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5 best A2 bikes for new riders

If you’re 19-24 you qualify for the A2-licence category – which means bigger and better A2 category-compliant motorcycles. To help out, here’s our pick of the best.

If you’re 19-24 you qualify for the A2-licence category – which means bigger and better A2 category-compliant motorcycles. The broad restriction on that is machines producing a maximum of 35Kw, or around 47bhp (although there is a power-weight ratio clause as well). In reality that means a whole class of often specifically created middleweights, usually between 300 and 500cc, to suit all requirements.
So, if you’re after a sports bike you’re spoilt for choice with purpose built twins all available from Yamaha, Kawasaki and Honda, for example. Yamaha’s YZF-R3 was all-new last year and, like the Kawasaki, is a c.300cc parallel twin producing an entertaining yet tractable 41bhp in a sporty but unintimidating chassis. At the other extreme the Honda CBR500R is a more flexible 471cc and slightly larger all round. While if you’re after a more extreme, minimalist bike, KTM’s new RC390 single is about as racy and single-minded as A2 bikes get. Our choice is the Kawasaki. Similarly, if you’re after a funky but functional ‘mini super naked’ style bike or roadster, there’s plenty to choose from in the A2 category as well. Recent newcomers include Kawasaki’s naked version of its popular Ninja 300 sportster, the Z300 while it also offers a similarly styled but more budget, single-cylinder version, the Z250. Honda, too, offers a smartly-styled naked version of its A2 sportster, the CBR500R, the CB500F, while we’re going for the newest of the bunch, Yamaha’s MT-03. Plus there are plenty of other types and styles of A2 machine available as well: adventure-style machines such as Honda’s CB500X, cool retros from Ducati and Benelli, fun-packed stunty singles such as KTM’s riotous 390 Duke, scooters and more. To qualify for all of these (assuming you’re 19+) all you have to do is get your provisional licence, take your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) and pass your theory and practical tests. In fact, the biggest hurdle of all may be in trying to decide which kind of A2 bike to go for. So, to help out, here’s our pick of the best.
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 – the cool ‘retro’ one

1. Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 – the cool ‘retro’ one

Launched in 2016 specifically to appeal to A2 buyers, the Sixty2 is a smaller capacity, less powerful version of the retro-styled, V-twin Scrambler the Italian firm launched to great success in a variety of guises in 2015. However, despite just 399cc and 41bhp in place of the full bore Scrambler’s 803cc and 75bhp much of the experience and virtually all of the visual appeal (of which there’s lots) is unchanged. An upright, easy to ride, flexible twin with retro-inspired semi-trail bike styling, the Sixty2 is a proper Italian thoroughbred V-twin with neat design touches (although its spec is a little more basic than other Scramblers to keep its price down) that delivers an adequate, unintimidating ride. At around £6400 still one of the pricier options, though.
Honda CB500X
Honda CB500X – the adventure style one

2. Honda CB500X – the adventure style one

Honda introduced three, all-new, A2-specific 500cc twins in 2014 – the CBR500R sports, CB500F roadster and CB500X adventure styled machine. All are based around an all-new 471cc parallel twin that delivers a flexible 47bhp. Our pick, though, is the X, with 20mm longer suspension, upright ergonomics and decent fairing it’s a full-size bike that suits larger riders yet is also versatile and truly long-legged – if you’re likely to cover distance two-up with luggage this is the best A2 by far. On top of that its performance is meatier than most smaller capacity rivals, is well-finished, stylish and decent value. A ‘proper’ junior adventure bike.
KTM 390 Duke
KTM 390 Duke – the fun one

3. KTM 390 Duke – the fun one

The Austrian firm and particularly its Duke range have always been about delivering off-road inspired, punchy fun and the latest 390, which sits alongside the A1 125 and full bore 690 big brother, is typical of the breed. A pared-down, bare bones, single cylinder roadster, the Duke shows its dirt-bike DNA in its slim, lightweight nimbleness, sophisticated and punchy liquid-cooled, 373cc, 44bhp, DOHC motor and decent quality cycle parts. There’s no waste, flab or luxury on a Duke, instead it’s all about minimalist fun and attitude. If you want comfortable, long distance transport, look elsewhere but if you want the biggest A2 riot on two wheels, this is the one.
Kawasaki Ninja 300
Kawasaki Ninja 300 – the sportiest one

4. Kawasaki Ninja 300 – the sportiest one

Although one of the oldest of the current-crop of A2-comliant sports bikes having been launched originally in 2012 (by comparison, Yamaha’s rivaling R3 twin came out just last year, while KTM’s RC390 single was new in 2016),
Kawasaki’s rev-hungry, well-appointed, classy and entertaining little Ninja is still arguably the best. With true ‘mini-ZX-10R’ superbike styling, a screaming, twin cylinder, 296cc engine producing 39bhp with the precise handling to match plus an aura of quality thanks to details such as a slipper clutch and digital speedo, it’s also easy and rewarding to ride. At over £5K not the cheapest, but definitely one of the best.
Yamaha MT-03
Yamaha MT-03 – the street smart one

5. Yamaha MT-03 – the street smart one

One of the newest bikes here, having been launched in early 2016, the street-savvy and stylish little Yamaha twin is also one of the best. Basically an unfaired, ‘naked’ version of the impressive 321cc parallel twin R3 sportster launched last year it’s powered by the same perky, effective, 321cc parallel twin motor held in a decent tubular steel frame. As a roadster, though, its upright ergonomics accentuate the bike’s manageability so making it even easier for new riders. The two cherries on top, meanwhile, are striking, aggressive styling borrowed from the rest of Yamaha’s MT family along with a tempting price tag.

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