cruiser motorcycles

Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S Comparison

Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S Comparison

Ever wonder why Japanese motorcycle brands sell like hotcakes? It is because they make motorbikes like the Honda Rebel 500 and the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650. No wonder why these bikes are widely sought-after and are perceived as the best beginner bikes with reliable engine technology and punchier performance that does not disappoint even experienced riders.

The motorcycling industry may not be able to build such perfect motorcycles again like the Rebel 500 and the Vulcan S 650 at an affordable price range. These bikes are one of a kind and you are lucky if you are getting to ride one of these bikes as your first motorcycle as a beginner.

Comparing the Rebel 500 with the Vulcan S 650 is a tough job as both bikes give neck-to-neck competition in the beginners’ bike category. However, a detailed comparison of these two bikes can provide you with a lot of useful information and help you decide which will suit you better and why. Continue reading this article to learn about the detailed comparison between the Honda Rebel 500 and the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650.

2024 Honda Rebel 500
Photo credit: @Honda Powersports
2024 Kawasaki Vulcan S
Photo credit: @Kawasaki

1. Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S Specs Comparison

Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S Specs Comparison
2024 Honda Rebel 500 2024 Kawasaki Vulcan S
General Info
Manufacturer Honda Kawasaki
Model Rebel 500 Vulcan S
Model ID CMX500 VN650S
Motorcycle Type Sports-Style Cruiser Sports-Style Cruiser
Introduced in 2016 2015
Current Production Status Still Produced Still Produced
Warranty One Year Limited Warranty with Unlimited Mileage One-Year Limited Warranty
Base MSRP Non-ABS: $6,499
ABS: $6,799
ABS SE: $6,999
Non-ABS: $7,349
ABS: $7,899
Displacement 471 cc 649 cc
Engine Type Parallel-Twin; Four-Stroke Engine Parallel-Twin; Four-Stroke Engine
No. of Cylinders Two Two
Valve Train Four-Valves Per Cylinder; DOHC Four-Valves Per Cylinder; DOHC
Engine Cooling System Water-Cooled Water-Cooled
Stroke 66.8 mm 60 mm
Bore 67 mm 83 mm
Compression Ratio 10.7:1 10.8:1
Fuel Delivery System Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) with 34 mm Throttle Body DFI® (Digital Fuel Injection) with 34 mm Twin Throttle Bodies and Sub Throttle Valves 
Exhaust Two-Into-One Blacked-Out Exhaust Two-Into-One Blacked-Out Exhaust
Ignition Full Transistorized Ignition TCBI with Electronic Advance
Starter Electric Electric
Peak Power Output 46.9 hp / 34.3 kW at 8,500 rpm 61 hp / 44.86 kW at 7,500 rpm
Peak Torque 43 Nm / 31.7 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm 62.4 Nm / 46 lb-ft at 6,600 rpm
Fuel Economy 67 mpg (Claimed) 52.27 mpg
Top Speed 105.63 mph 105.63 mph
Gearbox Six-Speed Six-Speed with Positive Neutral Finder
Final Drive O-Ring-Sealed Chain Sealed Chain
Clutch Multi-Plate Wet; Slipper & Assist Clutch Wet; Multi-Disc Clutch
Frame Steel Diamond Frame with Die-Cast Aluminum Rear Sub-Frame High-Tensile Steel Diamond Frame
Front 41 mm Front Fork 41 mm Telescopic Front Fork
Adjustability (Front) No No
Front Wheel Travel 5.5 in 5.1 in
Rear Dual Rear Shocks Lay-Down Offset Rear Shock
Adjustability (Rear) No Linkage and Preload Adjustable
Rear Wheel Travel 3.7 in 3.2 in
Front 296 mm Single-Disc Brake 300 mm Single-Disc Brake with Twin-Piston Caliper, ABS-Equipped
Rear 240 mm Single-Disc Brake 250 mm Single-Disc Brake with Single-Piston Caliper, ABS-Equipped
Wheels & Tires
Wheel Type Cast Aluminum 10-Spoke Wheels with Bronze-Finished Rims Stylish Blacked-Out Alloy 5-Spoke Wheels
Front Wheel (Size) 16 in 18 in
Rear Wheel (Size) 16 in 17 in
Front Tire 130/90-16 120/70x18
Rear Tire 150/80-16 160/60x17
Dimensions & Measurements
Seat Height 27.2 in 27.8 in
Wet Weight Non-ABS: 408 lbs
ABS: 414 lbs
ABS SE: 416 lbs
Non-ABS: 491.7 lbs
ABS: 498.3 lbs
Wheelbase 1,491 mm / 58.7 in 1574.8 mm / 62 in
Ground Clearance 136 mm / 5.4 in 129.54 mm / 5.1 in
Fuel Tank Size 3 gal 3.7 gal
Rake 28° 31°
Trail 4.3 in 4.7 in
Height 1,094 mm / 43.1 in 1,099.82 mm / 43.3 in
Length 2,188 mm / 86.1 in 2,308.86 mm / 90.9 in
Width 820 mm / 32.3 in 878.84 mm / 34.6 in
Tech Features
ABS Optional Standard
Slipper & Assist Clutch Standard No
All-LED Lighting Standard No
Ergo-Fit (Adjustable Ergonomics Feature) No Standard
Dual Throttle Valves No Standard
Economical Riding Indicator No Standard

