2021 Honda Rebel 1100 | First Ride Review

2021 Honda Rebel 1100
The all-new 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 joins the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 in Honda’s cruiser lineup. (Photos by Drew Ruiz)

If you’ve taken an MSF Basic RiderCourse, there’s a good chance you did it on a Honda Rebel 250, a small, approachable cruiser that’s hardly a symbol of rebellion. Honda started making the Rebel in 1985, and it didn’t change much over the years. The Rebel 300 replaced it in 2017, one of the three tiddlers we flogged during our Monkey Butt 500 ride. Honda also added a Rebel 500 to the lineup, nearly identical except for engine size. And this year they’re joined by the all-new 2021 Honda Rebel 1100.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 Metallic Black
Available with a 6-speed manual transmission ($9,299) or a 6-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission ($9,999), the Rebel 1100 comes in either Metallic Black (above) or Bourdeaux Red Metallic (below).

What Honda’s market researchers discovered was, within 18 months of buying a Rebel 300 or 500, owners were stepping up to bigger bikes, and most of them were moving to different brands because there wasn’t a suitable model in Honda’s lineup. The 745cc Shadow Phantom and Aero models aren’t big enough, and the 1,312cc Fury, probably due to its outdated chopper styling, isn’t cool enough.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 Bourdeaux Red Metallic
2021 Honda Rebel 1100 in Bourdeaux Red Metallic

To keep Rebel owners in the family, Honda needed a bigger Rebel. Just as the Rebel 300 and 500 are derived from Honda’s CB300F and CB500F naked bikes, the Rebel 1100 is derived from a performance-oriented model in Honda’s lineup: the CRF1100L Africa Twin. It’s powered by a version of the liquid-cooled 1,084cc parallel-twin used in the 2020 Africa Twin, which uses a Unicam SOHC valve train and is available with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission. When we tested a 2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES last year, it spun Jett Tuning’s rear-wheel dyno to 92 horsepower at 7,600 rpm and 69.5 lb-ft of torque at 6,300 rpm.

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2021 Honda Rebel 1100 engine DCT
Derived from the Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin, the Rebel 1100 is powered by a 1,084cc parallel twin adapted to cruiser duty.

Since the Africa Twin is an adventure bike and the Rebel 1100 is a cruiser, Honda adapted the engine to its new role. By increasing flywheel mass by 20% and inertia by 32%, the motor doesn’t rev as aggressively as it does on the Africa Twin. Revised valve timing and lift, as well as changes in volumetric efficiency between the cylinders, add to the pulse feeling of the 270-degree crank. The Rebel also has a unique air cleaner, exhaust system and muffler.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 instrument panel
All of the Rebel 1100’s electronic functions are summarized in the single LCD display.

The 1100 is not only larger than the Rebel 300/500, it’s also more sophisticated. In addition to the optional DCT, standard equipment includes 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. Everything is easily adjusted via buttons on the handlebar, and all displayed on the 6.9-inch LCD dash. And there’s a USB-C outlet under the seat, which has a 3-liter storage compartment large enough to hold your smartphone and a ham sandwich.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100
With 35 degrees of available cornering clearance and a responsive chassis, the Rebel 1100 can be hustled through corners at a brisk pace without scraping hard parts.

What makes cruisers so appealing to so many people, other than styling, is their low seat height. The Rebel 1100’s solo saddle sits just 27.5 inches off the deck. That, plus a curb weight of just 487 pounds (509 for the DCT model), makes the big Rebel very approachable. With the engine hung low from the tubular-steel frame, the midmount footpegs are located on either side of the cases, attached to cantilever brackets that extend forward from the frame section aft of the engine. That positions them fairly far apart, and for a tall guy like me with a 34-inch inseam, my knees were above my hips and my ankles were at an awkward angle. Ergonomics are a personal matter, so you’ll want to try before you buy.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 footpeg
This photo shows one of the cantilever brackets the midmount footpegs are attached to. The footpeg position felt awkward, but individual results may vary.

