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Church Of MO: First Impression: 1996 Honda Rebel 250
The Honda Rebel 250 is probably the bike many of us rode when we were taking our Basic Rider Course. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing back then, when I rode the bike while trying to get my license, I could still tell it was a bit of a turd. A lack of experience meant I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, though I chalked it up to being used and abused after having gone through the hands of many new riders.
For this Church feature, we look back at the 1996 version of the Rebel 250 and see if current memories align with what MO testers thought of the bike back in the day. Did a new Rebel provide a little more enjoyment than an old, abused one?
First Impression: 1996 Honda Rebel 250
Rebel With A Cause
The Rebel 250 has wandered in and out of Honda’s lineup for several years. For 1996 the Rebel is in, and Honda will probably find it in their heart to forgive you if you didn’t notice this while drooling over the CBR900RR or the Valkyrie.
Yes, the Rebel is back to fill a small but stable market niche for a lightweight novice bike with a low seat. There’s only one way to say it: This bike was made for short people.
Very short people, actually. At a relatively stubby 5’6″, our shortest tester was barely small enough to fit on the bike. The suspension didn’t bottom out and his elbows didn’t touch his knees, but it would have been much more comfortable if the bars, pegs, and seat had all been about an
inch further from each other.
The only normal-sized feature of the Rebel is its handlebar. The wide, flat bar puts your hands far apart. It also makes lane-splitting slightly more difficult than it should be: if the bar was a few inches narrower this 250 could be the ultimate commuter bike. But that same tiller allows you to push the front end around with ease. The bike is very flickable at low speeds.
This flickability makes the Rebel an entertaining ride. It has more ground clearance than most cruisers, and the light weight actually makes riding the local canyons fun. There is sinful pleasure in pushing this little bike through a corner with the peg grinding away.
For a rider with any experience, the lack of power from the air-cooled twin would be a problem. Tucked in as tightly as we could get, we saw an indicated 80 mph on the speedometer. To its credit, the bike was quite happy to deal with this sort of abuse, and displayed no scary traits at speed. Of course, Honda hasn’t aimed this bike at experienced riders, and novices will find the power output unintimidating.
As you would expect, this 250 is built to a price. Unfortunately, it shows. Most of the fit and finish of the bike is up to a high standard. But little details, like a missing oil light (never mind the lack of a tach), budget OEM tires, and a weak non-halogen headlight stick out. Also, the transmission was always balky, and we had trouble getting into neutral while stopped and experienced occasional false neutrals while moving through the gearbox.
All nitpicking aside, the only real problem is that Honda hasn’t priced this motorcycle as cheaply as we would like to see. At $3999, it is a hundred dollars more than a Yamaha Virago 250, and only a hundred dollars less than Suzuki’s GS500E. So who wants a Rebel? If you’re looking for a novice-level motorcycle and can’t find another bike on the market that will fit you, then the little Honda could work out nicely.
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