2. Design & Aesthetics: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S

2.1 Rebel 500’s Design & Aesthetics

Rebel 500’s Design & Aesthetics
Photo credit: @Motorcycle Cruiser

The Rebel platform has the most basic and stripped-down motorcycle design which makes it a more user-friendly bike. It boasts a low-slung construction and a rigid frame, keeping the engine and machinery fixed. Despite being extremely simple, the Rebel 500 can still turn many heads with its modern persona. Several things make this bike very unique and attractive like the fat tires, exposed engine and machinery, a less protruding headlamp with a black cover, chrome bezel, and four symmetric LED bulbs, giving this bike its unique character.

The other most distinctive element of the Honda Rebel 500 is its narrow gas tank diagonally mounted on top of the frame. This motorcycle also boasts a distinctive bobber design with its small and simple solo rider seat and lightweight fenders. If you are not a fan of wire-spoked wheels, you will love the looks of its bronze-finished 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels.

The Honda Rebel 500 has a comparatively taller front end than the Kawasaki Vulcan S. However, the saddle is quite low-slung due to its slanted frame’s backbone. On the other hand, the Vulcan S has a relatively constant height throughout due to its extended front fork design.

2.2 Vulcan S 650’s Design & Aesthetics

Vulcan S 650’s Design & Aesthetics
Photo credit: @Road Runner

The more trendy, aggressive, bigger, and wider motorbike between the two is the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650. Every part of this motorcycle is perfectly blended and assembled, ensuring a clean and futuristic look. Like the Rebel 500, the Vulcan S 650 also flaunts a blacked-out finish and a slightly extra cushioned solo rider seat. The Vulcan S gives a performance cruiser vibe with its compact design, longer wheelbase, raked-out front fork, and smooth styling elements.

Coming towards the front, the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 draws attention to its uniquely styled headlamp, enclosed in a blacked-out nacelle. This bike has a wider geometry as the 650 cc engine has short-stroke cylinders but bigger bores compared to the Rebel 500. Another distinguishing feature of the Vulcan S is its lay-down offset rear shock absorber visible from the right side. The lightweight and chopped front and rear fenders, along with the stylish blacked-out alloy five-spoke wheels, promote a sportier look.

2.3 Verdict

If you solely consider the looks of these two bikes, the Kawasaki Vulcan S has a better fit and finish. This bike looks more trendy, futuristic, bigger, and rides like a beast on the road. Meanwhile, the Honda Rebel 500 is though attractive, it is simpler and more basic than the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650.

3. Engine & performance: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 Comparison

3.1 Rebel 500’s Engine & performance

Honda, with its Rebel 500, has proved to be successful in providing the most perfect platform for riders who are new to motorcycling with a little know-how of riding a motorbike. The Rebel 500 also suits riders with intermediate-level riding skills as it feels quite punchier on the road. In the current Honda lineup, the Rebel 500 is probably one of the most perfect motorcycles, offering great value for the money.

