First Ride: Cruising LA On The Honda Rebel 1100

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 ( Images: Paul Shippey)

Honda realized in 2018, after conducting some research, that the first-time riders they lured into buying motorcycles with the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 were not staying loyal to the brand and moving up to other brands. The reason: they wanted a bigger bike with a bigger engine…

The research revealed that only 36% of its Rebel 300 owners were upgrading within the brand, while the rest went elsewhere. It got worse as they progressed to the Rebel 500, – only 27% of those owners found a new bike in Honda’s lineup despite 88% of them bumping up in displacement with their next machine. So, in case you’re wondering, this is a reason the Rebel 1100 was introduced for 2021.

Engine

The Rebel 1100 is powered by the parallel-twin Unicam engine borrowed from the Africa-Twin (AT) but modified to fit the cruiser scene. Tweaks include a 20% heavier flywheel, revised timing, electronics tuning and a bespoke exhaust setup, so essentially the big, the twin adventure bike motor was tamed a bit to deliver a more street friendly ride.

Delivering 87 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque, the Rebel 1100 numbers are close to that of Harley-Davidsons’ Iron 1200. What makes this so relevant is that the Rebel tips the scales at a paltry 487 pounds for the manual version, while the dual clutch model we tested here adds around twenty pounds to that total. This is 50  and 70 pounds lighter than anything else in the segment, add this to class-leading hp and you have quite the recipe for a fast, nimble machine!

Electronics

There is some wizardry that bled down from the AT electronics system. Power input, torque control (Honda’s traction control), engine-braking, and shift points are all programmable on three levels – Rain, Sport, and Tour modes. User mode allows a rider to tune these individually to the desired riding style.

Ergonomics

I found the Rebel surprisingly small and nimble for an 1100. After riding some if its competitors from Indian, this felt like I was on board a 500 not an 1100 – which is a positive feature for riders wanting an easily manageable machine to wheel around.

The round LCD dash offers the rider quite a bit of information in an easy-to-read layout…even when in direct sunlight. On the DCT model I was riding, the clutch lever is replaced with a hand control for the rear wheel parking brake, while the right-hand controls the radially mounted four-piston brake caliper and its 330mm disc.

One gripe was the key/ignition location and the way one has to reach down to get the ignition primed for action. This was my biggest issue in terms of non user-friendly features.

Suspension

The Rebel 1100 offers a simple suspension set up with both the dual rear shocks and front forks with preload adjustment only. There is 3.7 inches of suspension travel in those front forks, while the rear has 4.8 inches of travel.

With that ride height, Honda boasts a 35° maximum lean angle, which is a class leading number is this category of bike. Wheel size is 130/70-18 sizing for the front, and 180/65-16 in the rear; full LED lights all around, including the headlight; and a 3.6-gallon fuel tank.

Cruising Around

So the first thing to adjust to, is not having a clutch. Thumbing the “D” button slips the transmission into gear. From there, no further action is required, as the DCT smoothly shifts up and down through the gears to match your speed. You can always override the computer using the paddles on the left grip, or take over control completely by switching to Manual mode. 

It took a few minutes of riding to keep my clutch hand still, but I must say once your brain stops thinking ‘clutch’ this is an easy machine to ride. The transmission worked well on the highways and in stop-go downtown LA traffic. I’d say this is the perfect machine for the lazy rider or beginner who can’t be bothered with anything but steering and braking and feeling the breeze in your face.

The Africa Twin engine is also a good fit for the Rebel. There’s plenty of power on tap when you crank the throttle and it feeds seamlessly through the DCT. Its not obnoxiously loud either for an 1100. This is more like a stealth cruiser, relaxed, comfy and easy to pilot.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how easy this bike is to ride. The funky parking brake system and hidden ignition key switch were the only gripes I had with getting her up and running. The Rebel is nimble for a cruiser, so easy to ride with the DCT you could almost be forgiven for falling asleep at the controls. If offers class leading power and weight, great price under $10K, and looks good. Definitely a good step up for the junior Rebel riders or anyone wanting to cruise in comfort!

Specs: Honda Rebel 1100

  • Class: Cruiser
  • Engine: 1084cc parallel twin
  • Trans: 6 speed or auto DCT
  • HP/Torque: 87hp, 72ftlbs
  • Suspension:
    • Front: 43mm fork. 
    • Rear: Dual showa w/ adjustable preload and piggyback reservoirs
  • Brakes: 
    • Front: single 330mm disc with abs 
    • Rear: 256mm disc w abs
  • Electronics: 6.9in LCD dash. four ride modes (Standard, Sport, Rain and User, which is customizable), Honda Selectable Torque Control (aka traction control, which has integrated wheelie control), engine brake control and cruise control
  • Weight: 487 lbs
  • Seat Height: 27.5 in
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.6gal
  • Competitors: Indian Scout Sixty
  • Price: $9,299, ($9,999 automatic DCT)