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Top 5 first bikes for £5K

Just because you’re operating on a budget when you’re starting out on two wheels doesn’t mean that you can’t afford something that’s sporty, stylish or versatile. Check out our picks here...

Whether you’re 16 and looking for an affordable 50cc sports scoot; 17 and fancy the ultimate in sports racer replicas or qualify for an A2-licence bike and want either a cool retro, fun roadster or genuine adventure bike, there’s plenty of choice out there for, say, under five grand.
And we’re not talking about secondhand machines here, either. As, yes, although buying used undoubtedly makes things cheaper and opens up a far wider variety of bikes for that £5K budget, it also opens up a potential can of worms regarding condition, reliability, warranties and more which, quite frankly, most novice newcomers would much rather do without. That’s less of a concern with very recently used machines, of course, ones are only a year or so old and have covered low mileages. In such cases there’s often most of the warranty still valid, they’ve been well looked after and, if buying from a dealer, tempting finance deals are still available. But to keep things simple here – although if your bike knowledge is good we’d certainly recommend bearing recent used bikes in mind – we’re concerning ourselves only with brand new machines in this guide. And there’s still plenty of tempting new bikes to choose from, whatever type and style you’re after. To help you deiced, here’s our current pick of the best…

1. Lexmoto Echo 50 – the bargain 16-er scooter

Regular visitors to this site will need no introduction to the budget-priced Echo. Repeatedly AutoTrader’s recommendation in this class and a series UK best-seller, the Echo ticks all the 50cc sports scooter boxes – decent sports styling, OK spec, class-standard 30mph/50cc twist ‘n’ go performance – but with one over-riding advantage: price. At just £1099.99 and with finance deals from just £21.20 a month it’s terrific value and although that’s way under the £5K budget set here we make no excuses: at 16, when you’ve stratospheric insurance to deal with, new kit and security measures to buy and, probably, little by way of income, price is everything and you’ll need every £ you save. Besides, if you can stretch to a little bit more, we’d recommend you instead go for the £1199 Echo+ version, which comes with slightly more stable 12, not 10-inch wheels.

2. Yamaha YZF-R125 MotoGP Edition – the ultimate 17-er sports

If you’re 17 and have a £5K budget for your first 125 to play with you’re a very lucky bunny indeed – but then the continuing sales success of Yamaha’s brilliant 125 learner sports suggest plenty are. The YZF-R125 has been a best seller in the category for years and this recently updated, MotoGP replica edition, currently at £4699, is the best yet. The little YZF was already the 125 sports benchmark but for 2019 it received a new, variable valve-timing engine, which retained the 15bhp legal limit but boosted midrange flexibility, which is useful when you’re a learner. An updated chassis makes handling even easier, there’s a snazzy new LCD dash and a sexy restyle also means it now looks even more like a MotoGP M1 than ever. The MotoGP replica edition costs a £200 premium and looks ever inch a Valentino Rossi replica with its race livery, but we think it’s worth it. After all, if you want the ultimate sports 125 you might as well go the whole hog!

3. SWM Six Days 440 – the A2 retro one

Not everyone is into sports bike styling anymore – in fact ‘retro-styled’ machines, whether as classic roadsters, 1960s-influenced ‘scrambler’ or even café racers are very much in fashion and there’s plenty of choice from the likes of Triumph and Ducati. But when it comes to a first retro bike on a budget things aren’t quite so clear-cut. Yes, if you want a 125, there’s plenty of Chinese-built, fairly basic retro roadsters around for under three grand but for A2 types prices can be much steeper – even Royal Enfield’s popular new 650 Interceptor and Continental GT start at over £5600. So how about this? SWM is a classic revived Italian brand producing a range of stylish, affordable retros built in China. The Six Days 440 costs a very tempting £4999, is powered by a 30bhp single-cylinder engine, which, while hardly fast, is brisk enough to be entertaining, especially if you’re a new rider. It’s scrambler upright poise means it’s easy to handle and get on with. Yes, it’s not as slick and posh as the Enfield or Triumph and its Chinese build shows, but its decent enough quality and is a great value introduction to retro biking.

4. Kawasaki Z400 – the lively A2 roadster

There’s more than a few Japanese A2-compliant roadsters out there these days, many for under £5K, but on balance we reckon Kawasaki’s Z400 – introduced in 2019 at £4999 – is the best. Like Yamaha’s MT-03 and Honda’s CB500F, it’s basically a naked, upright, slightly cheaper version (all of which appeals as a first bike) of a similarly-powered sportster – in this case Kawasaki’s brilliant Ninja 400. Like that bike, the Zed’s powered by the latest, 399cc version of its twin-cylinder engine, producing a healthy but A2-compliant 44.7bhp but with an upright riding position it’s easier to handle for novices while still looking great and featuring a decent specification including LCD instruments, LED lights and more. Having a bigger engine than the 321cc Yamaha while also being usefully cheaper than the 500cc Honda are the reasons why it gets our vote here.

5. Benelli TRK 502 – the bargain adventure one

The twin-cylinder, 500cc TRK is one of the great but lesser-known bargains of current motorcycling. Produced by revived Italian firm Benelli, who were right up there with Ducati and Laverda in the 1970s so there’s plenty of street cred available, it’s now Chinese-owned, meaning its bikes have the double-whammy of Italian design and flair, but bargain basement Chinese prices.
The TRK 502 is a full-sized adventure bike that happens to be powered by an A2-compliant, 47bhp twin cylinder engine. Performance is more than adequate, there’s decent twin discs and suspension, it’ll take two happily and there’s even an up-specced ‘X’ version with wire wheels, crash bars and so on, for a slight premium. Think of it as a slightly bigger, more rugged and slightly cruder version of Honda’s excellent (but £6K+) CB500X and you won’t be far wrong. Best of all, as we write Benelli is offering it with a further £500 off, bringing its price down to an even more bargain £4499!

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