Talking about its on-road performance, the Rebel 500 performs better than most cruisers in the 500 cc category. It offers exceptional throttle response and quick acceleration, making it an extremely fun-to-ride motorcycle. You will probably not get bored of this bike even if you are experienced. The Rebel 500 can comfortably beat the Harley Sportster Iron 883 in a drag race which houses a 412 cc bigger engine.

The most evident feature of the Honda Rebel 500, making it outshine from other cruisers in the category is its slim silhouette, low weight, and low-slung seat. These eminent qualities make the Rebel 500 an extremely agile cruiser. The bike houses a 471 cc water-cooled, parallel-twin engine, delivering an impressive horsepower of 46.9 hp at 8,500 rpm and a decent torque of 43 Nm at 7,000 rpm at the rear wheel.

Thanks to its strong and punchier performance, the Honda Rebel 500 is considered one of the most notable urban commuters. Its overall performance characteristics make it ideal for riding within the city, daily commuting, and light cruising.

3.2 Vulcan S 650’s Engine & performance

One thing that Kawasaki also masters equally as Honda does is bringing admiringly reliable engine technology to power its motorcycles. The Kawasaki Vulcan S is a strong competitor of the Rebel 500 in the midsize sports-style cruisers category. This bike houses a bulletproof 649 cc water-cooled engine that is adequately more powerful than the Rebel 500 due to being bigger. Like the Rebel 500, it is also termed as a phenomenal urban cruiser biased more towards city traveling.

The 649 cc parallel-twin engine feels more peppier than the 471 cc engine installed on the Rebel 500. This bulletproof engine produces 61 hp of horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 62.4 Nm of torque at 6,600 rpm. However, the Rebel 500 still feels quicker and more agile if you have gotten the chance to ride it. What makes the Rebel 500 more fun and quick is its low weight and low-slung saddle. It can be a plus point for most riders if they prefer these characteristics in a motorcycle but considering the cruisers, they are not built specifically for quick rides and agility. Cruisers are generally heavier and can stay stable at highway speeds which is why the Kawasaki Vulcan S does a better job than the Rebel 500.

The Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 uses the same engine platform as installed in the naked Kawasaki Z 650. However, to improve its sporty performance and make it more thrilling, the engine is tuned to deliver a peak power output at 1,000 rpm lower than the Z 650. Overall, the Vulcan S serves as a more versatile and all-round performer when it comes to urban commuting or highway cruising.

4. Handling: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 Comparison

4.1 Rebel 500’s Handling

If you have ever ridden the Rebel 500, you must know how butter smooth it is to handle this bike and how easy it is to turn even tight corners on this bike. If you have a twisty road ahead, you do not need to reduce the speed a great deal or downshift.

Changing directions has been made one of the easiest jobs on the Rebel 500 thanks to its superior agility. As already discussed above, the two most useful features of the Rebel 500 are its low weight and low center of gravity, making it as highly flickable as a naked bike.

The Honda Rebel 500 is the type of motorcycle that will make you not ever quit motorcycling or bring you back to motorcycling if you have left it for some reason. The bike offers confident-inspiring handling and makes you feel on top when you come across challenging situations during the ride.

4.2 Vulcan S 650’s Handling

The Kawasaki Vulcan S may not be as agile as the Rebel 500, mainly due to being heavier and bigger, but it still offers the best handling in the 650 cc class. This bike has been engineered perfectly with most of its weight centered low to make handling much easier on twisties. The Vulcan S 650 not only looks sporty, this bike also behaves like one and is up for most challenges.

The impeccable handling characteristics of both the Rebel 500 and the Vulcan S 650 make them a perfect urban cruiser. Not to forget, cruisers are usually not known for their agility and cornering performance.

One thing you must be extremely cautious about is scraping footpegs on the Vulcan S 650 while turning a corner. The Vulcan S 650 has a wider geometry and the foot controls extend outwards to make sure the wider gas tank does not interfere with the rider's legs.

