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Choosing a LAMS approved motorcycle

The choice of bikes you can ride on a learner licence is wider than ever. Here’s some advice on navigating the choices.

Options for learner riders

The Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) has opened all sorts of choices for learner riders. Riders on a learner or restricted licence can ride any motorcycle under 250cc except for a list of prohibited, highly-powerful machines. You can also ride any bikes with an engine capacity under 660cc, or with an electric motor, that don’t exceed a 150kW per tonne power-to-weight ratio.

NZTA’s list of prohibited and approved LAMS motorcycles.

Choosing the bike

First off, many of the same criteria apply as with any motorcycle. The most important are:

  • Do you feel confident and in control riding it?
  • Is it equipped with everything you need for the type of riding you’ll mostly be doing?

Motorcyclist riding down a streetLAMS choices range from easy-to-control machines that are perfect for novice or less-experienced riders through to high-performance middleweight bikes that will challenge any rider.

So it’s important to be honest about your experience and skills, then choose accordingly.

For example, a typical learner rider would benefit from something like a 125-350cc machine with a conventional riding position (a naked). Sitting upright gives more control, vision and confidence, especially in low-speed manoeuvres, and you’ll generally find it easy to get both feet on the ground for balance. Machines of 250cc or above will also have plenty of performance.

At the other extreme are machines pushing the limits of capacity (650 or 660cc) and power-to-weight ratio. Make no mistake: these bikes are powerful and best suited for experienced riders, eg those who ride off-road, who want to get their road licence and keep a machine for ongoing use.


Be honest about your experience level. If you’re relatively new to riding choose a simple, inexpensive learner machine.

Whatever LAMS bike you decide on, make sure you check it fits with current regulations and is standard as produced by the manufacturer. Any motorcycle modification in a way that increases or decreases power to weight ratio is no longer LAMS compliant, regardless of whether it appears on the list.