Riding Guides: getting a licence and other first steps

Getting your motorbike licence down under is not something you can do by just toddling off to your nearest government agency, taking a knowledge test and handing over some hard earned dollars for a happy snap on a hard plastic card.

Those days are long gone (and in some states so is a physical licence, or at least its days are numbers). To improve rider safety, every state and territory has implemented its own version of a rider learning process.

In some states, like Queensland, you’ll have to ride accompanied (yes really), while in others, you’ll need to do a pre-learner rider training program. The differences are broad, and in certain cases even the licencing conditions are different, depending on your age.

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We’ll run through each of the different rules across Australia in a moment, but for now, let’s focus on the home state of Exhaust Notes Australia – NSW. To get a bike licence here, you’ll need to make sure you’re eligible, and book yourself in for a pre-learners course.

The course takes place over two days, on the weekend or weekdays, and takes 3.5 hours each day. It includes things like classroom sessions to understand overtaking and road rules, and range sessions, where you get to ride a bike and put theory into practice.

Stay Upright pre-learner course
Stay Upright pre-learner course

We headed to Stay Upright Australia at Rouse Hill in Sydney’s west to undertake our course, on what were the two hottest days of summer in 2024. This writer was the only one in full kit (you can do your course in a long sleeve shirt and closed in shoes).

It felt a bit “all the gear and no idea” to begin with, but we soon got over our imposter syndrome, thanks to the realisation that everyone is just there to learn (whether you’re 16 or 53). The heat added an additional layer to the experience, that’s for sure.

Doing your pre-learners if you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, is legitimately stressful – or at the very least sees you a little or a lot, nervous. If you’re not, you’re either a motorcycling savant or cocky.

If the latter is you, the trainers will help you realise the error of your ways, and teach you the importance of the proper learning process. That’s not a bad thing, as it means you learn the right way, the first time. In reality, it’s an enjoyable process.

Our trainer Craig was awesome and made sure each of us kept up, offering additional support if you struggled and giving you time to calmly work your way through any issues. If you still can’t get it right, there are options to retake the course, if you don’t pass.

Stay Upright pre-learner course
Safe braking theory at the Stay Upright pre-learner course

What you don’t realise while your doing the training, is that you’re being assessed throughout the two sessions. That was actually beneficial, at least for this writer, as he completely forgot about that side of the process, and focused on getting the riding right.

As you work your way through cornering, braking, rider and road awareness drills, as well as safety training, you soon realise that each part of the program builds on the previous section, teaching you to ride in small, and most importantly, manageable steps.

We simply can’t fault Stay Upright for the training they provided. Every concern was addressed throughout the two days, every piece of knowledge taught was reinforced through later sessions, all of it leading to your completion of the program.

For the record, the four participants who made it through the two days all passed and received a certificate of competency. That magic little green sheet of paper goes with you to Service NSW when you sit your knowledge test.

Once you’ve passed that (we did), you are given your Ls – allowing you to ride unaccompanied on a learner approved motorcycle (there’s a list of these on the Service NSW website, and it’s worth noting each state has different restrictions).


Stay Upright pre-learner course
Stay Upright pre-learner course

You’ll need to stay on a learner approved bike for all of your Learner Licence, and each stage of your Provisional Licence (another course/test called MOST is required in NSW, pre getting your Provisional Licence). Other restrictions include no earbuds or headphones.

For riders in other states, it goes a little like this; Queensland requires you to have a car licence, do a Q-Ride pre-learners course, complete a knowledge test, and do all your “learner” riding under the supervision of a fully licenced rider.

Victoria’s requirements is not dissimilar to NSW, but includes an on-road riding component. In that state, the restricted bikes have a minimum and maximum power level (which is quite unique and cuts out some of the smaller capacity bikes).

The ACT is also not to far removed from NSW, where Stay Upright is the accredited pre-learner training provider. A similar scenario exists in South Australia, albeit with different training processes.

Just to be different, Western Australia, is not the same. There, you need to do your Ls knowledge test first, and you don’t need any rider training to jump on a learner approved motorcycle. Instead, you must ride under supervision (like in Queensland).

Winning… smiles all round after passing the Stay Upright pre-learner course

Tasmania runs in the same order as WA, but without the supervision (knowledge test first and then rider training), while in the Northern Territory, there is a theory test, and a practical test, but no rider training.

Confused? Don’t worry, we are too, and so are most learner riders, especially those who move interstate during their licencing acquisition. Wherever you are though, we can’t help but endorse the learning experience and encourage you to get riding.

The best advice we got on the course was this; don’t be in a rush to ride far or fast, take your time, learn to handle the bike, and ride on local roads first – and that’s exactly what we plan to do.

Our first learner bike has just arrived, and we’ll be testing a couple of them over the coming months, at different engine capacities, and across a range of styles. We can’t wait to share what it’s like to ride learner bikes as an actual learner.

News Desk
News Desk
The News Desk is the hub of Exhaust Notes Australia. It's from here that our team of writers journalists and photographers bring you the latest happenings from the world of motoring.


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