Honda CMX1100 Rebel (2021) First UK Road Test and Review

CMX1100 Visordown review

We spent the last couple of weeks getting to know the all-new Honda CMX1100 Rebel in DCT-equipped form

ONE of the biggest and boldest moves of 2021 comes from Honda, and the introduction of its CMX1100 Rebel – a modern-day cruiser with the heart of *checks notes* an Africa Twin.

New 2021 Honda CMX1100 Rebel Revealed | All the Specs, features, and details |

It’s fair to say that 2020 was a fairly messed up year. And when Honda announced the new CMX1100 last November, there were a fair number of raised eyebrows at the bike. For starters, a cruiser from Honda for the global market hasn’t been around for… well, forever really. But the more you looked at the press release for the bike, the more it started to kinda make sense.

Honda CMX1100 Rebel, price, colours, and availability

There are two versions of the CMX1100 being made available, a manual and DCT. The manual comes in at £8,999, while the DCT comes in at £9,899. It is available in Gunmetal Black Metallic (as tested) and Bordeaux Red Metallic.

Honda CMX1100 Rebel engine

The engine in the CMX may be lifted from the CRF1100L, but it features a significant revamp for the new cruiser. The Rebel produces 86bhp at 7,000rpm and 72lb-ft at 4,750rpm. Both of those numbers are a tad lower than the Africa Twin, but importantly the CMX hits both of them lower in the rev range, with peak torque achieved a full 1,500rpm lower.

The engine also features innovative new cam profiles and ignition timing that varies from one cylinder to the other. One cylinder is tasked with handling the low-end grunt, while the other deals with higher-revving delivery – from around 4,000rpm to the redline.

The translation of this on the road is that the Rebel feels actually pretty quick. The 1,084cc engine feels much more free-revving and eager than any of its V-twin peers, although with its 270° still meaning it has that obligatory burble from the neat-looking exhaust. Like pretty much every other Honda with a ride-by-wire throttle, dialling in the required amount of thrust is a doddle, and the fulling from tick-over to the redline is pitch-perfect. Cleverly, the lopsided cylinder delivery I mention above never made itself felt, and I honestly expected it to. The bike just seems supremely torquey down low, although uncharacteristically for a cruiser, never seeming to run out of steam at the top end either.

Having acquainted myself with the Rebel on some short trips about town and the local B-roads, the time came to spend a full day on the bike. The perfect chance for that was Honda’s day at Oulton Park, where they offered Visordown and our pro-racer test pilot the chance to try out its roadgoing CBR1000RR-R SP, its BSB Superstock 1000 race bike, and its full fat Superbike as ridden by Glenn Irwin this year – stay tuned for that video feature!

Pointing the bike’s nose northwest, I head off with a schlep up the M6 on the cards. At motorway speeds, the Rebels engine will still have a useful 3,000rpm in reserve for getting out of trouble, pulling hard in sixth without the need for a downshift. At that speed, the bike isn’t totally vibe-free, but it is better than expected for an engine that’s basically wedged between your ankles. The primary balancer manages to delete the worst of the vibes, and what does get through isn’t really that noticeable.

Is DCT really the place to be?

Okay, so a quick disclaimer before we get going. I’ve never been a total fan of DCT and given the option, I’d always opt for a clutch and shifter over zeroes and ones and an extra 10kg in weight. That said, I have ridden loads of DCT bikes, from early generation NC750s and VFR1200s, to the latest Africa Twins and now this, the newest of the lot. Over this time I’ve seen DCT evolve, becoming more aware of what the bike is doing, and slicker at selecting the right cog for a given situation.

While I’d have still jumped at the chance to ride the manual CMX1100, a weird thing happened after about an hour and a half of being on the road to Oulton Park. I’d ridden, without actually noticing it, all the way there in manual mode, shifting gears using the buttons on the left-hand switch cube. Normally on a ride like this on a DCT equipped bike, I’d be in the most dynamic shifting mode, and only use the buttons when I felt it was needed.

