A guide to beginner motorbikes
L and P-platers can choose from 200 Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme machines.
Since 1 July 2008, Victorian motorbike riders with a restricted licence (L or P-plates) have been able to choose from a much wider range of machinery. The Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme switched from a 260cc engine-capacity limit for inexperienced riders to a new code that allowed bikes up to 660cc provided they didn’t exceed 150kW per tonne (power-to-weight ratio).
As well as putting an end to the 250cc arms-race among manufacturers, it has meant much more choice. So what’s out there among the 200 or so approved makes and models?
Honda CB500 X
Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 – from $8640 ride-away
The Continental GT 650 is a proper retro bike both in name and intent. Its 650cc twin-cylinder engine gives it plenty of performance. But the real selling point is its charming, old-school cafe-racer appearance.
Under the skin, it’s more modern with a six-speed gearbox and fuel-injection, and it’s a relaxed urban bike that should be easy to own and maintain.
Thumbs up: Classic looks and feel. Unintimidating.
Thumbs down: Low bars and thin seat could make it less than armchair-comfortable.
The adventure tourer
Honda CB500 X – from $7999 plus on-road costs
Tackling the world on a motorcycle is a big deal right now. Enter the Honda CB500X which uses the brand’s proven 500cc twin-cylinder engine along with raised suspension and specific wheels and tyres.
Lighter than some of the established adventure-tourer makes and models, the Honda will also be more manageable in sand.
Thumbs up: Reliable and easy to manage.
Thumbs down: Relatively high seat won’t suit shorter folk.
Suzuki SV650 - Learner Approved
Yamaha MT-07LA - $9999 plus on-road costs
The street fighter or muscle bike look is a popular one right now and is the closest thing to a hot-rod on two wheels. Wide rear tyres, aggressive styling and lots of attitude are the key points.
The Yamaha MT-07 is actually a one-off model produced specifically for Australia and the LAM scheme, proving that even the manufacturers are behind the idea. The parallel twin-cylinder engine has been tuned for torque over outright power and uses a clever crankshaft that makes the engine feel and sound like a V-twin while remaining compact.
Thumbs up: Relatively low seat height makes the Yamaha manageable.
Thumbs down: A bit more expensive than many LAMS bikes.
The sports bike
Suzuki SV650 learner approved - $10,190 ride-away
A thumping V-twin engine has long been the trademark of a purist’s sport-bike. And that’s where the Suzuki SV650 scores. The 90-degree twin makes it easy and fun to ride.
There’s also a thing called low-speed assist which controls the engine speed when taking off to avoid stalling or kangaroo-hopping. The handling also appeals here with plenty of cornering clearance and neutral steering. Like all good sports bikes, it can tour or commute as well.
Thumbs up: An all-rounder with a sporting flavour.
Thumbs down: You’ll pay for that sportiness.