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News Does Restricting New Riders To Smaller Bikes Save Lives?

Discussion in 'Motorcycling News' started by NetriderBot, Apr 13, 2015.

  1. It’s increasingly common for new riders to go through a graduated licensing system whereby they’re restricted to riding certain capacity bikes for a period of a few months up to a few years before they’re able to ride whatever they want. Even in the United States where no such restrictions really exist, the beginner bike category is booming. The factor driving this is supposedly safety – it’s safer for new riders to be on small capacity bikes rather than jumping on liter bikes. But is this really true?

    We’re big supporters of ABS, wearing good quality protective gear and really understanding motorcycle techniques. And we do believe it’s better for new riders to have lower capacity machines. But the reason for our view has nothing to do with safety. In fact, we say a KTM RC390 is just as capable of killing a new rider as is a Kawasaki ZX-10. The reason we believe starting out on smaller bikes is better is because as a new rider (or even an experienced one), they’re so much easier to improve your skills upon.

    The simple reason for this view is that the slower the motorcycle, the easier you can find its limits. On a small capacity bike, you’ll be hitting redline all the time, constantly shifting gears and having to use all the braking power the bike can muster. At a race track, you’ll be using all the grip that the tires can give and to make up for that lower power and you need to take as much speed through the corners as possible. If you start on a liter bike, you’d be lucky to use more than a quarter of its potential performance on the road and at the track, there’s only a tiny fraction of the population that can reach the limits of a superbike, even after decades of riding. You don’t get a jersey in the top team of any sport unless you work your way up, so why should motorcycle riding be any different?


    But if it’s easier to learn on smaller capacity bikes, doesn’t that mean they are safer? In a certain way that’s correct, because the better one trains at something, the better they should get at it and the less likely they are to make mistakes. Therefore, someone who starts on an easier to ride machine and learns how to properly ride a motorcycle should theoretically be a better rider when they hop on a liter bike. And that’s fine – no disagreement from us. The trouble is, that’s generally not the rationale behind these laws (or the argument for them) either by governments or even other riders.

    Online you’ll find a chorus of people telling new entrants into the sport that in order to live past the age of 21, they should start on smaller bikes because they’re slower and therefore safer. But that’s not true at all.

    Safety on a motorcycle has nothing to with power to weight ratios or engine capacity. Safety is about a riders attitude and how they’ve been taught and trained.

    Let’s compare the specifications of the most popular entry sports bike, theNinja 300 and one of the fastest machines you can buy – the BMW S 1000 RR. The Kawasaki makes just under 35 hp, has a top speed of just over 170 kph and can hit the metric ton of 100 kph in just under 5 seconds. It also features very basic (though adequate) brakes, suspension and tires. The S 1000 RR on the other hand produces 193 hp, has a top speed of 300 kph and hits 62 mph in 3.06 seconds.


    But at an average highway speed limit of say 70 mph, which is safer in the event of an accident? The answer is if you crash on either of these bikes at such speeds, you’re facing the same scenario either way – death or serious injury most likely. But which bike is more likely to avoid an accident at such a speed? The BMW has far, far superior brakes. It’s suspension is phenomenal (with dynamic adjustments available as an option) and its tires grip like glue. It’s also equipped with all sorts or rider aids such as anti-wheelie control, traction control and various engine modes. So on paper, the BMW is far, far safer than the Ninja 300 if you’re riding within the legal speed limits of just about any country in the world, and yet in some places, a rider won’t have access to such a motorcycle for the first 3 years of their riding life.

    There are some obvious counterpoints to this, mostly with younger riders. Let’s be honest, many teenagers, especially male teenagers are reckless. Many of us have been there and done that and the temptation to set a new land speed record within the first few months of owning a superbike would be too great a temptation for some. And older liter bikes (and some new ones even) don’t have any electronic aids to stop someone from looping the bike when cracking the throttle too hard. But again, if a Ninja 300 can hit 170 kph, a reckless teenager will try his or her best to reach that speed too.

