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The 10 Best Motorcycles you can buy with an A2-licence for 2021

You've never had such a wide and varied selection of motorcycles armed with an A2 licence... but which are the best you can buy right now?

Royal Interceptor 650

The arrival of Triumph’s new entry-level Trident for 2021 has heightened interest in ‘first big bikes’ once again. 

But while most people know what’s available in the A1, 125cc class and the 50cc bikes accessible to 16-year-olds on an AM licence are fairly self-evident, the same can’t be said of the A2 class.

The A2 licence is available to riders over 19 who have successfully completed CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) and passed both their theory test and two-part practical test. If you’re coming to A2 from the A1/125cc category you need to have held a FULL A1 licence for at least two years. 

In general terms A2 bikes must be at least 395cc, have a minimum power output of 27bhp and a maximum of 47bhp. A further complication is that they must have a maximum power/weight ratio of 0.2kW/kg. More powerful bikes that, via an official manufacturer restriction, are detuned to under 47bhp also qualify for A2 with the proviso that they did not originally produce over 70kW (90bhp).

The net result of that is that purpose-built A2 bikes tend to be between 380 and 500cc and are usually lightweight singles or twins, although many manufacturers also now offer restricted versions of larger bikes, too – which is where the new models like the Trident and the Aprilia RS 660 come in.

2021 TRIUMPH TRIDENT 660 - FULL REVIEW

Indeed, you might be surprised by the quantity, quality and variety of what’s on offer – including everything from pukka adventure machines to fun-packed super motos. 

For this list we have stuck to the ‘value and accessibility’ ethos the A2-licence reflects (which rules out the upper end Aprilia RS 660 et al. offerings).

KTM 390 Duke (from £4299)

While Austrian off-road specialists KTM made its name in off-road sport, its street ‘supermoto’ cousins have also recently carved out a reputation for being the best of the breed. 

The first 620 Duke, basically a wild, street version of its big enduro, hit the roads in 1995 and KTM has barely had time to look back since with currently 125, 390, 790, 890 and 1290 Dukes all at the top of their classes when it comes to potency and sheer loony fun. 

The 390 version is the most A2-relevent and maintains the tradition brilliantly. Updated to its current form in 2017 it’s light and nimble, punchy with 44bhp, high spec with a classy TFT dash, LED headlight and quality WP suspension and, above all, tremendous hooliganistic fun – especially around town or in short bursts. 

It might not suit larger riders or anyone wanting to ride over 20 miles but it’s one of the most fun A2 bikes you can buy – and at reasonable money, too.

BMW G310R (from £4875)

Once upon a time a classy BMW motorcycle was out of reach for all but the most well-heeled, experienced of motorcyclists – but not any more. The German marque’s novice-targeted G310 series (there’s an enduro-styled GS to go along with this R Roadster) was introduced in 2016 aimed specifically at first time A2 riders and it does a better-than-average job, too. 

Built in cooperation with India’s TVS to keep costs down, the R is a stylish, willing, 313cc, 34bhp single, is a doddle to ride, has enough quality BMW touches to satisfy (inverted forks, four piston brakes etc).

Moreover, is improved further for 2021 to satisfy Euro5 regulations with improved styling and a new LED headlight. A2 roadsters don’t get much classier.

Yamaha MT-03 (from £5198)

The MT-03 is the naked version of its R3 sportster twin and like that bike, for 2020, also received a significant update making it one of the best, most stylish and better equipped of all A2-qualifying roadsters. 

As with the R3 (below) its willing 321cc twin cylinder motor now produces a healthy but less  intimidating 41bhp. The riding position has been altered slightly to deliver a more engaging ride; the suspension is improved; the styling completely overhauled to be more aggressive and there’s a new, classy, digital LCD dash. 

The result is one of the best, if not THE best, all-round A2 roadsters for its blend of style, fun, versatility and value. 

Just the thing, in fact, before you step up to maybe an MT-07, MT-09 or MT-10, at least, we’re sure that’s how Yamaha would have you progress…

Yamaha R3 (from £5458)

What’s better than an MT-03… well, the R3 may not be ‘better’ but it’s certainly going to get you noticed more. If you’re after true MotoGP sportster style and have aspirations to be the next Rossi or Vinales A2 bikes don’t get more authentic than Yamaha’s R3. 

First introduced in 2015 with the naked, roadster MT-03 version (above) following a year later, it was significantly updated and restyled in 2019 with the result now more a MotoGP replica than ever, without compromising its novice-friendly and versatile manners. 

At its heart is a free-revving yet reasonably flexible 321cc, 41bhp parallel twin that gives it a smooth character rival singles can’t match. Fancy new inverted front forks along with revised ergonomics make the R3 feel sportier than before while there’s also a full LCD dash in the cockpit. 

Although not the cheapest or most versatile of A2 sportsters, the R3 isn’t far behind and is arguably the best looking of all.

Royal Enfield Interceptor/Continental GT 650 (from £5699/£5899)

Indian-owned Royal Enfield’s all-new but British-developed 650cc retro twins (Enfield has an R&D facility in the British Midlands) have received glowing reviews since their eagerly-anticipated introduction in 2016 and it’s not hard to understand why. 

