First introduced by Honda back in 1985, the Rebel 250, also known as the CMX250, was the developed to fill the market niche of entry-level cruisers at that time. Targeting a younger audience, Honda had aimed to attract newcomers and those getting back on the saddle after some time being away for riding. The engine is an air-cooled 234cc SOHC parallel twin that is also found in the Honda CB250 Nighthawk. Engine power goes through a 5-speed transmission before getting to the rear wheel. Stopping power is provided by a single disc brake in front and drum brake in the rear. Suspension is standard forks for the front and dual shocks at the rear that feature adjustable spring preload. The Rebel’s relatively low weight and a seat height that allows most riders to easily plant their feet flat on the ground when at a standstill made it a popular motorcycle for rider-training courses. The fact that Honda has been producing the Rebel 250, on and off, well into the recent years is a good indicator that they got the formula right for this motorcycle.
First off, I have to admit that I am not really a huge fan of cruisers even though there are some examples of this type of motorcycles that does catch my eye when I see one on the road or in a magazine. With that in mind, the whole idea of me swinging a leg over a cruiser and writing about it had me feeling unsure that I would be able to do it without my preferences getting in the way. When the day came for me to pick up the Rebel 250 that would serve as the basis of this article, all my apprehensions disappeared upon laying my eyes on it. Being one of the cleanest and well maintained examples of a Honda Rebel 250 I have come across, I knew it was going to be a fun ride regardless of what my motorcycle preference is.
Before riding off to a destination north of the capital city, I got acquainted with the Rebel. The owner, Carlo Tirona, has done an excellent job of maintaining this particular unit, which is more than a decade old, and has kept it in top riding condition all the years of ownership. As I sat on it, I began to understand how the Rebel 250 became a popular beginner motorcycle as Honda intended it to be. The relatively low weight of the motorcycle makes it easy to lift it off the side stand and balance with both feet flat on the ground from the low seat. The handle bars are an easy reach with the controls and switches in the proper locations. A quick ride up and down the block got me acquainted further with the Rebel.
The first time I merged into city traffic on the Rebel 250, I discovered that it was an easy motorcycle to maneuver in traffic. With the upright riding position, it was easy to look around to find open spots in traffic to fit into. Control inputs to the handlebars resulted in predictable changes in direction. Acceleration is quick enough to get yourself from the spot where you are to the spot where you want to be. The gear ratios are spaced just right for city riding. The brakes are responsive and easy to modulate. After weaving through a typical day’s worth of traffic, the open roads going up north was a welcome sight. And the chance to really see what the air-cooled parallel twin could do was a temptation I wouldn’t even try to resist. With ample power spread across the engine’s powerband, building up speed while going up through the gear ratios was fairly quick. My only wish was that the instrumentation included a tachometer so that I didn’t have to pay close attention to the engine note and valve noise to know when it was time upshift because I was at the rev limit already. The engine seemed to handle cruising at 80kph with ease and still had some punch if you tried to accelerate even at top gear. But for a quick overtaking maneuver, a quick downshift to fourth gear was in order to do away with the vehicle in front. Handling at higher speeds is just as predictable as that at lower speeds and with the element of more speed, it was getting fun. In some instances, I would take corners at a higher speed to allow me to really lean the motorcycle into in. It was then time for me to find out how fast a Rebel 250 go. Remember that I said that building up speed on the Rebel 250 was fairly easy? Well, up to point that is. At top gear and from about 100kph, speed increased at a slower rate of acceleration. With a long enough stretch of road, I was able to hit 120kph as indicated on the speedometer. I would suspect that some ‘aerodynamic riding position’ on my part would be good for a couple more ticks on the speedometer. The quoted top speed of the Rebel 250, as I learned during my research for this article was 130kph. At those speeds, the Rebel 250 still was running solid. The engine, although was at top of its rev range and at the limit, it still felt it could handle what was being asked of it. The chassis and suspension was coping with the road surface even at such high speeds considering that they were designed and calibrated to handle at their best at cruising speeds and below.
After doing the ‘speed run’, I hauled things back to cruising speeds and began to enjoy myself on the Rebel 250. And I am not talking about riding on the limit, I mean honest to goodness riding with the feeling of freedom from all the cares in the world. I guess that is the whole point of riding a cruiser, enjoying the ride. Needless to say, the Rebel 250 gave me a crash course on why I should like riding a cruiser and I learned quite a bit. It may have been meant to be an entry-level motorcycle by Honda but the experience you get is way beyond entry level.