    You could also state that our entire argument is moot if restricting riders to lower capacity machines is proven to save lives. And while we will still argue that the policies don’t necessarily make riders safer, we’d have to concede saving lives is the most important point. But guess what, the statistics don’t seem to prove that these policies do help.

    We’ve compared data from Australia (which nearly universally introduced restrictions on motorcycles for new riders in 2009) and California, which has no such restrictions. Both Australia and California have mandatory helmet laws so there’s no skewing of data in that way. What the comparison shows is that there’s no marked difference in deaths within age brackets in either case. When looking at the total number of deaths, keep in mind that California has a population of 38.8 million, which is 1.67 times Australia’s population and so we’ve adjusted the deaths in Australia by that amount. That does not affect the percentages.


    In comparing the data, you would expect to see that the percentage of riders killed in the 15-24 age bracket (the age bracket which would mostly be filled with new riders) would have be much higher in California than in Australia. But it’s not. The other statistic that you would think would show is a downtrend in deaths in that age bracket in Australia once restrictions were introduced. As you can see, the trend is down slightly, but so is the trend in California. Given that California has no restrictions for new riders, it could be guessed then that the reduction in deaths is due to things like the increased prevalence of ABS, better tires, or just dumb luck.

    There’s also real no discernible difference in the raw number of fatalities. In some years, Australia had less deaths in total than California (2009, 2012) but in others California had a lower level of fatalities (2010, 2011).

    As we said before, motorcycle safety is a mindset. So if a rider progresses from a 300 cc, to a 650 cc and then to a 1,000 cc and doesn’t really care about what they’re doing or have any interest in improving his or her technique, in our opinion they’re at far greater risk than someone who hopped on a GSX-R1000 straight away and actually learned their craft properly.


    The other problem behind this movement to make new riders start on smaller and slower bikes is that it hasn’t been done in conjunction with improvements in rider training. Learning to be a proficient and skilled motorcycle rider is hard – much, much harder than a car. Yet, in many countries all you need to do is take a day’s course and there’s your license. That’s enough so that you don’t fall off your bike when taking off at the traffic lights or teaching you to how change gears, but it’s a long way from creating safe and competent motorcyclists. It leaves it up to the individual to develop themselves as a rider and guess what? That comes all the way back to attitude and a correct mindset.

    For places like Europe and Australia, there’s almost no chance of winding back the clock. Western nations are far too risk averse to consider loosening laws in such a way. And that’s fine, because there’s no doubt that there are some benefits in forcing people to learn the ropes on lower powered bikes as we stated at the outset. But the real issue is both rider training and attitude – making people rider slower bikes for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone.


    Continue reading...
    • Like Like x 3
  2. I've made a similar argument that keeping riders on these built to a price LAMS bikes for longer is not a good decision. They are built to a price for a reason.
  3. Very interesting.
  4. I truly have to admit that, at times, I could easily being in favour of all learners having to do at least a year riding a turbocharged Hayabusa, rather than the LAMS approved stuff.

    I'm usually in this mood when I've watched learners doing laps up and down the hill from Pie in the Sky, riding like total bloody idiots

    Atleast, with the big fast beasts, they could get it over with quickly. :-(
    • Funny Funny x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. Hi guys/girls

    Statistics are open to interpretation and manipulation. Just look at the government and their ability to spin a set of factual figures into whatever story suits the day.

