A Girl and Her Honda Rebel

Allison Parker Honda Rebel 250
The author and her 2014 Honda Rebel 250

When I tell people I have a motorcycle, I get one of three responses. The first is that motorcycles are dangerous and not worth the risk. The second is that a Honda Rebel 250 isn’t a “real” motorcycle. The third response – and my favorite by far – is delivered in the form of a story about someone’s trusty first bike that they’ll never forget.

See all of Rider‘s Honda coverage here.

I’ve heard the horror stories of life-changing accidents. These stories I can respect. They come from a place of caring, sometimes a place of loss. They’re not fun stories, but they are stories that deserve to be heard.

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As to the second response, I have lost patience with those who say the Rebel isn’t a real motorcycle. The Rebel 250 is small, that’s true. You won’t find it on a list of the top 10 most powerful motorcycles. You won’t find it on anyone’s list of dream bikes. But if people who tell me the Rebel 250 isn’t a real motorcycle could hear some of the third type of responses, they might have a different perspective.

The third response is my favorite because it is the one that most aligns with my own experience. It comes from riders who have owned a Rebel 250, usually as a first bike. When I tell these people what motorcycle I have, they light up. They tell me about how they learned to ride on a Rebel. Or how they left work in a trail of dust on a Rebel when their spouse was going into labor or taught their sons and daughters to ride on a Rebel. I can relate to these stories because they are fueled by that first joy of sitting on a bike.

When I decided I wanted a motorcycle, I searched everywhere. I printed off Craigslist postings and asked my friends and family what they thought of them. I took pictures of motorcycles with “For Sale” signs on the side of the road. I didn’t really know what I was looking for until I saw a posting for a 2014 Honda Rebel 250.

I took my dad with me to look at it the very next week. It was the least intimidating motorcycle I had seen so far. It was gorgeous, with shiny black paint and a stylish “Rebel” sticker on the gas tank. I admit, my enthusiasm about finally finding a motorcycle that was affordable, small enough for me to sit on comfortably, and in great condition might have clouded my judgment, but I still think it’s a beautiful bike. 

Some things are beautiful not because of their complexity but because of their simplicity. The Rebel wasn’t trying to be anything it wasn’t. Likewise, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with a thundering loud exhaust or state-of-the-art technology. I just wanted to be what I was: a new rider comfortable and happy on her first motorcycle.

Before I ever sat on a motorcycle, I rode horses. My horse is named Chief. I still have him, although now he spends his days grazing through retirement. He is a gentle giant, calm and steady. He stuck with me through thorn briars and winding wooded trails. We even have the same hair color. One thing I learned from Chief was how to trust what carries you. I developed a similar trust with the Rebel.

My Rebel has been my loyal mount for six years. It has carried me from Dover, Tennessee, up to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, a town of about 400 people nestled between the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers with a fantastic restaurant called Patti’s. To get there, I go up the Trace through Land Between the Lakes. I stop for a break in front of the old iron furnace. I ride by the elk and bison range. I swing by the planetarium and watch a Beatles laser show. Before long, I’m dining at Patti’s, chowing down on bread baked in a clay flowerpot and a 2-inch-thick pork chop.

My Rebel has also carried me to Aurora, Kentucky, home of the Hot August Blues Festival and Belew’s Dairy Bar. The memory of a Belew’s double cheeseburger with the patty edges crispy with grill flavor still makes my mouth water. At the Hot August Blues Festival, folks from all walks of life stretch out on the riverbank and catch up while bands get down with it. You never meet a stranger in Aurora, even if you’ve never seen a single person there before. Through all these experiences, my Rebel was with me.

I’m not trying to convince you to go buy yourself a Rebel 250. If you’re new to motorcycles and want one that is easy to ride, dependable, and not very expensive, then a Rebel is a good choice. It’s not flashy or impressive, but it has a character of its own. Nor am I trying to convince myself that I made the right choice. If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. All I want is for new riders to cherish their time with their first bike and for experienced riders to take a moment and remember what that felt like.

Allison Parker joined the Rider staff as assistant editor in August 2022. This is her first story for the magazine, and it appeared in the December 2022 issue. –Ed.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Fine choice. My wife started with the 450 Rebel (35 years ago), and she’s now riding a Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S. She took advantage of the “ergo-fit” options to adjust it to her diminutive size (5’1″).

