A guide to beginner motorbikes

Moving Well | David Morley | Posted on 24 July 2019

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?

Royal Enfield Continental GT 650

Royal Enfield Continental GT 650


Honda CB500 X

Honda CB500 X



The retro

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.
 

Yamaha MT-07LA

Yamaha MT-07LA


Suzuki SV650

Suzuki SV650 - Learner Approved



The muscle-bike

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.
 

Verdict

The great thing about a LAMS bike is that you won’t necessarily grow out of it the minute you’re off your licence restriction. Not to mention that physically bigger riders can find a bike that fits them properly. While there are plenty of laid-back cruiser bikes in the LAMS scheme, their often-greater weight and sometimes odd low-speed handling mean they aren’t always a good match for the skill-sets of inexperienced riders.