Top 10 great 2-strokes for under £3000


A GREAT two-stroke for under £3k? A few years ago that would have been easy – virtually everything would have slotted into that price category. Not anymore, though.

So put aside notions of a Suzuki GT750 or Kawasaki H2; our budget might get you a box-of-bits rebuild candidate, but little more. Good ones are passing the £10k mark now and even rolling restoration candidates are out of reach. And if you’re thinking that an RG500 or RD500 will be heading the list, you’re out of luck too; you’d need double our budget to bag a half-decent one.

And with those legendary stokers already out of reach, their less famous siblings are starting to head north, price-wise, as well. There’s no option of a new two-stroke bike these days, so the ranks of nostalgic riders looking to relive their youth must pick from an ever-shrinking number of good secondhand machines.

Read on for our pick of the top ten two-strokes under £3k

10. Bridgestone 350GTR/GTO:

Straight in there with an oddball. Rare as a housetrained unicorn in this country and probably nicer to look at than to ride, a Bridgestone is always going to be a conversation piece even if you’re not riding it. We’ll leave you to Google the back story if you’re not already familiar with it, but legend relates that Bridgestone (yes, the tyre firm) made a bike so advanced that its rivals – which were also its customers when it came to tyres – effectively forced them to stop making them with threats to shop elsewhere for their OEM rubber. True or not the tale reflects how well-regarded these little machines were. Finding one will be tough, but when they come up for auction, average ones tend to be within our price range.

9. Honda CR500:

It wouldn’t be hard to fill this list with non-road-legal bikes – after all, £3k will get you many a track-ready ex-race stroker, not to mention trials bikes and, of course, motocrossers. But as soon as we started thinking of two-stroke crossers, the legendary CR500 couldn’t be dismissed. Not a bike that you’re actually likely to want to do much serious motocrossing on, it’s famously too much for most riders. It’s an experience of its own nonetheless. Of course, there’s always the option of turning it into a road-legal enduro or supermoto if you’re really insane, too… 

4=. Kawasaki KR1S:

Splitting our next five contenders is virtually impossible. On the used market, the decision between them will depend as much on budget and the condition of individual bikes as the relative pros and cons of the models. All are fairly evenly matched and have their own attractions. When it comes to the KR1S, the attraction is that nutter-bike reputation and more power than most of its rivals. The downside is the reliability – no conversation about the KR1S is complete without a ‘nipping up’ tale. Look after it, be sympathetic, and it should be OK, though. 

4=. Yamaha TZR250:

There isn’t enough space here to go into the finer details of the different varieties of TZR. Relatively expensive and rare even when new, they were race reps of the truest variety and as such mimicked the 250cc GP bikes that Yamaha fielded at the time. Parallel twin was followed by reverse-cylinder and finally a V-twin. Our budget probably limits you to the earlier parallel twins, though. Or you can go mad and try to find one of the awesome-looking, naked R1Z machines powered by the same engine, which should also be in the price range.

4=. Honda NSR250:

As with the Yamaha, there are endless varieties of NSR so picking the best will depend on the era and style you prefer as well as your budget. Some of the rarer, more exotic versions will be too expensive already, leaving 1980s machines the most likely targets in our price range. Honda quality is a bonus on bikes this old…

4=. Suzuki RGV250:

Of all the two-stroke sports bikes on the market, the RGV is the easiest to find and offers the widest choice in our price range. Not the most exotic of strokers, they’re relatively reliable and parts are easier to find than some bikes on this list. If the race-rep styling doesn’t do it for you, there’s also the RGV250 Wolf to consider, with its naked streetfighter looks.

4=. Aprilia RS250:

If you’re looking for a modern (ish), reliable (ish) stroker, the RS250 is probably your best bet. The engine is from the RGV, so parts are available, while the chassis is GP-inspired and has the handling to reflect it.

3. Yamaha TDR250:

Since dual-sport bikes are all the rage at the moment the TDR is increasing looking like it was a vision of the future – combining Paris-Dakar-derived styling with the engine from a TZR. It had no rivals when it was new and none today either. With more than 40bhp from that sports bike engine, performance isn’t far from the full-on race rep strokers while the riding position is more suited to full-size people.

2. Honda NS400R:

This almost didn’t make the cut at all because prices have been racing upwards. Our budget will get one that runs and might even be road legal, but minters are far beyond £3k already. And for good reason – that two-stroke, three-cylinder motor is nearly up there with the RD500 and RG500 while the NS offers better handling than either. Throw in awesome 1980s-racer looks (whether you prefer Rothmans or Spencer rep) and the NS400R is a tempting package. Downsides include hard-to-find parts, iffy reliability and performance that, in standard form, isn’t significantly better than a 250 (although the right tweaks transform it).

1. Yamaha RD350LC/YPVS:

Legend. That’s the only way to sum up the RD350LC. Sure the later 250cc sports bikes will beat it, both in a straight line and around corners, but this bike’s reputation is so firmly bolted to motorcycling folklore that even when all the other machines on this list have receded to being minor historical footnotes the LC will stand proud as the bike that defined a generation. Just as the FS1E is a machine that stands for more than its actual ability, the RD350 transcends its physical attributes. Our budget won’t buy the best, but with a production run that didn’t finish until 1995 (outlasting many of the more modern machines on this list) there are plenty to pick from. The last, Brazilian-made bikes aren’t as nice as the earlier, Japanese ones but they have youth on their side. Buy well, get the best you can afford, and you really shouldn’t lose any money when you come to sell it on.

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