Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 27th September 2019

It’s a lot harder than it used to be to explain how the motorcycle and scooter licencing laws work but we’ve taken it step-by-step to explain how you go from a 16-year-old novice through to a fully-fledged motorcycle rider.

The actual process of getting a licence to ride a powered two-wheeler has been made deliberately more challenging as the authorities want to improve safety and make more of a graduated journey from 50cc scooters and mopeds and larger-capacity machines like sportsbikes and tourers.

We’ve broken down the process into small sections to make it as easy as possible to understand and pass on the information if you are ever asked!

Aged 16 or over: provisional licence

You don’t actually have to be 16 before you can start the process of getting a licence because at 15 years and nine months old you can apply for a provisional licence ahead of turning 16, when you will actually be allowed to get on the road and start practicing.

What exactly is a provisional licence?

This is the first step needed to get onto the road legally. If you want to ride a motorcycle then you will need a provisional Category A licence.

Age 16 or over: Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)

motorbike cbt test

Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) is the first step needed before you can ride any moped, scooter or motorcycle on the road. It’s not actually classed as a test but instead its training session, checking you are safe enough to be allowed onto the roads.

If you are deemed safe enough by your trainer you will get a DL196 certificate which shows you have completed the CBT to a suitable level. This CBT remains valid for two years but will need to be renewed with another CBT if you do not go on to get a full motorcycle or moped licence within that two years.

A CBT certificate, allows you to get on the road on a moped or motorbike up to 125cc and 11Kw (14.8bhp) with learner ‘L’ plates for two years. You cannot carry passengers with this category of licence, however, nor can you ride on motorways.

The theory test

The theory test is the next stage once you have a provisional licence and a CBT certificate. The theory test is in two-parts, which includes a 50-question exam and also a hazard perception test.

The basic idea is to make riders more aware, as some of the most vulnerable road users of the potential hazards on the road. If you pass, by spotting the hazards on the screen-based test along with the 50 questions, then you pass the theory test.

The theory test, the same as the CBT DL196 certificate, is only valid for two years and if you don’t pass your practical motorcycle test before it expires you will have to take it again.

Moped licence

At 16 years-old and above, once you’ve passed your theory test, you can take the AM ‘moped’ licence test. If you pass the AM moped licence test, you can ride a moped with a maximum engine capacity of 50cc, a top speed of 28mph, without learner plates and with a passenger.

A1 motorcycle licence

learner scooter

Once you reach 17 years-old, you have a CBT certificate and a motorcycle theory test pass, you can take the A1 motorcycle licence – it doesn’t matter if you have held an AM moped licence for two years or not.

The A1 licence grants you permission to legally ride a motorcycle or scooter with an engine capacity of up to 125cc and 11Kw (14.8bhp) without Llearner plates and with a passenger. After you’ve had an A1 motorcycle licence for two years, you can take the A2 motorcycle licence test.

A2 Motorcycle Licence

At 19 years-old you can take the A2 motorcycle licence test but only if you have held an A1 motorcycle licence for two years prior to this.

There is also the option of going through the direct access option which means completing your CBT, passing your theory test and the practical tests – even if you haven’t had your A1 licence for the full two years, but this is only an option if you are aged 19 or over!

Once you pass an A2 motorcycle licence test you’re allowed to ride any A2 category bike – which is defined as a motorcycle with a maximum power output of 47bhp. The test must be carried out on a bike with a minimum of 400cc and a power output between 33bhp and 47bhp.

Unrestricted A Motorcycle Licence

Once you reach 21, or after passing your A2 motorcycle licence two years previously, you can get an unrestricted A motorcycle licence. This is the final stage of the available motorcycle licences and allows you to ride any motorbike or scooter with no limit on engine size or power.

You can also take the unrestricted A motorcycle licence through the direct access route, if you’re older than 24 years-old and have a valid CBT, theory tests and a practical test.

The direct access course is most commonly sold as a seven-day course covering all of the stages needed to go from a complete novice through to a full-fledged and unrestricted motorcycle rider. As a result of the duration of the time it takes, a direct access course can look quite expensive but as it condenses so much into such a short period of time it can work well for those wanting to get on the road quickly while fitting it around a holiday and work schedule.

If you’re not 24 years-old and haven’t had an A2 licence for two years, then you will have to wait until reach 24. As an alternative to get onto the road, another practical test like the A1 or A2 licences for less powerful bikes while you wait.

Full EEC Licence?

Please note the current uncertainty over Brexit may cause this situation to change after October 31, 2019. You need to check for the latest information. As it stands at the moment, a full EEC licence is one issued in another EU country. This entitles the owner to use their licence in the UK until it expires at age 70, or they’ve been a UK resident for three years. The same vehicle entitlements on the EEC licence remain valid in the UK while the licence remains current.


There have been some changes recently which apply to anyone who had a motorcycle or moped licence issued before January 19, 2013.

Licences issued before January 19, 2013

If you already had a motorcycle or moped licence issued before January 19, 2013 then nothing changes and you’ll keep your existing entitlements and there will be no change to the types of bikes you can ride.

However, if you get a new licence your entitlements may be shown differently. More information can be found here…


Changes to moped categories

If you’re already licensed to ride a moped your driving licence will show as category P on the bottom of the front side of the plastic licence.

In this case, the new rules will not affect you, but any new licences issued to you will show different categories of AM and Q, as well as category P. All this means is you will also be entitled to ride two or three-wheeled mopeds with a top speed of 31mph (50kph).