READER MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2008 Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200 1986 Honda Rebel

By Rachel Pike, Kansas City, Missouri

Rachel's height: 5 feet 3 inches
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Rachel on her 2008 Nightster, which she says is just too heavy for her.

I own two motorcycles. The first one my husband and I purchased was a 2008 Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200. We bought this bike in May 2008 after I signed up to take the riders safety course, which I completed and passed in June 2008. I had never ridden a bike before this except on the back with my husband.

We put mini-apes and an engine guard on the Nightster. The seat height was great, as I am only 5-foot-3 and weigh about 105 pounds. It is a nice-looking bike, but the problem with the Nightster is the weight factor. I could hold it up standing still, but when it came to turns and hills, I would dump it.

I finally talked my husband into buying me a Honda Rebel. It is a used bike—a 1986 model. It isnt the prettiest thing, but it fits. The 300-pound bike is perfect for my size. I am able to hold it up, and if I make any mistakes, I can easily correct myself, whereas the Nightster and I would have been on the pavement. I would like the Rebel to be louder and wish there was a cruiser bike out there like this one at around 600 to 700cc and weighing 300 to 400 pounds That would be perfect! I know I will soon outgrow the Rebel, as it is only 250cc. Now I have the dilemma of “what next?” I really want to ride a Harley, but I think we have decided to sell the Nightster next spring. It is just too much weight for me right now.

Rachel on her Honda Rebel 250.

In the meantime, I ride every chance I can get, especially with a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old and winter fast approaching. I wake up at the crack of dawn or go outafter dinner at dusk and hop on my bike. My husband would tell me, “Youll know if it is for you.” I never understood that until we got the Rebel. The bike and I have become “one,” as I have heard people say. Now I understand.

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12 thoughts on READER MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2008 Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200 1986 Honda Rebel

  1. Thank you ladies. I really appreciate hearing your stories. I’m 5 feet 4 inches and 120 pounds, age 67, and wanted to get my license and ride. I got a great deal on a bike from a friend…everyone said it would be great for me but at 500 pounds, this beautiful Kawasaki Vulcan Classic 800 feels like too much to practice with. I took the course and got my license, but now I’m looking for a smaller bike. I hadn’t heard this talk about “one with the bike” before (I am definitely not at that place with the Vulcan—but it sounds like I may grow into it. Hearing your stories and encouragement to just listen to my instinct has been very helpful.

  2. Great site. I love my Rebel! After taking the safety course, I looked for a bike that “fit.” The Rebel is good for back roads, tight turns, gravel, highway—short stints on major highways—as I tend to get blown around a little. It’s a very comfortable ride; can go all day and not be achy. I’ve got it rigged to carry small tent and light camping gear. It’s easy to fuel, easy to ride, easy to service. Great confidence builder.

  3. Great site! I needed some good opinions. I am thinking about the Honda Rebel, but now I have other options to consider. Thanks!

  4. Weight can be a factor, even with skill. Yes you can ride a heavy bike, but it is uncomfortable. I had a 2005 Fat Boy, great bike but heavy. I gave that bike to my husband and bought myself a 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650R, great bike. I can handle it much easier and have that “with-one” feeling with the bike, and you do need that to feel comfortable. I can ride most any bike but I don’t want to just ride, I want to ride and be comfortable. So get the bike that works for you and don’t pay anybody who criticizes you. Good luck!

  5. This is a great Web site. Thanks to all the women for these comments and tips. I am looking for my first street bike. My only experience has been on dirt and trail riding in the hills on a bike with no tags. I am 5-feet-2 out of my boots, so I have the issue of my feet reaching the ground. I am excited and I cannot wait to get going.
    Any advice you give is appreciated!

  6. I have a 1200 Nightster and I'm only 5 feet 120 pounds. It's not the weight of the bike, it's the skill of the rider. Give the bike a chance. I also had a 250 to start with, a Yamaha Route 66. Then I moved up to a 600 Honda Shadow, which is a great beginner bike. Just take baby steps you will be glade you did. You are just out of your comfort zone.

  7. My wife has one, and she has no problems. She's 5 feet 4 inches, 120 pounds and had ridden a Honda rebel for more than 10 years prior to this bike. We went to the dealer, she jumped on and beat me home! We lived 45 miles from the dealer. You can put on a Hugger seat, and maybe shocks, that would get you 3 inches lower. Just a thought.

  8. Hi Rachel, another option might be the Suzuki S50. It is a v-twin, but I find its weight of 470 pound to be very manageable at my height of 5 feet 2 inches. I can easily flatfoot the bike. It has great brakes and plenty of pep at 800cc. The look of the bike is similar to the Sportster but shaves nearly pounds off the weight. Good luck finding your next “one” bike – you will know when it happens.

  9. Rachel, I recently purchased a Rebel myself and am so glad I did. I am 5 feet 2 inches and 110 pounds. Most everyone tried to talk me out of it, saying that I would outgrow it too quickly. But I knew after sitting on larger bikes that I would just be too intimidated by the size. It's scary enough the first time you ride in heavy traffic, let alone being on a bike that scares the crap out of you! So, I realize there may be a day when I want to move up to a bigger bike (I'm still a long ways from that), but am so enjoying riding a bike that is just the right scale for me. Happy riding.

  10. Hi Rachel. Totally understand your situation. I learned on an old used Honda Twinstar 200cc, now am riding a Yamaha Virago 250cc with tons of pep, really like it. But I'm with you, I'd love to ride a Harley one day, but there's isn't a mid-weight Harley — one to become one with for us smaller women. Maybe one day Harley will make a bike for us.

  11. Hi Rachel,
    I have heard that the Suzuki S40 has a lot of vibration in the motor. (don't know personally) I had the Rebel also, and loved It. But as you have already noticed it doesn't have interstate speed. I had mine going 60 and 65 but if you need to get around someone you don't have that extra. Even at a lower speed it takes a while to get pass someone. I am your same height a little more weight.

    Talked a lot about the Harley 883 and still sometimes wish I had because of just loving the sound! But the weight (balance is different) Top heavy verses low center of gravity. Makes a difference. I have the Kawasaki Vulcan 500. It fits really well and has all the speed that I need. But don't know for sure but I have heard that this is the last year they are going to make this bike. Personally I think it is a great step up from the 250 or even a first bike. It weighs about 400 pounds. If you can find somewhere that actually has one in stock to sit on and try out I think you would like it.

  12. A good next bike might be the Suzuki S40. It is a single cylinder 650cc bike that only weighs about 50 to 60 pounds more than your Rebel 250cc. It has a pretty low seat, but it's narrow which allows a 5-foot 3-inch rider to get her feet flat on the ground. I know this because I'm the same height and learned to ride on one. Its a great little bike with plenty of pep Good luck.

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