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Yamaha XJ600 Diversion (1992-2004)

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599cc, 61bhp, 117mph, Insurance group 9

The Yamaha XJ600 Diversion is a Vauxhall Astra diesel amongst motorcycles… with all the worthiness (and dreariness) that implies. Designed from the outset to be soft, cheap, versatile, simple and novice-friendly, the curiously-named Yamaha XJ600 Diversion is pleasant, predictable and a useful hack. But note the complete absence of the words ‘desire’, ‘excitement’, ‘performance’ or ‘thrills’.

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5
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Suzuki RF600R (1993-1997)

N/A

599cc, 100bhp, 147mph, Insurance group 14

As Suzuki’s much anticipated and long overdue early 1990s CBR600 rival, the Suzuki RF600R nearly came up trumps. Nearly, but not quite. The Suzuki RF600R's revvy engine, fine handling and roomy comfort are plusses. Frankly weird styling and brittle build are downsides. Still; good value though…

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5
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Vertemati Supermoto (2002-2004)

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570cc, 57bhp, 105mph, Insurance group 10

Vertemati is not alone amongst its fellow Italian factories in bobbing helplessly between solvency and insolvency. And on that basis alone it’s a tough call to recommend them. However, the range of bikes they did make in-between crises are powerful, stiff, hard bastards that need an expert’s hand to get anything like the best from them. The Vertemati Supermoto is ...

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 0
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Honda VT600 Shadow (1992-2002)

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583cc, 54bhp, 111mph, Insurance group 11

The Honda VT600 Shadow is pretty much the antithesis of the original chopper credo. If the first true chops were all about bad boy, bristly individuality, the 600 Shadow is about as soft, unthreatening and unoriginal as it gets. It’s bland, novice-friendly and safe and predictable, but you’;ve really got to ask yourself if you want that sort of thing. ...

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 3
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Laverda 750 S (1997-2002)

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748cc, 85bhp, 140mph, Insurance group 13

For a brief, mostly shining few years in the mid-to-late 1990s, legendary Italian marque Laverda (they of the 1970s Jota etc) was back. Trouble was, although the machines’ cycle parts were like an Aladdin’s cave of goodies, they handled superbly, looked decent and weren’t too exotically priced, the twin cylinder engines, though updated, were based on the 500 Montjuic of ...

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5
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KTM 640 Adventure (1997-2007)

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625cc, 54bhp, 110mph, Insurance group 11

If you’re used to smooth riding, civilized singles like BMW’s F650 range then KTM’s 640 Adventure will come as something of a shock. It’s very vibey, absurdly tall, not that comfortable and pre-2004 models suffer from patchy engine reliability. Having said that in the muddy side of its dual-purpose role it’s untouchable for handling, presence and rugged toughness.  

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Honda XRV750 Africa Twin (1989-2003)

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742cc, 61bhp, 110mph, Insurance group 12

Big trail bike you really can take off road. The Honda XRV750 Africa Twin was one of the first Japanese monster trail / desert rally bikes and remains one of the best. Power output is much lower than the latest machines but the slimmer seat makes it easier to manage one you leave the Tarmac. It’s not light though and ...

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Ducati M750/800 Monster (1996-2005)

N/A

749cc, 62bhp, 125mph, Insurance group 12

There was the Ducati M900 Monster (became the Ducati M1000 Monster), then the Ducati M600 Monster (became the Ducati M620 Monster) and then the Ducati M750 Monster (which became the Ducati M800 Monster), covering the vacant middle ground in the Ducati Monster family. As with the others, the Ducati M750 Monster or Ducati M800 Monster is a beautiful, painfully cool machine and, like the others, ...

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Ducati 620 Sport (2002-2003)

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618cc, 60bhp, 125mph, Insurance group 11

Cosmetic and engine update from the long running SS family of sports-retro Ducatis. The entry level Ducati 620 Sport was never a big seller and wasn’t on offer for long. It’s not that fast or comfy but it handles well. Afflicted by the traditional Italian glitches but a cheap way into Ducati motorcycle ownership.

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 0
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Kawasaki Zephyr 750 (1992-1998)

N/A

738cc, 76bhp, 125mph, Insurance group 9

The Kawasaki Z1 was an awesome bike in its day, but the Zephyr 750/1100 tribute bike - like tribute bands - doesn't quite capture the lairy, dangerous essence of the original. The 750 is too soft, a bit underpowered and the 1100 is simply a lardbucket that makes a Bandit 1200 look like a sportbike.

  • MCN rating rating is 3
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5

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