What makes cruisers so limiting on so many roads is a lack of cornering clearance and minimal rear suspension travel. But the good folks at Honda threw us a bone. They bestowed the Rebel 1100 with a 35-degree bank angle on either side, allowing you to hustle through corners at a decent clip before dragging anything. There’s no such thing as a slow press ride, and our small group of testosterone-addled and caffeine-fueled riders blitzed back roads through the Temescal Mountains and wine country near Murrieta, California. Suspending the rear are dual, preload-adjustable Showa piggyback shocks with 3.7 inches of travel, and they soaked up serious abuse without crushing my vertebrae into powder. Complementing the blacked-out drivetrain and chassis is a 43mm fork, adjustable for preload and offering 5.5 inches of well-damped travel, with a dark blue titanium oxide coating.

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2021 Honda Rebel 1100
Black on black on black suits the Rebel 1100 well.

We were on DCT-equipped bikes, which means I don’t know how the footpeg position would affect shifting. I’ve ridden Hondas with every iteration of the DCT since it first appeared on the VFR1200F back in 2010, and as often happens with technology, it has come a long way. The automatic shift points change depending on what mode you’re in, and at any time you can shift up or down manually using the paddle buttons on the left grip. What makes the DCT work so well is that separate clutches handle even and odd gears, and the next gear is always cued up, making gear changes lightning fast and incredibly smooth. Bye-bye clutch lever!

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 LED headlight
The DCT model has no clutch lever and no foot shift lever. Four-bulb headlight, taillight, turn signals and license-plate light are all bright LEDs.

Rolling on cast wheels in 18-inch front and 16-inch rear sizes and shod with Dunlop tires, the Rebel 1100 exudes confidence and stability in the handling department. Its handlebar falls naturally at hand, and its 3.6-gallon tank is slim between the knees — though mine were too high to fit within the sculpted cutouts. Single-disc, ABS-equipped brakes front and rear slow things down with laudable feel and control, with a strong radial-mount, four-piston monoblock front caliper squeezing a pie-plate-sized 330mm rotor.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 wheel brake
A single radial-mount, monoblock 4-piston caliper squeezes a big 330mm disc up front. ABS is standard.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun riding a cruiser. I don’t have anything against cruisers, but I typically like to ride at a pace that isn’t compatible with most of them. See lack of cornering clearance above, and, since many are tuned for low-end torque, they balk when revved high and their redlines are low. But the Rebel 1100 has a powerful, torquey engine that revs to 8,000 rpm, and it has the available lean angle, chassis and low weight to take full advantage of it.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100
The new Rebel 1100 gives Rebel 300 and 500 owners a bigger model to move up to, and one they won’t outgrow.

What’s really impressive is how much bike you get for the money. At $9,299 for the base model and $9,999 for the DCT model, both of which come with throttle-by-wire, riding modes, traction control, cruise control, ABS and LED lighting as standard equipment, they are fully featured machines that fit within even the stingiest budget. And since cruisers are made to be customized, Honda offers a boatload of accessories — a seat, pegs and backrest for a passenger; luggage racks and saddlebags; a fairing with a windscreen; heated grips and more. Vance & Hines makes a 50-state-legal slip-on exhaust for the Rebel 1100, and Burly Brand makes a bunch of cool kit too.

It may be called a Rebel, but it’s pretty darn sensible.

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 Bourdeaux Red Metallic
2021 Honda Rebel 1100 in Bourdeaux Red Metallic

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 Specs

Base Price: $9,299
Price as Tested: $9,999 (DCT model)
Website: powersports.honda.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, Unicam SOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,084cc
Bore x Stroke: 92.0 x 81.5mm
Transmission: 6-speed, automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (as tested)
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 59.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 27.5 in.
Wet Weight (claimed): 487 lbs. (509 lbs. as tested)
Fuel Capacity: 3.6 gals.

Greg’s Gear

Helmet: 6D ATS-1R
Jacket: Sa1nt Unbreakable Denim
Pants: Sa1nt Unbreakable Jeans
Boots: Highway 21 Journeyman

2021 Honda Rebel 1100 Photo Gallery:

32 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting bike, but Cruisers need to have SHAFT or at worse BELT drive. Isn’t the Rebel 1100 a HONDA cruiser? No thanks.

