A Whole New World

There has been an injection of youth and enthusiasm into the motorcycling world, but what separates LAMS from the rest of the flock?

Words: Paul

The rules state that a LAMS motorcycle must have a capacity of 660cc or less (unless a classic), not be on the prohibited list of high performance small capacity motorcycles (read sporty two-strokes et al) and have a power to weight ratio of no greater than 150kW per tonne (there is a 90kg allowance for a rider).

There is a published list of motorcycles to choose from and also an application procedure if you wish to have a bike added to the list. This process is open for new or secondhand motorcycles, including classics. Many of the older bikes actually qualify, due to the weight and power of many classic models – just don’t tell the classic guys that some of their bikes are ‘learner legal’ unless you want a scathing look and possibly some ‘classic’ language to go with it… Most pre 1960 motorcycles automatically comply.

Basically, there are three schools of thought in the LAMS camp. Firstly, as per the old rules, there are a bunch of smaller bikes that carry over. Finding middle ground are some larger capacity bikes with a power output that lets them fit nicely within the framework; basically mild-mannered models consisting mainly of large capacity trail or adventure bikes. Then there are the new entrants, with various forms of power limitation to make a modified version of an existing, noncompliant model fit into the class. This is where the waters get a bit murky.

Many manufacturers offer a retuned version of an open class bike that complies with the LAMS theme. They look the same, and apart from a few small modifications, are the same. Most are not easily ‘opened-up’ and will stay restricted. Some, however, don’t have major differences and can be derestricted. This is where it all gets curly.

If you modify a LAMS bike, you are already breaking the law if you don’t recertify it as a full license vehicle. If you sell it as a LAMS bike and it no longer complies, you might find yourself on very shaky ground if anything untoward happens.


On the other foot, you are responsible for ensuring that the bike you ride complies with the rules. Hopefully, the legalities won’t be tested but history suggests otherwise.

If you unsure about which bikes comply, check out http://www.nzta.govt.nz/licence/getting/motorcycles/approved-motorcycles.html or ask your trusted motorcycle store. If you buy used bikes privately, part of your check should include research about the model, any derestriction that may have taken place etc. Riding a bike that can be proven does not comply could have serious consequences if it turns pear-shaped on the road. You may find that your insurance policy is invalid and you could end up with a costly bill for someone else’s wrongdoing, as well as the likelihood of an infringement notice and a fine to add insult to injury.

The new LAMS scheme really does make more sense than the antiquated policy that preceded it. It offers real-world motorcycles that are capable of keeping up with traffic (the ludicrous 70km/h rule has been quashed – yay!) and many riders will be quite happy to keep their ‘learner bike even when the full license has been attained. Speaking of which, the new licensing regime has kicked in too, so you can shorten the ‘probation period’ between the phases (check out Karel’s explanation on the next page).

So enough of the what-ifs. We picked a few of our favourite models off the list to show that learning to ride a motorcycle doesn’t have to mean owning a dreary machine.



Who’d think you could learn on a BMW? Well, with the 650 GS, not only do you get yourself a capable road bike you can also venture into the wilderness and do a bit of adventure riding. Priced at an incredible $11,995 + ORC, it even comes with anti lock brakes and heated grips.


Ducati Monster 659

It’s an iconic motorcycle and you can get one as your first bike! With a low seat height, open riding position and relaxed power delivery, the Monster 659 manages what has until now been impossible – be cool while being a learner! At $15,990 it’s at the pricey end of the spectrum, but hey, looking trendy never comes cheap.

Honda RVF400

There’s not only new bikes on the list – you can ride some really cool bikes from yesteryear on a restricted licence like the Honda RVF400. Four-cylinder, 400cc sportsbikes were all the rage in the eighties and Honda’s RVF had to be one of the sexiest. A sporty riding position won’t help you if you’re really new to riding, but if you know how to handle a bike and want something a bit sporty but don’t have the budget to go new, then there’s some real beauties to get secondhand.

