I have just passed the MSF safety class and bought a used Rebel with 700 miles for practice. I would like to share my experience from a beginner’s point of view. I must admit that the only other motorcycle that I rode was the Kawasaki Eliminator 250 during the MSF course and thus I will not be able to do a comparative report. I am 5’8” and weigh 150 lb, and the Rebel fits me just fine. It is relatively light and it is not much longer than a bicycle, which makes parking and maneuvering in tight space very easy. However at 300 lbs, moving it is not trivial. The best way to do this is to sit on it and straddle it in neutral, which prevents the bike from tiling to one side or the other. The bike is quiet and sounds civilized at idle.
The acceleration is again very civilized so it is un-intimidating for the beginner. Someone from a chat room reported that the 0 – 60 on a Rebel is about 11 sec. The Rebel needs to go into the 3rd gear to allow for a smooth cruising in the 20-25 MPH range, which makes passing through neiborhood roads with many stop signs a good workout on gear shifting. The Kawasaki, by contrast, allows smooth riding in the same range in 2nd gear. I, as well as others, have found the clutch on the Rebel on the heavy side and it requires a firm kick to shift, and you should get a good pair of riding boots to make this more comfortable.
Furthermore, it is hard to find neutral when the engine is running, although you can find it easily after shutting down the engine. These two factors are no big deal once you get used to them. With proper gear selection, the bike runs smoothly and quietly up to 40 MPH (in 5th) and then it feels a little buzzy under the seat. I have not gone over 50 MPH yet so I cannot tell you how that may feel, but the bike has no problem reaching a top speed of 70-75 MPH with a rider of similar size, as I know many people commute on this bike on highways. The wind is a factor as the bike is light and someone told me a windshield helps.
The brakes work well. Although they may not be the most powerful, they resist locking, which is a good thing for beginners. For example, during my MSF class, nearly all the falls were caused by improper braking. The bike can make a U-turn in a single lane road so it is highly nimble by motorcycle standards. The average gas mileage for the Rebel is 70 MPG and its insurance is very cheap (<$100 for liability). The resell of Rebel is outstanding. In Houston in spring, once you see an Ad in the newpapers, you must go there to buy it on that day, otherwise, it will be gone the next day. In my parking garage, including mine, there are four Rebels, and there is only one Suzuki 250 that shows up from time to time so Rebel is by far the most popular bike for an urban setting and many people want it, used or new.
So far, I have no needs or desire to move up to a bigger bike. I do not plan to ride on the highway regularly and have limited space in my garage. The Rebel is designed for an urban area where one has to fight traffic and worries about gas price and parking space.