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Honda Rebel CMX 250

Honda Rebel 250cc Beginner Motorcycle Review

imageI owned a 1985 Honda Rebel for a brief period, putting 7,000 km on it before selling it. It was replaced soon after with a 2008 KYMCO Venox. After reading many reviews saying great things about the Honda Rebel, I’d like to offer my opinion and experiences in my own Honda Rebel 250cc beginner motorcycle review.

The Honda Rebel 250 is a great beginner motorcycle. If you’re looking for a beginner cruiser, a 250cc bullet-proof tried and tested engine that’s been around since the 1980s (and not a Kawasaki Ninja 250), this is a great alternative.

The Rebel was first built in 1985, though the engine dates even earlier to the Honda CM-250, a lightweight standard style UJM of the 1980s. You’ll be able to find a few aftermarket parts for the Rebel in catalogues or on eBay from China. The product quality on eBay will be cheap, but you can get engine guards and sissy bars (passenger backrests) $100-150.

The Rebel excels at being small, light, low, economical, and beginner friendly in the city.

Honda Rebel 250cc Beginner Motorcycle Review

Unfortunately the little Rebel is a bit too small. At just over 5’10” it would give me bad leg cramps after an hour riding. The motorcycle’s power as well as braking capabilities are reduced significantly when carrying a passenger and the soft suspension bottoms out. In hindsight, carrying a passenger out on a tripswas almost absurd. The Honda’s braking is plagued with the typical cruiser rear drum brake, which won’t give you as much bite as a disk would. To some this isn’t an issue, especially on a motorcycle the size  and weight of the Rebel’s, but for ease of maintenance and performance I like disk brakes over drums.

Honda Rebel 250cc Beginner Motorcycle ReviewImmediate competition (other underpowered Japanese 250cc beginner cruiser motorcycles) include the Yamaha V-Star 250 (a V-Twin 250cc cruiser) and Suzuki’s 250cc Marauder (a single cylinder engine). All of these bikes will make roughly 18 hp and very little torque. To quote cousin Vince “My lawnmower puts out more horsepower”. At highway speeds the Honda Rebel is an absolute paintcan-shaker, vibrating and numbing riders at anything over 100 km/hr. We also had problems with overheating in traffic coming into the city during Caribana weekend traffic jams. As all of these bikes are air-cooled and produce the same power we’re thinking these will be common issues.

Other competition includes the KYMCO Venox (which gets our seal of approval after 25,000+ km problem-free, including out of province rides); and a new competitor, the Suzuki TU250. The Venox boasts a much higher horsepower, top speed, power to weight ratio, larger size and comfort all above that of the Honda Rebel. The KYMCO performs at roughly 28 horsepower vs. the Honda’s 18. As for Suzuki, the TU250 is a single-cylinder, but is fuel-injection.

Back to the Honda Rebel. Personally, we feel there’s a lot better bang for buck out there. The Rebel is a great beginner motorcycle bike, but it may be too much of a starter bike, one you’d outgrow in a season or less. Many riders hoping for a long ride outside the city will find they outgrew this motorcycle when they hit puberty. This is not a bike to purchase new.

Want more?
Check out our 250cc sportbike comparison.
Read our take on the Honda CBR-125R.
Read the review and comparison of the KYMCO Quannon 150 vs the Honda CBR-125R beginner motorcycles.

Other 250cc motorcycle reviews:
KYMCO Venox 250
Suzuki TU250
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Yamaha V-Star 250

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

32 comments

  1. i think that was a very unfair big-bike-biased review

    • Hi Steve,
      It’s interesting that you would call it a big-bike biased review. I’m actually bias towards my 250cc KYMCO Venox. I’ve put over 30,000 km on that thing and love it. I’ve owned over a dozen motorcycles, my 250cc is the only one I never sell. Her name is Speranza, she’s the love of my life, and my girlfriends have always understood that they come second. They’re ok with that, as long as Spera stays outside. I also owned three 50cc scooters. I’m quite the fan of little bikes, the Rebel is a very good beginner motorcycle that will bore the life out of intermediate and experienced riders who want to travel greater distances.

