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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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Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat (1996-2003)

N/A

599cc, 100bhp, 145mph, Insurance group 14

If you're after a versatile sports-touring motorcycle, with a reliable engine, decent suspension and braking, plus the ability to carry two people plus kit for a two week holiday, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is damn-near perfect.  The Thundercat makes a real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and is very underrated.

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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MZ Skorpion 660 (1994-2003)

N/A

660cc, 48bhp, 116mph, Insurance group 9

The MZ Skorpion was stylishly designed (by acclaimed Brits Seymour-Powell) single using a Yamaha engine which proved a refreshingly able antidote to Japanese fours in the mid-to-late 90s. Light, lithe, affordable, generally reliable and reassuringly practical.

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 4
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Suzuki RF600R (1993-1997)

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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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KTM 640 LC4 Supermoto (1998-2007)

N/A

625cc, 53bhp, 110mph, Insurance group 11

The KTM LC4 640 is KTM’s popular supermoto stalwart – a rough, tough bugger that’s a capable commuter, trackday sleeper and friend to the wannabe stunt monkey. It sits on the civilized side of the LC4 family, benefiting from an anti-vibe damper, and an electric start to complement the kicker. Like all supermotos it’s as cheap as chips, geared for ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 3.5
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KTM 625 SMC (2003-2007)

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625cc, 53bhp, 112mph, Insurance group 11

The KTM 625 SMC sits between the no-compromise 660 SMC and the heavier, more road-oriented LC4s in KTM’s supermoto line-up. But it’s not there to make up the numbers. It’s probably the pick of the bunch – combining the niceties of electric start with the harder race-spec SMC edge. New bikes come restricted to 30bhp but it takes about 10 ...

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • Owners' rating rating is 0
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Honda XRV750 Africa Twin (1989-2003)

N/A

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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Kawasaki W650 (1999-2006)

N/A

675cc, 49bhp, 110mph, Insurance group 8

Relive the 60s with the delightful Kawasaki W650. Styling is spot on – the exhausts are closer to a 60s Bonneville than Triumph’s own latter day replica. Modern handling, engine and reliability means all the joy of a classic with none of the grief. Relaxed performance unlike the Boneneville of the 1960s.

  • MCN rating rating is 4
  • 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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