WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Mailbag - Honda Rebel as a Starter Bike

By James - 2/14/2005

I recieved an email about my opinion of the Honda Rebel as a “starter bike". . .

I took motorcycle lessons in Sept & I passed the course, but I haven’t taken the written at DMV to get M-license. I am thinking about getting a Honda(Rebel). Since I’m 5′1″, do you think that bike would be alright for a starter bike? Please give me your opinion.

- B. Brown

Great job taking and passing the motorcycle course! It is a great investment. Now you can look forward to ambiguous questions followed by four correct answers on the DMV test. You must pick the “most” correct answers to pass the test and get your license. It can be fustrating but keep at it. A Class M license is a great thing to have.

The Honda Rebel is a great bike. My wife Rachel rides an ‘85 and have had no complaints about it; it still runs strong. When getting your first bike you have to consider a couple things.

First is comfort. It takes about six months to get really comfortable with your first motorcycle so I like to advise people to get a 125 or 250cc bike. They are generally the lightest and most forgiving in case you forget to put your kickstand down and have to pick it back up. You sit lower on the cruisers like the Yamaha Virago 250, Suzuki GZ250 and Honda Rebel. The Ninja 250 has a higher seat hight and at 5′1″ you may not be able to flat foot it. Kawasaki and AlphaSports both have 125cc bikes that may feel better for you. My wife got her license this summer and we decided on a used Honda Rebel. She is about 5′8″ and in California 250ccs are the minimum displacement engines allowed on the freeway. She commutes from Oakland to San Francisco and the only way over the water is on the freeway otherwise we would have gotten a 125.

Second is power. Generally women and people over 30 know enough to ride within their limits, but younger motorcyclists have a tendancy to use all the power of a motorcycle whenever they can. Once you learn when to use your power you can move up to a bigger bike, but until then, 125s and 250 teach you great motorcycle skills, ones you will absolutely need once you upgrade. You think you are exempt from small bikes because you just know you will outgrow them? Well this is the exact reason you are not. Take a look at what the Marmot says on buying your first bike…

Third is cost. There is a good chance you will drop your first bike. You will still be learning to ride 20 years from now and the first 6 months are the hardest. The 125 and 250 classes of motorcycles are good because repair costs are low and the initial investment to purchase one can be under $1000 for a used bike in good condition. Multiply that by 4-10 times for a new or used 600cc bike. You want to get good on a “beater” then move up after you get all of the mistakes out of your system. As my wife learned this weekend when a driver backed into her bike and took off, a used 250cc bike is a good thing to have. If they had hit my V-Star and skewed the forks, bent the fender, damaged the tire and scratched the paint, I would be looking at over $3000 as opposed to $300 for the Rebel.

For more information from Rebel Owners, try the Rebel-Riders Group at Yahoo.



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  1. The preceding is a very well organized, well done, and accurate description. I experimented upward twice (Pacific Coast 800, Rebel 450) and have returned to my easy to handle Rebel 250. It handles 70-75 even at 5000 feet (subtract 1/6 of your ponies) and does everything I want. Hot it is not. Heavy it is not. Expensive it is not. FUN, IT IS! And mine is the seventh under 250cc bike in Iron Butt Assn. records to do a SaddleSore 1000 (miles in 24 hours – long but surprisingly routine.) Why go bigger?

    Darryl Petrak IBA20678
    02 Rebel “Baby Wing”

    Comment by Darryl Petrak — 2/14/2005 @ 6:55 pm

  2. Yes, all very well said!

    The only thing I want to add is that I am only 5 foot 2 and am very comfortable riding an 86 Rebel - I can touch the ground easily flat footed and find the bike comfy when riding also. It’s my first bike and I’ve only been riding about a month. The Rebel is the BEST starter bike IMHO.


    Comment by Alexia — 2/15/2005 @ 9:27 am

  3. […] tting a deer. I wonder if the person who typed in “125cc ninja bikes” found my article on starter bikes helpful. But today someone came to my site after searching the internet for & […]

    Pingback by Why Bike? I write about motorcycles and why we ride them — 2/22/2005 @ 5:30 am

  4. I bought my Rebel in May of 2000 and here in February, I have put on over 6400 miles. It can go anywhere and it is a perfect first bike. I’m getting ready to move up to a bigger bike. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s great to have a light bike in which to master all your skills. I’m a little tense about moving up (750 or 1300) but being in Atlanta, it would help to have more power to get away from crazy drivers!