    • Finally…someone willing to call it like it is: the Rebel is a hopelessly-outdated machine that basically still exists for the use of MSF classes! It’s hot, noisy, underdamped, an absolute slug above about 35MPH, and vibrates like crazy. (The 250 Nighthawk was, if anything, worse, with its awful mechanical front drum brake.)

      • I agree. rebel is too small. A what do you recommend for us entry level riders?
        Thanks

        • Hi Rae, if you’re looking for an entry level cruiser you may be able to find a used KYMCO Venox 250, Kawasaki Vulcan 500 or Honda Shadow VXL 600. If you’re looking for new vehicles you can consider the Honda CTX700N, or the Harley-Davidson Street 500 as good alternatives.

  2. I love how it looks and I am only 5 foot tall so most bikes are way too big. Although the V Star is nice as well and about the same height (I haven’e seen the suzuki). With all the big bikes out there I am very happy they made a small one for us shorties that can’t touch the ground on most bikes. I’m a girl and only want a bike for around town driving, no highways and not a lot of traffic, and the big bikes are too intimidating to me just starting out as a new rider. I think it’s just perfect :)

  3. Great read. I have both a ’15 Rebel and a ’14 CBR600RR. It’s unfortunate that the Rebel is mostly recalled for its beginner traits because I truly feel that it’s much more than that. I have great fun and enjoyment when riding it, and it has a very simple and honest personality to it. It’s very raw and undiluted, and you can really feel the sensation of speed – lower to the ground, vibration through the skinny handlebars, and being upright against the wind. I didn’t want something too bulky and with a big motor to distract me. It’s a back to basics cruiser… And it has superb build quality (made in Japan). It’s a gem of a bike, and I’m going to hang on to it for the long run because of how special it feels with each and every ride.

    • reading about how much fun people are having on their Honda Groms makes me wonder if you’re right about the fun factor of the Honda Rebel. Maybe this Rebel is like a more practical version of the Grom.

  4. Thinking about this bike as a non-beginner bike. It’s not easy to find a comfortable bike that gets great gas mileage, is light, reliable, and has room for storage.

  5. I’ve been riding all my life and currently rife a 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic and just bought a nice used 06 Rebel for my girl friend to start out on as she is only 5 ft. tall and it’s what she wanted. For all of you saying this little bike is boring and no fun I disagree. I’ve been riding this little rascl all over the place and it’s simplicity has brought a smile to my face I hadn’t expected. It has made me remember how much fun small bikes can be. I can ride in 5th gear at 20 mph and cruise through neighborhoods and quick trips to the store effortlessly. I rode it home from the dealership 60 miles on the interstate at 60-75 mph and did not experience undue vibration it actually pulled very strongly with a little throttle left. Think when she decides to move to a bigger bike I’m going to keep this one as I find it a great commuter that looks good and is so simple to maintain.

  6. I’ve been riding all my life and currently rife a 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic and just bought a nice used 06 Rebel for my girl friend to start out on as she is only 5 ft. tall and it’s what she wanted. For all of you saying this little bike is boring and no fun I disagree. I’ve been riding this little rascl all over the place and it’s simplicity has brought a smile to my face I hadn’t expected. It has made me remember how much fun small bikes can be. I can ride in 5th gear at 20 mph and cruise through neighborhoods and quick trips to the store effortlessly. I rode it home from the dealership 60 miles on the interstate at 60-75 mph and did not experience undue vibration it actually pulled very strongly with a little throttle left. Think when she decides to move to a bigger bike I’m going to keep this one as I find it a great commuter that looks good and is so simple to maintain.

  7. The Rebel is the most underrated bike out there. “Beginner’s bike” has negative connotations. I’ve been riding for 20 years and the little Rebel is a blast to ride. The key is the “rolling couch” ergonomics, and also light weight. If you’re in Hawaii riding under the trees and slip on some wet leaves, the little Rebel is easier to recover on. I’ve got bikes with tons more power that aren’t one quarter the fun. The other thing with the Rebel is that you can really wring out the engine and not get into trouble.

