The rules for what you can and cannot ride as a learner are fairly simple. For 16-year-olds who have a provisional license and have passed compulsory basic training, their first moped must be a solo machine no more than 50cc, with a top speed of 28mph or less – so a restrictor will be needed on most models.
Mopeds must also have a speedometer that measures speed in miles per hour, and L plates must be displayed on the front or rear at all time. And, of course, it must be insured and taxed.
Once you’re over the age of 17, you can upgrade to a motorcycle – provided it’s no more than 125cc – and the only speed limits are the ones on road signs. The same speedometer, insurance, tax and L plate rules apply too, of course.
Don’t think these rules limit your options, though: there are loads of bikes and mopeds suitable for learners, but we’ve picked out a few of our favourites.
First-time moped owners who want a bit of classic style may be tempted to start looking at the iconic Vespa line for their first moped, but we wouldn’t really recommend it. They’re not always the cheapest bikes to buy and maintain, and you might be surprised to find that not many new models come in at under 50cc these days either. They’re not ideal for that first ride that may take a knock or two, but if you’ve just got to have one the Vespa Primavera 50 2T is your best bet. It makes a top speed of about 40mph, though, so you’ll need to get a speed restrictor installed.
The Yahama Aerox 50, on the other hand, is a great starter scooter – a reasonable price, a sporty race-replica look, a light and nimble frame, and a two stroke engine that will make for a great ride – you’ll almost forget the built-in electronic speed restrictor is there.
For those on a tighter budget, there are plenty of options available for less than £1,000, but you will need to weigh the pros and cons of this yourself. Just remember that the lower the price goes (unless you are buying second hand from a trusted source), the more likely you will be buying a generic import. A low price may mean sacrificing safety, support, and resale value.
If you’re looking for a tried and tested model while paying a bit less, the Piaggio Zip 50 is a great moped that regularly comes in at less than £1,500. Eco-friendly, efficient and comfortable, the Zip is one of the more basic models available. Easy to ride and easy to maintain, it’ll do exactly what it promises – no more, no less.
This is where it gets a bit more exciting! Despite being the most learners are allowed, a 125cc bike can provide more than enough power and speed to get you where you need to go for a good few years. You can get some incredibly big, stylish and slick bikes that are learner-legal, but be wary of going for the thing that looks most like the bike of your dreams straight away – once you’re fully licensed, a 125cc might not do the trick anymore, and a more expensive bike now may set you back when you’re looking to buy something with a bit more power.
You can, for example, find a world-class supersport with a 125cc engine. The Yamaha YZF-R125, for example, is a beautiful machine, but it’ll set you back more than £4,000, cost more to insure, and potentially attract a few too many potential thieves for a first bike. Similarly, bikes like the Aprilia RS4 125 – smaller versions of more powerful superbikes – might be tempting to those beginning to get serious about bikes, but it’s important to consider the drawbacks and not just be blinded by great style and rave reviews!
For a more level-headed option, something like the Pulse Adrenaline 125 would do the job – heavy-duty suspension for great comfort, a smooth and powerful motor, good performance, and an ideal price for beginners – generally around £1,400 or less. It’s no one’s dream bike, we’re sure, but sensible options like this or the AJS A9 Flight 125 Scooter provide reliable and affordable transport without scrimping on safety.
However, be warned: the lower price for these Chinese models brand new are often down to a slightly worse reputation for reliability and parts availability, so a second-hand Japanese model might be the best bet for those on a budget.
Whatever bike you choose while you’re learning, just ensure you research it thoroughly, can ride it safely, and check the specification to ensure it’s learner-legal.