      • I’ve had 7 Honda’s over 30 years of riding (90cc skooter, CM200, CM450, CX500, VT1100, VTX1800 & CTX1300) first 3-chain and the last 4 shaft bikes, the latter of which are maintenance free and ride much smoother than a chain. I guess it is a matter of preference. I can see younger riders preferring a chain drive. Seems bikes are like clothes in that the styles go through cycles and keep repeating themselves. The Rebel 1100 looks great and I am sure is very quick. I do like the 27.5″ seat height, but I am just a shaft drive guy. To each his own.

  2. I like the idea of the Rebel 1100. In fact they all have their appeal. However, I think they are all, well, funny looking. Something about that tank zooming up from the seat really bothers me. I’d probably quit noticing it if I was riding it, as I bet it is a hoot to ride. Honda knows how to make bikes. I’ve got a Goldwing, and I’ve had a Hawk 400 and Nighthawk 750 over the years. I love them all.

  3. Honda almost got it right with the Rebel 1100, but there needs to be two versions of the cruiser. A “Town” version with the pedals where they are currently, and a “Country” version with the pedals forward in a more relaxed position. Cruise control whether it’s loved by some riders or not should be a standard item if a “Country” version were created. The single seat on the Rebel 1100 limits your ability to carry a pillion which with an 1100 cc engine shouldn’t be a problem. I realize accessories will probably be pouring out of the woodwork for the bike, so we will just have to wait and see what happens. All in all the Rebel 1100 is a good looking bike.

    • T-Rex makes foot peg extensions for you that like more forward controls
      The Rebel 1100 has cruise control
      Honda makes a passenger pillion seat & passenger pegs & brackets for the 1100

      You’re problems are solved 👍🏻

  4. This, I’m sure, is a very competent motorcycle and a natural step up for many Rebel riders. Personally, I don’t care for the styling at all. I have always been of the opinion that if you don’t turn around and take a gander at your ride as you walk into the coffee shop/ bar it is not a ride that I would care to own. I own several bikes that still trip my trigger and I am always looking at future prospects. Triumph and Royal Enfield are making some bikes that really look the part and have been getting some great reviews.

  5. I don’t mind the look of most of the 1100, but that lump of an engine has all the visual appeal of an industrial pump.
    Ugh.

  6. Not sure if I would call going from a small displacement ugly bike to a larger displacement ugly bike moving up. It would be more like maintaining ugly in my opinion…you know what they say about opinions. Lol. Anyway, I’m sure we owe a lot to Honda for getting so many people on motorcycles in the 60’s but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Honda motorcycle engine that had soul. So, no soul and ugly is a hard sell for me. I’ll never understand the combination of Auto transmission, ABS, traction control, ride modes and CHAIN drive. Who wants to clean and maintain a chain??? Don’t tell me how it’s more efficient in the transmission of power because they detuned the engine so they obviously weren’t worried about power. Honda doesn’t mention valve adjustment intervals…on the Africa twin it was complex and costly so I assume it will be the same on the Rebel 1100. I’ve read that Honda made the 1983-85 CB650SC Nighthawk with cast wheels , shaft drive and hydraulic control of valve lash (4cyl 10,000rpm and no valve adjustments). Seems like Honda is moving backwards. Ride with your bright lights on and be safe.

  7. Love this bike, but I would love even more a smaller more compact engine as this thing is a beast and in my country everything over 1 liter pays a very very high insurance premium (Asia). Honda are currently working on a 750 – 850 cc version of their africa twin to compete with all the middle weight bikes in that category so I’m hoping Honda puts that bad boy into a true mid tier Honda Rebel 800 which would really round out the lineup.

    Honda Rebel 300 – $4,599
    Honda Rebel 500 – $6,299
    Honda Rebel 800 – $7,999 <<< this would be a best seller
    Honda Rebel 1100 – $9,999

  8. I may be old school, give me back my clutch and shifter. Honda will start to breed moronic riders who have no idea of power curve, shift points or down shifting to save a life.

    • They make this in a manual tranny version.
      Honda made a Hondamatic engine in the CVCC, Accord & CM400 Hawk. They were cool because thry had neutral, 1 & 2. People with ankle difficulties could ride the Hawk & people that wanted a little more control over a normal automatic could get the Cars.
      Honda’s been light years ahead of the competition …..and then there was the Ridley motorcycle ………..anybody remember those?!

