When you’re starting out in motorcycling and are eligible for an A2 licence what are the best A2 category bikes available in 2023 that you can buy?
If you’re between the ages of 19 and 24, get your provisional licence, take your CBT and pass your theory and practical tests, you qualify for the A2 licence category which, in simple terms, is restricted to bikes of up to 47bhp.
But with more and more A2-specific bikes available for 2023, boosted also by returnees to the market after previously being deleted then modified to meet Euro5, such as Kawasaki’s revived Ninja 400, not to mention increasing options for larger, A2-restricted machines (which we’re not dealing with here), there’s more bikes than ever for sale. So, what’s out there that you can buy and which should you go for? Here’s our pick of the latest and best purpose-built A2 bikes, in price ascending order…
The HNTR (called the Hunter in some foreign markets but renamed for copyright reasons in the UK and elsewhere) was new for 2022 and is a stylish, retro roadster based on the new air-cooled single-cylinder engine which debuted in 2021’s Meteor 350 Custom. Although only 20bhp it’s enough for almost 80mph, is very frugal, flexible, and forgiving and, in our opinion, is more stylish and versatile than the Meteor. It’s also very novice friendly, extremely easy to ride, has impressive build quality and detailing including new switchgear and is incredible value – the latter two reasons being why we’re including it here over Royal Enfield’s more powerful (but now £6K+) 650 twins.
With Honda also offering its excellent, A2-specific, twin cylinder CB500 family (including CB500F roadster, CBR500R sportster, CB500X adventure bike, CMX500 cruiser and CL500 scrambler) it’s easy to overlook its other excellent A2 offering – the CB300R. A lightweight, stylish single, the CB300R fits between Honda’s CB125R and the 500 version, is beautifully put together, light, ridiculously easy and unintimidating to ride and significantly cheaper (and lighter) than the 500 twins, too – just the thing in fact, if you’re operating on a tighter budget or are a little wary of the bigger, heavier 500s. The CB300R was also updated to meet Euro5 in 2022 when it also received uprated suspension and an assist/slipper clutch.
Prestigious German marque BMW were latecomers to the A2 category with its all-new, Indian-built, single-cylinder roadster only being introduced in 2016, but it’s since been joined by a GS version and for 2021 both were also updated slightly to comply with Euro5 along with slightly revised styling, slipper clutch, LED lights and ride-by-wire. Sure, the 34bhp from its novel reverse-cylinder, 313cc single isn’t much to get excited about, but the 310R is very novice-friendly and flexible; the upright ergonomics are good; it’s easily manageable and very unintimidating and the revised S1000R-esque styling, complete with sporty nose cowling and inverted forks is smart and eye-catching. It’s not bad value, either and as an entry into the world of BMW it’s very tempting indeed.
Austrian manufacturer KTM has its roots in off-road and supermoto and its lightweight road singles reflect that heritage with an emphasis on perky performance, lary style and lively handling. In the A2 category, the KTM 390 Duke is the fun-packed joker in the pack. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled, 373cc single that was last updated in 2021 to comply with Euro5, puts out a respectable 43bhp and is a hoot to ride, especially around town. Its styling also received a mild refresh for 2023. Overall, the Duke’s diminutive size, light weight and slimness counts against it over distance or for larger riders but the orange Austrian is still a very tempting buy.
If KTM’s lively 390 Duke appeals but you’d prefer to stand out from the orange crowd and are after something with more rugged, retro styling, the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen or 401 Svartpilen is for you. Husqvarna is now owned by the Austrian marque and these two A2 street singles are based on the 390 Duke with the same engines and most of the chassis, but different styling, clocks, lights and so on. The Vitpilen is a low-slung cafe racer, but we reckon novices will prefer the more upright, scrambler style Svartpilen complete with wire wheels, higher bars and semi-knobbly tyres. It has all the performance of the KTM but with more individuality and cool urban style!
