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Guide to: A2 permissible bikes

We pick through the minefield of choosing an A2 ready bike

AS OF the 19th of January, the system of motorcycle licencing in the UK changed. We explained what the new A2 licence meant for new riders. But now you want to know what bikes you can ride on it, I suppose?

Here is our guide to the bikes deemed eligible by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) to take an A2 test on. The list will continue to grow as more and more manufacturers release bikes in line with the new legislation (for example, the Kawasaki Z800e pre-restricted has been released since the DSA's list was announced), but as it stands the list is strange to be sure. Some bikes which can be restricted are missing (Honda CB500 anyone?), and there are some bizarre inclusions (the Brough Superior of all things made the cut - we haven't covered it in our list in protest). A number of bikes on the list require restriction in order to meet the requirements.

So without further ado, here is a manufacturer-wise list of the offerings at A2 level which have recieved the official stamp of approval, with quick access guide below:

Click 'next page' to begin...

BMW

G650GS

One of the first of the new breed of A2-friendly big bikes, the G650GS looks to be an extremely solid option for those wanting to move upwards. The G650GS is a comfortable all rounder with off-road styling and solid ability across the board. Owners report superb mpg figures, good handling and real adaptability, as well as a good price point. The fact that it is one of a still relatively small number of A2 bikes that are born that way, not requiring restriction, makes the G650GS near the top of the list of bikes to consider for those looking for their first big bike. However there have been some question marks over reliability.

Price: £6,195 upwards

Read owners' reviews of the BMW G650GS.

Gilera

Fuoco 500ie

A pretty left-field option, and symptomatic of the scattergun approach the DSA seem to have taken with their list, but the Fuoco 500ie is a strong contender nonetheless - particularly for urban commuters. It merges the comfort of a large scooter with the power of a biggish bike, whilst having an advantage that neither have - that second front wheel. Its absolutely ideal for urban riding, user-friendly and no wider than a big scooter. It also has enough 'go' to see you through most situations. Riding position is high, making you visible and confident on the road, especially with that (almost) skid-proof dual front wheel set-up. Worth a look. 

Price: £5,999

Read owners' reviews about the Gilera Fuoco 500ie.

Honda

SLR650/FX650

Inside the bhp limit without restriction but without much more to recommend it, the SLR650 was only made for three years and was far from a commercial success in the UK. It was re-released as the FX650, but still failed to make much of a dent in the collective consciousness. This is largely due to it being inferior to Honda's own CB500: quality control was hit and miss, it was hair-raising at high speeds (not in a good way) and visually it was dated from the outset. In fact, the SLR650 had been fairly comprehensively banished to the dustbin of history, until the DSA decided to include it on their list...

NC700S

Easy to ride and super-economical (some report figures of 80mpg), Honda's NC700S has a strong reputation. A2 ready 'out-of-the-box', and priced temptingly, you'd be hard pressed to find a reason not to consider this one. The engine doesn't lack ability despite the bike's relative heaviness and the ride is comfortable across a variety of situations. Not the most striking looking bike in the street, but neither is it bad-looking, and for those who aren't bothered about such things the NC700S should tick all the right boxes. The NC700S isn't known for being a thrill-a-minute, and is a fairly sedate choice, but that is far from necessarily a negative thing in the context of the novice rider. ABS is included.

Price: £5,950

Read owners' reviews of the Honda NC700S.

VT750 SHADOW

A solid mid-level cruiser type, the Shadow is a pretty strong substitute for a Harley (conspicuously absent from the A2 approved list) in the A2 sector. Combining modern styling with a strong nod to it's cruiser heritage, capable engine and decent fuel figures, the Shadow is well worth a look if cruisers float your boat. A big selling point is the highly reliable engine. Not the lightest out there, but those on the hunt for a custom-style bike weren't considering that anyway, really. 

Price: £7,300

Read owners' reviews of the Honda VT750 Shadow.

VT750S

A smart retro naked all-rounder, the VT750s has a loyal following and with good reason. A small tank makes it unsuitable for long stints on the hard stuff, but the bike handles well, is reliable and has enough torque at the low end to convince you of it's urban credentials. The fact that it doesn't require restriction is a significant advantage as well, and taking in consideration the very generous price tag, the VT750S should be on the short list for all new A2 riders as one to look into. 

Price: £5,845

HUSQVARNA

TE 449/511

Aggressive looks, powerful engine and capable across all surfaces, the TE449 and 511 are vigorous and exciting. Husqvarna are off-road specialists and they have distilled all their knowledge here. The frame is quite wide and tall which is an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you look at it - some will love the riding position, perched atop the high saddle. A specialist option, but a strong one without doubt. 