    • All the things that make the Rebel great (small size, light weight, comfort), can be found in so many other beginner motorcycles these days, that are all such better bikes. Being able to wring out the engine isn’t necessarily a good thing. I took my Rebel on the highway for an hour and a half and my hands could barely hold a pen to fill out a form when I got to my destination. Having enough power to get yourself out of trouble, and good suspension, those are good things.

  8. Ditto.
    This reviewer should stick to the overpowered sleds. Compared to other street 250’s the rebel is an excellent bike.

    • The reviewer has put over 10,000 km of riding time on a Honda Rebel 250, and nearly 100,000 km on over a dozen other motorcycles over the last thirteen years. Can you say the same?

  9. I bought a 96 Rebel for the wife with 45K miles on it. She stopped riding and I continue to use it as a daily commuter and it now has 143K on it. I also have a 600 Shadow I bought new and have logged 136K miles on that one, and along the way I had a 1500 Vulcan come and go. Yet I prefer the 250 for that daily grind, so I’m just curious as to how many more seasons I have to go before I get bored and outgrow the Rebel?

    • Probably depends a lot on if you’re under or over the age of 50. I only lasted about 7 months on mine before upgrading to a much better 250cc cruiser (Venox 250).

      • Age is irrelevant, we’ve owned it for 18 years now so both over and under 50 applies.

        • So over 50, got it. Well, I’m glad you’re enjoying your motorcycle that was first designed in the 1980s. I’ll keep on enjoying much newer, much better toys. 40+ years of continuous evolution and progress in motorcycling since the Twinstar 250 came out is a pleasure to ride. I’m not saying the old Rebel wasn’t a fun little machine for booting down the street, but god, the new small displacement motorcycles of today are so much better, as in, coming up on half a century better.

          • You seem to think that over 50 is a factor. 16 of those 18 years were under 50, so if that really was a factor shouldn’t it have, well…factored in somewhere in those 16 years? The bottom line is it’s a fantastic bike once you accept it for what it is.

            Maybe if some of these new and exciting bikes had something in the way of style, as in anything but YABOB (Yet Another Blacked Out Bike) I might find them appealing. I simply can’t buy into the modern era of the UJM where you can’t tell them apart until you’re close enough to read the logo on the side cover. They might ride great, but so does that secret 2:00am girlfriend you snuggle into your apartment under a trench coat…you really don’t want to be seen with either in broad day light. ;)

          • If you can’t tell them apart, might be time to get the eyeglass prescription checked lol. Not wanting to be seen riding it, is exactly how I feel about the Rebel. She’s fun and all but not the one you bring home to meet mom, more of a hood rat type situation.

          • To understand what it’s like to own a Rebel is akin to understanding what it’s like to own a VW Bug (not the reskinned Golf, mind you…rather the classic model from the 1940s). It’s a simple machine that does what it was designed for quite well: basic transportation.

          • “Basic transportation” is the definition of easy to get bored with quickly

      • So how did you find that Venox? You do realize that it’s an exact clone of the 250 Magna from the 1980’s, right? I’ve sampled one along with Korea’s sibling GV250. Both are great bikes, but one has to wonder how long you can own one without dealer & parts support. Certainly not long enough to flip an odometer.

        • Still have her, still love her, still no issues with parts in over a decade of ownership. Along with my V-Rod she’s a bike I’ll keep forever.

          • Dealer support disappeared shortly after the bikes debuted out here. The GV was tossed around from parent company to parent company, which didn’t help matters.

            I mean I’m sure there’s some online outfit or some Korean bike guru such as what the China-clone bikes enjoy, albeit the China outfits are tough to get results with so I’d wager the same.

            You use the metric system in your posts so I’m guessing you’re not stuck in the American market of non-support for those bikes. As such it’s definitely a factor here.

          • Wait, now you’re talking about the GV after asking me about the Venox? Lol what are you on about man?

          • I’m talking about both, go back and read the first sentence. They’re both Korean bikes so the point doesn’t change.

          • No brother, they are not both Korean.

          • My bad, Kymco is from Taiwan. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s little to no support for them Stateside, as is the case with the Korean and Chinese bikes too.

          • Well, clearly you’re a beacon of knowledge on this topic so you know best lol

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