Following the lead of its sportster sister bike, the R3, as significantly updated in 2019, the roadster version of Yamaha’s 321cc A2 twin also received a major makeover in 2020. Although the perky, 41bhp powertrain is largely the same, the MT received new, more aggressive styling, improved front forks, a new LCD dash and tweaked rear shock. But although more aggressive-looking, the MT-03’s riding position is comfortable and upright and now places you more over the front end for a more engaging experience. Better looking and classier, the MT-03 is one of the better A2 roadster options – but it also faces still competition from the likes of Honda’s CB500F.
Like most manufacturers, Yamaha offers a dedicated, A2-compliant bike in both sports and naked roadster variants. In Yamaha’s case these take the form of the sportster R3, as first introduced in 2015 and then called the YZF-R3, and the naked, more upright MT-03, which followed a year later. Both are built in Indonesia to keep costs low and are based around the same, perky, 321cc, 41bhp parallel twin motor. The R3 received a major update in 2019 which much sharper, R1-alike styling to bring it into line with the rest of Yamaha’s sportsters, improved suspension, new LCD dash and more. The result is one of the sportiest-looking (and handling) of A2 sportsters, even if its engine hasn’t quite as much go as Honda’s CBR, yet its riding position and practicality is actually friendlier and more novice-suited than ever. Another Japanese sports A2 bike worth considering is Kawasaki’s recently reintroduced, twin cylinder, £6049 Ninja 400, which is now Euro5 compliant after being dropped in 2020 – although it’s so new we’ve yet to actually review it!
Originally introduced as the CRF250 Rally in 2017, the Rally is a semi-adventure or Dakar Rally-style version of Honda’s CRF single-cylinder trail bike. With a larger (10.1litre in place of 7.7litre) fuel tank plus wind-cheating screen and bodywork it’s longer-legged and better over distance than the trail bike L, making it a better all-round road machine. While the move from 250 to 300cc for 2021 brought with it a worthwhile boost in power from 23 to 27bhp. It’s still a fairly specialist A2 offering and should only appeal if you’re serious about off-roading (if not, Honda’s CB500X is a far better option), but the Rally is unquestionably stylish, decent around town, reasonable over distance and one of the best off-road. Another off-road capable A2 machine to bear in mind is KTM’s 390 Duke based 390 Adventure, at £6299.
Honda’s adventure variant of its A2-licence specific, 47bhp, CB500 twin family (which also includes the CMX500 Rebel cruiser, CB500F roadster, CBR500R sportster and, new for 2023, the CL500 Scrambler) is one of the most popular A2-compliant bikes of all – and with good reason. First introduced in 2013 it was an instant hit for its combination of smooth, flexible twin cylinder performance in a class otherwise dominated by lumpier, lower-powered singles while its roomy, upright performance and reasonable weather protection both suited larger riders and made it a great all-rounder. Updated repeatedly since it received a larger, more adventure-style 19inch front wheel, longer travel suspension and re-style in 2019 while in 2022 it got new Big Piston forks, twin front disc set-up, LED lights, and more, enough in fact to keep it head and shoulders ahead of its A2 adventure rivals – but it’s not cheap!
Reborn under new Indian ownership, BSA’s first offering as launched in 2022 is the Gold Star 650, a middleweight retro roadster that differs from its rival Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor (and Triumph’s larger and more expensive Speed Twin and Bonneville 900s) by being a single-cylinder. That said, performance from the new engine is on par but gruntier and more characterful than the rival twins and the whole bike’s style and build quality is, for us, better than the Enfield, too – although admittedly it is £300 more expensive. If you want an authentic looking, well-executed, engaging yet still easy to ride A2 retro bike there’s none better for the money (although the Enfield does run it close!)
Please keep in mind that, while these bikes are A2 licence-compliant, you have to ride a machine on your test with AT LEAST a 245cc engine that makes 20-35kW with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.2kW.
For much more detail on what bikes you can, or can't ride, see our Guide to Motorcycle Licence Categories
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