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Top 5 A1 bikes for new riders

Just because you’re a learner on a provisional A1 licence doesn’t mean the choice of machines available to you is either limited or dull.

Just because you’re a learner on a provisional A1 licence doesn’t mean the choice of machines available to you is either limited or dull.
In fact, because the A1 licence category is the main entry point for new motorcyclists the reality is quite the opposite. With 11Kw/125cc, A1-compliant machines being one of the best-selling categories of all motorcycles most of the leading manufacturers are keen to get a slice of the action with the result being that there is probably right now a bigger, wider and more exciting choice of machines available than ever before. So, if you want a sports-style A1 machine there’s plenty to choose from to suit a variety of wallets ranging from £1000 budget machines to all-singing, all-dancing exotica with a specification to rival a full-on superbike for nearly five times that. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of the new breed of stunt-style, attitude-laden roadsters, there’s plenty of choice available again. Yamaha, for example, recently launched a new ‘junior’ member of its popular MT family, the MT125. While Austrian firm KTM continues to go from strength to strength with a line –up centred around its popular ‘Duke’ family of single-cylinder roadsters, the smallest being, yes, a 125. While off-road bike fans are also decently catered for with A1-compliant machines, too. There’s not just Kawasaki’s appealing KLX125, Yamaha, which has the largest selection of A1 machines of all the big Japanese manufacturers, offers not one, but two variants, of its impressive WR125 and there’s a host of others available as well. And even if you’re after something more practical and mundane as, say, a ride-to-work commuter or, at the other extreme, fancy just an occasional toy or fun bike, there’s again plenty to choose from. Hugely economical and affordable, easy to ride commuter machines are available in a variety of forms not just from leading brands Yamaha and Honda (whose newest offering, the CB125F, is capable of a claimed 150mpg+) but from lesser known brands such as Lexmoto and AJS. While, as if to rebuff accusations of being boring, Honda also recently launched its funky minibike, the MSX125, which is claimed to be even more economical. So, to help you make sense of all this and hopefully direct you wisely towards your first bike we’ve selected the best of each type – the best five new A1 learner bikes.
KTM Duke 125
KTM Duke 125 – the cool one
KTM Duke 125 – the cool one
A1 licence compatible learner bikes may have to be under 125cc and produce no more than 11Kw but that doesn’t mean they have to be dull – as proved emphatically by KTM’s Duke 125.
The off-road and adrenalin sport focused Austrian firm has built its whole range around its popular Duke family of single-cylinder, stunt-styled funsters and the smallest version, the 125, is no poor relation to the 390 and 690cc versions. Although limited in output it’s still punchy and exciting in its delivery. While the lurid, lightweight and high quality supermoto-style chassis (the original Duke back in the 1990s was little more than a converted-for-the road motocrosser) is both virtually identical to its bigger brothers and both ultra-nimble and a doddle to have fun with.
Kawasaki KLX125
Kawasaki KLX125 – the off-road style one
Kawasaki KLX125 – the off-road style one
Trail-style learner bikes may no longer be as popular or numerous as in their ‘90s two-stroke hey-day, but there’s still a reasonable choice for off-road fans. Yamaha offers two high-end, liquid-cooled WR125s at over £4K each but Kawasaki’s KLX125 gives, we think, the best blend of rugged practicality, classic off-road style, adequate performance from its air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine (certainly for this style of bike) and, at £1000 less than the two Yams, value. The KLX is a good-looking, full size machine (which will suit larger riders) which is useful, durable and easy to ride and isn’t that what everyone wants from a learner 125?
Aprilia RS4 125 Replica
Aprilia RS4 125 Replica – the supersports one
Aprilia RS4 125 Replica – the supersports one
The days of Aprilia’s screamingly-addictive two-stroke learner sportsters may be long behind us, rendered obsolete by ever-tightening EU emissions regulations, but it hasn’t stopped the exotic Italian marque from producing the sexiest and sportiest 125 around – the RS4 125 Replica.
Aprilia’s entry-level saucepot may now be four-stroke powered (courtesy of a liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel-injected single) but in every other respect its still the gorgeous mini-superbike it always was. Styling is taken straight from Aprilia’s RSV4 flagship sportsbike (with GP livery in ‘Replica’ spec); it has a glorious, twin beam aluminium beam frame, top cycle parts including inverted forks and, though learner legal and easy to ride, it’s also as genuinely sporty and fine handling as a 125 can be.
Yamaha YBR125
Yamaha YBR125 – the commuter one
Yamaha YBR125 – the commuter one
Not every A1-licence holder wants something trendy or flashy. For some, the main attraction of this type of bike is as cheap, reliable, economical transport without having to pass a bike or car test – and there’s plenty of choice. Honda’s latest, the air-cooled, twin shock CB125F roadster is as good as any and is claimed to return a massive 151mpg. But our pick is Yamaha’s more proven and established YBR125. Built to the same recipe of basic, tubular steel twin shock chassis and durable and economical aircooled engine it’s unoffensive to the eye, easy to ride as solid as old boots, relatively cheap to buy (although used versions are so popular residuals are high) and costs virtually nothing to run. Transport doesn’t come much cheaper.
Honda MSX125
Honda MSX125 - the fun one
Honda MSX125 - the fun one
Proof that even dependable, classy yet conservative Honda can sometimes throw a swerveball, the MSX (although it’s also, charmingly, called the Grom in overseas markets), is a proper, small-wheeled, old school ‘Monkey bike’ in the mould of Honda’s classic ‘70s ‘Dax’ or ST designated 50s and 70s but brought right up to date with modern engineering, features and style. As such, with its dinky 12-inch wheels and cute styling, the MSX is not really serious transport to be used over any sort of distance, but as a short hop ‘fun’ or town bike it’s great fun, easy to ride and something of a future classic that brings a smile to the face of everyone who rides – or sees – it.

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