5. Suspensions & Ride Quality: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 Comparison

5.1 Rebel 500’s Suspensions & Ride Quality

The suspension arrangement on the Rebel 500 is not the most perfect combination for a plush riding experience. However, surprisingly, this bike feels great, smooth, and soft while riding on paved roads. Though the Rebel 500 does not offer any sort of preload adjustability, it still keeps riders happy while maneuvering on bumpy roads. This bike does not make you feel extremely uncomfortable with the existing suspension setting. According to many reviews, the suspension technology on the Rebel 500 could have been improved; however, considering the price tag, it performs sufficiently well.

5.2 Vulcan S 650’s Suspensions & Ride Quality

Regardless of its overall premium build quality, looks, and class, the suspensions on the Vulcan S 650 are quite basic. Overall, this bike feels acceptably comfortable on long rides. The only thing that hinders riders from enjoying a plush riding experience is the average-quality suspensions. Though the rear offset monoshock comes with a preload adjustability option, it does not offer good support to the rider in maintaining a comfortable posture. The ride becomes excessively distressful as soon as you hit bumps on the road.

6. Instrument Gauge: Rebel 500 Vs Vulcan S 650 Comparison

6.1 Rebel 500’s Instrument Gauge

The instrument gauge on the Rebel 500 is very basic and provides most of the useful information. However, the digital instrument panel is missing the tachometer. Talking about the display, the screen is also quite small compared to the size of the instrument panel. Riders may also find it difficult to read the information in bright sunlight due to low brightness. Despite being very basic, it has a gear position indicator, digital speedometer, trip meter, and fuel gauge.

6.2 Vulcan S 650’s Instrument Gauge

On the other hand, the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 has a more stylish and well-equipped instrument gauge. It has an analog tachometer on top and a digital screen on which you can read useful information like the gear position indicator, speedometer, clock, odometer, and fuel gauge.

The display is considerable enough for riders to easily read information while riding. The blue needle on the analog tachometer also shines during the night to make it readable.

7. Stopping Power: Rebel 500 Vs Vulcan S 650 Comparison

7.1 Rebel 500’s Stopping Power

The stopping power offered by the Rebel 500’s braking system is agreeable. There is a 296 mm single disc up front and a 240 mm single rear disc, along with Nissin calipers and optional ABS. A good role in stopping the Rebel 500 effectively is played by fat tires which offer a large contact area, and the motorcycle’s low weight helps riders stop this bike confidently.

7.2 Vulcan S 650’s Stopping Power

In the braking compartment, the Vulcan S 650 performs decently well with its 300 mm single-disc brake towards the front and a 250 mm single rear disc, along with the standard ABS. Though this bike isn’t a lightweight machine in the sporty cruiser category, it still manages its weight quite well and does not offer resistance when you press the brakes.

Note: One thing that you must be familiar with before you ride the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 is its highly active engine braking system. This bike immediately starts to decelerate rapidly when you release the throttle due to engine braking. You may stall this bike if you are not sure about this feature.

8. Comfort & Ergonomics: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 Comparison

8.1 Honda Rebel 500’s Comfort & Ergonomics

Honda Rebel 500’s Comfort & Ergonomics
Photo credit: @Cycle World

As it excels in every other department, the Honda Rebel 500 does not disappoint you when it comes to comfort and ergonomics. The Rebel 500 may not be an ideal cruiser, but it still ensures a commodious rider triangle. The foot controls are mid-mounted, but relative to the seat position, it is agreeably forward for riders of almost all sizes to sit comfortably without their legs getting painfully kinked up. Being sportier, the rider will have to stretch his/her arms a little to grab the naked bike-style handlebars, ensuring a slightly forward riding style. Overall, the ergonomics are perfect for urban commuting and light cruising as well.

8.2 Kawasaki Vulcan S’s Comfort & Ergonomics

What sets apart the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 from the rest of the modern cruisers is its ability to be adjusted, in terms of ergonomics and rider triangle, according to the rider’s size and preferences. It comes with the ErgoFit smart feature which allows the saddle height, foot controls’ position, and handlebars’ reach to be adjusted. When you buy the Vulcan S, the dealership will adjust it for you free of cost.

