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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. Here’s our pick of the best.

Phil West

Words by: Phil West

Phil West

Additional words by: Phil West

Last updated on 20 May 2022 | 0 min read

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 and Honda, for example. Yamaha’s R3 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 Husqvarna’s fashionable, ‘scrambler’ version of sister brand KTM’s punchy Duke 390. Honda, too, offers a smartly-styled naked version of its A2 sportster, the CBR500R, the CB500F, while BMW has its recently-updated G310R. There are plenty of other types and styles of A2 machine available as well, including adventure-style bikes such as Honda’s CB500X and KTM’s 390 Adventure. 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 current best.

1. 2016-current BMW G310R – the posh, roadster one, £2950 (used) – £4930 (new)

BMW launched its entry-level G310R roadster in 2016 and it’s a great way into the BMW brand. It’s also joined by an accompanying adventure version, the G310GS and both were updated for 2021 to comply with Euro5 plus also benefit from a host of small tweaks including revised styling, slipper clutch, LED lights and ride-by-wire. Although built in India to help keep costs down quality is as good as you’d expect and although, with only 34bhp, it’s not as powerful as some, it’s a doddle to ride, has lots of reassuring, classy touches, not bad value at all and a great introduction to motorcycling via one of the most enviable brands of all.
Honda CB500X
Honda CB500X

2. 2014-current Honda CB500X – the versatile all-rounder one, £3500 (used) – £6599 (new)

Honda introduced three, all-new, A2-specific 500cc twins in 2014 – the CBR500R sports, CB500F roadster and CB500X adventure styled machine. All were based around an all-new 471cc parallel twin that delivered a flexible, friendly 47bhp. Our pick, though, is the X, with its 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. It’s also been updated repeatedly since, most significantly 2019 when it got a bigger front wheel and mild restyle, and again for 2022, when it received better brakes, LED lights etc. All are brilliant, durable and versatile – you won’t be disappointed.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

3. 2018-current Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 – the fashionable, fun one, £3950 (used) – £5249 (new)

Historic Swedish off-road brand was bought by Austria’s KTM (from German’s BMW, incidentally) back in 2013 and then relaunched the marque on the road with effectively restyled versions of KTM’s Duke singles. The café racer Vitpilen and scrambler style Svartpilen, both in 125, 401 and 701 capacities were the result, starting in 2018. In truth, at first they underwhelmed slightly, primarily for being too expensive. However, those prices have now been cut, all have a kind of exclusive street cool that makes a sweet change to the orange Dukes, plus, of course, they’ve all the fun and excitement of the donor bikes. Of the bunch, our pick is the Svartpilen 401. It’s stumpy, aggressive but still practical performance is addictive, its style stands out, the knobbly tyres aren’t the handling hindrance you might expect and its upright posture means it’s both novice-friendly and great around town. Best of all, though, from under £4K used, it’s something of a steal, too.
KTM 390 Adventure
KTM 390 Adventure

4. 2020-current KTM 390 Adventure – the adventure/off-road one, £4500 (used) – £5999 (new)

Austrian brand KTM are world-leaders when it comes to adventure bikes and off-roaders plus also its performance Duke roadsters. The 44bhp 390 Duke is one of the best A2 bikes out there but it’s the adventure version, based on the same single-cylinder engine and chassis we’re picking out here. Launched fairly late in 2020 it’s a brilliant blend of the 390 Duke’s punchy, nimble performance with the off-road potential and roomier proportions of an adventure bike – although not so much as to put off novices. It even makes a decent fist of gentle trails and such like. A great A2 novice bike AND introduction to off-roading? That’s the 390 Adventure.
Yamaha R3
Yamaha R3

5. 2015-current Yamaha R3 – the sporty one, £3850 (used) – £5950 (new)

Yamaha’s ‘R’ series of sports bikes, topped off by its legendary and current world superbike championship winning R1, remains one of the most comprehensive and convincing sports bike line-ups from any manufacturer. The R1 needs no introduction, the single-cylinder A1 R 125 tops the 17-er class and the mid-range, twin cylinder R3, is arguably the best of the A2 sports options, especially now Kawasaki’s Ninja 400 is no more. It was introduced in 2015 along with its roadster MT-03 bother, updated in 2019 with sharper, MotoGP alike styling, improved suspension, new LCD digital dash and is powered by a willing, perky, 321cc 41bhp parallel twin engine which is a refreshing, revvy alternative to the lumpy singles which mostly populate this class.

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