Choose the best motorbike type by matching your level of skill with your needs for daily commuting, longer weekend riding or off-road sport. Find out if sport bikes, cruisers, touring bikes, dirt or trail bikes, dual-purpose bikes, scooters or mopeds could suit.
Check out seven types of motorbikes to help you choose a bike that matches your needs and your ability.
1. Scooters and mopeds
Being lighter, more manoeuvrable and cheaper to run puts the motor scooter and moped into a distinct category. In Australia, motorised scooters are best suited to built-up areas. Scooter riders can find themselves acting quickly to avoid a crash if drivers don’t see them - antilock brakes are an asset when this happens
Wear protective gear
There’s under-seat storage for clothes and shoes while you’re kitted out in riding gear. Plus you can store riding gear made for wet weather. See the best protective gear hereON THE ROAD WITH VESPA RIDERS
2. Off-road and dual bikes
Trail riding with all types of terrain and obstacles calls for skills in bike handling and quick decision-making, even though you’re not dealing with traffic.
Dual-purpose bikes or adventure bikes have the tyres and ABS to handle road riding and off-road riding.
Choosing a bike
Choose a bike you can life upright by yourself. There are many different forms of dirt-bike riding, each with a style of bike designed specifically for that purpose.
Find out more about the different types of off-road bikes available here.
Where can I ride
Victoria has around 36,000km of public roads through state forests, parks and reserves which are available for use by licensed riders on registered motorcycles.
Find more info on where you can ride, interactive maps and riding groups at DEPI here.
Open highways and long distances call for the comforts of touring bikes, offering large tanks, ample storage and technologies such as traction control, ABS and cruise control. Tourers suit riders who prefer an upright position and can manage a large, weighty machine. Pillion passengers have a more comfortable ride on tourers. Hybrid sport tourers and on-off-road/dual tourers are becoming popular.
ABS and traction control often feature on tourers and hybrids.
Tourers usually offer extra storage and a more comfortable second seat for your passenger.
The long and low design of a classic cruiser is designed for riding over a long distance; however, the structure takes some getting used to and may not benefit new riders. Heavier cruisers are best suited to riders with plenty of recent experience under the belt. Smaller cruisers can make excellent learner bikes.
Feet near the ground
Low seating can be more comfortable on longer rides. A bike with a low centre of gravity, low seat and long wheelbase is a good option for urban riding too, as you don't need to stretch to reach the ground when stopped.
Sitting upright gives you the best view of traffic, and gives traffic the best view of you.
Naked bikes are related to sport bikes, but the bodywork is visible and you ride in a more comfortable, upright position. These versatile bikes are manoeuvrable in city traffic and park in tight spaces. Fuel and maintenance costs are relatively low. More models now come with ABS as standard.
Sitting upright gives you the best view of traffic, and gives traffic the best view of you.
Sportbikes have the most sensitive acceleration and braking systems. They can fight against you if you accelerate too quickly or brake too hard. Experienced riders suggest starting with a less powerful bike so you consolidate your skills without fearing that your bike will flip you.
Built for the track
Riders sacrifice comfort and fuel efficiency.
Sport tourers offer creature comforts for longer rides.
7. Learner bikes and LAMS
At the Learner Permit stage, or in the first 4 years of holding your motorbike licence, you can only ride bikes listed on the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS).
On the list are bikes with engine capacities less than 660cc and a power-to-weight ratio less than 150 kilowatts per tonne. Bikes on this list can be more forgiving to help make learning to ride safer - reducing the risk of an accident during the learner phase.
Some small motorbikes are not approved for learners. Modified motorbikes are not permitted as learner bikes.
Easy way to check
Enter a motorbike’s registration into this VicRoads tool to check it’s on the LAMS list.
In an emergency, it's difficult to judge how hard to brake. Not enough and you'll run out of road. Too much and you'll skid, often leading to a crash. ABS watches for a locked wheel and adjusts the brakes to apply just enough pressure to stop the bike without skidding. In an emergency, ABS can shorten your stopping distance and help you keep control of the bike.
1. ABS - will I notice it when riding
Only under the hardest braking. ABS only operates when the wheel is about to lock, just before a skid starts. Under normal riding conditions, you won't notice ABS.CHRIS VERMEULEN IN THE WET
Better in the wet
ABS works on wet and loose road surfaces to reduce skidding even more than it does in dry, high grip conditions.
ABS has improved
ABS doesn’t affect normal braking. Today, the weight of ABS is minimal and doesn’t cause drag. If you’re buying a new bike, test ride one with ABS.