    • Thanks for reading, Nataraj. I’m also 5’1”, and it’s wonderful to hear about other riders my size finding bikes that fit them well. I hope she enjoys her Vulcan S! I’d love to try one out myself sometime.

      • You ride what you like and what will fit you. I started on a 305 Hawk and I am 6’4″. Time moved on and as i grow older so had I. At 75 i still ride a Heritage and my wife convinced me to buy a Triglide so she could go and feel safer. Two bike are a lot of cleaning I will say that. Enjoy your ride. C ya

  2. Honda is a great low maintenance bikes,that 250 is indeed a great first bike. Ride safe and just aware of your surroundings at all times be safe out there young lady.

    • Thanks, Beetle. It is indeed a great low maintenance bike. I’ve not had any problems with it so far, and from what other Rebel owners have told me, I don’t think I will anytime soon. Wishing you safe and fun riding as well.

  3. Great story Allison. I’m 71 and have been riding for going on 60 years. I still have fond memories of my first bike. Reading your article brought me back to those simpler times. Thank You

    • That’s awesome, Steve. I’m still loving every minute on my Rebel, and I’m sure once it’s time to move on, I’ll still always look back fondly on my memories of it. Wishing you many more great riding adventures!

  4. I have a 2002 Virago 250 and have the EXACT same opinion on response three. I didn’t start riding until I was in my late 50s and it was my first, and still only, bike. And given that it peaks at about 55mph, I found that there is no place you can’t get using back roads and most of the time it is a nicer ride than using the interstate anyway. Before I retired I rode my Virago an hour each way to work when weather permitted (I live in New England). And I get a pretty consistent 100mpg (yes I said 100). SO, 250 POWER !!!

    • Wiley, I relate completely. We have plenty of back roads and low traffic around here, so high speed isn’t a priority. And I can push it to 65-70 mph if I need to. Yesterday we were blessed with temps in the upper 60s, and out on the highway I was running at 65 mph with no issue. I hope your Virago treats you as well as my Rebel has treated me. Thanks for reading.

  5. Nice story! I can relate. I at 45 finally decided to start riding. I wanted a reasonable bike, and ended up with a Yamaha XT250 because I live in the country and can travel a long way on dirt and trail, and I bought it new. But I am enthralled with the 250. Anyone who says you need more bike to start is really just not getting it. In my motorcycle safety course, there were several of the Honda 250’s. They look like a nice enjoyable ride.

  6. Great story, Allison – I never understood the bashing that the Rebel has always gotten (by some). Thousands upon thousands of riders got their start over the years on a Rebel, and a good number found it was just right to be their go-to after that. Honda figured out how to make a bike stone-cold reliable, comfortable and reassuring; powerful enough to be able to keep up with any speed limit, and unobtrusive enough to not get in the way of a ride on a nice road on a pretty day. If I’m riding through Kentucky or Tennessee and spot a black Rebel coming the other way, red hair poking out from under the helmet, I’ll give a wave out of respect for your wisdom.

    • Thanks, Dave! I’ll be sure to wave back. We really do have some great riding around here. Land Between the Lakes is beautiful with roads in good condition and plenty of spots for camping if that’s your thing.

      I also have never understood the bashing the Rebel gets by some, but luckily the majority of riders who have something to say about my bike are pleasant and just glad to meet a fellow rider.

  7. Great article I like the way you didn’t feel the need to defend yourself for your motorcycle choice. You shared many of your enjoyable journeys, experiences and joys while riding your favorite bike. In particular. I love how you explained your decision making process in finding the right bike for you. Well done. Most people fall in love with the styling of a bike and then figure the rest out for good and bad as they learn to ride. Ergonomics are such a crucial part of learning to ride and your decision to find a bike you felt comfortable sitting on is admirable.
    Keep up the good work. You have a lot to offer the Rider’s community. I look forward to more of your articles in the future.

    • Thanks for reading, Doug. Early on, I did catch myself defending my motorcycle choice when I would get negative comments. I wanted to be part of the community, and it was frustrating that some people didn’t think I belonged. But I enjoyed riding the Rebel so much that those negative comments didn’t seem to matter after a while. Your comment and others here are proof that riders support riders and the negative folks are outliers. Happy riding!

