May 19, 2024

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 First Ride Impressions

There are bikes that you keep from your family, and then there is the Honda Rebel family of bikes. Honda Rebels are some of the easiest bikes to swing a leg over thanks to a bunch of factors like low seat height, a tractable engine, and ergonomics that are easy to get used to. In contrast to the name, they’re some of the friendliest bikes to swing a leg over, at least in the case of the Rebel 500, which we see a lot of in the Philippines. 

So what happens when the Rebel’s engine grows to twice the size? Does it lose the easy-riding and good nature of the Rebel 500? Or does it turn into a fire-breathing monster that you no longer should show your family? After a first ride with the Rebel 1100 around Honda’s Safety Driving Center, there’s a lot to consider, and it’s mostly good news. 


At a glance, it looks like any other lightweight cruiser. Without paying much attention, it looks like a Rebel 500, but things like the engine, the tank, the handlebars, the foot pegs, the rear, and the gauge clusters are all different from the Rebel that we’re used to. It also feels as solid as ever, with Honda build quality all around. It’s also an all-LED affair for the front, the rear, and the turn signals, and the bike feels thoroughly modern. 

For cruiser aficionados, I don’t feel that the Rebel 1100 will appeal to the traditional tastes in the community. The bike seems to lack a bit of charm in favor of approachability and usability, key factors that make this Honda a Honda. It’s a bike that you just ride without any ceremony or ritual, and it’s something that feels dependable from a build quality standpoint. 

Though it definitely has a more Japanese approach to its design, it doesn’t make a big deal out of being a retro motorcycle. It’s halfway between and it’s fine, but it lacks a little character compared to a Harley Davidson, a Triumph, or a BMW like the R18. However, those bikes are in a different class compared to the Rebel. Size alone made us feel like this model was a small-capacity cruiser. It’s no bigger than the Rebel 500, with the Rebel 1100 coming in at 2,240mm in length compared to the 500’s 2,190mm in length. 


In the way of features, there are a number of notable inclusions like cruise control, an under-seat USB-C port, dual-channel ABS, Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), and Wheelie Control. Yes, this bike has wheelie control, but that’s also a feature that comes from the Africa Twin’s suite of equipment. 

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT Switchgear

As for the execution, based on our first impressions the gauges are clear, the buttons are clicky, and the overall aesthetic is not too far off from what we expect for a bike with a round headlight and more classical styling. That being said, it’s definitely a Honda through and through. Its switches are also of the highest quality since it’s adapted from the other big 1,100cc Hondas. 

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT Switchgear

The Rebel 1100 is filled with a bit of tech for the bike that it is. Since its engine is used in one of Honda’s most advanced ADVs, the Africa Twin 1100, it’s great to see that Big Red trickled some of its equipment down to an easy-riding cruiser. 

The First Ride

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT Ride

The first ride with the Honda Rebel 1100 was interesting, to say the least. From the get-go, 1100ccs may seem like a handful but in actuality, it’s not intimidating once you get past the over-a-liter engine. Swinging a leg over the Rebel 1100, with its low seat height, its wide handlebars, and its mid-set foot pegs, most people will be able to find a comfortable riding position on this model, even for some of the bigger riders out there. The bike felt quite compact, and it also felt relatively light for the displacement that it has. Honda lists it at 220 kilograms, which makes it a heavyweight by all means, but it doesn’t feel like it due to its low center of mass and its narrow seat. While riding it, it feels quite light and flickable even while slow. 

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT Engine

Now the real question is, how is the DCT to ride, and the answer there is that it’ll only take you a few rides to get used to how the transmission works and it will take a bit of practice to get used to the throttle at low speeds. Once you get the hang of it, the bike will be similar to a scooter in operation. A manual mode is available if you want more control over the gearbox. Shifts are smooth but a little perceptible due to the audible click that you will hear while it rows through the ratios. Other than that, however, and with a steady throttle hand, it was easy to take the bike around the test course, do low-speed maneuvers, and turn corners with the DCT. The performance of this transmission exceeded our expectations in terms of smoothness, and we reckon that it will be amazing for cruising on the highway. 

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT Riding

I can describe the engine performance in three words, generous, torquey, and smooth. The 1,100cc engine is a detuned version of Honda’s 270-degree parallel-twin motor found in the Africa Twin. For all its displacement, it only makes 86 hp compared to the hundred horses in the Africa Twin’s mill, but torque is also generous throughout the rev range, coming in at a maximum output of 97 Nm of torque. The motor pulls well even from the low RPM ranges, which makes it feel low-strung and good for cruising. 

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT Riding

Apart from that, the brakes were responsive, and the suspension was rather plush, but given the ideal road conditions of the driving center, more testing is required. Overall, the chassis is very competent for what it is, and the tires that Honda fitted on as standard equipment come in at 130/70/80 in the front and 180/65/16 at the rear, which might make finding rubber for this bike a little bit of a challenge once the stock set runs out after a couple of thousand kilometers. 

Initial Verdict

2023 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT 1100 Detail

As a value proposition, the Honda Rebel 1100 is flawless. You get a lot of bikes for just P649,000, and that would explain the long waiting lists for this model. According to some of our friends, as soon as the dealer gets an allocation, it’s gone or spoken for within a few days. 

However, if you are not so sold on the bike, what it has going against it is perhaps the fact that it seems too perfect to be a cruiser, and it’s kind of devoid of the personality that most cruisers have. Vibrations are minimal, the ride is great, the transmission is easy to work, and the ride is smooth. It just works without any drama, I think that’s a problem for die-hard cruiser fans. Cruisers are often interesting because of their problems and temperaments, take that away and you’re left with a bike like this, something that just works. 

For me, this bike scores a little low on the personality front. I like the fact that it’s a bike I won’t have to worry about. There’s no roughness and there are no quirks, just a bike that seems mechanically perfect and in good working order. What makes this bike special is the fact that it isn’t trying t be special. It gets all the fundamentals right and it treats you right. Other cruisers will vibrate and stir up a bit of drama, but some people like that, while others just want to get out and ride. Personally, I’m stuck between the two, the Rebel 1100 is a prim and proper bike, something that kind of goes against the image of a cruiser in the first place, rebellious. 

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