Western Australia is the only state in Australia that allows unlicensed riders & non-road registered bikes to ride in designated trail riding areas.
Exploring WA by Motorbike: Legal Off Road Trail Areas
Western Australia is currently the only Australian state to allow unlicensed riders and unregistered vehicles to be used legally outside of private property, though only within one of the 5 specially designated legal off-road vehicle areas within the state.
That’s right, you can ride in any of those designated areas on your motorbike, quad bike or dune buggy to your hearts content, so long as you play by the rules, respect each other and the land you’re riding on.
With no other state enjoying the same access and availability as ours when it comes to off-road opportunity, I thought it was about time we put the spotlight back on recreational trail riding. Let’s face it – Western Australia has some of the best terrain and most beautiful landscapes just waiting to be explored and we should appreciate our off-road opportunities and the great experiences they have to offer.
So what is Recreational Trail Bike Riding?
Recreational trail bike riding (also known as dirt biking and often erroneously referred to as motocross) refers to riding motorcycles and quad bikes off road purely for enjoyment. It can take many forms, from riding unregistered competition spec motorcycles and quadbikes locally, to crossing the Simpson dessert on fully road registered adventure bikes. This differs from motocross, which consists of competitive racing on a closed, private circuit, though it is true that many also use motorcycles designed for racing to ride recreationally.
Trail bikes must not be ridden within National Parks, water catchment areas or on designated walking or mountainbike trails. These laws are in place to protect our environment and ensure that all of us can enjoy our country safely and peacefully. Riders are asked to respect these laws and must appreciate that their continued adherence allows this hobby to thrive, and that if abused the privileges afforded to off-road riding enthusiasts will be revoked as they have been elsewhere within Australia. For more information and to get involved, please visit Recreational Trail Riding Association website.
So where are the legal off-road vehicle areas?
Several designated areas on state forest and public land are legal to ride upon, in addition to any privately owned land (with the land owners permission, of course). Unsealed public roads are only able to be ridden by road registered motorcycles and licensed riders.
There are only 5 legal off-road vehicle areas in Perth metropolitan areas. They are:
- Gnangara – Gnangara Rd
- Kwinana – Thomas Rd, Medina
- Lancelin and Ledge Point – 2 separate areas
- Pinjar – opposite Barbagello Raceway
- York – small MX circuit
- Karratha – 2 separate areas
To ride in the designated Off Road Vehicle areas your bike needs to have Off-Road Vehicle registration (if not road registered)
There are also commercial ride parks, private facilities that are supervised and actively managed to create a superior riding experience. Trails in these parks range from beginners’ loops to motorcross-style circuits with jumps, with many including camping facilities and optional hire of bikes and riding gear.
The main commercial parks in WA are:
Because these parks are operated on private land you do not need a registered bike or a licence to ride there. You do however have to book and pay to use these facilities, as they are privately run businesses.
I love trail riding (aka motorbiking). Here’s why:
I grew up on a 3 acre property not far from the Pinjar Off Road Vehicle Area & Wanneroo Motocross Track and would hear the sounds of motocross racing every Sunday without fail. My dad bought me a Red Honda 3-wheeler when I was 12, and I rode it around everywhere with my older brother up on our property and through Pinjar. That was before the 3-wheeler became illegal of course, due to the inherent instability of the vehicle and resulting high rate of injury. Some of the best memories I have of my childhood is riding around on the 3-wheeler with my dog on my lap and my dad on the back, racing up and down the trails with my brother in front.
For a young kid – riding a motorbike gives you such a thrill while exploring the land and testing your limits –and you never quite lose that as you mature into an adult. No matter what your age, motorcycling brings out that young kid in you again, and that’s why I encourage everyone to give trail riding a go.
After realising it’s been a while since I’ve been in touch with my inner-kid, I went out last weekend to Pinjar Off-Road Vehicle Area with my friend Adam to get back into it….
Exploring WA by Motorbike at Pinjar:
I was on a borrowed Suzuki LTZ400 quad bike, whilst my friend rode his Husaberg TE250 Enduro Bike.
In the words of RTRA, “Pinjar is a large 300Ha+ area that is open to motorcycles and quads of all engine capacities, under the control of the Department of Parks and Wildlife. It consists of pine plantations and open cleared scrubland. As such, the ground surface here is mainly soft sand, which can be a challenge for smaller-wheeled bikes or inexperienced riders, but otherwise the area is a decent spot and is continually being redeveloped with new signs and one-way trails”.
You don’t need a road-registered bike or even a drivers license to ride at Pinjar, but if your bike is not road registered you do need to have an off-road vehicle registration (available from the DPI) and you DO need to wear a helmet. It is also strongly recommended to wear additional protective gear, including enclosed, armoured boots (MX or adventure boots preferably but steel cap work boots will suffice), padded body armour and gloves. For what to wear and a list of proper trail etiquette, please visit the TrailsWA Tips page.
