The 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 Gives the Starter Bike More Bandwidth

If you’re looking for a solid affordable cruiser, the Honda Rebel lineup is a good place to start. And because of their smaller-capacity engines, the Rebel 300 and 500 also make excellent starter bikes for beginners. For 2021, though, Honda is giving its entry-level cruiser a bit more grunt in the form of the Rebel 1100. So, how does this new model stack up?

The 2021 Rebel 1100: the Honda cruiser goes big(ger)

A rider takes a black 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 through an alley
2021 Honda Rebel 1100 side | Honda

The 2021 Rebel 1100 is a bit of a left-turn for the Honda cruiser, Motorcyclist reports, though not an unwelcome one.

Although the current Rebel 500’s low weight and 471cc engine make it a great beginner bike, many riders ‘graduate’ to larger-capacity models later on. According to Honda, 88% of Rebel 500 buyers do so within the first 18 months of ownership, Cycle World reports. And if they want a cruiser, that means they’re buying non-Honda models, like an Indian Scout Sixty or a Harley-Davidson Iron 883.

A black-and-red 2020 Honda Africa Twin CRF1100L
2020 Honda Africa Twin CRF1100L | Honda

The 2021 Rebel 1100, therefore, is a way of keeping large-capacity buyers within the Honda fold. And it does so with the help of a modified version of the Africa Twin’s engine, RideApart reports. The 1084cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin is a bit detuned in the Rebel 1100. It’s rated at 87 hp and 72 lb-ft vs. 100 hp and 78 lb-ft in the adventure bike.

But, while it makes less power, the various tweaks mean it responds better at low RPM, VisorDown reports. And its Africa Twin origins have another benefit. Like the ADV, the Honda Rebel 1100 is available with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, Autoblog reports. And if you want to shift the DCT manually, the bike has handlebar-mounted paddle shifters, Ultimate Motorcycling reports.

An accessorized black and maroon 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 parked on a mountainside road at sunset
2021 Honda Rebel 1100 front 3/4 | Honda

The bigger engine does mean a bigger curb weight. While the 2021 Honda Rebel 500 weighs 408 pounds, the Rebel 1100 weighs 487 pounds with the manual. With the DCT, that increases to 509 pounds, Motorcyclist reports.

However, the larger bike also has more equipment. The 2021 Rebel 1100 has multiple riding modes, traction control, wheelie control, engine-braking control, and cruise control, Rider reports. It also has an under-seat storage compartment with a USB outlet and standard ABS. The latter is optional on the Rebel 300 and 500.

More power and weight don’t necessarily mean more intimidating

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Although it weighs more than the smaller-capacity models, the 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 is otherwise fairly similar, dimension-wise. A 27.5”-tall seat makes it easy for shorter riders to throw a leg over. And compared to some of the cruiser competition, the Rebel 1100 has generous suspension travel, RevZilla reports. It works out to 4.8” of front travel and 3.7” of rear travel.

And despite the extra power and mass, the 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 is still an easy bike to ride, Cycle World reports. The riding modes help with that by adjusting the engine output. And in User Mode, you can also tweak how much the traction control intervenes. But even outside of the riding modes, Motorcyclist considers the Rebel 1100 to be “the most versatile riding mid-control cruiser we’ve ever ridden.”

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It feels light and nimble on the move, and while it’s not a sports bike, it carves canyons well for a cruiser, RevZilla reports. And the brakes are strong with great feedback. Also, while the manual comes with a slipper-assist clutch, the DCT works “flawlessly,” Ultimate Motorcycling reports.

While the riding position can be a bit cramped for taller riders, overall, the ergonomics are “quite good,” RideApart reports. And even over rough pavement, the Rebel 1100 rides comfortably. The footpegs, though, might be a bit narrow for some, Cycle World reports. And if you’re planning to spend long hours in the saddle, you may want to upgrade the seat, RideApart reports. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories available.

Is the 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 still a good starter bike?

With the larger engine and extra equipment, the 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 is noticeably pricier than the other Rebels. With the manual, the Rebel 1100 starts at $9299; the DCT is a $700 option. In comparison, the Rebel 500 starts at $6599 with ABS. But is the larger-capacity bike still something beginners should consider?

The side view of a maroon 2021 Indian Scout Bobber parked on the street
2021 Indian Scout Bobber side | Matthew Skwarczek

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Ultimately, the answer depends on your personal level of comfort. For example, I found the 555-lb Indian Scout Bobber to be on the higher end of my curb-weight comfort zone. And having earned my motorcycle license several years ago, the idea of a 10844 two-cylinder cruiser isn’t intimidating. But for someone who’s never ridden a motorcycle before, that might not be the case.

That being said, if you’ve been thinking about trading up from a Rebel 300 or 500, the 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 is a solid choice. And with those power-adjusting riding modes, the bike is enjoyable for new and veteran riders, Cycle World reports.

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