Ride safe, ride legal
This brochure provides information for riders about choosing a suitable bike, protective equipment, licence and registration requirements, general information on where to ride and some simple riding tips.
Choosing the right bikeWhat bike suits my kind of riding?
There are many different forms of dirtbike riding, each with a style of bike designed specifically for that purpose. With helpful advice from the staff at your local motorcycle dealership you’ll be able to choose the bike that’s right for you and the riding you plan to do.
- Motocross bikes are made for high-speed competition riding on an enclosed course with man-made jumps. They are not designed to be registered or to be used on public land such as State forests, State parks, public bushland, roads and road related areas.
- Trail bikes are dual-purpose machines that can be used for trail riding, but are suitable for using around town as well. Trail bikes are generally easy to ride, very reliable and do not require as much maintenance as motocross and enduro bikes.
- Enduro bikes are high-performance machines designed primarily for off-road endurance racing events on private land. Most enduro bikes comply with road registration requirements, making them ideal for recreational trail riding as they have excellent suspension, brakes and handling combined with a low weight.
- Dual-sport and adventure bikes will take you on long-distance dirt road touring rides. They have bigger engines (typically 650 cc – 1000 cc), larger fuel tanks and can comfortably carry you, your camping gear and supplies for multi-day adventure rides.
- Moto-trials bikes are very light, responsive and manoeuvrable, designed for riding over and around natural and man-made obstacle courses on private land at relatively low speed. This is an ideal form of competitive motorcycling for riders seeking to challenge their technical skills.
- Mini-bikes are designed for riders up to about 12. Their small size, light weight and easy to ride design makes them suitable for young riders to use on private property or motorcycle club tracks.
- Quad bikes may be used for recreational riding on private land, but they are not permitted on public land. They cannot be registered as they do not comply with Australian Design Rules. Primary producers may apply to VicRoads for special registration for a quad bike used on their property.
- Match rider’s experience with a bike of the right size and power
- Get advice about suitable bikes from your local motorcycle dealership
Protect yourselfRiding a dirtbike means that sooner or later you’ll probably hit the dirt. When you do, wearing the right protective equipment can make the whole experience a lot less painful. Experienced staff in your local motorcycle dealership can provide friendly advice to ensure correct fit, comfort and performance.
- Helmets approved to Australian Standard 1698 give your head the best protection available. Approved helmets are compulsory when riding on any road, in State forests and State parks, and on all motorcycle club tracks.
- Boots designed specifically for dirtbike riding provide essential protection for your lower leg, ankle and foot. These areas are easily injured so it makes sense to always wear boots designed for maximum protection.
- Gloves give a better and more comfortable grip on the controls and help protect your hands in the event of a fall.
- Goggles protect your eyes from dust, twigs, stones and insects. Choose motorcycle goggles which have a sticker showing they comply with Australian Standard 1609-1981. Regular sunglasses do not provide adequate protection.
- Body armour and knee guards give additional protection. Impact protectors marked CE or EN 1621-1 (limb protectors) and 1621-2 (back protectors) comply with European Standards. Other impact protectors may work as well, but without the CE mark you have no way of knowing.
- Clothing for dirtbike riding needs to cover all of the body. It should be heavy-duty, abrasion resistant, and designed to be worn with body armour and knee guards.
- No amount of protective equipment is a substitute for riding responsibly, under control and within your ability
- Helmets are designed to absorb one hard impact. You can’t know the full history of a second-hand helmet, so don’t buy one
- Even if you’re just going for a short ride, always wear your personal protective equipment.
Where can I ride?With Licence and Registration
Victoria has approximately 36,000km of public roads through State forests, parks and reserves which are available for use by licensed riders on registered motorcycles. Some of this road network is made up of unsealed 2WD roads, but much of it is 4WD tracks (also referred to as roads) available for public use. Many of these tracks offer an adventurous riding experience through the forest.
You may ride on any of the forest, park and reserve roads open to the public, but for environmental protection reasons it is illegal to drive off formed roads. Some of these roads are designated Management Vehicles Only and some public roads are closed during winter for safety reasons or to protect the road surface. These roads will have barriers and signposting to advise they are not open for public use.
Interactive downloadable Forest Explorer Online maps of Victoria’s State forests are available.
For further information about trail bike riding on public land visit the DEPI website.