Both are retro-style, novice-friendly roadsters in a similar vein to Triumph’s all-conquering Bonneville family. But where the cheapest Triumph, the Street Twin, starts at £8100, the roadster Interceptor and café racer Continental start at a hugely tempting £5699 – and, being 47bhp, is A2 compliant to boot. 

Admittedly neither is quite as sophisticated, slick or solid as their Hinckley rivals but that hardly matters. They’re good looking, have the right name on the tank, are genuine air-cooled retro twins, easy to ride, handle well enough and will just about top ‘the ton’, too. 

If you’re after an A2-compliant retro nothing really comes close.

KTM 390 Adventure (from £5499)

New-for-2020, the 390 Adventure is the Austrian off-road and adventure bike specialists’ smallest adventure machine so far but, being based on the same, punchy 390cc single that’s so admired in its Duke supermoto and RC390 sportster

It’s wrapped in a lightweight but credible adventure bike chassis derived from that of KTM’s 790 Adventure, it’s not short of credibility or ability. Being a true dual-purpose machine it has long travel suspension, a big 19-inch dirt front wheel and a fairly high seat so it suits larger riders but it’s also slim and light enough to not be too intimidating for novices. 

Unlike some adventure-style A2 bikes (Honda’s CB500X, for example), it’s also genuinely capable in the dirt making it one of the most versatile of all A2-class bikes.

Honda CB500X (from £6119)

Honda’s purpose-built, A2 family of 500cc twins, as first introduced way back in 2013, has been one of the success stories of the class and, as they’ve been successively – and successfully – updated since they’ve managed to stay ahead of the pack.

Three bikes were introduced initially, the CB500F roadster, CB500X adventure-styled bike and CBR500R sportster, all based around the same willing 47bhp 471cc parallel twin motor and affordable but effective chassis.  

The X, being the roomiest and most upright, was always the one that suited taller riders best yet, being half-faired, was comfortable and versatile as well. A thorough update in 2019 with a larger 19inch front wheel and more ground clearance, not to mention a styling refresh and new dash, enhanced its adventure looks without compromising its easy, all round manners. 

The CB500X is accessible and easy, is truly all-day versatile, its smooth, effective engine is probably the best in the category and it’s now classier than ever – no wonder it’s so popular.

Kawasaki Ninja 400, (from £5599)

There’s no denying the evergreen allure of a Ninja. Kawasaki’s sports bikes have always had an ‘edginess’ few others can match while in racing its ZX-10R has been the undisputed king of world superbikes for the best part of a decade – and that stature has washed down to Kawasaki’s smaller Ninjas, too. 

The 400 version stands out. Launched in 2018, it’s derived from the preceding Ninja 300, itself first launched in 2012 in turn derived from the well-regarded Ninja 250 from 2008. All were characterized by revvy, potent twin-cylinder engines and decent-handling chassis that that made them the most credible sportsters in their class. 

The latest 400 is no different. With sharp, fresh, ‘mini ZX-10R’ styling and eager, flexible power delivery peaking at 44bhp, sharp but easy handling and plenty of quality touches it’s unquestionably one of the best sports machines in the A2 class.

Honda’s CBR may have a touch more oomph and versatility; Yamaha’s R3 closer MotoGP styling but the Ninja retains that Kawasaki ‘edge’ others can’t match.

Honda CRF250L/Rally (from £4949/£5649 new)

Traditional ‘trail’ bikes – machines that are genuinely dual-purpose in being capable of being both ridden on the road and on gentle dirt ‘trails’ – are few and far between these days compared to their popular heyday in the late 1979s and early 1980s, but there’s one that’s definitely worth a mention here. 

Honda’s CRF250L as introduced in 2012 is in the classic trail bike mould by being a lightweight, single-cylinder, 250cc ‘mud plugger’, qualifies for A2 by producing just 23bhp yet is also a full-sized machine that’s easy to ride, suits larger riders, is great around town and can go off-road as well. 

Sure, we wouldn’t fancy it much on motorways, but the faired, ‘Rally’-style version covers that. Better still, both 250s are being updated and enlarged for 2021 to become the CRF300L/Rally respectively, with power now up to 27bhp.

Honda CBR500R (from £6149)

Honda have a long history of making sports bikes that are also brilliant all-rounders – the best-selling 1990s CBR600F was testament to that – and its latter-day, A2-licence-compliant CBR500R is the latest example. 

It’s based around the same brilliant, easy-going, flexible yet also fun and fast 500cc twin to give a sense of a full-sized sports machine (which, surely, is the whole point of an A2 class machine). First launched in 2014, the 47bhp, easy handling CBR was good fresh out of the box with the only criticism being its slightly basic spec and rather dowdy styling. 

Both have been updated twice since with the latest 2019 refresh bringing ‘mini-Fireblade’ styling, LED lights, carbon-effect infill panels and sharper, more engaging handling to go with its already peerless rideability. 

If you want a sports-style A2 bike, the CBR may not be the cheapest but it’s the best, most proven and now looks as sharp as the rest, too.