Published: 15 September 2008Updated: 04 February 2020
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If you've just passed your test in the UK and you're under 21 or chose to take the A2 license, then you're restricted to a bike with a maximum of 33bhp for the first 2 years. But don't despair, we're going to get you through this...
Most bikes can be fitted with a restrictor kit, so you could always buy the bike of your dreams and castrate it, but does this really make sense? The power to weight ratio will be ruined and you'll be paying higher motorcycle insurance and running costs, despite the fact that you can't exploit the true performance of the machine.
It could make more sense to go for a bike that was designed to only produce around 33bhp or less. They cost less to buy and run (leaving you more cash to spend on good kit), they're great fun to ride and perfect for honing your skills on, plus there's actually a pretty cool selection out there if you're willing to look.
We've listed 10 of the best options here. There's everything from sportsbikes to off-roaders and great machines to suit any budget. Whatever kind of bike you aspire to own, there's some metal here to start you off on the right track and make those two restricted years pass by almost unnoticed.
Suzuki Goose 350 The Goose is a stylish little cafe racer making close to 33bhp, so it's spot on for A2 riders. Timeless cafe racer styling, sporty riding position and a punchy 350cc single (from the Suzuki DR350) combine to make this bike alot of fun. Angus here at MCN has one for when he's not thrashing his Victory long termer and it's his pride and joy. He claims he'll never sell it. They go pretty cheap on the used market, but the drawback is they are a little rare.
Kawasaki Ninja 250R Kawasaki's restyled baby Ninja has brought the 250 class back to life. With a 32.5bhp parallel twin that spins to 14,000 revs, big bike looks, a comfy riding position and sweet handling, it's the perfect 33bhp beast for riders looking to graduate to sportsbikes in the long run. The previous model has been a success in the US for years, so with our 33bhp restriction laws it seems crazy that they didn't bring it across the pond sooner.
Suzuki DR-Z400 Ok ok, so we cheated a little here. The DR-Z makes 39bhp, meaning restriction is needed... but the power-to-weight ratio should remain almost intact and the DR-Z is a stonking little bike if the off-road/supermoto thing floats your boat. The seating position and wide bars make it the perfect town tool and the thumping single is great for squirting into gaps, less suited to high speed work though. For the rider aspiring to own a KTM Supermoto or Ducati Hypermotard.
Honda CBF250 The trusty little CBF250 is the sensible option from the sensible chaps at Honda. Reliable, cheap, accessible power (all 22bhp of it) and agile handling. As you'd expect from Honda, everything just works. As a bulletproof commuter it'll hold it's value well too. It's not for speed freaks, topping out at about 65mph, but if you want good town transport and a friendly introduction to biking, "you meet the nicest people on a Honda".
Aprilia RS125 It may only be a 125, but the little RS125 2-stroke is a scalpel. Derestricted new one's make about 25bhp, older models (before emissions regulations tightened) make closer to the magic 33 figure and they can all crack the ton. It's one of the best handling bikes you can buy, with big-bike style and gorgeous looks. In true Aprilia style, this is a definite poser ride or one for those looking for a no-compromise full-on introduction to fast riding.
Honda Hornet 250 The cult Hornet 600 originally started life as this 250cc Japan-only model... as you can see not alot was changed. It didn't need to be- the 250 version has simple timeless styling and the wheels are off the Fireblade of the time. The chunky 180 rear tyre looks great on it and provides instant street cred. It's a nippy beast though, making 41bhp, so it will need restricting but it should take to it well. From behind everyone will think you're on a 600...
Hyosung GT250R The Hyosung GT250R is in direct competition with the Ninja 250R for the attention of sportsbike fans. It has the looks, but performance wise the Kawasaki has it beat on handling and power. Upside down forks look the part though and it's good value for money... if price is important and you can't stretch to the Ninja 250R, a used Hyosung could be a good option, but don't expect the finish to be up to Japanese standards.
Yamaha WR250X With 30bhp on tap and weighing in at 128kg, the new WR250X is the money-no-object option at £4999 new. But you can see where that five grand has gone. Adjustable suspension, Bridgestone BT-090 tyres and a seriously high-tech little engine litter it's frame. This is a genuine B-road blaster and in a way goes beyond other bikes in this segment as a high-spec supermoto that refuses to be held back (or defined) by it's limited power output. Proof that you don't need big power for big fun.
Honda Bros 400 It may look humble, but the Honda Bros is a dark horse. The single-sided swingarm is a slight clue... Honda designated this bike the RC31, so rest assured this is a fun little machine for the money and despite budget commuter looks, draws on a proud heritage of racing development. It uses a version of the VFR400 frame and apparently shares its geometry with the NSR250. You could also argue that the stubby end can poking up in front of the rear wheel was very ahead of it's time.
Yamaha SRX400 The SRX is another cafe racer that has alot in common with the Suzuki Goose. It has a single cylinder engine, clip-on bars and makes 33bhp. It's not quite as pretty as the Goose, but offers slightly more room and higher bars, so could make more sense as practical day-to-day transport. It's also more pillion friendly. To complete the retro feel, it's got a kick-start, so expect bruised shins and admiring smiles from nostalgic old boys.
Whatever bike you go for, make sure you check out MCN Compare to get the best motorcycle insurance quote. With these bikes you should find that cover is very reasonable, so the money you save can go towards good biking kit, advanced training or saving for that post-restriction dream bike.
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