  8. Depending on the state, by definition. The Rebel may well not be classified as a motorcycle, but as a “motor driven cycle ” simply because of the engine size.
    So, some folks may be right but others wouldn’t be. Me, anything that has larger than 15″ wheels front and rear is a motorcycle regardless of engine size. Nice article.

    • Good point, Michael. At least in Tennessee, anything above 125cc requires a Class-M endorsement. Below that would be the motor driven cycle. But regardless of legal definition, the 250 is a joy to ride, and that’s all I’m looking for. Thanks for reading!

  9. I resonate with this article. My current bike is the next-generation “not a real motorcycle” – a 2019 Honda Rebel 300. I like the changes from the pre-2017 300 Rebels – rear disc brakes, ABS, and – what I was looking for – a single-cylinder engine. But none of that really separates my bike from yours. And I haven’t taken my bike on an extended ride, but I have ridden it for hours at 65-70 mph with no issues.

    Whether a motorcycle is a “real motorcycle” is clearly not up to people who don’t own it.

    • Spencer, I’m happy to hear from another Rebel owner! And a great point about whether a motorcycle is “real.” It’s all about the experience, and as long as we’re having a good time, what more could we want? I hope you’re enjoying your Rebel as much as I’ve enjoyed mine.

  10. In 2020 at the age of forty something I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and learn to roll on two wheels.

    I poured over all the videos and essays and advice columns explaining why a 250 wasn’t enough bike, and how quickly you’d grow out of one.

    Nevertheless I came across a 93 nighthawk 250 at an undeniably good price that just needed some fresh rubber to be good to go.

    Despite my reservations I hopped on it with plans to upgrade once I figured it out.

    Three seasons and 6000 miles later and I can’t believe how much I love it. Starts every time with one push and I still get a huge thrill out of opening the throttle wide coming out of a curve.

    My eye does wonder from time to time, but the smiles per dollar ratio of those little Honda twins are unmatched!

    • TK22, I understand completely. I hear stories of people outgrowing their first bikes in the first few months of riding, and I’ve been looking for an upgrade myself, but I still have a blast every time I take off on the Rebel. When I do find my next ride, I’m not sure I’ll be able to let the Rebel go. Thanks for sharing your experience here.

  11. Great article! At age 62 I am an “old lady and a Rebel” as I bought one in June of this year. Love it and now feeling a bit more adventurous having read this article! Thanks Allison!

  12. I enjoyed reading your article! My first bike was a 1988 Honda VTX800C. Bought it used with 32,000+ miles on it. It ran great and I learned how to ride on it. Twenty years and several bikes later I have a Honda CTX1300 Deluxe- only one I ever bought new!

    • George, congrats on the new ride! My Rebel was bought used but only had a handful of miles on it. I bought it off someone in the Navy who wanted to sell it before his next deployment, so he was letting it go pretty cheap. It felt like the stars had aligned for me. I’m glad to hear your Hondas have treated you well!

  13. Hi Allison!

    Great article, keep it up! I too bought a Rebel as my first motorcycle in 2016. Sadly at 5’11” I would always get lower back pain after about an hour on it, but boy was that the happiest little machine I’ve ever ridden. I love colors and mine was that obnoxious (gorgeous) metallic blue. It popped up on the internet one day and I bought it the next.

    I’ve had three more bikes since, but every time I’d get back on the Rebel for a short ride I couldn’t stop thinking that it was like sitting on a playful little chainsaw. It was so light, so pretty, and the exhaust note so pleasant. Combined with the fact that you’re at full throttle pretty much all the time, it and I were always happy. I wouldn’t have had my early riding days any other way.

    My only cautionary advice to you is that I spent too much time and effort keeping it pretty. (All those beautiful painted bits and chrome!) You can’t put a price on having a dirty, ugly, plasticky bike that you can ride (and drop) anywhere in any weather and never feel the need to polish. But of course, the adage of feeling the need to look back at your steed as you walk away is good stuff too.

    Shiny side up!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Travis. It’s awesome that you could still enjoy the Rebel even though you’re quite a bit taller than I am. And I agree, the Rebel is just a good time.

      And thanks for the advice. I’m sure it’ll hurt the first time I scratch the Rebel, but I’ll try to look at any dings or scratches as extra character rather than blemishes. As of now, the only thing that’s happened to it has been the dog chewing up the original seat. Not the most exciting story, but that still adds a bit of character to it for me. Happy riding!

