which holds 11.2 litres — the Rebel features an LCD display in fashionable inverted colours. Although the large speedo and fuel gauge are helpful, it is still a sparse affair in keeping with the “Keep it Simple Stupid” bobber theme.
The seating arrangement is available as either a solo or rider and pillion setup with our test bike the latter.
Taking a closer look, you notice that the subframe loops around the back of the solo rider’s seat, indicating that there are plenty of possibilities for modification for the Rebel, and a quick search of the web proves this with plenty of bikes ditching the rear mudguard and pillion accommodation entirely.
If there is one aspect of the Rebel that is form over function, it would have to be the rear suspension. Unlike the rest of the Honda 500 range, the Rebel opts for styling correct twin loop rear shocks rather than a monoshock.
During a hammering through the Karangahake Gorge I could notice the bike flex as the twin shocks did their thing while fighting the grip from the big front tyre. For some riders this may be unsettling but I found it brilliant fun as the flex the bike found indicated you were approaching the limit.
Out cruising the streets, the suspension is comfortable and the bike starts to fall into the cruiser mind set.
Chuck the 6-speed gearbox into a higher gear and thump along on the torque alone and the cruiser essence starts to seep out of the little Honda. But keep it in lower gears and it is the opposite — almost as if the Rebel had some sort of Jekyll and Hyde personality — to something with a lot more get-up-and-go.
Although there’s no rev counter on the dash, the bike loves to rev out, but returns the same frugal motoring you get on the other Honda 500s.
But does the Honda hit the bobber nail on the head? In style, yes; but not in soul. Honda, being Honda, has put together a wonderfully well-built bike for its efforts, but a bobber is meant to be a little rough around the edges.
Looking at the build quality of the bike, it’s all in line with your typical Honda — down to the weird inverted horn and indicators on the left switchblock — which makes it far too nice to be a pukka bobber. It just does everything too well.
From braking to acceleration, to general comfort, it is almost too top notch in the quality stakes for what it is intended to be.
But what this little bike excels at is giving riders of the LAMS class — or your inner-city commuter — a bit of the bobber aesthetic without the hard drawbacks of a rough and ready ride. Which, in my books, is an admirable characteristic, and well worth the entry price for what you get in return.
Honda CMX500 Rebel
Engine: 471cc DOHC Parallel Twin
Pros: Highly refined, frugal but fun, easy to handle
Cons: Love it or hate it aesthetic