When I tell people I have a motorcycle, I get one of three responses. The first is that motorcycles are dangerous and not worth the risk. The second is that a Honda Rebel 250 isn’t a “real” motorcycle. The third response – and my favorite by far – is delivered in the form of a story about someone’s trusty first bike that they’ll never forget.
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I’ve heard the horror stories of life-changing accidents. These stories I can respect. They come from a place of caring, sometimes a place of loss. They’re not fun stories, but they are stories that deserve to be heard.
As to the second response, I have lost patience with those who say the Rebel isn’t a real motorcycle. The Rebel 250 is small, that’s true. You won’t find it on a list of the top 10 most powerful motorcycles. You won’t find it on anyone’s list of dream bikes. But if people who tell me the Rebel 250 isn’t a real motorcycle could hear some of the third type of responses, they might have a different perspective.
The third response is my favorite because it is the one that most aligns with my own experience. It comes from riders who have owned a Rebel 250, usually as a first bike. When I tell these people what motorcycle I have, they light up. They tell me about how they learned to ride on a Rebel. Or how they left work in a trail of dust on a Rebel when their spouse was going into labor or taught their sons and daughters to ride on a Rebel. I can relate to these stories because they are fueled by that first joy of sitting on a bike.
When I decided I wanted a motorcycle, I searched everywhere. I printed off Craigslist postings and asked my friends and family what they thought of them. I took pictures of motorcycles with “For Sale” signs on the side of the road. I didn’t really know what I was looking for until I saw a posting for a 2014 Honda Rebel 250.
I took my dad with me to look at it the very next week. It was the least intimidating motorcycle I had seen so far. It was gorgeous, with shiny black paint and a stylish “Rebel” sticker on the gas tank. I admit, my enthusiasm about finally finding a motorcycle that was affordable, small enough for me to sit on comfortably, and in great condition might have clouded my judgment, but I still think it’s a beautiful bike.
Some things are beautiful not because of their complexity but because of their simplicity. The Rebel wasn’t trying to be anything it wasn’t. Likewise, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with a thundering loud exhaust or state-of-the-art technology. I just wanted to be what I was: a new rider comfortable and happy on her first motorcycle.
Before I ever sat on a motorcycle, I rode horses. My horse is named Chief. I still have him, although now he spends his days grazing through retirement. He is a gentle giant, calm and steady. He stuck with me through thorn briars and winding wooded trails. We even have the same hair color. One thing I learned from Chief was how to trust what carries you. I developed a similar trust with the Rebel.
My Rebel has been my loyal mount for six years. It has carried me from Dover, Tennessee, up to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, a town of about 400 people nestled between the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers with a fantastic restaurant called Patti’s. To get there, I go up the Trace through Land Between the Lakes. I stop for a break in front of the old iron furnace. I ride by the elk and bison range. I swing by the planetarium and watch a Beatles laser show. Before long, I’m dining at Patti’s, chowing down on bread baked in a clay flowerpot and a 2-inch-thick pork chop.
My Rebel has also carried me to Aurora, Kentucky, home of the Hot August Blues Festival and Belew’s Dairy Bar. The memory of a Belew’s double cheeseburger with the patty edges crispy with grill flavor still makes my mouth water. At the Hot August Blues Festival, folks from all walks of life stretch out on the riverbank and catch up while bands get down with it. You never meet a stranger in Aurora, even if you’ve never seen a single person there before. Through all these experiences, my Rebel was with me.
I’m not trying to convince you to go buy yourself a Rebel 250. If you’re new to motorcycles and want one that is easy to ride, dependable, and not very expensive, then a Rebel is a good choice. It’s not flashy or impressive, but it has a character of its own. Nor am I trying to convince myself that I made the right choice. If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. All I want is for new riders to cherish their time with their first bike and for experienced riders to take a moment and remember what that felt like.
Allison Parker joined the Rider staff as assistant editor in August 2022. This is her first story for the magazine, and it appeared in the December 2022 issue. –Ed.