Switching ABS off
Dual-purpose bikes for road and off-road riding come with ABS. The ABS can be switched off for trail riding.
Does ABS make riders lazy
Even with ABS, knowing how to brake safely is an important riding skill, and one you need to practice. Good riders use their brakes to avoid an emergency, but even the best riders have days when ABS can make difference between a crash and a near-miss.
3. Traction control for rear wheel stability
When a bike accelerates, the traction control system monitors for a potential loss of traction at the rear wheel. If the system detects that the rear wheel speed is different to the front wheel speed, it will adjust the drive torque to keep the front wheel on the road and stop the bike from wheelying.
Overcoming too much throttle
Traction control is now widely available to stop the rear wheel from slipping on loose or slippery road surfaces. Its ability to overcome too much throttle helps all riders, especially learners and riders on unfamiliar bikes.
4. Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC)
MSC is another technology to reduce wheel slip, particularly when cornering. A bike with MSC will monitor data from wheel speed, lean angle, pitch angle, acceleration and braking pressure. The system will intervene if it senses the bike is losing control.
Bike buying guide
Before you start looking around, it helps to be honest with your priorities. Start with a list of how you’ll use the bike. Perhaps it’s daily commutes, group rides on weekends or city cruising. This can help develop your list of must haves like storage options for work clothes, comfort over long rides or a second seat. The true purchase cost will also include a kit of protective gear (helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves).
Choose on fit, not brands
Ignore marketing hype and choose your bike based on whether the size and structure is comfortable to ride, its weight, storage options and especially its safety technologies like ABS. Instructors are a good source of advice.
Check the bike’s technologies
You can quickly identify if a model offers the added benefits of ABS, linked brakes, MSC and traction control .
Factor in training and gear
Before a bike seduces you completely, factor in the budget for good quality riding gear and refresher training if you’re returning to riding after a break.
Buying second hand
- Choose a bike on its fit with your needs, rather than choosing by brand. Read real reviews online.
- Each bike handles differently. Use caution when riding someone else’s bike and more so if you’re on unfamiliar roads.
- Get a mechanical check. Check the bike’s registration status with VicRoads and against the Personal Properties Security register.
- If you’ve had a break from riding, use training days and track days to bring back your skills.
It’s critical to know when maintenance is needed on your motorbike. Carefully and regularly check over your parked bike at home. Experts offer detailed videos on YouTube to help spot issues. Before each ride, take a quick pre-ride check.
01 Tyres and wheels
More than 2mm tread all over is needed for tyres to be safe and legal. Check tyre pressure regularly to avoid blowouts. Make sure you also check wheels for damaged spokes and unusual noises. Wash tyres regularly.
Test by applying each brake fully to see if they lock the wheel. If they don’t lock fully or you hear noise, it is time to get the brake pads or linings checked.
Check each control works and adjust the clutch to the right friction point. Don’t forget to check the cables are not twisted or broken and lubricate at each cable end.
04 Chain and sprocket
If the bike has a chain, check the owner’s manual for advice on tension and lubrication. The chain runs over teeth wheels or sprockets. Check these aren’t worn down.
05 Shock absorbers and suspension
This is one to check while riding. Be aware of clunky noises and extra bounce when riding over rough bumps. These could indicate that the shock absorbers need to be adjusted or replaced.
06 Customised modifications
Motorcycle engineering is an exact science. Customisation to your bike’s mechanics and structure should only be carried out and then maintained by recognized industry professionals. Modifications will need a roadworthy certificate.
Even if your bike is pretty new, it’s a good idea to check out its condition before each ride. Here's a checklist to help.
01 Tyre pressure and tread
Check the tyre pressure when the tyres are cold. Blowouts due to high and low pressure are causes of some crashes. Check the tread all over for wear or damage.
02 Brakes, clutch, throttle
Test that each brake applies fully. Check each brake light works. Test the clutch and throttle are smooth, then check the cables aren’t kinked or broken.
03 Lights, horn, mirrors
As well as checking each individual light and indicator is working, give them a wipe over to clean them. Check your horn and adjust and wipe both mirrors.
04 Chain, oil, fuel
The owner’s manual will advise on the chain’s tension and lubrication. Also know the oil level the bike needs to avoid the engine seizing. Check fuel levels.
When you mount your bike, double check your personal adjustments to seat height, handlebars, position of the gear and rear brake levers, and position of front brake and clutch levers.
06 Special checks for unfamiliar motorbikes
Each bike handles differently. Check out the controls and adjust the seat, handlebars and lever positions. Try the brakes before you start and get to know the throttle and clutch for gear changes.