I love LAMS. Not a new idea, but certainly a great idea. The Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme has been responsible for opening up a world of choice for beginner riders, and it’s pretty special to walk into a dealership today and see that there are literally dozens of LAMS models available for new riders of all shapes, sizes and tastes.
In the bad old days, new riders were limited to a handful of mundane bikes of 250cc and below, mostly small and often downright embarrassing. As a riding instructor for newbies, I used to roll ten bikes out onto the range for every course, knowing that there’d be at least a few learners who’d be stuck on a bike that didn’t really fit them. The thinking from the rule makers back then seemed to be ‘new riders will be safest on small bikes’. Tell that to a 195-centimetre tall teenage sumo wrestler in the making, trying to squeeze on to a Yamaha Scorpio. The guy dropped it during the course and when I ran over to give him a hand, I could scarcely see the bike at all. For a moment I was deeply concerned he might have lost the little Yam in his arse crack.
Proper bike fit is essential to safety and through LAMS, new riders get to choose what works best for them. Better yet, manufacturers today often offer a LAMS version of their niche bikes, so beginner riders can choose an adventure bike, a naked bike, a dirt bike, sports bike or café racer.
Café racer? That brings us to my nephew’s mate, Josh. I offered him some sage advice about buying used, saving some cash, selling his learner ride once he got his full licence and moving up. Of course he ignored me and bought a brand new LAMS Suzuki ‘café racer’ style SV650. To say they were a perfect pairing is an understatement. He absolutely loved the SV…right up until it was stolen, a couple weeks after he moved up to his full licence. Bastards!
Never mind, Josh landed on his feet, collected his insurance cash and found another SV650, this time a full power bike, used but in perfect condition. I caught up with him a couple months later, expecting ‘chalk and cheese’ talk about how his full power bike compared to the previous LAMS SV. Nope. In fact, given the choice, Josh would like to have his LAMS bike back. He loved the café racer look, rides mostly around the city and reckons the extra power of the bike he’s riding now is no big deal. In fact he’s convinced that the LAMS café-look SV was a keeper that he would have been happy with for many years.
A LAMS bike as a keeper? Maybe it’s time to realise that my own personal bias towards bulk horsepower isn’t necessarily shared. For plenty of new riders – including larger humans - LAMS power is plenty. So seeing as there aren’t necessarily any compelling reasons to sell off that first bike and go buy something with more shove, it’s time to get comfortable for the long term.
Of course there’s still a good selection of bikes for riders of smaller stature. But the choice of full-sized models that represent long-term ownership prospects for bigger riders is staggering. At a glance – and this is by no means a complete list – all the popular niches are catered for:
There’s Honda’s CBR650 and CBR500, Yamaha’s R7 and Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 and 400.
You’re spoiled for choice with Yamaha’s MT-07 and XSR700, Suzuki’s SV650, Kawasaki’s Z650 and Z400, Honda’s CB650 and CB500, BMW’s G310GS and G310R, as well as Triumph’s Trident.
ADVENTURE/DUAL PURPOSE BIKES
Suzuki’s V-STROM 650 is there, along with the DR650SE and DR-Z400SM, and of course there’s Kawasaki’s Versys 650 and KLR650.
Am I the only one who finds it a bit hard to believe that Yamaha’s weapon WR450F is a LAMS bike? It is, and so is its little brother WR250F. Of course is green is more your colour, there’s also Kawasaki’s KLX250.
Honda’s CMX500 and Kawasaki’s Vulcan are both solid choices.
Yamaha has the Tricity 3-wheelers as well as the XMAX 300. Honda has the PCX range as well as the ADV150. And did I mention Kymco? So many choices.
With so many LAMS models to choose from, it’s no wonder that not all new riders are in a hurry to trade-in their first bike the moment they gain their full licence. For those who prioritise style, comfort, fit and features ahead of outright power, why go changing if a LAMS bike ticks all these boxes? Furthermore, as old mate Josh discovered, familiarity can be a wonderful thing. Often the bike you’ve grown accustomed to simply delivers a special feeling as soon as you’re in the saddle, one of familiarity and trust.
So there you go. Now more than ever, new riders are truly blessed with an amazing choice of bikes. Find something that fits – preferably a bike that has no risk of disappearing into your bum crack – and you might just find LAMS love that lasts well into your full licence.