    Comment by arona — 2/25/2005 @ 6:09 am

  5. Nice articles and comments. I just want to add that my daughter (21 yo) just purchased a 2005 Rebel yesterday after doing extensive homework and research on what she wanted. She passed the MSF course last summer, but did not get a bike until now. I’ve never ridden a Rebel, but am looking forward to seeing and riding hers to be able to give experienced comments. (I currently ride a 2002 Shadow 750 ACE.) Anyway, nice website, good comments from real riders. Thanks!

    Comment by J. Corkran — 2/27/2005 @ 9:38 am

  6. I’m looking at a Rebel 250 tomorrow (I’ve owned one yrs. ago). Did they only make the 450’s in 1986/87? Are they similar to the 250’s with more power? My ONLY complaint about the Rebel was that after an hour of riding my back would hurt becasue the seat was so uncomfortable. Any seats out there for the 250’s that are comfy?

    Comment by Tami — 8/11/2005 @ 5:12 pm

  7. I’m just starting to research my first bike, and have been looking at the 250’s (Rebel, Virago). I’m concerned that my 6′4″ frame will prevent me from riding one of these bikes. I’m really not looking for a highway bike or to do anything more than go on 2-3 mile trips. Any recommendations?

    Comment by JWyant — 9/4/2005 @ 6:41 pm

  8. At 6′4″ I would suggest starting out on a 600cc bike. You will be pretty cramped on a 250.

    Comment by James - Whybike.com — 9/4/2005 @ 7:05 pm

  9. I recently relocated to Tampa via New York and I’m looking forward to buying my first bike after i sucessfully complete the legal requirements. What are some things that I should be knowledgeable about?

    Comment by Christopher Sawney — 9/21/2005 @ 5:57 pm

  10. I’ve owned several dozen bikes in the last few years, the smaller ones like the Rebel are much more fun to ride. Buy one and have fun ya’ll.

    Comment by dave matthew — 10/12/2005 @ 8:31 am

  11. I have someone interested in trading an ‘86 rebel 450 for one of the bikes I own. Since I don’t know much about the rebel and am having trouble finding information, I was wondering if someone could tell me how much one of these is worth in great condition. The one he has has about 20,000 miles, but is in great condition. if someone could please give me some info, my e-mail is gemstorm@hotmail.com.

    Comment by Danny — 1/24/2006 @ 10:23 pm

  12. I am looking at a Rebel for my first bike as well. From reading everyone’s comments, it seems like this would be a good choice for me - I’m pretty strong, but only 5′4″, 110 lbs. Any advice on where to find used hondas? The new 2006 is beautiful and not too expensive, but it sounds like a used one would be better for a first-timer.

    Comment by Kat — 2/19/2006 @ 6:25 pm

  13. reading all the other comments on your website has helped me no end. i originally wanted to get a honda shadow aero, my feet actually touch the ground and im only 5-3. i think the rebel will do me fine for a couple of years that way i can save up and pay cash for my new red honda shadow aero. i would like to ride from austin tx. to fredericksburg tx. which is about 150 miles round trip. but my main concern is with the speed limit at 65-70 mph would the rebel hold up. i had a rebel back in 2001 but got rid of it after i found out i didnt have the proper license to ride it. i bought it in sept of 2001 and transported it to a stadium near my house which has a very large parking lot. i then tought myself all about the controls and rode it around the parking lot and then eventually out onto the road. now that i have internet access i did my homework and took the riding course and the passed the dps written test. im a very happy man. its like getting my drivers license all over again.

    Comment by peter j. jones — 3/26/2006 @ 9:37 pm

  14. I owned a rebel 250 in high school. I loved it but when I would ride it more than 60 miles or so at speeds of 65+ mph the exhaust stud bolt that connects the exhaust to the motor would pop off. I had to take it to a machine shop twice to get the stud bolt replaced. I was talking one day with a long time motorcycle dealer and mechanic and he stated that the studs were two small for that size scooter. He said that the company should have moved up one size in design and that he had spoken with several people that had the same problem. That being said, I loved my rebel. After about 7 years I decided to upgrade and move to a 700 intruder. I have often looked back on my rebel as a great time, great bike, and if you are commuting in town or small distances and are just starting out, I would say the rebel is the way. Just recently I have been looking at the 450 rebels. I would hate to drop down after years on a larger bike, but there is just something about that rebel….