Peeling off the M6 and onto the A54, the Rebel really came into its own, with the DCT and me shifting cogs quicker than a quickshifter could ever dream of, firing off perfectly measured blips on the downshifts with all the deftness of a classic bike racer.

I think the reason I spent the majority of my time in manual mode was that the bike’s handling (read on for more on this) almost deserves a little human input. Not so much as to improve the way it rides, but because not doing so would a bit of an insult to such a well set up bike.

Honda CMX1100 Rebel Handling

One of the biggest, and most welcome, surprises after spending a couple of hundred miles on the CMX1100 Rebel is just how bloody good it is in the corners! 35° of lean is about as good as it gets in this category, and while you can scape the pegs if you really try, to make decent progress you don’t actually need to push it that far. The Rebel turns supremely well, doesn’t have any nasty understeer, and actually handles much better than pretty much any other bike in this category.

And the good news continues with the braking system. The radially-mounted Nissin caliper and 330mm disc might look outgunned by the bike’s long and low aesthetic, but in practice, it actually works quite well. One thing that Honda should be getting a big pat on the back for is the way it has set the bike up. It’s done in such a way that the front brake won’t hop and squeal like a lot of cruisers do. Instead, the front end dives just the right amount transferring the weight onto the front and allowing the Dunlop hoops to bite into the Tarmac.

The well-sorted suspension also means that the ride comfort is still really very good, with the twin-shock rear end soaking up bumps with aplomb. You’ll still be doing your best to avoid the worst of the potholes, but it’s nice to be able to run over roadkill without feeling the crack of its bones beneath you!

Honda CMX1100 Rebel styling

Okay, let's address this as I think it needs to be mentioned. The CMX1100 is a modern take on the cruiser style. Honda has gone at this bike with a seeming amount of tunnel vision – take the CMX500 and make a bigger one. And that they have done, as aside from the missing balloon tyres, it is pretty much identical-looking to its smaller sibling.

I’m just not sure I’m sold on the look – and it’s mainly down to the engine. Parallel twin-cylinder units can look great in a cruiser. Just look at the Triumph Bobber or Speedmaster. The thing is, they need to be dressed up a little to make them really shine. Both versions of the CMX are a bit more utilitarian in how they go about things, with the DCT of the bigger Rebel highlighting this.

I get it, the retro look isn’t for everyone, although using an engine with all its ancillary pipes and systems on display in a bike like a cruiser, it does remind me of those car-engine motorcycle swaps you used to see in Back Street Heroes!

One thing about our test bike that I did like, was the batwing fairing. It’s not as big as on some American machines, but it’s extremely effective and creates a nice little bubble for you to hide behind. After the neat looking textile saddlebags, this would be my next purchase if I was lining a Rebel in my garage this summer.

What we like about the Honda CMX1100 Rebel:

  • Handling, ride quality, brakes
  • Ride-by-wire throttle and fuelling are perfect
  • The optional batwing fairing is excellent (a must-have)
  • ABS and traction control work beautifully

What we didn’t:

  • Riding position becomes tiresome if on the motorway
  • The pillion seat is tiny and fairly hard

Honda CMX1100 Rebel verdict

While the Rebel’s 1100cc parallel-twin engine may have purists reaching for the mind bleach, to the people who actually matter (Honda fans who don’t like ‘normal’ cruisers) the CMX1100 is actually a stroke of genius.  And those who make the jump from the tried and tested over to this new-wave machine will be rewarded with one of the sweetest handling cruisers I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding.

If you are the kind of rider that has always snubbed traditional cruisers as slow, cumbersome, and fundamentally flawed, you really need to get yourself a test ride on this thing. It takes all of those points, screws them up and kicks them into the weeds. It proves that a cruiser doesn’t have to be harsh, prone to understeer, and all at sea in the bends.

Granted the riding position becomes a pain in the arse after an hour and a half of motorway work, but that and the small pillion seat (optional) can be fixed with Honda’s expansive accessory catalogue – probably for not much dosh.

The new Honda CMX1100 Rebel is in dealerships up and down the UK now, check out the Honda website for more information.