Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to get your motorbike licence - and increase your travelling options overseas!

Getting my motorbike licence has always been one of those things on my bucket list. It's one of my dreams to circumnavigate Australia on one with little more then myself and a swag/tent. And I was even more determined to get it after coming home from my last 10 month backpacking adventure - so that's exactly what I did when I got home - after my bank account had recovered enough!

Now I was definitely no motorbike pro. Pretty much a total beginner in fact! And a female beginner at that haha.. So I am living proof that pretty much anyone can acquire their licence if they are determined enough to. And my biggest bit of advice is don't be scared, or think it is an unreachable goal, especially if you are a girl - I was totally surprised at how easy it was.


- My father had taught me the basics on an old Yamaha ag bike out on my grandfathers farm roughly 15 years ago. I could stop, go, and change up to second gear, but that was pretty much it. I only rode by myself about 5 times.
- When I was little I did a lot of miles on the back of my dad's bike.. not that I think that helps too much.
- Working on the ranch in Canada for 6 months, there was a small portion of my time spent riding a quad bike. It took a bit to refresh my memory on gears etc, but it did help out a little.
- I drive a manual car, and always have - giving me an understanding of how gears work etc... so it might be handy to have a go driving a geared car or quad bike first - thats if you have no idea of how to change gears!
- I have ridden horses and push bikes growing up, so my balance is pretty good. Whip out your old mountain bike if you have one to get the feel of two wheels if you balance is a little rusty.

So going into my my motorbike learners test, that was pretty much all the exposure I had to riding a motorbike by myself.


Living in Victoria, Australia, there is a company called DECA (Driver Education Centre of Australia) who offers courses in Truck, Car, 4WD, Bus and Coach and Motorcycle training. They are the best in the business in our area, and the instructors are absolutely fantastic. They provide motorbikes, helmets and gloves for testing, you just have to wear long pants, boots and a long sleeved shirt. They also offer an introductory Motorcycle and Scooter course, but if you have good balance and a concept of gear change, and had roughly the same experience as I outlined above, you could probably just book straight in for your Learner's test. If you think the introductory course is necessary in your circumstances here is the link: Motorcycle Introductory Course.

To book, I applied through their webpage for my L's: Motorcycle Learner Permit. You can see the current cost and prices there as well. After applying, DECA sent out an enrolment form and some other paperwork, including what the test involved. The day before my test I was lucky enough to head back out to the farm to practice some of the exercises on the old farm bike.

The Learner's Permit course was a one day course, with two tests held at the end - the practical and the written. There are some informative videos to watch, and your instructor teaches you the following practical skills:

- Motorcycle safety inspection (check all your lights and horn work etc)
- Locating and operating motorcycle controls (turning fuel on, being able to indicate and use your horn without looking)
- Right and left turns (making sure you indicate for change of direction)
- Motorcycle control and balance at low speed (you have to ride a certain distance as slow as you can without putting your feet down.. you can't be faster then the allocated time)
- Gear changing (taught how to change up and down gears)
- Braking (there's an emergency brake test where you have to stop your bike as quick as possible)

After you have practiced the above numerous times and have confidently learnt everything, you then run through your practical test towards the end of the day. You also have to sit a written test after completing your practical test, and you will need to read the Victorian Rider Handbook, Part 1 and Part 2 prior to your test day in order to answer all the questions as best you can. Read the questions carefully, there are a few I came across that were worded quite technically!

The courses and tests are pretty foolproof - the only major thing you can do to fail is to drop your bike. There's a pretty high success rate and your instructors really help and support you to achieve your permit at the end of the day. After you have acquired your Learner's permit, you have to remain on it for 3 months (max 15 months) before attempting to obtain your Probationary or Full Motorbike Licence.


If you are currently on your Probationary Licence driving your car, this will also be applied to your motorbike licence. Same goes for Fully Licensed drivers, who will end up with a Full motorbike licence at the successful completion of this course.

Since obtaining my L's, I had purchased a little 1998 Honda Rebel CA250 (see above), and had been riding around on the back roads until I was confident enough to hit town and the main roads. It didn't take me long to get used to travelling at higher speeds.. I remember the first few times I took it out and I thought 60kms/hr was sooooo fast and I would probably kill myself at 100kms haha. But I gradually got used to it, and practiced lots of intersection stops and goes until they became smooth and controlled. Soon enough I was confident enough to ride around town and continued practicing by riding to work as long as the weather was clear and sunny.

The booking process is exactly the same as for the Learners Permit, (but here is the link anyway): Motorcycle Provisional Licence, and DECA again send out all the necessary forms. This test it is more practical and focusses on riding skills, and you are assessed using a point system - different to the L's test. Your aim is to accumulate the least amount of points during assessment. If you accumulate over 40 points you are unable to pass, and you also fail if you drop your bike. I must admit, I did get butterflies when this was being explained, as instead of just being able to perform the skills like in the L's test, you have to be able to do it accurately at the right speeds.

The test included:
- 1 RH sweeping corner as fast as you can
- 1 LH sweeping corner as fast as you can
(There was also a simulated hazard avoidance test involving a set of lights, with a left, right and stop indicator that would be randomly prompted. You had to ride at a speed between 20-25kms coming up to the lights, then either counter-steer and swerve right or left, or perform an emergency stop)
- 1 counter-steer right
- 1 counter-steer left
- 2 emergency stops

Before the test you do plenty of practice of all the exercises, until you are scoring well and feeling confident. It would be best to have at least 3 months of riding experience for this test, as it is a lot more challenging then the Learners test. To give you an idea, our group were mostly of intermediate level. There were 2 experienced dirt bike riders there, one scoring 4 points and the other 10. They were amazing riders! There was another guy and girl there of roughly the same intermediate level as me and they ended up scoring 12. I scored 16, and there was another guy there who had scored 19. To be an instructor you just have to score under 20, so we all did pretty well really!

Please be aware this is Victoria and Tasmania's best suggested course of action to take to obtain your licence. Here are some other useful Australian links:
VicRoads (Victoria)
Transport Roads and Maritime Services (New South Whales)
Transport and Main Roads (Queensland)
Transport (Tasmania)
Transport Travel and Motoring (South Australia)
Department of Transport (Western Australia)
Department of Transport (Northern Territory)
Road Transport Information Management (ACT)


Im glad you asked! The main reason I chose to get my licence was because one day I will travel around Australia on a Motorcycle. However, I also wanted the flexibility to be able to travel just as freely anywhere overseas.. AND, if I was to go to somewhere dominated by two-wheeled vehicles (like the photo below..) and lacking road rules such as Thailand, I would most likely be a whole lot safer being an experienced and licensed rider. Generally speaking, motorcycles are a lot cheaper to get a hold of then cars. You can park them pretty much anywhere, and depending what type, you can ride them a whole bunch of places too. Fuel is sooooo much cheaper as well (it would cost me $12 to fill my Honda Rebel, and that would easily get me over 200kms). But the most important thing is they are so much fun to ride!

I have now upgraded to a Kawasaki KLE500 (see below), and couldn't be happier. I have the best of both worlds with this bike, and after having so much trouble trying to find something dual purpose I fit on (I am 5'4" with quite short legs) this bike ticks all the boxes for me. I can get the balls of my feet to the ground and it's not too heavy either.

If I was to ever live lets say in Canada or New Zealand during summer for at least 6 months again, I would most definitely be looking into buying a motorbike over there and having it as my main method of transportation. The freedom that comes with a motorbike doesn't really compare with any other vehicle. To me, it's a perfect fit alongside backpacking, and I literally cannot wait to test it out - so watch this space ;)

And if you have any questions or have something to add to this post please comment below!