Car drivers looking to get on to two wheels often ask if a motorcycle or scooter can be ridden on their car driving licence. The honest answer is that in most cases the rider will have to complete a motorcycle test if they want to ride a large capacity machine, or at least some compulsory basic training (CBT) for bikes under 125cc, but there are always caveats, with some older riders benefitting from ‘grandfather rights’ to allow them to ride certain smaller bikes on their car licence.
We’ve come up with a selection of machines we feel are well suited to car drivers making the switch to motorcycling, as an alternative to the car. For most driving licence holders, these machines don’t require the time and expense of going through a full motorcycle test, but offer a distinctive introduction into biking, with all the practical benefits that can bring.
Honda Forza 125
You don’t need a full motorcycle licence to ride a motorcycle or scooter up to 125cc (as long as it makes less than 11kw and is therefore classed as an A1 category machine). Anyone can ride an A1 machine, as long as they are at least 17-years-old, hold a provisional driving licence, and have completed a day of mandatory instruction – known as the CBT (compulsory basic training). The CBT certificate lasts for two years, after which you need to pass your bike test or retake the training. Riding on a CBT also brings with it some restrictions, as you’ll technically be classed as a learner. You will have to display L plates while riding, and you won’t be able to take a passenger or use motorways.
And there are a huge range of 125s on the market to meet all tastes and budgets. We’ve chosen one of the most expensive out there but, at £5149, the Honda Forza 125 is still cheaper to buy and run than any new car we can think of.
It’s a fully automatic ‘twist and go scooter’, making it very easy to ride. The dashboard on Honda’s ‘GT’ model has a car feel to it and it’s full of nice touches like the USB charging point and electrically adjustable windscreen. Physically it is a little bigger than many other scooters, giving good weather protection and there’s plenty of space under the seat to store the bits and pieces you need to take on the daily commute. The 125cc version has a top speed of about 70mph, but that will be more like 60-65mph on inclines or going into a headwind. A 350cc version is also available, with a touch more top speed, but to ride that you will need a suitable motorcycle licence.
Yamaha Tricity 300
Licencing loopholes have been around forever and despite most of them being closed down, one of the few remaining is the three-wheeled Yamaha Tricity and the similar Piaggio MP3 range.
Because the width between the front wheels exceeds 460mm (and a foot brake is fitted) the machine is classed as a trike and can be ridden (or should that be driven?) by many car licence holders over the age of 21.But far from being a licence dodge, the Tricity is actually a very effective form of transport in its own right. They’re not much wider than most scooters, making them great for filtering through traffic and the scooter design makes it practical with good underseat storage and automatic transmission. They are a little heavier, slower and more expensive than a similar powered two-wheeler but they have the safety feature of having more front end grip. This makes the Tricity really reassuring to ride, and more stable than traditional two-wheelers – especially in wet and low grip conditions.
Peugeot Kisbee 50
Although a name and logo which will be familiar to car drivers, Peugeot’s scooter division is no longer related to the car company and is instead owned by Indian giant Mahindra. But despite that, the Peugeot scooter range still retains an air of gallic flair and is well known for offering good value for money.
The range consists of 50cc and 125cc scooters, as well as larger three-wheelers (like the Piaggio MP3 and Yamaha Tricity). All can be ridden on car licences by many people, albeit with a CBT certificate, but if you just ride around town and really don’t want L plates, or the hassle of doing the CBT (although we’d strongly recommend you do) you could consider one of the moped versions.
Moped is a technical term rather than a style of bike, meaning a motorcycle of less than 50cc and limited to 28mph. At £2185, Peugeot’s Kisbee scooter is one of the cheapest forms of transport around. As it meets moped laws, those who passed their UK driving test on or before 1 February 2001 can ride without L plates or needing to do any further training (although you do need to make sure the moped has valid insurance and MoT). If you passed your car test more recently, you’ll need to do the day’s CBT training – after which you’ll be a fully qualified moped licence holder.
If you’re looking for maximum performance without getting a full motorcycle licence, you’ll need to look at the new breed of electric motorcycles to exploit any ‘loopholes’.
A1 licence laws dictate an 11kw (almost 15bhp) continuous power limit, but electric bikes make their power differently. The Zero FXE meets the 11kw continuous power rules but has a peak power of almost 45bhp, giving short bursts of explosive power for maximum fun. Combined with instantaneous torque of 106Nm (that’s more than many superbikes), lightweight and a fully automatic transmission, the performance is way higher than a typical ‘learner’ bike.
The downsides are the price, which is over £13,000, while the range (40-80 miles, depending on speed) and recharge time might put some off, but in terms of performance the Zero FXE is by far and away the quickest motorcycle you can ride after doing your CBT.
It is very easy to ride though. There’s no gearbox, just a direct drive, twist and go transmission, and you recharge by plugging into a domestic electrical socket.
Another walk down electric avenue takes us to the Maeving RM1, the unusually monikered British designed and built retro.
The Maeving’s top speed of around 45mph means that it is classed as an A1 category motorcycle, so you’ll have to complete the CBT, but once you do you’ll have a sub-zero set of city wheels that’ll turn heads like nothing else on the daily commute.
It’s simple to ride, fully automatic and with a low seat. The single battery model gives a range of 40 miles, but there’s the option to double that with the addition of a second removable power pack.