Joining a club that organises trail bike rides is a good way to meet other people with a similar interest:
- many Motorcycling Victoria clubs have a trail riding section
- Australian Motorcycle Trail Riders Association
- Otway Trail Riders
- Dual-Sport Motorcycle Riders Association
Unlicensed riders and riders with unregistered bikes are limited to private land and motorcycle club venues. Joining a club gives you a properly supervised place to ride, plus the opportunity to improve your skills through training offered by qualified coaches. Visit the Motorcycling Victoria website for a list of affiliated clubs near you and a calendar of events.
Riding on private land
Some councils place restrictions on the use of motorised recreation vehicles - including motorcycles - on private land, so check first before riding. The Municipal Association of Victoria provides a link to all Victorian councils.
Even if there are no specific restrictions on motorcycle use, property owners have a responsibility to ensure there is no unreasonable noise nuisance (either too loud or going on for too long) caused to neighbours. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) provides further information on noise in the booklet Annoyed by Noise?
Noise from trail bikes used on residential premises (including rural living allotments and parts of farmland used for domestic recreation) is considered “residential noise”. Residential noise regulations set times that you cannot make noise.
Even if your motorcycle complies with legal noise limits, it can still cause a nuisance to neighbours, so don’t ride for too long at a time, ride in an area away from neighbouring houses and talk to the neighbours to agree the most suitable times to ride. This will help you find the right balance between your riding and neighbours need for some quiet time. Neighbours are generally less annoyed if they know when your riding will start and finish.
- Respect the environment – when riding in the bush, ride only on the open public roads (includes open public 4WD tracks)
- Unlicensed riders and unregistered bikes - private property only
- Join a club for friendship, training, a place to ride and regular events
- Visit the DEPI website for more information about trail bike riding on public land
Sound adviceIf a bike’s exhaust is too loud, it causes real problems for people, wildlife and livestock. Excessive noise is the most frequent reason people complain about trail bikes, so it makes sense to keep the noise down to help protect future riding access.
Showing respect for others includes two important things: staying under the legal noise limit and backing off the throttle when you’re close to other forest users and residential areas.
The maximum permitted exhaust noise emission for your motorcycle is shown on the Stationary Noise Test Information sticker affixed to your bike.
The standard exhaust system on your bike is designed to deliver the best possible balance of performance, engine reliability and noise control. Modifying your bike’s exhaust will most likely result in excessive noise, very little performance improvement and in some cases it can lead to major engine damage.
If you fit an aftermarket exhaust and want to ride on public land (includes tracks, roads, road related areas), run it with the quietest insert or end-cap, as this is likely to be the only option which complies with the law. In most cases better low-down torque and smoother power delivery is provided by the quiet insert.
Reduce Noise Area signs have been developed to indicate noise sensitive areas where riders should ride more slowly and quietly. Obeying these signs is voluntary (i.e. not a legal requirement), but if riders travel slowly and quietly in these areas, it will help keep the peace and be greatly appreciated by other forest users and nearby residents. This helps keep the tracks open for public use.
- Reducing noise helps protect riding access
- Modifying your exhaust usually results in excessive noise and very little improvement in performance
Trail bike visitor areasIn some forests, parks and reserves, unloading facilities for trail bike riders have been provided away from residential areas. These trail bike visitor areas may include a shelter, toilet, trail riding information and picnic tables, while other locations may have an all-weather parking area and information board. In some cases, suggested riding routes are signposted for the benefit of riders not familiar with the area.
Visit the DEPI website for further info.
Riding tipsRiding on forest roads requires a different set of skills to riding fast on a motocross track, or cruising the blacktop on a road bike. Some things to be aware of when trail riding include:
- The risk of a head-on collision with oncoming traffic may be higher due to shorter line of sight and no central road marking
- Blind corners demand lower speeds
- Riders are responsible to keep left even if the surface is rougher
- Hills may be much steeper, demanding more advanced riding skills
- Surface conditions can vary greatly
- Unexpected track obstructions may require an emergency stop
- Allow plenty of space between yourself and the rider in front
- Look well ahead to check the riding surface
- On rough or uneven surfaces, stand up on the footpegs
- Move body weight forward on steep uphill inclines
- Move body weight back on steep downhill inclines
- Changing down to a lower gear helps you slow down with more control
- The front brake has much more stopping power than the back brake
- Get your braking done while you’re going straight – braking in a turn may cause you to lock a wheel and slide out of control
- If you feel a wheel lock up, ease off the brake momentarily until the wheel is rolling again and then re-apply the brake more gently
- Look around the corner to the point where you aim to be
- Move your body weight forwards a little to put more weight on the front wheel to stop it from sliding out
- Avoid hard braking or acceleration - stay smooth
- Smooth throttle control reduces wheelspin and loss of traction
- When riding up a steep hill, try to maintain forward momentum to help the bike roll over rough track sections without having to use too much throttle
- On steep downhills, stand up, move your weight back, and brake gently. Over the roughest sections, ease off the brakes and let the bike roll
- Correct tyre pressures are essential for good grip - get advice from your local motorcycle dealership
- Always ride with at least one buddy; four in a group is an ideal minimum
- Let someone know where you are going and when you will return
- Carry water, a snack, some basic tools and a first aid kit - even on a short ride
- Ensure your bike is in good mechanical condition and ready to ride before you leave home; don’t plan to do repairs and adjustments at the meeting point
- Carry a map even if familiar with the area as you may have to change your route.