Price: £7,075-£7,175

TR 650 STRADA (restricted)

Husqvarna have been making inroads into the on-road market, distancing themselves slightly from their traditional off-road market (perhaps the stewardship of BMW has something to do with it). The Strada and Terra represent their latest efforts in this area, with the Strada the more 'on road' styled of the two. The Strada rider will be looking for a low-cost, versatile bike which is not overly intimidating and offers the height and seating position of the off-roader. Restriction required, shaving 11bhp off its respectable 58 to meet the limit. 

Price: £5,971

Read owners' reviews of the Husqvarna TR650 Strada.

TR 650 TERRA (restricted)

Of the two new Husqvarna bikes, the Terra represents the more traditionally off-road side of the coin. A very convincing and versatile option, affordable, easy to ride and ideal for the urban environment as well as it's off-road home. The engine is punchy and eager without being disconcerting - the Terra is worthy of consideration for new A2 licence holders looking for a versatile, comfortable, managable off-road style bike to see them through urban scenarios and country roads alike.

Price: £5,271

Read owners' reviews of the Husqvarna TR650 Terra.

KAWASAKI

ER-5 (restricted)

Kawasaki's ER-5 is a stalwart of training schools everywhere for good reason - ridiculously easy to maintain and very friendly to the novice, the ER-5 is certainly no-frills but by no means bad for it. A direct competitor to the CB500, some might say it comes away the loser, but the ER-5 is by no means not a solid bike. A very easy ride and very affordable as a used buy, the ER-5 should be considered by those on the hunt for a first big bike. 

Read owners' reviews of the Kawasaki ER-5.

ER-6F (restricted)

A superb beginner bike. Economical, reliable, quick and easy to ride, the ER-6F is a real head-turner whilst also being user-friendly and confidence building as a first big bike. The ER-6F has a superb reputation as a bike to use around town, sounding and looking the part and as well as staying cheap to run and maintain. The fairing divides opinion, although it should keep the wind off, high speeds can be disconcerting for some. Certainly a strong candidate despite the required restriction. 

Price: £6,099

Read owners' reviews of the Kawasaki ER-6F.

ER-6n (restricted)

A great all-round middleweight that holds its own against the competition with ease. Practical, inexpensive and nippy for its size, the ER-6n is a popular runner. Restricted to meet the A2 limit but still a good option, as with it's faired sibling, but has many of the same advantages. An unusual looking but appealing beast on top of the strong performance, the ER-6n is a contender.

Price: £5,899.

Read owners' reviews of the Kawasaki ER-6n.

Versys (restricted)

Kawasaki aimed the Versys directly at the adventure market. The Versys has a high seat height, solid suspension and a good price point which make this a great option for putting on the miles. Economical and comfortable with a pillion the Versys is a great adventure bike on a budget. Odd-looking, but a selling point for some. Must be restricted to meet the A2 requirements taking some off the puff off the top end, but looking at A2-permissible adventure tourers it is hard to dismiss the Versys. A very strong player. 

Price: £6,649

Read owners' reviews of the Kawasaki Versys.

VN900 (restricted)

Kawasaki's cruiser contribution, the VN900 really looks the part. Good at low revs and a comfortable ride - if you like the cruiser style you could do a hell of a lot worse that the VN900. The gearbox and motor are smooth and forgiving, and give decent power for the money. The disadvantages are those that plague all cruisers - long, heavy and not brilliant around corners. But, when did buying a cruiser involve any of those considerations? 

Price: £7,299

Read owners' reviews of the Kawasaki VN900.

W800

One of the best options avaliable for those looking for a more vintage style at A2 level. The W800 is Kawasaki's interpretation of retro style, and combines good build quality with unusual styling. Very fuel efficient, and brilliant around town as well as competent enough until top motorway speeds, the W800 is could become a very popular choice, as unlike Kawasaki's other offerings it doesn't require restriction to meet the limit. 

Price: £6,899

Read owners' reviews of the Kawasaki W800.

KTM

690 Duke (restricted)

KTM's Duke range is one of the most talked-about models of recent years, with striking looks and top performance. If you fall on the right side over the Duke's Marmite looks, taking the hit on the restriction will be a no brainer. Not the cheapest at the level, but it hasn't stopped them selling and for good reason. 

Price: £6,595

Read owners' reviews of the KTM 690 Duke.

