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Your first bike is always something special, yet many experienced bikers soon turn their noses up at basic standard machines like the Suzuki GS500, Kawasaki ER500 and the Yamaha Diversion 600 four..

What makes these motorcycles special is the fun you can have on them whilst you learn a little of the craft of riding; speed, handling, braking, don´t come naturally - you have to develop such skills and forgiving motorbikes like these make the job that bit easier, and safer.

Each time I ride the Diversions ( 600-900 ) I really do try to imagine I´m a novice and concentrate on their good points. Yet, without fail, either Diversion always leaves me feeling a bit disappointed after a ride, even when out touring quietly along country lanes, or commuting sensibly through town.

This shouldn´t be the case, because the Diversion 600 has virtually all the right ingredients for a pocket touring bike, or a daily get-to-work machine. The 599cc four cylinder engine has roots stretching back to the XJ550 ( alleged ) sportsbike of the early 1980s, being modernized as the XJ600. Both the XJ550 and XJ600 were considered decent bikes in their day and one of the primary reasons can be found in the ultra smooth, reasonably powerful, four cylinder engine - the 600 Diversion still has that easygoing quality.

With just 58bhp claimed from the four, the motor is decidedly understressed and whirrs into life like the proverbial sewing machine when you thumb the button. It is also much quieter than either the GS500 or ER500 twins and has virtually no vibration at low revs. A novice would also love the steady increase in speed that the Diversion produces, without any drama, until at somewhere around 7,000rpm, the bike decides that it really is a four cylinder powered vehicle and begins to push forwards with some zing.

OK, it´s easy to be a bit patronizing when you´re used to bigger, much faster bikes, but the Yamaha only just has the edge over the GS500 and ER5 in real world acceleration - which is not great considering it has an advantage of nearly 10bhp on paper. Only when gunning all three bikes up some steep sections in Spain´s Montseny hills did the twins fall well behind.

Even then, a half decent rider on the Suzy or Kawa could catch up the Diversion because the handling of the bigger four was simply too soft and bouncy for serious scratching. Fair play, a standard bike like the Diversion shouldn´t be your first choice for a trackday, but both the rival twins proved much more nimble in the tight turns than the Divvy. Pushed hard on the brakes (and the Divvy´s brakes are excellent) the Yamaha loads up its front tyre as its forks quickly run out of spring travel, whilst the back end wallows and shimmies around at the slightest sign of a molehill, despite having an Ohlins monoshock.

Does this matter on a bike aimed at sedate pootling on sunny Sunday ? Well, that depends on whether you ever want to progress to a sportbike I guess. If you´re happy riding slowly and give the Diversion an easy life, it returns the compliment, offering an armchair experience as you plod along.

The saddle is wide and comfy. Much better at carrying a pillion passenger than either the Suzuki or Kawasaki twins, with a couple of grab handles to make pillions feel safer too. The Diversion I tested was the half faired version too, which obviously offers more comfort than the unfaired Suzy and Kawa 500s.

With a beautifully slick transmission, a great riding position and an engine that holds no unpleasant surprises for newcomers to biking, or `born-agains,´ the Diversion is a serious contender for your cash - if you plan on regular two-up riding. You see the Diversions, both in 600 and 900cc guises, make great budget touring bikes, although the 600 lacks a shaft drive.

In terms of commuting, you have to guess that the twins will return more mpg, go nearly as fast, be nearly as comfortable when ridden solo and can offer more precise handling, if you want to get a move on occasionally. Both the Kawasaki and Suzuki 500s can also be had for around 3000 quid apiece, if you shop around - which is substantially less than the cheapest deal I have seen on the N model (unfaired) 600 Diversion. You may also find that your insurance is a little pricier on the Yamaha, especially if you have only recently passed your test.

All of these bikes are hard to find as demonstrator models in dealerships, which makes this kind of choice all the more tricky. The Yamaha may well suit you perfectly, just as it always leaves me thinking it lacks any fire in its soul, and finesse in the corners. Definitely a `try before you buy‘ type of motorbike.

Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha diversion 600.

Vital Statistics
Engine Four stroke, four cylinder, air cooled
cc 599cc
Claimed power (bhp) 58bhp
Compression ratio 10:1
Transmission 6 speed
Cycle Parts
Front suspension 38mm forks, adjustments for preload only.
Rear suspension Ohlins monoshock, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Twin 320mm discs, four-piston Brembo calipers.
Rear brake 2 piston Brembo caliper, 245mm disc
Front wheel/tyre 110/80 H17 inch
Rear wheel/tyre 130/70 H17 inch;
Wheelbase 1445mm
Seat height 770mm
Dry weight 187kgs
Top speed 110mph (est)
Fuel capacity 17 litres

960 x 200 endingsoon