- Carry a fully charged mobile phone with the emergency services number in the speed dial
- Reduce speed when close to residential areas, livestock, wildlife, recreation areas such as campsites and picnic areas and whenever you meet other forest users
- Reduce revs to keep exhaust noise to a minimum when close to other people
- When approaching horse riders, be prepared to stop and turn off your engine if necessary
- Plan your ride so that you don’t ride repeatedly around one short loop; the constant noise in one area can be a serious nuisance for other people and a less interesting ride for you
- Before riding on private land, talk with your neighbours to agree reasonable riding times, and select a riding area as far away as possible from their houses to reduce any disturbance you may cause
Licensed to rideRiding anywhere on public land (includes tracks, roads and road related areas) requires a motorcycle licence or Learner Permit. To get a licence, the first step is to obtain a Learner Permit from a VicRoads accredited training provider.
To apply for a Motorcycle Learner Permit you must be a minimum of 18 and a Victorian resident.
The Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) allows riders with a Learner Permit, Probationary or Restricted Licence to ride a wide range of approved motorcycles (refer to link above for list of approved motorcycles).
Riders without a licence or Learner Permit are not permitted to ride anywhere on public land.
Accredited motorcycle training providers offer additional optional courses which will further develop your skills and riding awareness.
- Riding on public land (includes tracks, roads and road related areas) without a licence is a serious offence, attracts a heavy fine and can also have TAC compensation consequences
- A car licence does not authorise you to ride a motorcycle
- Carry your licence with you when riding or driving
RegistrationRegistered motorcycles are permitted on open public roads in State forests, parks and reserves but unregistered motorcycles are only allowed to be used on private property.
Registering your motorcycle makes it easier to identify if it goes missing. There are also some important benefits available if you are injured in a crash (refer to section on TAC Injury Cover).
Full registration allows your motorcycle to be used on any open public road.
Recreation registration is an alternative lower cost form of registration that allows your motorcycle to be used in certain area without obtaining full registration. Recreation registered motorcycles are not permitted on freeways, arterial roads (as managed by VicRoads) or any roads with a posted speed limit of less than 100 km/h. This restriction prohibits recreation registered motorcycles from going into or through townships but permits them to be ridden on the open public roads (other than arterial roads) in State forests, National parks, State parks, and reserves.
Mounting the official registration plate on the back of your bike so it’s clearly visible from the rear is a legal requirement and an important signal that you are a legitimate road user. Your registration label also needs to be affixed to the bike in accordance with VicRoads requirements.
Registration information is available from VicRoads.
- Riding a motorcycle on public land (includes tracks, roads, road related areas) without registration is a serious offence which attracts a heavy fine and can have compensation and other TAC consequences
- Electric powered motorcycles must also comply with registration regulations
- Mount your registration plate on the motorcycle so it’s clearly visible from the rear
TAC Injury CoverThe Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is a Victorian government agency with responsibility for paying for treatment and benefits for people injured in transport accidents. It is also involved in promoting road safety in Victoria.
TAC funding comes from payments made by Victorian motorists and motorcycle owners when they register their vehicles each year with VicRoads.
The TAC pays the reasonable costs of ambulance, hospital, medical treatment, rehabilitation services, disability services, income assistance, travel and household support services that you may need as a result of your injuries from a transport accident (as defined).
The TAC is a “no-fault” scheme. This means that medical benefits will be paid to an injured person - regardless of who caused the crash.
Full TAC information at the TAC website.
- TAC coverage through your registration is the best value insurance a rider can have
- Both Recreational Registration and Full Registration offer the same benefits
- TAC cover does not pay for damage to motorcycles or other vehicles
- TAC does not usually cover motor sport events or motocross track injuries
This document was produced by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries in association with:
- Victoria Police
- Parks Victoria
- Motorcycling Victoria
- Australian Motorcycle Trail Riders Association (AMTRA)
- Otway Trail Riders
- Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI)
- EPA Victoria
- Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council