  9. Nope, it doesn’t look like a Harley or an Indian, or a Japanese bike trying to look like H-D or Indian, for that matter. That’s why I like it. I was looking for a cruiser that wouldn’t balk at a bit of spirited riding. This bike can move and it won’t easily drag shiny parts (well, blacked-out ones). It will also trundle along in traffic or a nice country lane on regular gas. I can “cruise” and enjoy some twisties now and then for what I think is a very reasonable price. Good job Honda.

  10. I learned my riding skills starting at age 9, on a Honda Z50A. I’m 60 now and just purchased a 2021 Gold Wing Airbag. But there were many bikes in between, not to mention lots cuts, scrapes, bruises, and some close calls I have never repeated.

    Times have changed. Kids today aren’t living my motorcycle experience. And most young adults have never even touched a motorcycle, much less driven one. If the motorcycle industry wants riders in the next 10 to 40 years they’ll need to fast track what took me 51 years to learn. Not only that, today’s riders are more tech savvy and less maintenance monkey. This is especially true for new, women riders.

    I like the looks of this Rebel 1100, especially in the DCT configuration. Yes, I’ve heard all the blathering about new riders not learning to clutch and brake properly. But those are big hurdles for newbies who aren’t really interested in clocking a new best time next track day. Standard ABS and DCT are a real help in accelerating the market buyer experience. If Honda wanted to make this bike a real winner they would swap the chain for at least a belt (if not a shaft) and add a TPMS as standard. Both would increase confidence and ease of ownership for new riders.

  11. I was so, SO excited for this, and then found out they limited the top speed to 100..
    mid-range acceleration is a life-saver on motorcycles, and to have it taper off at ~80mph is a deal-breaker

  12. Great bike. Picked mine up last week. DCT is nice- no more clutch. Learning how to shift is not learning how to ride a bike. Plus, this bike has paddle-shifters for those who ‘need’ to shift.

    This is a sporty cruiser that can take curves easily. Top speed of 100 is OK for me. If you need to go faster, go to a track and stay away from me.

    ABS, cruise control, riding modes, dct is a win, win, win…..

    • Hey Rock,

      I liked your comments. I picked mine up Saturday, May 15th in Arizona and enjoyed the ride home to Henderson, NV. Only problem I have is that I can’t get the parking brake to engage! When I pull it back it makes the click noise and the parking brake light illuminates as long as I am holding back the lever. As soon as I let go the light goes out and the brake is not engaged. I don’t want to pull back any harder than I am. Does yours work easily? Am I missing something obvious!? Thanks.

  13. This bike (Rebel 1100) has two things that would stop me cold from buying it– 1- chain drive 2- No Center stand. How do you service a chain with no center stand? I own a CTX700 which is chain drive and had to buy a center stand for a different model honda sold in europe so I could service the chain. No more chains for me. They use them for one reason – to keep the cost down. Why Honda doesn’t use belt drives is beyond me.

    BTW, I’ve had an idea for what I think would be a killer sport touring bike for Honda– take the CB1100 four cylinder– outfit it with belt drive– full fairing with REMOVEABLE lowers for summer/winter riding– and an electric adjustable windscreen to eliminate ALL buffeting. Now that would be a winner (IMHO)

  14. I’m 68 and have been riding for 50 years. Never thought I would look at a bike like this. But I now have ALS and wear a brace on my left foot that makes shifting (even with heel & toe) difficult. So I’m excited to take a look to keep in the wind a little longer.

  15. Why all black? Where is the bling? Honda put some fantastic chrome mudguards on the cb1100 so why not on the rebel? I would prefer a silver engine and stainless exhausts, I am simply not interested in blacked out bikes. It seems to be a factory rat bike look which is not something I would pay for.

  16. I was considering moving up to the Rebel 1100 from the 500 I now have. It’s definitely a lot of bike for the money and I went in to look one up, but just couldn’t get used to the massive, lumpy engine in the middle that just seemed to lack finesse. The footpegs appeared too far apart trying to accommodate the bulge of the engine and the dealer didn’t offer test rides that could let me check this out for myself. So I went with a Triumph Speed Twin instead.

  17. My wish would be simply to make the 750 shadow bigger. I had plenty of thumbs up from riders and I like the look. It isn’t good to ride over a hundred miles or so because of the shake. A 1100 version with shaft would be excellent.

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