New ABS Law To Reshape NZ Motorcycling


Time has now run out for many old favourites in the Kiwi motorcycling scene with the signing in of a new amendment to the Land Transport Rule: Light vehicle Brakes 2002 by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.


The amendment means that new road-going motorcycle models entering the New Zealand market from April 1, 2020, will need to have ABS braking fitted as standard equipment while existing models will need to have the technology as a feature by 2021.


While for many European brands this isn’t an issue due to the EU already having a similar law for a number of years, it is a different story for the Japanese manufacturers.


Long-standing models which have remained top sellers despite their lack of modern amenities will either need to be brought up to spec or the more likely scenario will see them dropped from their respective lineups entirely.

Just some of the models we could lose from our roads include Suzuki’s DR and DR-Z range, Kawasaki’s KLR650 and the majority of the current Yamaha cruiser lineup.


This also will likely mean the end of the ability to road register many enduro models, with bikes such as the KTM EX-C and Yamaha’s WR lines respectively unlikely to gain ABS and will likely become competition only machines like their European counterparts.


There is a silver lining in all the doom and gloom, however.


There will be a limited allowance for classic and collectable motorcycles meaning, if you are bringing into the country say, an original Brough Superior, it won’t need to comply. The same goes for classic motorcycles first registered prior to 1 January 1990 will not have to comply.


For motorcycles first registered after this date, a new, special interest motorcycle permit would allow for collectable motorcycles to continue to be imported, under the condition that there is no equivalent option with ABS available. Applicants would be able to apply to the NZ Transport Agency for a permit, with the number of special interest permits limited to 100 per year.


Then we get to the real matter behind the move, which is all in the name of making riding safer.


“We want all road users to be safe on our roads and international studies suggest ABS could reduce motorcycle crashes by more than a third,” says Davey Uprichard, Vehicle Standards Manager Regulatory Services, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.


ABS works to prevent a motorcycle's wheel, or wheels, from locking during braking. It uses speed sensors on both wheels to accurately determine wheel speed, as well as sensors to determine when a wheel is about to lock. ABS adjusts the braking pressure accordingly to prevent the wheel from locking and assists with maintaining the stability of the motorcycle.


The second part of the change in the law comes into effect on 1 November 2021 making it mandatory for all current model new motorcycles and imported used motorcycles over 125cc to have ABS, and all current model new motorcycles and imported used motorcycles up to and including 125cc to have either ABS or CBS.


Importantly, previous and currently registered motorcycles are not required to be retrofitted with ABS.

While it is noted that trial or enduro motorcycles used primarily off-road or at events are exempt it is currently not clear what is considered primarily off-road use.


While we might not all agree that making sure all new bikes sold in NZ have ABS will save lives, it will mean that we will finally be catching up to the rest of the automotive sector when it comes to the view on safety.


When was the last time you saw a brand new car without ABS after all?

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