MOTO GUZZI

V7 Cafe Classic

One of the most left-field options permissable under the A2 limitation, the V7 is an extremely cool-looking bike. For those left cold by the slightly functional feel of some of the bikes on our list, this is for you. A faithful recreation of Guzzi's seminal cafe racer, featuring up-to-date tech and refined styling, it's difficult to see why an A2er wouldn't at least consider this little gem. A great runner around town and a torquey, exciting engine should keep riders happy as long as you're not hankering for serious motorway miles. 

Price: £6,169

Read owners' reviews of the Moto Guzzi V7.

SUZUKI

GS 500F

Suzuki's cheap and cheerful 500 is just that. Although the bike is cheap and quick around town, build quality is a consistent problem. Good for the shorter rider due to a relatively low seat height and it's quite fuel efficient. Not brilliant at high speed, but some will say you can't argue with the price as you will now be hunting around the used market for one...

Read owners' reviews of the Suzuki GS500F.

GSX650F/FA (restricted)

One of the most interesting bikes at the A2 level, the GSX650 is comfortable, reliable and quick. It is comfortable enough as a result of the 'tourer' half of its lineage, but sporty and wieldy with it. Those new to big bikes would certainly benefit from the high wind screen and slightly upright riding position - the compromise between full sports and tourer works well for the novice, keeping the wind off but enabling peppy riding.  

Price: £6,285

Read owners' reviews of the Suzuki GSX650F.

SFV 650S/SA (restricted)

The SFV 650S is an ideal first big bike. Good fun and ideal for the shorter rider and inexpensive for what it offers. The SFV 650S handles well, has plenty of power and is comfortable over distance.

Price: £6,399

Read owners' reviews of the Suzuki SFV 650S.

VL800 (restricted)

Suzuki's contribution in the cruiser sector, the VL800 is a solid all rounder. A very refined beast, the VL800 is smooth and pleasurable - as well as being relatively well priced. As always the cruiser is a species of its own that won't appeal to all but for those on the hunt for one at A2 level, the VL800 is worth a look. 

Read owners' reviews of the Suzuki VL800.

VZ800 (restricted)

Known for a comfortable ride, decent engine and good looks, the VZ800 is the next in the DSA's pretty comprehensive list of permissible cruiser-types. A well thought-of bike, straying into the luxurious at some points. If you're in the market from a cruiser you're spoilt for choice at A2 level this is worth serious consideration. 

Yamaha

MT-03

Yamaha's MT-03 is a relatively popular choice and solidly approaching the top end of the A2 limit. Plenty of torque at the low end which makes it great around town and on short journeys, although not a great choice for those looking to do lots of big distances - it lacks protection and power plateaus disappointingly after a certain point. A small tank and modest mpg figures also limit its appeal for those looking for an adventure.

Price: £7,399 

Read owners' reviews of the Yamaha MT-03.

XP500 TMAX

Slotting neatly into the slightly niche 'sport scooter' sector, the XP500 TMAX is one Yamaha's excellent large scooters within the A2 licence criteria. Lots of pace and decent handling coupled with the practicalities of a scooter, the XP500 is an accomplished urban warrior. Plenty of storage and a luxurious feel make this a great commuter - if you can hack the price. 

Price: £8,699

Read owners' reviews of the Yamaha XP500 TMAX.

XT660R

A bit of a specialist option. The XT660R was born on the dirt and is perfect for its function - but that makes it less versatile for urban use. It's cheap, cheerful and pretty well built - tough enough to take on most challenges the average off-roader is likely to chuck at it. 

Price: £6,499

Read owners' reviews of the Yamaha XT660R.

XT660X

Yamaha's popular Supermoto is a great unrestricted option for A2 licence holders. Plenty of off-road bite but buoyed by a hugely comfortable riding position making it ideal as an urban tool. The rider is sat high above the traffic whilst feeling confident and comfortable - perfect for the novice. Not ideal for the long motorway rides, but then that isn't where any Supermoto shines. 

Read owners' reviews of the Yamaha XT660X.

XT660Z TENERE

A solid competitor in the touring/adventure sector, the XT660Z Tenere has a loyal following. Known for good fuel efficiency, comfort and providing an easy ride, the XT600Z is a very confident player for those looking for an ideal traveler. Available on the used market at respectable prices, and it doesn't need to be restricted.

Price: £7,000

Read owners' reviews of the Yamaha XT660Z Tenere.

YP400 Majesty

Practical and a surprising performer, the YP400 must be high on the list of super scooters under the the A2 licencing regime. Owners report a reliable, quick ride with good handling - the perfect urban performer with a healthy dash of power in there. 

Price: £6,399

Read owners' reviews of the Yamaha YP400 Majesty.