Although the motorcycle industry has definitely hit the skids thanks to COVID-19, there’s one supposed bright spot coming: For weeks, the hot gossip has been that Honda is going to build a cruiser based on the CRF1100L Africa Twin.
This machine would supposedly be styled somewhat like the current Rebel model, but obviously scaled up for the larger engine (currently, the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 are built on the same chassis, with the only real difference between the bikes being the engine size).
As this would be a Japanese-built bike, there’s been none of the “accidental” spy shots released that are so common in the European scene, only renderings from Young Guns magazine, and who knows how close they are with that guesswork?
(For what it’s worth, Young Guns has been predicting this bike for well over a year, and it’s rarely wrong with this sort of thing).
What is clear is that Honda does have some future plans for the CRF1100L engine outside the Africa Twin. It’s already been spotted in design renderings for a new naked-style streetbike. But given Honda’s masterful ability to repackage technology (see also: CB300r/CRF250L/Rebel 300 or CB500/CBR500/Rebel 500), a “Super Rebel” model makes perfect sense, for two good reasons.
First, it’s easy. The engine’s there, and it works well, and most importantly: It passes emissions testing. Honda wouldn’t be forced to go through the misery of engineering a whole new platform from scratch, trying to get it through ever-increasing anti-pollution laws.
Secondly—there’s probably a market here. Traditionally, Honda’s made lots of money off V-twin cruisers, but there’s increasing apathy towards any V-twin cruiser that wasn’t made in the USA. The desire for a “fake Harley” is less and less, partly because there’s no longer a waiting list to own a Harley-Davidson, and partly because Harley-Davidson has managed to shed its image of unreliability. But an affordable cruiser that was lighter, and probably with more horsepower than any MoCo product in its price range, would no doubt find some fans, especially if it came in with good fit and finish. Remember, there are lots of owners who will be ready to move up from their Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 in short time, and Honda will want to grab those buyers. BMW may be about to debut its new R18 cruiser, but that’s going to fetch premium pricing. A Super Rebel could come in at less money, and still offer a very refined cruiser experience, something that the Japanese have mainly given up on in recent years. Heard any enthusiasm for a new VT750? Probably not, but maybe the CRF1100-based Rebel would hit the spot.