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Top 10 best motorbikes for beginners

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Got your A2 or A bike licence and looking for your first bike? Motoring expert Erin Baker offers her top ten suggestions based on personal experience.

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Honda CBR500R
The cheat’s bike. When someone pulled it out for me to a test ride after a year’s absence from biking, I told them they must be crazy: I couldn’t just get on a massive sports bike and ride off - way too much power. Only it’s got just 47 horses. It just looks way more mental. Which is how some of us (me) want it. Very forgiving throttle, thank goodness.

Read the full review.
Honda CBR500R
Harley Davidson Sportster
I learned to ride on the old Sportster 883 R, at Harley’s Welsh centre where I did a week-long crash course. Never has a course been more aptly named. But I passed, thanks in large part to the pottering vibes of the Harley, with its relaxed manner and low saddle which meant I could get my feet flat on the floor, for more confidence. I even learned how to pick up this heavy beast. It’s all a style issue, but it’s a great, low-slung, relaxed bike for nervous rookies. Go for the Iron 883 for best budget buy.

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Kawasaki Ninja 650
The ER-6f was my favourite bike of all when I was still learning the ropes, and the Ninja 650 is its successor. It looked the business (lime green, obviously), with a sports fairing which elicited “blimey, you’re a girl” comments at the lights. Slightly sit-up-and-beg position ruined the overt sports bike vibe, but beginners can’t be choosers. Good reliability, easy to ride, and now more Ninja styling - whoop.

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BMW F900 R
Another great starter bike I had was the F800 ST, which now looks to be replaced with the F 900 R. You can have this bike in A2-compliant mode too, for those who've only got that far in the licence process and are limited in power output - the 95 horsepower can be reduced to 48 horsepower. Many (including me these days) would be happy to leave it there, but you have the option. Nicely balanced machine at low speeds. Gold anodised forks? Yes please.

Find a BMW F900 R on Auto Trader.
Triumph Bonneville T100
“For the ride”, as they say in Triumph-land. What a classic badge, and a classic naked bike from Britain’s best. For those who like their ride retro; looks the business with a Belstaff jacket. Rich exhaust note, despite having just 54 horsepower. Go for the jet black style pack and a vintage-inspired helmet.

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Ducati Monster 797
Ciao! This is your ticket into the sunlit uplands of Italian design. Next it’ll be a Ermenigildo Zegna suit. We get ahead of ourselves, but that’s what riding a Ducati does to you… one day it’s the Monster, next you’re making eyes at a Panigale. We’d suggest you start with the 797, with its 73 horses which is about the limit of the rookie comfort zone. Also available with restricted output for A2 licence holders.

Find a Ducati Monster 797 on Auto Trader.
Suzuki SV650
Unbelievable list price. Sooo much bike for the money. Reliable, linear brake, throttle and clutch responses. Maybe a little dull on the styling front, but its placid character means you won’t have any easy surprises from this one, and your bank balance will thank you. A manageable 76 horsepower.

Read the full review.
Yamaha MT-07
Like the Suzuki, this is excellent value for money. A ‘hyper naked” bike, which sounds chilly, but the reality is somewhat more prosaic, with 74 horsepower delivered in a calm manner. Strong torque but good fuel economy, refined suspension and easy to perform those tricky u-turns on.

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KTM 390 Duke
For those for whom orange is more than just a colour. If you like. Just 43 horsepower but light weight means it’s perfect for “fighting your way through the urban jungle”, as KTM has it. Next version up, the 790 Duke has 100 horses which is a few too many for those for whom the throttle twist grip is still a rough-and-ready notion. Take it easy, as the Eagles said. Also, beware high saddles if you’re 5ft 6in, like me.

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Triumph Street Twin
Another Triumph, and a slightly more novice-friendly one than the Bonneville, with just 64 horsepower, but, in our humble opinion, a tad less style. Improved braking, comfort and safety versus the old model, and those extra horses make all the difference, so you won’t tire of the bike so quickly.

Read the full review.
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