Top 10 air-cooled bikes you can still buy new in the UK

air-cooled bikes are becoming less common as Euro emissions regulations take hold - here are the ten best air-cooled motorcycles you can buy in the UK

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WITH Euro5 now fully in effect, and, with it, the final killing-off of air-cooled bikes  like Harley’s 883/1200 Sportsters and Honda’s CB1100 it begs the question – what larger capacity air-cooled bikes (plenty of air-cooled 125s more easily get through Euro5) can you still buy?

In truth, there’s more than you might expect – and we’re not including ‘faux’ air-cooled retros such as Triumph’s Bonneville family or revived BSA’s new Gold Star which are styled to look air-cooled but actually have radiator-cooled fluid running through their engines. After all, 2021 also saw the introduction of not only BMW’s all-new, 1800cc, air-cooled cruiser, the R 18, but also Royal Enfield’s Meteor 350. But there’s also a surprising number of other air-cooled bikes which you can still get your hands on, at least until Euro6! Here’s our pick of the best, in alphabetical order…

Top ten best air-cooled bikes

Benelli Imperiale 400, from £3699

Here’s a proper, classic-branded air-cooled retro that seems to slip under the radar. The Imperiale may be Chinese-made and produce just 20bhp from its Euro5-compliant air-cooled, 373cc, four-stroke single but it’s also an authentic-looking roadster with pukka wire wheels, peashooter silencer and more and, best of all, it costs just £3699 (+OTR) which not only undercuts by far Triumph Bonnevilles and likely the new BSA Gold Star and more but is also £200 cheaper than even Royal Enfield’s latest (and similarly powered) Meteor 350.

BMW R 18, from £16,999

The German giant caused something of a sensation when it launched its all-new classic cruiser. The biggest boxer ever was also its first new air-cooled boxer in over 40 years but, best of all, with a mix of heritage BMW and classic cruiser styling, high tech features such as riding modes, sumptuous quality and decent 90bhp performance, it rode as good as it looked. BMW has also since added bagger and full-dresser versions which are even more luxurious. Who said air-cooled bikes were dead? ‘R nineT’ did you say? Doesn’t count. It’s got oil-cooled heads…

Ducati Scrambler 800, from £7995

The Italian legend’s Monsters may now be all liquid-cooled and its Sport Classics a thing of the past but there’s still not one, but two air-cooled ‘Dukes’ available new. Its retro-inspired Scramblers are keeping air-cooling alive (for now) with the 73bhp, 800cc versions, currently including the Icon, Icon Dark, Desert Sled and Nightshift, and soon to be joined by the funky new Urban Motard, are deservedly popular for their mix of great looks, fun accessible performance and mix of old and new features. The cheapest, the Icon Dark, at £7995, is a steal; the trail style Desert Sled, from £10,495, is the most long-legged but the new Urban Motard, from £10,395 might be the new pick of the bunch…

Ducati Scrambler 1100, from £10,995

Ducati added larger, 1100cc variants to its Scrambler family in 2018 to appeal to more experience, performance-demanding riders and, although the larger air-cooled V-twin only produces 85bhp, the higher spec suspension, modes and more significantly improve the experience. The cheapest is the Dark Pro from £10,995, plus there’s the Pro, £13,595 Sport Pro and new-for-2022 Tribute Pro from £11,995 which again, in value terms, may be our pick of the group…

Harley-Davidson ‘big twins’, from £13,795

The US V-twin cruiser legend’s smaller, air-cooled 883 and 1200cc Sportsters famously bit the dust last year to be replaced by an all-new liquid-cooled version. But its even more iconic ‘big twins’ have so far managed to survive thanks to subtle refinements to their ‘Milwaukee-Eight’ pushrod engines – even though some of the bigger ‘full-dresser’ versions, such as the Road Glide and Ultra Limited now feature liquid-cooled heads. Grab an American classic while you still can!

Indian Chief, from £16,195

Revived Harley rival Indian have made a big impact on the US scene since its reintroduction, first with an all-new ‘Thunderstoke’ air-cooled, big bore V-twin family in 2013 before supplementing it with an equally all-new, but liquid-cooled, smaller capacity, Sportster-rivalling Scout family from 2014. The bigger Chief had a significant makeover in 2021, partly to comply with Euro5, and with the new Chief Dark Horse cruiser, Chief Bobber, Super Chief bagger, Springfield and Chieftain faired baggers and Roadmaster full dresser are more than worth a look. The different engine, liquid-cooled Challenger, meanwhile, provides even more performance.

MASH 400 & 650s, from £3999

MASH is a relatively new retro inspired brand based in Belgium that designs its machine in Europe then has them built using fairly old tech air-cooled, single-cylinder engines in China but unlike similar brands produces not just 125s but also Euro5 compliant 250s, a Yam SR500-alike 400 and three 650s highlighted by the Yam XT500-reminiscent X-Ride 650 Classic starting at £5599.

Moto Guzzi V7, from £8200

The Italian ‘Grand Dame’s air-cooled transverse V-twin powered V7 has been the closest rival to Triumph’s retro roadster Bonneville ever since the former was first launched in 744cc, 48bhp form as the V7 Classic back in 2008. Although not quite as quick at the Brit, the Guzzi’s authenticity and charm made it a big hit, spawning a family of spin-offs and successively updated engines. Today its Guzzi’s biggest selling bike and the new-for-2021, Euro5-compliant V7 has the latest 850cc engine from the V9 producing a long over-due 65bhp making it the best V7 yet. The black-out Stone is the basic version, but we’d go for the classier, chromed V7 Special for just £400 more which also has alloy-rimmed wire wheels, a better seat and sweeter chromed twin dial clocks.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350, from £3899

Launched in 2021 the Meteor is Indian-owned Royal Enfield’s latest bike and intended as an affordable, novice-friendly introduction to the brand. Impressively, it’s all-new 349cc air-cooled four-stroke single cylinder engine gets through Euro5, although it has to be said it only produces 20bhp. Its semi-cruiser styling might not suit everyone, either. But it’s willing and easy, the most nicely built Enfield yet, a useful introduction perhaps to the bigger 650 (below) and, starting at just £3899, temptingly cheap.

Royal Enfield 650, from £6039

Yes, it’s no surprise that our final air-cooled pick is another Enfield, but the 650cc twin, which was launched in 2018 in both retro roadster Interceptor form and café racer Continental GT guises, has proved such a hit for its pleasing charm, decent 47bhp A2-compliant performance and great value that it has also proved such a hit it was impossible to ignore here. Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges and lacks the class and refinement of Triumph’s now Far East-built twins, but for retro style, authentic branding and details, pleasing performance and the air-cooled experience on a budget, nothing comes close. Who said air-cooled bikes were dead?

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