    Comment by d.campbell — 4/27/2006 @ 11:10 pm

  15. Hi Folks,

    Would anyone recommend a Yamaha Virago (250cc) for a newbie rider who is about 6 foot/220 pounds? I am a little concerned about the size of the bike (being a bit smallish for my frame), but the price and quality of the bike (from what I’ve read) really appeals to me. My girlfriend is also interested in riding, so I figure that if I decide to upgrade to a larger bike the Virago would be perfect for her. I have also thought about the Honda Rebel and Suzuki GZ250.


    Comment by Jeff — 5/15/2006 @ 10:47 am

  16. I’ve got a 2005 Rebel. Just started riding this year. Passed the safety course & now have my license. The Rebel was a great starter bike for me! I’m a 5/10 female” . . was a little cramped . . but, when you are learning, you shouldn’t have to worry about a heavy (800 lb) bike.
    I’ve mastered my Rebel and am now riding a HD Softail. I’m actually finding the HD a lot easier to ride. Stops better . . starts out better . . I think the increased inertia makes the bike a more solid ride. I have a lot more confidence on the bigger bike, my shifting & stopping are a lot smoother.
    The only thing more difficult now is the clutch! Man, I need a death grip for that HD Clutch! LOL

    Comment by MusicMouse — 6/7/2006 @ 7:26 am

  17. jeff, the 250 will be perfect. i just began riding this year on a brand new rebel 250 and i too am 6′ and aprx 150 lbs…the bike has no problem luggin me around. the only thing i would suggest is to buy a pair of highway pegs, they make long rides much more comfortable as you may find the small size of the bike to be a bit uncomfortable..the pegs solve it all. hope this helped

    Comment by brandon — 7/5/2006 @ 4:57 pm

  18. hi, I’m fifteen years old and doing research for my first bike. I’m only around 5′ 3″ but just started really growing. my dad says his first bike was a honda 250. should I get one?

    Comment by dan bruning — 7/30/2006 @ 4:47 pm

  19. Hi, I took the motorcycle safety course at a local college - I rode a 250 Rebel during the course and loved it - I passed the course - went the following week and got my license - I just bought a 1986 450 Rebel and I think she’ll be perfect for me.

    Comment by Holladycats — 10/5/2006 @ 5:36 pm

  20. Grandfather here. Yes, 60 and counting and decided it was time to get back in the saddle. That and the rising gasoline costs. Most of you qualify to be my grandchildren! no problem with that.

    But, since the thread is about the Honda Rebel I can tell you that after three decades, it was the best bike for me get on and start riding again.

    Past bikes? Sears AllState Scooter (read Vespa), Cushman Eagle, Zundapp 125, Triumph Bonneville, BMW R/50. If you’ve never heard of some of these then let me preface by say I am B.C. before computers.

    I’d been mentioning to my wife that perhaps I should be riding scooter to visit my clients. We live in Goleta, California, next to Santa Barbara, California.

    Her comments, “well, when was the last time you rode a motorcycle?” I told her it was before John Travolta was famous.

    As the price of gasoline has risen I kept on mentioning that a scooter would be economical. My wife said, “yeah, but you drive all over the place.”

    Yes, I do drive all over the place. So, one Saturday afternoon I took her to the local Honda Motorcycle showroom and we walked up and down the rows of bikes.

    I should mentioned I had a hip replacement in 2003; I can do most things except ride a horse. We looked at scooters and then a Honda Shawdow and Yamaha Boulevard.

    Then I proceeded to tell her that a scooter only has so much power to get out of the way while a larger engine scooter or cycle can easily move out of the way.

    Long story short.

    I took the MSF course and decided I would get a 250 or so bike to begin with. This my wife understood.

    I take the course; it all comes back to me. I take the riding class and pass. I buy a 2000 Honda Rebel with less than 700 miles on it and viola-la.

    Instant “Easy Rider.”

    No, not really, The Rebel is the easiest bike I’ve handlede and with my Titanimum Hip I don’t feel any problems handling the Rebel.

    Took possession three days ago. I live in Goleta, California, near Santa Barbara. Figured out this and that and today did the regular rounds I’d make with a car.

    Long story short.

    The Rebel perfomred perfectly!

    Me? Well a few things need improvment, based on what I learned from the MSF course.

    But, if I’d not taken the MSG course I think I would be back a few days ago; maybe on the pavement.

    Some advice from an old codger:

    take your time to shift the gears.


    Comment by kattmann — 11/17/2006 @ 5:04 pm

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