When having difficulty getting into or out of N, simply rock the bike an inch or two forward or rearward. It helps tremendously to have the transmission rotating when changing gears or going into or out of N. Of course I understand your bike having the problems with the rod, etc, so this is not directed at you necessarily … your topic just brings this to my mind. I notice riders sitting at a stop at a traffic light, and they click it up into N while waiting on the light. No problem with that, that beats holding the clutch lever in, and maybe the wear on the throw-out bearing (assuming bikes clutches are the same as cars in that respect).
But my issue is that when they get ready to go, they pull the clutch and slam their foot down on the shifter, and the slamming of the transmission into gear can be heard for a tenth of a mile. Every bike I have ever owned (including my racebike) would clunk into 1st gear easy, and much more gentler with a) a gentle push with my foot, and b) a gentle movement of the bike forward an inch or two. This includes the Rebel. And also, if it appears that the light will turn green and traffic will pull away soon and that you won't be stopped for long (like when coming to a stop sign), it's best to click into 1st gear right before you put a foot or feet down. It goes into 1st gear gently and smoothly at low speeds (versus higher speeds and versus being at a complete stop).
Not that my thinking amounts to much.
2016 Honda Rebel 250 - The "Piglet."
Totally Stock at the moment.
Bought on 6/29/19 with 44 miles.