What you need to know about owning a motorbike
Motorbikes have long been a staple of overseas cities, and they are becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand’s urban environments. Getting your first motorbike is an exciting step – whether it’s a trendy vehicle to zip through the city traffic, a long-distance bike to travel the length of the country, or that classic model you’ve always dreamed about. However, owning and driving a motorbike is different to purchasing a car, with different costs, risks and considerations to take into account.
Choosing your bike
There are a wide range of options available, but not all bikes are suitable for learners. Most motorbike engines vary from 50cc to 2000cc, and in general if you’re a beginner, a bike with a lower cc is recommended. If you’re going to a dealer make sure you let them know about your needs and level of experience.
Standard bike/naked bike: Popular in urban environments, these bikes are characterised by their upright position. This style
is ideal to learn on, as you have better control and vision than with many other machines.
Motor scooter: Scooters have a similar function to the standard bike, with engines starting at about 50cc. Scooters are often used as city runabouts and are not often seen on the open road.
Touring motorbike: Larger, comfortable motorcycles with a lower seat. Touring bikes are not really designed for travelling small distances in the city – but are ideal to take out on weekends and trips away. If you have never ridden a motorcycle before, a touring motorcycle will probably be something you need to work up to.
Classic motorbike: Popular styles include the cruiser and chopper. If you’ve always dreamed of owning a classic bike and have a lot of leisure time to spend taking it out and maintaining it, this might be your opportunity. However, you may have to hunt around for older models that are still suitable for you as a beginner.
Remember to check whether your choice of motorbike is included in the Learner Approved Motoring Scheme – if it isn’t you’re going to need access to another vehicle, to get your learner’s licence on.
Most motorcycles and scooters 250cc or lower are LAMS approved, meaning anyone with a learner licence can ride them on the road. The exceptions are the Yamaha TZR250, Suzuki RGV250, Kawaski KR1, Honda NSR250 and Aprilia RS250.
NZTA provides a comprehensive list on their website of vehicles that are over 250cc and are also approved:
There are a wide range of motorbikes available in New Zealand as work vehicles, including quad bikes and two-wheelers, and they are often necessary when you work in a rural environment. Unfortunately quad bikes have historically been involved in serious accidents. Before you get one think about who will be driving it – can they handle the power and weight of the bike, and do they have the skills to drive it? There are age-appropriate bikes out there for children keen to ride on the farm, but they should never be riding an adult quadbike. Take a look at WorkSafe’s quad bike guidelines.
Aside from the mud, the high seats and thick tyres make a dirt bike instantly distinctive if you see someone driving it on the road. Dirt bikes are built for off-road escapades. If you’re interested in this type of motorbike, you will probably have some experience and already know exactly what you want!
Getting a motorbike license is essential if you want to ride on the open road, and the process is similar to getting a license to drive a car. Anyone over 16 can apply to get their learner’s licence, which for this class of vehicle involves a practical, skills-handling test, not just a theory test. Motorbike schools can be found around the country and if you’ve never ridden before, you might find professional lessons a good way to prepare.
When you have your learner’s licence you have to hold it for at least six months and comply with the conditions of your licence: these will include a curfew between 10pm and 5am, and rules against carrying passengers and towing other vehicles. You will also only be able to drive LAMS-approved motorbikes.
The next step is getting your restricted licence. When you get this licence your curfew will be lifted, but you’ll still have some conditions, including only being able to drive LAMS-approved vehicles and not being able to carry passengers.
The final stage of your licence is the full licence. This test can be sat either 18 months after obtaining your restricted, or 12 months after (if you complete an approved course).
Once you have your full licence you can drive any motorcycle, and you can carry passengers.
Before buying your bike
As with cars, you can purchase your motorbike either through a dealership, or go private. The advantage of a dealership is you will have more protection should things go wrong: it may seem more expensive but in the long run it could save you a lot of time, money and hassle. You will be covered by the Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Guarantees Act.
If you do decide to buy your bike privately, it’s good to obtain a vehicle history, particularly if you’re buying from a person you don’t know. Once you have the vehicle’s details you can look it up on the Personal Property Securities Register, to make sure there is no money owing on it. Your remedies if things go wrong include some aspects of the Contractual Remedies Act.
If you’re buying a second hand bike – whether through a dealer or privately- check out the safety features to make sure it has what you want.
Motorcyclists are often depicted in leathers for a reason - leather jackets and pants are still highly recommended for safety. Kevlar is also a popular alternative and there are a range of alternative textiles you can purchase. Be conscious that loose fitting, baggy clothes, even if the fabric is thick, won’t help you as much in an accident.
Unfortunately motorcycle gear is not cheap: you can expect to pay around $1000 for a new, appropriate jacket and pants. It’s recommended you get some comfy, durable and weatherproof motorcycling boots you can ride in, and at least two pairs of motorcycle-appropriate gloves. It is also essential to get a good quality helmet that fits, and experts recommend that you don’t skimp on price. Helmets can easily be in excess of $1000. The good news is depending on your insurance policy, your gear, as well as your bike, can potentially be insured.
Cost of your bike
You can expect to pay several thousand dollars for a good second hand “naked” motorbike, though the range of prices when you get into vintage bikes varies quite a lot.
Whether you choose to buy second hand or new, a factor in the price is the style and the engine of your bike. An example is the Suzuki “street” range of motorbikes: their prices range from $1999 for a 124cc bike to $20,000 for a 1037cc bike, and there are range of prices and specifications in between. Kawaski’s range of “naked” bikes stretches from around $8000 to more than $35,000.
Getting your bike on the road
Depending on the engine type of your motorbike, the cost of registering it for a year is between $438 and $585. The higher your cc, the more you have to pay. As with other vehicles, the make, year and model of your bike and the level of excess you choose all factor into the insurance premium you pay, as does your age, gender and the level of licence you hold – and even where you live, and how your motorbike is kept.
As with other forms of vehicle insurance you can choose third party insurance, third party insurance with fire and theft, and comprehensive insurance.
Unfortunately, not many companies do digital quotes for motorbike insurance: for a quote you may need to speak to the insurance provider yourself. If you want advice on motorcycle insurance, you can always book a free 30-minute appointment with an insurance advisor, via Quashed.
As a rough guide:
Via AA , premiums on a comprehensive insurance policy for a $3100 250cc Honda motorbike from 2010 range began at about $444 per year , with a $300 excess
Via Protecta, premiums on the same bike began at $304 per year, with an excess of $465.
It pays to shop around and remember to talk to your insurer about whether your motorbike gear is covered. If you use a motorbike for work on a farm, your bike may be covered by your work insurance.
If you’re looking for more information about insuring your motorbike, or another vehicle, check out Quashed’s brief guide.