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Motorcycling Guide: What is LAMS?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023


It's a term you'll often hear when entering the world of motorcycling for the first time, but what exactly is LAMS and what does it mean for you as a rider?

Today we're going to explain the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme and how it relates to today's motorcycling experience.

 

Looking for a LAMS bike? Here are 5 options we reckon are right up there. For More LAMS bike content CLICK HERE

 

As a beginner motorcyclist in either New Zealand or some parts of Australia, you will hear the term LAMS come up a lot in conversation. At its core LAMS stands for Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme, with LAMS governing what motorcycles are suitable for learner riders to start their riding career on in both countries.

First implemented in New Zealand in October of 2012, LAMS has brought more choice than ever for new riders in terms of what you can ride. However, there are restrictions still in place.

So what is a LAMS Class motorcycle?

In a nutshell, the introduction of LAMS opened up options for beginner riders to a much wider variety of motorcycles.


Prior to the introduction of LAMS, Kiwi learners and restricted licence holders were limited to bikes with a maximum capacity of 250cc, while leaner riders also had to contend with an ill-advised max speed limit of just 70km/h.

These weren’t the only issues. Taller riders were put in the dangerous position of being forced onto physically small machines that weren’t a good fit for them to develop their skills as well.


To put it bluntly, it sucked to be a learner.


When New Zealand adopted LAMS after seeing it used by the Australian state of Victoria, Kiwis on Learner or Restricted licences were thankfully no longer faced with these limits. Instead, a new set was adopted.


The LAMS Class covers any road-registered motorcycle under 660cc which has a power-to-weight ratio not exceeding 150kW (203.94hp) per tonne, but there are other aspects that also come into play.


For instance, any modification which impacts performance by increasing the bike's power-to-weight ratio can potentially make a bike no longer LAMS-approved. Previously this was interpreted as mods including that great-sounding aftermarket exhaust were a no-go. Thankfully NZTA has made a convenient list of what is acceptable in regard to LAMS bike modifications and even has a list of approved mods on their website.

There is also a full list of motorcycles that are under 660cc but are not LAMS approved for your reference.

Some of these bikes used to be stars of the leaner class in the days before LAMS when new riders were capped at 250cc, but nowadays are off-limits. In particular, these are bikes such as the 2-Stroke 250cc GP replicas of the late 1980s and screaming 250cc 4-cylinder rockets.

Make sure you check the list before you buy, as while these bikes are very cool, the market for them has certainly shrunk since the implementation of LAMS.

Was It A Change For Good?


In the 10 years since LAMS was adopted, we’ve seen a huge change to the New Zealand motorcycle landscape for the better.

Small-capacity like the once prominent 250cc class of bikes have largely fallen out of favour with the bike-buying public, but on the flipside investment into developing our up-and-coming riders has exploded alongside the introduction of LAMS.

LAMS has also opened up more premium brands such as Triumph and Ducati to the learner class and even Harley-Davidson briefly had a LAMS offering in the Street 500.

The only real negative that has come from LAMS is the neutering of the 650cc class of motorcycles. Previously these were the first stepping stone toward a big bike and offered fun all-rounder packages. The very first LAMS models offered in NZ were these bikes with restrictions on the throttle and intake (think Suzuki’s SV650 and Hyosung’s GT650 bikes). While these were easily circumvented in LAMS form they hit a proverbial brick wall in acceleration that was VERY noticeable once the restriction kicked in. While in the years since we’ve seen dedicated LAMS spec bikes such as Yamaha’s 655cc MT-07, those unrestricted full power (or high output) models have become a rarity. This is due to a lack of demand for them so the business case for NZ importers has been pretty poor.

However, the benefits of the LAMS class far outweigh this minor change in the landscape and you can now purchase a 60hp 650 class machine to learn on for around $10,000 new.


There is so much choice now than ever before there is a bike the right size for any learner. If you’ve been on the fence about learning to ride, there’s no better time than the present.


 

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