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Honda Zoomer (2005-2012)

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49cc, bhp, 30mph, Insurance group 2

Honda’s chunky little 50cc Zoomer is a weird cross between a twist-and-go scooter, a Tonka toy and a stripped-bare army Jeep. It’s easy to ride, nippy and stylish. Honda claim low emissions, it has lots of bungee hooks and there’s lots of storage space, thanks to the skeleton frame and lack of bodywork. They arrived in the UK in 2005, ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5
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Honda BROS NT400 (1988-1992)

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398cc, 31bhp, 94mph, Insurance group 9

Strictly speaking, the BROS 400 is heavy, underpowered and outdated. But the cheap grey imports are surprisingly nice to ride – they’re well balanced, steer well and the engine is flexible, torquey and characterful given its 33bhp output. That also makes it legal for new riders on a restricted licence.

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Yamaha VMX1200 V-Max (1991-2004)

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1198cc, 140bhp, 160mph, Insurance group 15

Mad Max. There, that tells you everything you need to know about the Yamaha VMX1200 V-Max, an ill-handling, raw powered Rottweiller of a motorcycle. The full power 140bhp model is the only one worth having, so skip the early 90s UK spec models with a feeble 95bhp.

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4.5
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Yamaha TRX850 (1996-2000)

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849cc, 79bhp, 135mph, Insurance group 13

A Ducati with Japanese reliability? That was the plan. The Yamaha TRX850 was a match for Ducati’s 900SS of its day but never sold well – the last few machines were ushered out of showrooms for under £4K. Shame. the Yamaha TRX850 is a sporty motorcycle but road biased with tons of character. Can be a bargain on the used ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Suzuki GSF600 Bandit (1996-2005)

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600cc, 78bhp, 129mph, Insurance group 12

The Suzuki GSF600 Bandit was so successful it spawned a whole class. Budget middleweight roadsters. The recipe is simple take one aging but acceptable supersport engine, bung it in a basic, straightforward roadster chassis and price it as keenly as possible. The first Bandits proved best sellers, great for novices and as all-rounders. Latest versions are now 650cc and there’s ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Triumph Sprint RS (1999-2004)

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955cc, 118bhp, 154mph, Insurance group 14

Never a big seller when new but the Triumph Sprint RS can be a real bargain on the used market. Sporty sports tourer with Triumph’s powerful, mellifluous three cylinder engine. The Triumph Sprint RS is similar to the better selling Sprint ST but with a cheaper and lighter conventional swingarm, less plastic, firmer suspension, sharper geometry and a different exhaust. The ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4.5
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Gas Gas Pampera (2001-2005)

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248cc, 20bhp, 81mph, Insurance group 7

The Gas Gas Pampera 250 MK III is one of the great trail motorcycles of modern times. It’s particularly suitable for shorties and more inexperienced riders, thanks to its combination of easy manners and low seat height (for a trail bike). Spanish factory Gas Gas has a good history of making quality off-roaders and they have a string of world titles ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 0
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Ducati 916/996/998 (1994-2005)

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998cc, 123bhp, 170mph, Insurance group 17

Evolution of the legendary Ducati 916 has an even punchier engine and a refined chassis. It’s still an uncompromising motorcycle designed to lap tracks fast which means it’s not such fun on a wet back road but it always makes the rider feel very special - whether they’re out on a blast or just staring at the Ducati 916, 996 or 998s gorgeous ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4.5
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BMW R1200C (1997-2005)

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1170cc, 61bhp, 105mph, Insurance group 13

The BMW R1200C is a Harley-Davidson rival with German engineering. Like most cruisers, it sells on looks – this one had a part in a Bond movie too. Power is pretty modest considering the 1200cc engine but it’s enough. Dynamically it’s better than many cruisers thanks to quality engineering and light(ish) weight.  

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5
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Ducati 749 (2003-2007)

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748cc, 116bhp, 150mph, Insurance group 15

Preferred by some to the Ducati 999, and for good reason. The Ducati 749 is a cheaper motorcycle new or used, plus the smaller engine makes just the right amount of power for the chassis in certain road riding situations. The Ducati 749 has a kind of balance, an addictive precision, in its steering, acceleration and braking that makes it a machine that ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4

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