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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > 345 > A2 ANARCHY


Learner legals mightnot be thefire-breathing dragons of the past, butare they still fun? And moreimportantly, which oneofthese three market leaders is the best?

Alot has changedover the last thirtyyearsin motorcycling, some of it becoming arguably pretty damn sanitised by stringentmanufacturing legislation and equally castrating licencetypes.Yep, we’retalking about A1 and A2 categoriesin particular, which aremorepainful thanaboil on your arse… and have abit moresticking powertoo.

But if you’relumbered with one or the other, all hope’snot lost as there’sbeen somethingofa kick-back of late from manufacturers eager to fuel the hopes and adrenalin kicks of neworreturning riders. The days of full bore, ozone-slaying RGVs, ZXR400s andseven-speed Mitos might be trulydead in the water, but there is something of a little bikeresurgenceonthe cards, egged on by growing small capacity markets the world over. And, of course, seeing these smaller steeds mixing it up at World Superbikes in the Supersport 300class hasn’t done the scene anyharm either.

Smaller bikesare looking slightly cooler thantheydid afew years ago, and especiallysointhe green corner where Kawasaki’s backed up its commitmenttothe A2 sector with anew 400 Ninja for201 8. We couldn’t wait to check out what it hadtooffer, and thoughtitonly right to pitch it against KTM’s RC390 andHonda’sCBR500R to get aproper graspofits goodness.

So we packed avan withthese threebeasts andheaded to the brutally bumpyCastleCombe circuitfor atrack spanking likeno other, letting loose each and every oneoftheirsub-48bhp offerings. Oh, and we scrapped them out good andproper on our favourite back roadstoo.Here’swhatwe made of them…

Honda CBR500R

Being the most premium, powerful and mature looking of the three, the only thing the Honda seemed to have going against it was its sheer size. Lined up with its rivals ahead of a big old blast on some spectacular roads, the CBR500R looked a right whale, not much smaller than the brand’s iconic Goldwing. In fact, I bet that’s what they based it on. Maybe I’m just being cruel, but I couldn’t figure why you’d work so hard to build a poky motor, only to go and stifle the bloody thing with a lardy old package to power. See, that’s the worst bit; the bike didn’t just look big, it smashed the hell out of the scales too with its kerb weight of 194kg – just 2kg lighter than a Fireblade. How the hell did that happen? Anyway, it was way too early to go judging this book by its cover, but it didn’t take too long for disappointment to start creeping in… wholesale.

Having hopped on it and fired its sewing machine-sounding 471cc motor into life, I soon clocked it was about as docile as an ancient Labrador. The bike didn’t feel particularly racy, either. It was big, bulbous and tall-barred; more like a naked with a fairing thrown onto it. Still, at least I couldn’t grumble about wrist ache or any such gripes. Even Boothy would’ve slotted in on it, complete with his appalling beer belly. Whether it had the oomph to power him around though was another question. Out on the street, the bike was feeling plenty steady with me on it. Here’s the thing, it only makes 47bhp and with such a high kerb weight, it was always going to feel like this.

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