  14. I can really relate to your story. I used to own a 19 73 Honda 4 cylinder 350. Not the biggest and baddest around but it was smooth and quiet and comfortable and it took me in style everywhere I wanted to go. And I can personally relate to your trip through the trace from Grand Rivers down through the bison territory as that is the route we used to travel on my hope you have many yearsway to Lake Barkley State Lodge. I regret the day I sold that unique Honda and wish I had kept it. Hope you have many safe miles in the future on yours.

    • Robert, I love the Barkley Lodge! I’ve not been by road, but I’ve been by boat many times. When I was little, my family and their friends would boat up to the Lodge to eat, then south to Cumberland City to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. I have some great memories there. I’ll have to get them together for another trip to the Lodge this spring, this time on motorcycles. Thanks for reading.

  15. I loved your Hond Rebel story. I still have my 2004 red 250 Rebel I purchased in 2007. I purchased it after my son’s father died & left him his Harley. I needed it for my son to learn to ride. Now I like it!

    • Thanks for sharing, Grace. That’s exactly the kind of story that touches my heart. I hope the Rebel has treated both you and your son well. I love that the Rebel is such a perfect beginner’s bike but is still so much fun to ride years later as well. I hope you both have many great rides ahead of you!

  16. Hi Allison

    I loved your article because I am also a rider of a Honda Rebel. She is my first bike too. I chose her not to do with her looks, but because I am only 158 cm and it was the only learner bike I could afford and put my feet flat on the ground apart from our old GN125. I live in the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand. Everywhere is a long ride and my Rebel 500 is perfect for cranking up to 100kms along our long straight roads. I can’t emphasize how easy, and fun to ride this bike is. My 17 year old son and I also have our original Suzuki GN 125 which he rides everywhere. He is only a few cm taller than me and there are very few motorcycles with seats as low as the Rebel – for this reason another Honda Rebel is about to find a home in our garage. My son loves riding my bike – all my arguments for him NOT getting one have gone out the window. For a small man this is also a wonderful bike although I think he’s probably going to get the Rebel 500 S because it looks a bit ‘cooler’.

    Thank you for sharing your story about your Rebel – they really are an amazing bike!

    • That’s great to hear, Adrienne. I’m slightly shorter than you, and my Rebel is a perfect fit. And it’s great to hear you’re passing it on to the next generation. It took a little time for my parents to come around to the idea of me buying a motorcycle, but once they realized I was serious, had done my research, and was planning to take the rider course, they supported me all the way. Since then, my dad, stepmom, and I have had many great rides together and are planning some longer rides this year. I hope you and your son will have many great adventures as well!

  17. Absolutely love this!
    “The Rebel wasn’t trying to be anything it wasn’t. Likewise, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with a thundering loud exhaust or state-of-the-art technology. I just wanted to be what I was: a new rider comfortable and happy on her first motorcycle.”
    Too many new riders do not purchase the bike that fits them, but start out on something to try to “impress” others. The Rebel 250 is a fantastic motorcycle!
    I currently ride an Indian Chieftain and love it. But, I learned and got my feet wet on a Yamaha Virago 250. I now only have 4 states that I have not ridden in and have rode in or through 17 countries!
    Thank you for sharing and look forward to more updates on your explorations!
    PS… I’ve added Patti’s and the Belew’s Dairy Bar on my “to do” list… thanks for the tips! No distance is too far for good food!

    • Thanks for reading, Faith! I hope one day I can say I’ve ridden to as many places as you.

      My dad also rides a Chieftain and loves it! If you find yourself at Patti’s or Belew’s one day and see a little Rebel, Chieftain, and Fat Boy (my stepmom’s) pull up in the parking lot, come say hi. Happy riding!

  18. Nice heart felt story. My theory, which no one asked for is this: Those who ride, love the joy of riding, loved their first bike. May spend the rest of their days trying to replicate that feeling. Explains MBD, multiple bike disorder, explains why there may be half a dozen bikes in the garage and “that first one” still under a tarp in the corner, or the shed out back.

    So if any one out there has, 1971 Honda CL450 in Poppy Yellow Gold with a Free Wheel’n Franklin sticker on the tank right where your belt buckle would scratch it.
    Let me know.

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