There are several trails in Pinjar that are regularly groomed and maintained for the general use of trail riders. The most central, and a good area to park, is a small motocross style circuit referred to by the RTRA as the ‘Short and Curly’ and intended for use as a practice circuit for intermediate to advanced riders.
Further north of here can be found the Pinjar pine plantation, an eerie scene not entirely dissimilar from the desolate landscapes of Chernobyl.
I felt like I was auditioning for the next Mad Max movie! Fierce.
Remember when going over bumps to lift your bottom otherwise you will get a sore backside tomorrow morning!
Still a bit confused on bikes? Here’s a quick rundown:
It can get confusing. Here’s a quick synopsis of off-road motorbikes you can ride in WA if you aren’t already familiar.
- Quad Bikes – This is what I rode. A four wheel motorbike that goes pew pew pew. These are great for beginners as they can get a feel for riding off-road at low speeds without the balance issues inherent to a 2 wheeled bike. There are a wide range of ‘Quads’ on the market, ranging from simple Chinese made examples (<$5000 brand new) through to high capacity Japanese made race machines (>$12000 new) Quad bikes are best suited for open terrain, excelling in soft sand and dirt. I rode a Suzuki LTZ400 on my trip, which is a medium capacity Japanese made machine fetching $8500 new or around $4-5k used.
- Motocross – Motocross bikes are designed to win races and are very focussed, high performance machines. There are few things quicker on the dirt, but this performance is expensive and results in compromises in range (small fuel tank size), longevity (very high maintenance engines and suspension) and comfort (hard seat and suspension, so not to bottom out on big jumps). This is the choice for those who value performance above all else and are experienced riders, but not for novices. All of the major Japanese brands offer competitive MX bikes (Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda), in addition to several high end European manufacturers such as KTM and Husqvarna. New price $9-12k.
- Enduro Bike – Enduro bikes appear very similar to motocross bikes, and in many ways they are. The most obvious differences are the addition of lights (headlight, brakelight ect) and the ability for most of them to hold road registration. Though they have softer (more comfortable) suspension and bigger fuel tanks (more range), they are still very high performance motorcycles intended for professional competition. These differences are incorporated to make the bikes more suitable for cross country endurance (hence the name enduro) races, such as the Finke desert rally in Australia or Romaniacs and Erzberg Rodeo in Europe. These are the best solution for the competent rider wishing to venture off-road but unwilling to sacrifice the performance of an MX bike, but they come at a price, costing between $12000 and $15000 on the road. The European brands such as KTM, Sherco and Husqvarna do these best, though Yamaha’s WR series are also excellent.
- Dual Sport Bike – Dual sport bikes strike a fairly even compromise between road and off-road use. They require far less maintenance than any of the others in this list and are cheaper to purchase too. In order to achieve this they make sacrifices in their performance and could be thought of as a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. That said, they are the best choice if you wish to travel significant distances (>1000km) or spent more than half your time on the tarmac. Examples include the Kawasaki KLR650 and Suzuki DRZ400/650, starting at around $8500 brand new.
Don’t have a motorbike?
While there are many places that do allow you to hire quad bikes – these are mostly in tourist locations in Perth, like Lancelin for example (Can you hire bikes at lannos?? I know you can at the private ride parks). This is a great way to sample off-road riding and see if it’s something you would like to take up as a long term hobby. Other options include tagging along with a willing friend who rides, or joining a Trail Riding/Motorcross/Quad Biking forum or Facebook to connect with others to see if you can score a second hand bike at an affordable price. There are also some manufacture run demonstrator days, such as ‘KTM Dirt Days’ run by KTM Australia, where for a small fee you can test ride several off-road motorcycles in a controlled environment. Please note that these events should be considered similar to test driving any other vehicle, and will require the appropriate licence and protective gear. The event organiser will be able to provide you with the specific requirements.
For more information about Trail bike riding in WA visit the Recreational Trail Bike Riders Association website.
Recreational Trailbike Riders’ Association (RTRA) (was formed to represent your interests as a trail bike rider, working behind the scenes to raise the profile of recreational trail bike riding, collating research information and contributing to various government studies. Membership is open to anyone who rides a registered or unregistered trail or motorbike or quad, regardless of age. By joining you give voice to the call for better facilities for recreational riders and have the opportunity to contribute ideas for enhancing riding opportunities in WA.
Trails WA is a central source of information relating to trails in WA, providing services and connecting service provides for the enhancement of trail development.
Perth Trail Scene is a motorbike website dedicated to the trail and endure riding scene in Perth, WA. They have an active forum with many knowledgable members. Serious competitors and casual riders are equally welcome.
Trail and Enduro Motorcycle Club of WA promotes and supports all forms of off road motorcycle riding. The club organises Enduros, Natural Terrain MX’s, Pony Expresses and Cross Count.