Is Honda’s 2017 Rebel 500 ABS the perfect second bike for a newbie street rider?

Honda’s 2017 Rebels are a good size for street riders who want a motorcycle to get around town, with occasional short to medium-length trips. The two bikes are exactly alike except for the engines. While the single-cylinder 286cc-engine Rebel 300 could be a great first bike if you’re buying new, the 2017 Honda Rebel 500 ABS is arguably a better setup for a second bike. It could be an ideal bike for a wide cross-section of riders.

The Rebel 500’s 471-cc liquid-cooled parallel twin engine has more power than the 300. The bike also weighs more at 414 pounds compared to the 300’s 370 pounds. We also think the anti-lock brake system (ABS) version of the $6,300 Rebel 500 is worth the extra $300 over the non-ABS version, especially on a bike you may keep for decades.

2017 honda rebel 500 abs rebel500 styleThe only downside with the Rebel ABS versions (the same applies to the Rebel 300) is you’re limited to a black paint job. The black looks cool, but so do the red and matte silver metallic versions — the bright yellow may be too much for some riders’ tastes. The other colors are all available with the non-ABS 300s and 500s. The wheels, engines, and exhaust systems have the blacked-out look common on many newer bikes.

The Rebel’s wheelbase is a respectable 58.7-inches. The standard fat tires, 130/90-16 inches up front and 150/80-16 inches in the rear, look right as well. The low 27.2-inch seat height will work for most adult riders, so you won’t be stretching to put both feet on the ground at stop lights.

The Rebel 500’s wheelbase is similar to the Harley-Davidson Iron 883’s 59.6-inch and the Triumph Bonneville T100’s 59.1-inch. The Harley and the Triumph both have larger tires front and rear than the Honda. The 883’s unladen seat is 28.9 inches high, and the T100 seat measures 31.1 inches from the ground.

We’re not saying the Rebel 500 compares to the Iron 883 or the T100 overall. Those modern versions of iconic bikes have engines almost twice the size of the Honda’s. Physically, however, the three bikes aren’t all the much different in size, so if you buy the Rebel you aren’t going to feel like you’re riding on a dinky little bike.

The Rebel 500 ABS won’t be everyone’s favorite second (and maybe lasting) motorcycle. If you really want a cafe racer, a big touring bike, a dual sport on and off road bike, or one of the many “Is-that-a-real-chopper, mister?” models from Honda or other manufacturers, the Rebels’ yell won’t call you. If you spend a lot of time on freeways, chances are you’ll want something heavier for more stability and power.

But if you want a decent-looking, low hassle bike to ride around town, possibly to commute on, and maybe to take on occasional trips, you could do a lot worse than the Rebel 500 ABS. If you decide to add a passenger seat, panniers, a small windscreen, or other accessories, Honda is happy to fix you up.