Overall, the Vulcan S 650 has forward-mounted foot control, offering spacious legroom for taller riders. The handlebars are substantially swept back for riders to make sure they comfortably grab the bars while maintaining a somewhat upright riding posture. The Vulcan S 650 has a low seat height of 27.8 inches which is not bad in the sports-style cruiser category but considering it is a wider bike, shorter riders with smaller inseams can find it a bit tough to get both their feet planted on the ground.

Below are the three options you can consider to adjust the bike according to your size and riding style:

Overall, the Kawasaki Vulcan S is comfortable to ride and is suitable for highway cruising and long-distance riding. The Ergo-Fit smart adjustable ergonomics feature makes a real difference between the two bikes and the extra $1,100 will not hurt if you choose to buy the Vulcan S 650 for this reason.

9. Pros & Cons: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S

9.1 Honda Rebel 500’s Pros & Cons

Honda Rebel 500 Pros Honda Rebel 500 Cons
Easy and fun to ride Not an ideal cruiser design
Incredible power to weight ratio Not ideal for touring
Admiringly lightweight Can be uncomfortable for taller riders
Quick throttle response Instrument gauge can be improved
Feels faster Suspensions are quite basic
Extraordinarily nimble Small gas tank capacity
Gives sporty and modern vibe Lack of padding in the seat
Ideal urban commuter
Beginner friendly
Low seat height
Bulletproof engine quality
Easy to maintain
Attractive fat tires
Good value for the money
Punchier performance

9.2 Kawasaki Vulcan S’s Pros & Cons

Kawasaki Vulcan S Pros Kawasaki Vulcan S Cons
More powerful Heavyweight in its category
Flawless sporty cruiser look Suspensions are very basic
Perfect fit and finish Uncomfortable on bumpy roads
Good for urban commuting Low cornering clearance
Suitable for long-distance rides and highway cruising Lack of padding in the seat
Better instrument cluster Not an ideal cruiser design
Adjustable ergonomics (Ergo-Fit) Vibration issues at higher rpms
ABS is standard
Handles well on twisties
Reliable engine technology
Exceptional engine braking

10. Color Options: Rebel 500 Vs Vulcan S 650

2024 Honda Rebel 500 Color Options
Color Options Model Availability
Pearl Black Available for ABS & Non-ABS Trims
Matte Laurel Green Metallic Available for ABS & Non-ABS Trims
Pearl Smokey Gray Only Available for ABS SE Variant

2024 Kawasaki Vulcan S Color Options
Color Options Model
Pearl Sand Khaki/Ebony
Metallic Flat Spark Black

11. Final Verdict: Honda Rebel 500 Vs Kawasaki Vulcan S

The Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 has a bigger and more powerful engine which makes it a faster and more desirable motorcycle for those looking for a peppier sports-style cruiser. However, a vast majority of riders prefer better value for the money, reliability, ease of access, and a more realistic performance. In that case, the Honda Rebel 500 is a better bike and offers everything that you can expect from a good-quality motorcycle. You can find a cheaper Rebel 500 in the used motorcycle market. This bike has better fuel economy and it is the best option if you need a flawless modern cruiser for riding within the city and daily commuting.

The Honda Rebel 500 is undoubtedly the favorite bike of most riders. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean the Kawasaki Vulcan S is less capable. It is the best sports-style cruiser in the 650 cc category with iconic design and high-performance characteristics.

12. Customization & Luggage bag options at Viking Bags

You can make the Rebel 500 and Vulcan S look more stunning by putting on functional parts and neatly designed luggage bags. Viking Bags, a renowned motorcycle parts, and luggage bag manufacturer, has numerous stylish options available at its online store. If you are planning to buy any of the motorcycles between the two, we make sure that you get the best-quality saddlebags for your Rebel 500/500 ABS and the Kawasaki Vulcan S/Vulcan S Cafe.

In the cruisers category, the other luggage bag options the company offers include sissy bar bags, tank bags & pouches, tour packs, and much more. At the online store, we also have a wide stock of custom-made sissy bars for the Rebel 500/500 ABS and the Vulcan S 650 for riders to enjoy a more plush experience. By adding a backrest to your Honda or Kawasaki motorcycle, you can comfortably recline against the sissy bars if you are planning to travel long miles.

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