    Some facts to consider while looking at this story:
    • American highway system is huge and consistent - Australia has not finished it's East Coast highway yet - in fact some sections still look like a nice ride in the woods, unfortunately shared with 60T monsters, caravans and Camry drivers. Parts of it are full on 3rd world.
    • The east coast of Australia hasn't had much rain for about 7 years in the 2002-2009 - remember the dams at near empty?
    • I would say that in the past most people that owned a motorcycle because they wanted to - I suspect that there is a good percentage of people now that have to - either through lifestyle (inner city living) or they simply cannot afford a car.
    • LAMS bike built to a price? There is always the CB400ABS - some people do appreciate quality :) and the 200 page thread proves it :)
    • There are many people on the roads that simply should not have a licence - one glance on dashcam site will prove that - not talking about Russia either.
    • The consistent lack of public transport and infrastructure ensures that some people share the road with us that don't even want to - they know they are bad, no attitude towards motor transport, but they have no choice.
    • The urban sprawl that converts a 100k country road that you could not even do 100 on into 6 lane highway with 60k limit. In western Sydney it's the norm.
    All these factors and many many more ensure that statistics can be played with however I will say this:
    • I am glad that I learned on a 125, even though in my days I could have hopped on a GSX-R 1100 because had a full licence. At one stage I have (a friend had one) and nearly had to visit the laundry.
    • The LAMS system has to be better than the old 250 rule
    • My 15yr old daughter wants to learn how to ride when old enough - there is no way I will sit her on anything bigger than a 250.
    • The bigger the bike the bigger the temptation the more likelyhood.....
    I have a radical idea - make all car drivers get a bike licence first - many countries do, get a 100cc at 15 - I know riding a bike makes you more aware of your surroundings and I think that makes you a better driver as well

    I am only new to this site and only page 60/230 on the CB400 thread........wealth of knowledge here.....thank you
    • Like Like x 2
  6. What amazes me is that riders have all these LAMS restrictions, however an 18 year old can go by a seriously powerful car?!??! WTF is the logic there? To top it all, the list for approved vehicles now includes some serious muscle cars :(
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Actually the biggest paradox was - I have a V8 and a turbo - while my kids could drive them on Ls - they could not drive them on Ps - go figure :)
  8. That's not radical....lots of places allow wee motorbikes well before cars.

    But it is a good idea.

    Add to that, some kind of encouragement for kids to ride a pushie to school and let them learn some road sense...... yes, I know a lot depends on the where and how far.
    • Agree Agree x 4
  9. I've been riding for around 10 years I'm 28 in a few days. I Have owned a LOT of bikes and different styles and sizes. My main ride bike soon to change is a 1981 xlh1000 and there is almost a skill involved in riding it you have to be prepared for the bad brakes bad handling and vibration... all of that.

    I brought a cb125e last year to commute on every day (mainly as a cost saving thing my car is very thirsty) this is the most underpowered bike I've ever owned (on the road) and I now ride it everywhere (except big trips with the boys) but that's not a problem I'm only commuting at a top speed of 80kms for around 30k's for the entire round trip. NOW even though I have been riding for years and all sorts of bikes I believe this bike HAS made me a better rider. Its really great to beable to ride a bike to its full potential screaming down the road at 80kph anyway just my 2c, This is probably a bit of topic. Every ones skill is different My mother went for her licence on a scooter fell of twice and still got it :| She still doesn't like to turn left.....
    • Like Like x 1
  10. You would have had to be in the car with them as a responsible driver/trainer but on solo drives they are restricted. Easy.
  11. S
  12. NSW now has power to weight restrictions P platers driving cars. There is list of approved cars on the RMS ?? web site.

    I read somewhere on the web that the only country to research the introduction of 250cc restriction for beginners was Sweden and they found the reduction in accidents for large capacity bikes was offset by the increase in accidents for smaller capacity bikes. I haven't found any official reports stating this so it may be just hearsay
  13. I think that regardless of what size bike you ride it's best not to crash :)

    No surprises ...
  14. Can just as easily kill yourself on a LAMS bike as you could on something bigger.

    Car P Plate laws are the same. I did most of my P's in a worked v8 Torana. Was a very quick car but I'm still alive, and so is the car (unfortunately I don't own it anymore :cry: ).
  15. But at an average highway speed limit of say 70 mph, which is safer in the event of an accident?

    Ha, which bike will you be more likely to be doing that on??
    To be honest, I didn't read much further. Bit of a bore.