New Zealand Motorcycle Licence Explained

As with many countries in the world, New Zealand has strict rules around biking. They have a tiered licensing system that sees aspiring riders progress to bigger, more powerful bikes with time. And if you are wondering what could happen if you are caught driving without a licence, the consequences are dire. Private properties and training tracks are the only places you can ride without a driving permit. Anything else will land you in big trouble.

There are two tests you need to pass to get a motorcycle driving licence in New Zealand – a practical test and a written exam. The first test determines if you make it to the second round and eventually, get the learner’s licence. You can think of it as the gate to the biking community.

Practical Test

This exam is designed to test your bike handling capability. That means you need to get some experience elsewhere before going for the test. An excellent place to get some riding hours under your belt is a motorcycle training school. They have instructors who help you form good riding habits and show you how to pass the test. Do at least 120 hours on a bike before doing the actual exam.

Another option for gaining riding experience is playing with a motorcycle on private property. If you have enough space and a beginner-friendly bike, the only missing thing is someone to point you in the right direction. Find motorcycle riding tutorials on YouTube and try to implement what you learn. You may also ask an experienced driver to show you the basics. Go for the practical test once you get comfortable.

Applying for the Licence

There are several requirements you need to meet before submitting your application for the learner’s permit, but it all starts with finding a reputable agent who is within your reach. They will ask you to:

  • Fill out an application form
  • Verify your identity
  • Take a photo and sign some paperwork
  • Present your basic handling skills certificate
  • Pay the learners application and test fees

Theory Test

Once you pass the practical test, the next hurdle between you and the learner’s licence is a 35-question exam designed to test the theory part of motorcycle driving. Road safety rules and signs are some of the things you can expect to see in the exam. You must get at least 32 questions right to proceed with the application. Everything you need to know for this test is in the Official New Zealand Road Code. This book is available in most bookshops across New Zealand, and you can also find it online.

If you pass the test, the agent will offer you a temporary motorcycle driving licence, and the real thing will come to your mail in a couple of weeks. With this document, you can ride a motorcycle, moped or trike on New Zealand roads, but there are a couple of restrictions.

The law restricts people with a motorcycle learner’s licence from riding between 10 pm and 5 am. Probably because inexperienced drivers can make grave mistakes when it’s dark. New riders are also expected to have L-plates on the bike at all times, drive a LAMS approved motorcycle, and must not carry any passengers.

Getting a Restricted Licence

Just like anywhere else in the world, a New Zealand driving licence will expire at some point. And when it does, you have to renew it or stay off the bike until you get another one. Riders have the opportunity to upgrade to the restricted driving licence before their current permit expires. You can also take another learner’s licence and stay in the small league for another five years. But that means you will have to re-sit the theory exam, which is no fun.

So, it’s a good idea to apply for the restricted licence after staying with the learner permit for six months or more. That will give you more freedom to ride whichever bike your little heart desires. And, get rid of the L-plate that you’ve been having for the past couple of months.