The Honda Rebel cruiser originated in the USA back in 1985, when the first model was launched -- the CMX250. Styled with more than a passing hint of Harley about it, the big difference was the parallel twin engine used here. By combining proven and reliable technology from their past, with the growing trend towards cruisers, Honda managed to fill a niche in the marketplace with some success.

    1985: The original CMX250

On the back of this, Honda took the courageous step of introducing an entry-level cruiser in 1986, in the form of the CMX450 Rebel. Using the same styling as its smaller stable mate but utilising another well-proven engine design, Honda sought to capitalise on the growing cruiser interest right from your first bike.

   1986: The CMX450

Both of these early models were produced for only a short time however (85-86 for CMX250, 86-87 for CMX450). It would appear that Honda were disappointed with the sales of both models. Another contributing factor was a clash with Harley Davidson over the styling of the bike. (Honda was sued by HD for "dumping" bikes in the U.S. market.. i.e. selling bikes below cost to gain market share). The CMX450 was never imported officially into the UK. Most of them appear to have been brought over by visiting serviceman/woman of the armed forces and sold on. The Rebel Club guesstimates that there are approx. 300 CMX450's in the UK...

In 1995 though, Honda decided to relaunch the Rebel on an unsuspecting European motorcycling community! A new engine size and some subtle restyling brought the Rebel up to date, and the CA125 was introduced. Cleverly aimed at the learner category in the UK, as well as young / new riders across Europe, this model established a lead very quickly. Never before could a learner have hoped to ride a cruiser such as this. The legendary reliability and build quality were still evident, and the CA125 even became a popular riding school bike in France (whereas here in the UK we seemed to stick with SR125s)

The following year (1996), Honda brought back the CMX250 for those that had passed their test but yearned for a little extra power. It must be said however, that the 250cc category has never been a huge success in the UK since learner categories were lowered to 125cc.

1995-1999 models:

    CA125 UK and Europe    CMX250 UK and Europe:   : CMX250 USA

Both models lasted until 1999 when they were finally laid to rest (in Europe, they are still made for the USA market), with the CA125 being superseded by the new VT125 Shadow, with its traditional V-twin styling. Grey imports can sometimes still be found, but are becoming rarer. Imported USA models from the first generation have become an increasing sight on UK roads -- many immaculate examples are finding their way into enthusiastic hands, grateful of drier climates having preserved the bike's finish well...

  VT125 Shadow (the Rebel Replacement)     VT250 Custom

The later UK models are still relatively young, meaning that it is very hard to find a bad example, and they hold their values well. Having said that, depreciation knocked a few hundred off the original list price very quickly, with some `showroom' examples fetching half the price new, when only a year old! Shop around and you'll find a few bargains out there. Many CA125s seem to have been used until the owner passed their test, only to spend a long time sitting in a garage whilst the owner rode around on their bigger toy.

Don't let the engine sizes put you off though. If you are prepared to take in the scenery as you ride (which is what cruising is all about isn't it?), even the CA125 Rebel is capable of eating up the miles without a second thought. The combination of bullet-proof engine and transmission, and the excellent build quality will keep Rebels on the road for many years to come! And with the emergence of many aftermarket products for this model, the tradition of dressing up your cruiser can be done with even the tiniest examples...

Despite the popularity of the current range of 125 cruisers from far and wide, many riders choose to ride the bike that could be said to have started the cruiser trend amongst new riders -- The Honda Rebel

Honda still makes midsize cruisers (The VT250 and VT400) but for some unknown reason, they are not imported into either Europe or the US!

Author: Pete Buckingham
Additional material: sox