Honda CBR500R

It might look similar to Honda’s legendary Fireblade, but the CBR500R sports a parallel twin underneath the sleek bodywork and will be a whole heap easier to manage. Still sporty enough to put a smile on your face, the CBR will turn it hand to a bit of anything, from touring to commuting. At $10,495 it’s bang on the money for a first time rider looking for a machine that will last the distance.


Hyosung GT250R LAMS

Even though bigger capacity machines are now on the list of learner approved bikes, not everybody wants a 600cc+ machine as their first bike. Hyosung’s GT250R was the darling of learners before the new rules came in; the sweet 250cc motor capable of open road speeds yet in a package that isn’t going to get you into trouble. At $6,995 it’s cheap too.


Kawasaki Ninja 300

The Ninja 300 is a great little bike, with sporty looks and a fun powerplant that brings out the racer in you. Okay, it’ll commute and cruise as well as the rest, but hit the twisties and you can really get the 296cc parallel twin singing. It looks trick too, with the styling mirroring the all-conquering ZX-10R superbike. At $7,995 it’s a whole lot of fun for not much dosh.


Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS LAMS

Also from the green team is the Ninja 650 with a specific LAMS version designed for the new licencing laws. An extremely capable motorcycle, you wouldn’t need to move to something bigger after you’ve got your full licence; the 649cc parallel twin providing a plenty enough performance to keep you happy. The handling is sublime, it won’t be out of place on the road or the track, and ABS is there to keep you safe. Reduced to $12,995 at the moment, it’s a great all-rounder.


KTM 390 Duke

For those that like to live on the wild side, KTM have the 390 Duke. The Dukes range in size from 200cc to a monster 1290, and all are unfaired and great fun. If you are after a bike to carve through traffic then the 390 is as sharp as a knife. It’ll turn its hand to some out-of-town work too, but you’d feel the ‘sharpness’ if you were aboard for too long… At $9,499 it’s below that crucial $10k mark and lets you join the orange club.


Suzuki DR650SE

The venerable DR650 has seen a resurgence in popularity since the advent of the LAMS system, with it consistently being top of the sales charts for bikes over 600cc. There’s no wonder, with the bullet-proof Suzuki capable of almost anything including serious adventure riding. With gravel road exploring reaching never seen levels of interest, the DR650 is easy to ride, reliable and capable of long distances over varied terrain. At $8,999 it’s a lot of bike for not much money. And for those wanting something a bit crazier, there’s the smaller DR-Z400SM, with the SM standing for super motard. These are basically dirt bikes for the street and as such, you wouldn’t want to commute the length of the country on one. But if you want to blitz inner-city traffic or tear up some back roads, then the DR-Z400SM would be a heap of fun.


Triumph Street Triple 660 ABS B1

Triumph’s first foray into the LAMS arena is a pearler, with the globally acclaimed Street Triple now available to learner riders. It’s not the sort of bike a complete newbie should be encouraged to climb on, with the 660 triple motor still potent. But like the Ducati Monster, it will give you instant cool despite being on your learners.


Yamaha XTZ660

It might look slightly outlandish, but the XTZ660 Tenere comes from a long line of successful adventure machines and has a massive following. If you like the look that you could ride around the globe if you so desired, then the XTZ660 ticks the box. The single-cylinder powerplant is extremely capable and reliable and there’s the typical Yamaha build quality that means you’re never likely to have a problem. There’s a heap of accessories like massive metal panniers available if you really want to look the part, and the Tenere really will take you where others cannot. Just make sure you’ve worked up a bit of riding experience first! At $16,349 it’s at the pointy end of the price scale, but you’re not likely to need to swap it out for a bigger bike in a hurry.

Yamaha MT-03

If you’re after your first machine to look a bit wild and whacky, then the new MT-03 from Yamaha could do the trick. Designed like a motard but with a more comfortable riding position, the MT-03 will handle the commute as well as some weekend fun. Powered by the same powerplant from the XTZ660, you know it’s going to be reliable. And at $11,995 it’s a large chunk cheaper than the adventure machine, plus also easier to get your feet flat on the floor – something that can never be underestimated for those new to two wheels…