If you want to ride a motorcycle in the UK, there’s a few hoops you need to jump through before you can legally ride a motorcycle of any size and power. The good news is that you can be on the road on two wheels as young as 16. But if you want to ride a bigger capacity machine, things do get a little more complicated.
Here’s a step-by-step guide of what you need to do and the tests you need to pass to legally ride the bike of your dreams.
If you don’t have a car driving licence, the first step in your journey to riding a motorcycle is to apply for your provisional licence. Once you have this, it’s time to book your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). You can find a list of training schools nearest to you at gov.uk.
Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)
CBT is a one-day course made up of five key elements which proves that you can ride safely on the road on your own, and it aims to give you valuable experience before taking your full moped or motorcycle test. The five elements in which you will be assessed are:
- Element A– Introduction and eyesight test.
- Element B– Learning the controls of the motorcycle.
- Element C– Riding away from public roads. This is usually performed in a closed off car park or similar space and mimics situations you will experience on the road, such as pulling away from a standing start, approaching a junction, emergency stops and so on.
- Element D– Road ride briefing and safety talk.
- Element E– Practical on-road riding.
CBT isn’t a test that you pass or fail, and most riders will achieve their certificate at the end of the day’s training. However, you may be asked to return for some extra tuition to ensure you’re able to ride safely on the road if the instructor feels it necessary. You must also pass your full moped or motorcycle test within two years, or you have to either take CBT again if you want to continue riding.
Once completed, riders aged 16 or over can ride a moped or scooter up to 50cc with L-plates. If you’re aged 17 or over, you can ride a motorcycle with L-plates up to 125 cc. You are not allowed to ride on motorways, carry a pillion passenger, or ride without L-plates.
Note: If you want to ride a moped up to 50cc and you passed your car driving test before 1st February 2001, you don’t need complete CBT.
Motorcycle theory and hazard perception
If you want to go on and get a full moped or motorcycle licence, you will need to complete a motorcycle theory and hazard perception test before taking any of the practical tests. The theory test consists of multiple-choice questions and takes around an hour to complete under exam conditions. You can take a free motorcycle theory test on the DVSA website.
After finishing the theory test, you will then complete the hazard perception test which takes around 15 minutes. This evaluates your ability to identify situations where some form of avoidance action may be necessary – such as changing speed or direction – by showing you a selection of scenarios that you need to react to.
Once you pass, you are free to complete the practical elements of the full moped or motorcycle tests.
Full moped and motorcycle categories
To achieve any of the following full licences, you will need to have:
- Completeda CBT course within the past two years
- Completed themotorcycle theory and hazard perception test
- Completed the two-part practical test– Module 1 (off-road exercises) and Module 2 (on-road riding) – on the appropriate capacity machine. (Book Mod 1 and Mod 2 training for the category licence you want, and the training school you book with will ensure you are riding the correct capacity machine).
AM – Full moped licence (Age 16+)
The AM category full moped licence will allow you to ditch the L-plates and take pillions on the back of your 50cc moped or scooter, which is the maximum capacity bike you will be able to ride on this licence. Unlike the CBT, it doesn’t expire every two years, but motorways are still out of bounds.
A1 – Light motorcycle licence (Age 17+)
This category licence allows riders to make the jump to 125cc machines without L-plates, allows you to take pillions, and doesn’t expire after two years like the CBT.
In reality though, most riders don’t bother with the A1 licence unless they only plan to ride small capacity bikes in the future. The reason for this is because you need to repeat both parts of the practical test (Module 1 and Module 2) when you want to upgrade to the A2 licence. Riders can alternatively wait until turning 19 to complete the A2 licence.
A2 – Motorcycle licence (Age 19+)
If you want to fast track to the full, unrestricted ‘A’ category licence before the age of 24, this is the licence for you. Upon passing, you can ride any motorbike, as long as the power is capped at 47bhp (35 kW). When you have held the A2 licence for a minimum of two years, you can upgrade to a full ‘A’ unrestricted licence by taking the Module 1 and Module 2 practical tests on a bigger bike.
A – Unrestricted motorcycle licence (21+ or 24+)
When you have held an A2 licence for two years, you can take the ‘A’ category licence practical Mod 1 and Mod 2 tests at age 21 or above. This is the quickest way for you to ride any capacity machine without any restrictions. If you haven’t had an A2 licence for two years, you can only take the ‘A’ category test at ages 24+.
For further information and guidance on motorcycle tests, visit gov.uk/motorcycle-test