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Honda CMX500 Rebel (2017) - First Ride and Review

Freelance motorcycle journalist, former editor of Bike & What Bike?, ex-Road Test Editor MCN, author of six books and now in need of a holiday.



Honda X ADV first ride

Say ‘hello’ to the (virtually) all-new Honda CMX500 Rebel. Or, to put it another way, Honda’s new, novice-friendly middleweight cruiser. Or, to put yet another way, the final, ‘missing link’ in Honda’s entry level, A2-licence-compliant family of easy-going but satisfying and useful 500cc twins.

That family, introduced in 2013 and then updated and facelifted last year, comprises the popularCBR500Fsportster,CB500Froadster andCB500Xadventure styled bike. All were purpose-designed for the A2 category around an identical, all-new 47bhp 471cc parallel twin and tubular steel frame and cycle parts but with variations in bodywork, riding position and so on to suit the different styles of bike. And hugely successful they have been as well, proving easy and unintimidating to ride and yet with a more grown-up feel than some A2 bikes thanks to being twins (most rivals are lightweight singles) and also benefitting from the usual Honda gloss, even if slightly built down to a budget.

VIDEO: BikeSocial's Phil West gives his first impressions on Honda's new CMX500 Rebel

Say ‘hello’ to the (virtually) all-new Honda CMX500 Rebel. Or, to put it another way, Honda’s new, novice-friendly middleweight cruiser. Or, to put yet another way, the final, ‘missing link’ in Honda’s entry level, A2-licence-compliant family of easy-going but satisfying and useful 500cc twins.

The new Rebel joins that family as Honda’s cruiser/custom offering in the category and, although mostly all-new, it shares those bikes’ engine, albeit tweaked slightly – hence the use of the term ‘virtually’ at the beginning.

And while cruisers/customs, and especially Japanese ones, aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea, two things aren’t in any doubt. First, their low seats and manageable nature makes them very popular with many new riders, especially women or those of a shorter stature. While, second, cruisers, bobbers, customs, call them what you will, are once again back in fashion. Add those two factors together and the addition of the new Rebel to the CB500 family, so reviving Honda’s traditional name for its smaller capacity cruisers, was something of a ‘no-brainer’.

And, on the strength of BikeSocial’s first ride at the bike’s world press launch in Barcelona, the Rebel’s a worthy addition to the family and will prove a great introduction for many to bigger bikes.

Created by the same team that came up with the wackyHonda NM4 Vultusa couple of years back, the Rebel is about as straightforward and refreshingly simple as modern bikes get – and, as an affordable novice bike, that’s a very good thing indeed.

Although based on the same 471cc unit as its CB brothers, the version in the Rebel has been retuned slightly to give added, ‘custom-appropriate’ midrange grunt as the slight cost of top-end power, although, in truth, you’d barely notice. Thus, peak power is down from the other CBs’ 47bhp to 45bhp while max torque is up very slightly from 31 to 32ft-lbs.

Instead, what’s more different is everything else. The Rebel has a unique, chunky tubular steel frame designed to both give a proper ‘cruiser’ gait with a more kicked out front end and offer the lowest seat height possible. The result, a natty single saddle that’s just 690mm off terra firma, is so low even my gran, if she was still around bless her, would find getting on board an absolute doddle.

Elsewhere, forks are fairly budget but adequate non-adjustable 41mm conventional telescopics, there are preload-adjustable, cruiser-style twin shocks (Honda’s other 500s are all monoshocks), a single disc brake front and rear, a specially designed, ‘peanut’ or cruiser style 11.2litre fuel tank and, at each end, proper ‘bobber’, fat-tyred 16-inch alloy wheels.

Details, meanwhile, are a clever interpretation of minimalist ‘bobber’ style presumably in a bid to keep overall costs as low as possible. So, there’s a single, fairly basic, LCD digital instrument pod mounted in a classic round ‘cup’, a single round headlamp plus ‘mean and moody’ blacked-out everything in the traditional bobber style. In fact, the only swathe of chrome you’ll find anywhere is on the fork stanchions.

Does it look good? Erm, sorta. For me, custom styling is a very personal thing and at first I wasn’t certain. It’s definitely not a Harley, that’s for sure. And, while Honda cheekily claimed the Rebel’s ‘industrial chic’ meant that, ‘if it was a city, it’d be Berlin’ I’d more humbly proffer Sheffield or Birmingham, on reflection, and having been with the Rebel for a day in the metal, it’s also definitely grown on me, is undeniably a tempting ‘blank canvas’ for further customization and, best of all, being a blend of roadster and cruiser styles, is undeniably effective and useful in terms of how it goes as well.

Put bluntly: bikes simply don’t get any easier to ride – which, if you’re a relative novice after a fashionable A2 machine means the Rebel has one helluva lot going for it. The seat’s ridiculously low, the upright, not-too-extreme ergonomics and the bike’s overall manageability are faultless. Add that to the flexibility of the twin cylinder engine, decent enough performance and idiot-proof controls and you end up with a bike you can get on, ride, enjoy, quickly grow your confidence on and also do more and longer journeys than most customs can tackle.

Our test ride took us over about 80 miles of everything from congested city centres to sweeping country roads plus even a few motorway miles. The Rebel simply gobbled them all up with glee, was easier than any bike I can think of through it all, made a decent fist of some mad-cap scratching through some twisty backroads and, after it all, left me fresh and, dare I say it, thoroughly entertained. And I never thought I’d say that before this test. 

No, the Rebel’s not flash, not fast (although it is decently perky), it’s not cutting edge in any way and it has ‘Honda’ on the tank rather than some other cruiser make you may prefer beginning with ‘H’. But nor did it set out to be and that would be completely missing the point anyway. But Honda’s newcomer DOES do the ‘A2 roadster/cruiser’ task better than any other bike I can think of, is honest and well-built, is far more versatile than any bike of this type has any right to be and, at £5399, temptingly accessible value, too.

Or, to put it another way, if my missus suddenly decided she wanted to ride a bike, being a complete novice and image conscious, I’d point her at one of these.

Engine typeliquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, parallel-twin, 4-valves
Bore x stroke67 mm x 66.8 mm
Compression ratio10.7: 1
Maximum power45bhp @ 8500rpm
Maximum torque32ft-lb @ 6500rpm
Lubrication systemWet sump
Clutch typeWet, Multiple Disc
Fuel systemFuel Injection
Ignition systemTCI
Starter systemElectric
Transmission systemConstant Mesh, 6-speed
Final transmissionChain
FrameSteel tube diamond type
Front suspension systemTelescopic forks, Ø 41 mm non adjustable
Caster angle28º
Trail110 mm
Rear suspension systemSwingarm, preload adjustable twin shocks
Front brakeSingle 264mm disc, two-piston caliper, ABS
Rear brakeSingle disc, single-piston caliper, ABS
Front tyre130/90 x 16
Rear tyre150/80 x 16
Overall length2,190 mm
Overall width820 mm
Overall height1090mm
Seat height690mm
Wheel base1488mm
Minimum ground clearance135mm
Kerb weight190kg
Fuel tank capacity11.2 litres
Oil tank capacity3.2 litres

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