Learner riders to get bigger motorbikes

Last updated 05:00 12/09/2012
Cameron James
CHRIS SKELTON/The Dominion Post
Cameron James checks out a motorbike on sale at Motorad.

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New regulations allowing people on learner licences to ride more powerful motorbikes will likely lead to more crashes, a driving instructor says.

From next month, it will be legal for people on learner and restricted licences to ride bikes with an upper engine capacity up to 660cc, provided the power-to-weight ratio does not exceed 150 kilowatts per tonne.

Currently, the most powerful bikes novices can ride are 250cc.

The option of completing a defensive driving course to reduce time spent on a restricted motorbike licence will also be removed. Then from November, the basic handling skills test, which riders must gain before being allowed on the road, will toughen.

Andrew Templeton, from motorcycle training organisation Roadsafe, said his main concern was that 660cc bikes were often twice the weight of 250cc ones, and younger, smaller riders would struggle to control them.

"Without education, I think it's a bad idea. It's like giving a 16-year-old car driver the keys to a Subaru Legacy twin-turbo.

"There will be a huge buy-up of these machines in the first few years and I think there will be a spike in the crash statistics until the education process settles that down."

Mr Templeton said a positive was that larger, adult riders would be able to train on a bike that suited them better.

Cameron James, 19, who got his learner licence at the weekend, said he could see learner riders wanting to make the jump to faster, bigger bikes in a hurry.

"It's good and bad. It means people might get a bit full of themselves. But it also means people can get experience on a larger, faster bike a bit sooner."

Jim Furneaux, the Transport Agency's principal adviser of driver training and testing, said that was a reason for the change.

"When you look at the percentage of vehicles involved in crashes; 250cc vehicles are just as likely to be involved as larger vehicles. If people get riding instructions on these [more powerful] motorcycles . . . they're more likely to stay on them and then it won't be such a quantum leap when they want to upgrade."

Mr Furneaux doubted there would be more crashes, but said there may be an "evening-up" of crashes across different motorbike capacity ratings.

"At the end of the day, the licence isn't going to be an indicator of someone's ability to behave properly," he said.

"If you're doing over 100kmh on a pushbike or a motorbike and you hit something, it doesn't matter what the capacity rating is, you're just as likely to wind up dead."

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Mr Furneaux said the new basic handling skills test would require manoeuvres such as loops and figure-eights at low speeds rather than simply driving around cones.


  • In 2010, 50 motorcyclists died and a further 1300 were injured in road crashes. This was 13 per cent of all deaths and 9 per cent of all reported injuries on our roads.
  • Riders of motorcycles 500cc or bigger make up 42 per cent of those injured but 69 per cent of those who died.
  • This is, in part, because small motorcycles tend to be used for around-town riding while large bikes spend more time on the open road.
  • Despite it being illegal, 15 per cent of riders on learner licences, and 25 per cent of riders on restricted licences, were riding bikes of over 250cc at the time of their crashes.
  • Learner licence holders make up a greater percentage of motorcyclists involved in crashes (20 per cent) than car drivers involved in crashes (7 per cent).

Contact Michael Forbes
Transport and metro reporter
Email: michael.forbes@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @michael_forbes

- The Dominion Post


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